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Dear Haverfriend: Inter-Major Competition and the Honor Code

Hey, everyone! I am a real Haverford student and I have strong opinions about your life. Just remember that I can’t substitute for professional advice because I am an undergrad and consequently I know nothing.

Dear Haverfriend,

I’m a Humanities major living with a suite of Natural Science people. They’re constantly talking about how much more work they have than I do, how lucky I am to be in such a easy major, and basically implying that I’m only a Humanities major because I couldn’t hack it in the sciences. How do I get them to understand that even though our work is different, mine isn’t any easier?

-Anonymous

Dear Anon,

From one humanities major to another– I feel you. A lot of the work involved in the natural sciences seems very visible: spending long hours in lab, solving problem sets, everything and anything related to Superlab. We hear a lot about how STEM jobs make up a lucrative and growing market, etc. I’m sure your natural science friends feel stressed out, overworked, and ready to vent to each other about the particular challenges of their studies. But…they’re putting you down for being a humanities major? Ugh. That’s not only based on incorrect assumptions, but also it’s just not what friends do.

I think it will pay off to be direct in this situation. The next time someone makes a condescending comment, call it out. “Actually, philosophy is not an easy major at all. I work as hard as you do, and it makes me feel  ____ (insert feeling here) that you guys imply that I don’t.” My guess is that these people don’t mean to make you feel bad, and a polite but direct statement will elicit profuse apologies and probably excuses. You don’t need to prove the difficulty of your major to ask for some respect from your friends.

Dear Haverfriend,

I was sitting with a good friend while they were taking a timed take home exam. I’m 99% sure they took at least thirty minutes longer than they were supposed to and violated the Honor Code. What do I do?

-Bewildered.

Dear Bewildered,
This really sucks. Confrontation, especially between friends, takes a kind of emotional fortitude that none of us wants to muster. But since you and your friend both signed the Honor Code, it is your responsibility to confront your friend and their responsibility to listen to your concerns. Confront them face-to-face, with trust, concern, and respect. If they don’t offer a reasonable explanation (for example, their professor granted them extra time due to extenuating circumstances), then encourage them to report themselves to Honor Council. If their actions do go to an academic trial, you can still be a supportive friend throughout the process. Most people violate the Honor Code either by accident, or because of stressful circumstances outside of their control, and your friend will probably need your help more than ever. It’s possible that in the short term, your friend will respond with anger. In the long term, however, it often becomes clear that confrontation is an act of deep respect. It says, “I believe you will do the right thing.” Please keep this in mind as you move forward. You can also always talk to someone on Honor Council by emailing code@haverford.edu.

That’s it for this week! If you have a question or are in need of advice, use the form below to submit something for next week’s column.