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Imminent Collapse Kickin’ My Hass

By Bill Andrews

Pity me, friend. My HASS classes are hard.

If you don’t remember your MIT lingo, HASS stands for Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. If a class isn’t science, engineering, or math, then we call it a HASS class (and they rhyme). We’re funny like that Furthermore, there is the unspoken agreement that HASS classes aren’t real classes; they’re not the meat and potatoes of the ’tvte. 8.02? Real. 18.03? A little too real. 21W.345? Not real: HASS.

The administration should take some blame for this, since there’s only one course number for all six humanities disciplines. As a result, most HASSes have that annoying letter smack in the middle, alerting others to the presence of fakeness, and even which kind of fakeness. We’ve got anthropology fakeness, foreign language fakeness, history, literature, music, theater, and writing fakenesses. Quite a variety.

But for once, I can’t pin the blame solely on the administration, since most of us are to blame as well. It all began for me during Campus Preview Weekend many years ago.

My host had an acting class to go to, but said to me, “It’s no big deal, it’s in Kresge.” My prefrosh n00bishness must have appeared on my face, and he further explained, “Kresge’s that weird building over there. Just for future reference, you have your real classes over there,” and he pointed at the Infinite, “and your fake classes over here,” and he pointed at Kresge. For years I agreed, as did my peers, that HASS classes were, indeed, fake. Alas, for simpler days!

My schedule this semester is punishing me for all those years of disbelief. Suffice it to say I’m taking more HASSes and fewer sciences than normal. It just worked out that way. And as it turns out, these HASSes are pretty hard! I’ve already pulled a few all-nighters, and I’m working all the time. When I’m not reading newspapers (two subscriptions required for one class) or books (“read this book by next class, please,” in two different classes), or writing essays, I’m watching movies.

Reading and watching movies for classes ain’t that great. I compare it to going to a nude beach. The way it works is, imagine all the people in the world you’ve never wanted to see naked; these are the people waiting for you at a nude beach, probably with folks you forgot to think about. So it is with movies and reading — it’s almost never something you might actually want to watch or read.

Adding insult to injury, there’s usually work to do after the activity, so not only do you have to watch four movies in one week (eight hours right there), you then have to write a few essays about them. It gets so you start missing the good ol’ straight–forwardness of problem sets.

By now, you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, okay Bill, you have to watch four movies and write essays, but I have to…” followed by the insane amount of work you have. We MIT kids know this game well and never hesitate to compete with each other. It brings us a kind of masochistic joy — we have all this work, but at least we can brag about it. Which is all fine and good, but therein lies my biggest problem: I have all this work to do for my HASSes, and I can’t even complain about it!

The moment I try to speak up at one of our peculiar competitions, someone else says, “Yeah, but that doesn’t count, it’s for a HASS.” Like the Trix bunny, I hear nothing but, “Silly Bill, humanities aren’t for real.” Even now, part of me understands that others’ workloads might really be harder and more brain–busting, because after all, they deal with math, engineering, and science. Hard stuff!

At the same time, of course, I could challenge any of my competitors to write a few 15-page arguments comparing rhetoric to truth and see how much they like it. Or to keep informed about pretty much everything that’s reported on these days, see if they think it’s fake work after that. But of course I won’t, because I don’t want to get beat up by the hard core “I work harder than you” MIT student.

So as I said, pity me friend. My classes are hard, and I am denied the privilege given to all MIT students of complaining about them.

Even with these few words, I run the risk of seeing a letter to the editor decrying my situation, “Mr. Andrews doesn’t seem to know just how hard engineering classes really are; he would do well to remember where he is, and stop acting like some Ivy League wannabe.” Just remember, friends, it can be a harsh world sometimes, even without math and science.