- Class: Alum
- Major: Religion
- Gender: F
- High School: Convent of the Sacred Heart High School
- Transfer Student: N
Haverford, a small liberal arts school, is located in the town of Haverford, a tiny town resting amidst the highly wealthy residential suburbs of Philly, known as the "Main Line." Haverford as a town is almost non-existent-- it is made up of a few boutiques and a bunch of pretty houses. However, the neighboring towns, Bryn Mawr and Ardmore both house a lovely selection of places to go out to eat and shop, and are walking distance, which is highly convenient. The first thing I noticed about Haverford College, is how cozy it feels. It's a small, tightly-knit community, filled with friendly, warm people. I felt immediately welcome, even as a new student. It's a community focused on comfort-- people wear comfortable clothes, and make a lot of effort to make each other feel comfortable. Starting with "Customs," freshman orientation, Haverford does a great job of providing comfort, and truly nurturing its freshmen. Each hall group participates in fun bonding activities (everything from light-hearted ice breakers to intense dialogues about controversial issues) led by upperclassmen chosen to work with freshmen. This provided me with social opportunities with fellow freshmen, as well as support from older students and helped me feel really comfortable right away. However, in the years that I attended Haverford, I got frustrated with the focus on comfort. People at Haverford are so afraid to make anyone feel uncomfortable that they avoid talking about controversial topics completely, except behind closed doors. People skirt around issues and don't address topics directly. As a result, issues like race and class get buried, and only come up when there is a specific forum addressing these issues-- usually as a result of an incident that upsets a lot of people. Basically, unless people feel like it's necessary to address these more "uncomfortable" issues, they get avoided, until people get angry enough and some sort of confrontation occurs. That is my one major complaint. I wish people would engage in dialogue more, and be willing to talk about issues with which they are uncomfortable. Nothing changes without dialogue! A lot of other aspects of Haverford are great. People are considerate of each other, and really make an effort to follow the Honor Code. Professors really trust students, and there is a great sense of trust in the community as a whole. We have don't have proctors for exams, and take-home tests. On the weekends, as long as we follow the Honor Code, we have a lot of freedom socially. There is a sense that as long as we are responsible and "follow the Code," then we can do pretty much whatever we want. This is wonderful and provides for a great sense of freedom and responsibility, and adds to the sense of community. In general, we, the students, have a lot of say in the way things work at Haverford. This can also be positive and negative, however, as sometimes students are forced to take on way more of a load of responsibility since the administration is not as supportive of the students and activities as they could be. Also, being a closely-knit community, Haverford can sometimes feel stifling. Everyone knows each other, and gossip travels very quickly. However, Haverford has a great study abroad program, and after traveling to Italy for the semester, I felt a lot more appreciative of the smallness of Haverford. Also, Philly is only a train-ride away, and can serve for some freedom from Haverford. I played on the frisbee team, and this community also provided an outlet for me, as we traveled constantly, playing teams all over the country. That's another thing: Haverford offers clubs catering to interests across the board, and if you don't see your interest addressed in a club, you can start your own club. Haverford allows people to be proactive and take charge. I only wish there was more funding, and more support from the adiministration. Overall, though, it's an inspiring place-- so many motivated, talented people, working hard and managing to balance that with doing a whole array of activities that many times relate to saving the world in some way.
Haverford is a tough, challenging place academically. Students here have to work hard to get through the classes. However, the professors are known for being really supportive and caring, and really going out of their way to help their students. I was a religion major, and felt really supported by every professor I had. People always joke with me (who don't go to Haverford) about the impracticality of majoring in religion, but honestly, I learned a ton as a religion major. I learned not only about religion as a topic, but about managing my time, thinking critically and analyzing texts. Professors at Haverford have high expectations, and will assign lots of reading and essay assignments. They really prepare students. I feel much stronger as a student, better able to express myself, and generally more confident academically than I did before coming to Haverford. Also, though professors are tough, I felt really close to a bunch of my professors, and have been to several of their houses, or out to eat with them. They go out of their way to support students beyond the classroom. They proved that they cared about us as people, not just as students. Also, one thing that I love about Haverford is the fact that though it is challenging academically, students are not competitive at all. In fact, it's taboo to talk about grades. I don't know my best friends' grades, and I actually really like that. We each did our own thing, and worked hard individually. That way, my biggest competition was myself.
