“A Culture of Major Shaming” at Johns Hopkins (and other schools?)


Jacqui Neber is a Writing Seminars major at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Her recent piece at the Hopkins student newspaper introduced me to a new phrase: “Major Shaming.”

I occasionally hear about major shaming at the school where I teach.  My own daughter experienced a mild form of it in her college search.

Neber writes:

I’m a Writing Seminars major. You might hear that and think it’s pretty cool. I do, too. I love writing, with all its struggles. However, the reaction I get too often is one of almost-pity, disinterest and mild laughter.

Some people just say, “oh.”

A culture of major shaming runs rampant at Hopkins, and this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Not when the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences is regularly called the “School of Arts and Crafts,” and it’s barely a joke. Not when the administration focuses so heavily on STEM. Not when faculty make jokes about the students in the class majoring in the “easy” stuff.

Not when the biomedical engineering program falling to number two in the U.S. is a disappointment, but prospective students haven’t even heard of the Writing Seminars program or its reputation as one of the best creative writing programs in the country.

Lack of respect for the humanities at Hopkins is damaging for students who truly love their majors, who are passionate about their fields, who are taking courses that might not involve math but are just as challenging in their own way. It hurts to hear our entire School of Arts & Sciences reduced to Arts & Crafts. It makes us feel as though we don’t deserve to be here.

I’ve spent three years here with acute feelings of displacement: Why am I here, if I can’t succeed in these particular classes? Why am I not told that my major is necessary to positively change the world? Will Writing Sems ever earn some respect? What the hell is Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering process analysis?

Read the entire piece here.

Humanities majors:  STAY STRONG!