Ode to self-involved STEM majors

Gabe Darley, Staff Writer

Gabe Darley is majoring in Computer Science and English.

Tulane is a school that excels in fairly representing both the arts and the sciences. One school does not academically dominate the other in numbers nor in perceived presence in campus culture. For the most part, people tend not to discriminate when choosing friends or roommates based on academic involvement alone. Numbers nerds and literature fiends can coexist peacefully.

While friendship across academic disciplines is very common, it is not without its problems. Foremost among these is the slow but certain social devaluation of the liberal arts degree, a folly that no STEM major can truly escape. 

When it comes to degrees, science majors can be egotistical. Not all are, of course, but there is a specific type of person who occupies this field and exists in large enough numbers to be noticeable.

This person is guilty of many annoying habits, not least of which is the dreaded “I was up all night” speech. All Tulane students know this rant well. Although it varies from morning to morning, the conversation one has with the speech-giver typically goes something like this:

“Hey! How’d you sleep?”

“Oh, terribly. I was up all night. I had to go to office hours, finish a problem set, submit a lab, chug two five-hour energies, inject myself with an Emergen-C/coffee mixture and fight off raccoons that invaded my bathroom trash can.”

This daily conversation sits on a long list of annoying STEM habits, among such infamous bits as: an unprompted, unnecessary explanation of someone else’s homework; police-style interrogation of career plans for your liberal arts degree; and a trip down high school memory lane — featuring their valedictorian title and ACT score.

These kinds of interactions reflect something larger, a “grind” culture in which hard work is respected and met with a social medal of bravery. Between science majors, it inspires competition, a competition for the owner of the more difficult night, the lone sailor of more treacherous seas. Between a science major and a liberal arts major, it roughly translates to “You are unlike me. I am smart because I stayed up, and you are not.”

And most importantly, the entire culture is completely fabricated.

The truth about the classes here at Tulane is that they all require hard work. To be done right, to successfully complete the quest for knowledge in any class in any program, Tulane students have to work.

Sure, there are kids who skate by without reading the books for their classes. But those people are not relegated to philosophy or sociology alone. Freeloaders are everywhere. Just because science majors are more publicly penalized through big red marks on tests does not mean there aren’t consequences for sloppy work in other fields.

Writing papers is hard. Focusing on old literature is harder. But to the cellular and molecular biology major who stayed up all night studying, it doesn’t matter if their English major friend might have stayed up writing. The scale will forever be tilted in their favor, their peer’s major forever tarred with the designation of “easy.” This in addition to the fact that, in many social science classes, there are often more papers than there are tests in the classes about hard sciences.

Suffice it to say, college is difficult in general. Tulane students of all disciplines have to work hard to get the grades they want. Within any major, you can find slackers and studiers. 

So why then have we established this arbitrary designation of some majors as the most respected? Because they will theoretically yield higher salaries? Because we value numbers and facts over words and art? 

It doesn’t really matter why. What matters is that scientifically minded individuals have claimed some kind of academic high ground and refuse to come down. It’s tiresome to indulge and more importantly, it’s actively harmful. No one wants to feel like they’re wasting time learning something they love. 

So, science majors, put down your guns and cease firing. Beyond the fact that your sleepless-night story is boring, it damages your friendships and it damages your friends. Ask yourself: is this undeserved ego boost worth it?