Departmental divisions and rivalries

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Texts in the bookstore are organized by the classes and departments that require them, though many texts are used for multiple courses or cross-listed classes. Photo by Kaity Chaikowsky.

Many people do not go around looking for trouble. But I do, and this past week I went around looking specifically for wars, rivalries and enmities between departments on this peaceful campus.

What does an English major really think of a classics major? Which departments have been waging a war so brutal Achilleus regrets he did not live to fight in? At great risk to those I interviewed, I have found the answers.

I narrowed in on a conflict immediately. It turns out that some students in the Classics Department regard those in the English Department as not fully studying literature.

Senior Ann Beck stated that English majors lack a proper appreciation of the language when reading texts in English, rather than in the original language. Classics majors, on the other hand, not only devote themselves to appreciating the literary value of a work, but also engage with the language as well.

“Why would any English major not be a classics major?” Beck asked.

Excited as I was to find a fray so quickly, my hopes were dashed even more quickly.

“But I think [the rivalry] is a very good-natured thing,” Beck concluded. As it turns out, Beck is an English-Classics double major herself. She added that even the chair of the Classics Department, Dr. Sweet, majored in English as an undergraduate. In other words, there is too much friendship between these two departments for any bloodshed to occur.
I had to look for it elsewhere.

Thankfully, the Politics Department seemed to have plenty of strife to offer. One conflict pointed out by politics major Rachel Gernhardt was between the politics and the classics departments. In the eyes of some scholars of the classics, the Politics Department shares with the English Department the terrible shame of reading texts in English translations.

Gernhardt even quoted Professor Taylor Posey of the Classics Department as saying,
“If you really want to study politics, read the ancients.”

However, this ever-polemic department was not afraid to do some fighting of its own, namely with the English Department.

“I think there are more politically active people in the English Department than the Politics Department, and that leads to conflict between the two,” said Gernhardt. Another source of friction between the “Lords of the Higher Floors of Braniff” that she cited is the fact that they are the two largest humanities departments, and this created an academic rivalry.

In the end, this department, which seemed to have a promising future as Mars, god of war, disappointed as well, since Gernhardt explained that these conflicts were friendly differences.

“I think politics has no rivals because no one can challenge us,” Gernhardt stated, her words echoing like a Germanic battlecry. One wonders how long such a peace will last after those daring words.

As the interviews progressed, other departments soon cast off their pretend neutrality in favor of the thrill of competition. From the Drama Department, freshman Pedro Barquin rode into the fray, declaring English majors once again insufficient.

“Everyone knows that English majors are drama majors [who] don’t like drama,” Barquin said.

These interviews opened my eyes. Maybe each of us should make a resolution to take our next step on campus as if it were our last, since we now know the full extent of the drama, arguments and hubris that await us at every corner.

Or do we?

I would not be a science major if I were not to add, in closing, that happy are the creatures who walk outside of the science building, throwing insults like a toddler throws his toys. They live ignorant of the fight to elimination and the struggle for dominance which takes place among STEM majors. After all, no battle has truly begun until a little hydrochloric acid and a couple dozen Nerf balls start to fly.

The rivalries and divisions among the departments are the sign of a deeper unity. This is acknowledged by history major Katie Tweedel.

“Fundamentally we are all looking at the same reality, and the disciplines seem to have a good-natured debate about who sees it most clearly,” Tweedel said.

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