Haverford is generally really open-minded and accepting. However, in terms of truly being open, that's another story. As a member of the LGBT community at Haverford, I never faced any blatant homophobia. However, there seemed to be a lack of complete support. People were tolerant of my sexual orientation, but didn't go out of their way to fully support me. I did find my own communities of support-- SAGA (sexuality and gender alliance) meetings, COQw (community of queer women), the women's frisbee team, and my own circle of friends (made up of queer and straight friends alike.) So, people can find support- they just have to look for it. SAGA hosts several events throughout the year, and helps make Haverford more aware of issues in the LGBT community, but I do wish people went out of their way to be more supportive of the LGBT issues and community. In terms of race and class issues, as I mentioned above, there is a lot of underground tension. People are not blatantly racist, but instead people tend to avoid talking about issues related to race or class. I helped found a group called The Alliance, that provides a safe space for people to talk about issues surrounding diversity, and there are several other groups on campus that discuss issues around race. However, outside of these private meeting spaces, race discussion hardly occurs (except if a big incident occurs), and if it does occur, it's hardly ever between groups of people of differing racial backgrounds. Class as an issue, is a huge problem on campus. Haverford is a mostly upper-middle-class school with students mostly from NJ/NY/CT, with a lot of people from privileged backgrounds, but because (as with other issues) Haverford students don't like making people feel uncomfortable, they avoid talking about class. As a result, tensions surrounding class issues lie under the surface at Haverford, with not many discussions surrounding class occurring. However, I found that in the more socially-active communities on campus, people recognized the importance for dialogue and were more willing to engage in discussions surrounding these more controversial issues. I found this on the frisbee team, as well as with the women with whom I did Women In Action (a women's support and activist group on campus), and among a lot of the people involved in the other activist groups on campus. So, it's just a matter, once again, of finding awareness and support for talking about these issues. In general, while Haverfordians can be uncomfortable talking about controversial issues, they seem to care about the world as a whole, and want to do their part to make it better. People often end up doing non-profit work when they graduate, and don't seem to care about making a lot of money. Every summer, numerous people travel to countries around the world to participate in non-profit service, too. People at Haverford care about being socially responsible not only at Haverford, but beyond Haverford, too. While we joke at Haverford about being stuck in the "Haverbubble" and being separate from the wide world-- in this safe, tiny bubble of intellectual, nice people-- people do seem to care about politics, and being accepting. People tend to be liberal as a whole. As a liberal on campus, I felt really comfortable being liberal, but I've heard that conservatives feel a lot less comfortable being conservative on campus. We joke that it's easier to come out as gay than as republican. I knew a few republicans, so they do exist in the open!-- but the "out" republicans were few in number. The others must have kept it more quiet. It also definitely depends on the social circle, as I was not friends with a lot of varsity athletes, but knew of more conservatives on some of the varsity teams, than the communities of which I was a part. I should also acknowledge, however, that though I wasn't friends with a ton of varsity athletes, I did have a few friends on some varsity teams. There was constant debate the whole time I was at Haverford about the significance of the divide between the artists and athletes. I think there is a general divide between the communities, (and I'm completely generalizing here) not only in terms of the interests, but in the style (the artists tended to dress in a more hipster fashion, the athletes tended to be preppier), and in general socializing style (the artists tended to go to concerts, while the athletes tended to host larger frat-style parties). However, it is possible to have friends in different communities, and just because someone is an artist or an athlete (obviously) doesn't mean that they person falls into these stereotypes.
The Best Things
Its motivated, inspiring, intellectual students, who really want to help the world.
The Worst Things
Its apathy or avoidance of talking about or addressing important issues.