Life After Major
Features / / January 12, 2018
Receiving a Major School Rule Violation is arguably one of the most frightening prospects to a Lawrenceville student. Not only is every single faculty member aware of what you have done, but it appears as though the entire student body knows as well. Seemingly as a result, students often leave Lawrenceville as soon as they are caught in violation of a Major School Rule. Each student has his or her own motives for doing so, but common reasons include avoiding having disciplinary action on their permanent record, the pressure of not making similar mistakes during their remaining time at the School, fear of judgment from the school community, and simply realizing that the School is not a suitable environment. To gain more insight into the true impact receiving a major, we spoke with three students who chose to remain at the School after receiving Major School Rule Violations.
Gary Shetye ’19
After receiving a major, Shetye initially felt “indifferent” and quickly “accepted it,” but afterwards, he “started feeling really bummed out about it.” He said “[I] felt disappointed in myself, because after talking to my family, I felt like I let them down.” Furthermore, because there were a few days between the Disciplinary Committee (DC) meeting and the of cial assessment of his major, Shetye felt very stressed during this time period. Despite Dean of Students Blake Eldridge ’96’s being “very professional” and “very considerate about [the situation],” “it still came as a very sudden blow, because I was never in that much trouble before,” Shetye said. After receiving his major, Shetye was “very selective initially in terms of letting people know what the situation was” but realized quickly that “kids who [he] didn’t really talk to much would start asking [him] questions.I wanted a boundary [...] and people eventually found out,” Shetye said. Because the news of Shetye’s major quickly spread to other students, many rumors about what he received the major for surfaced. In terms of friendships, Shetye feels he “[hasn’t] lost any [friends]” because to the friends who “[didn’t] want to be involved in this kind of stuff],” he explained that he “[didn’t] want to be involved in it anymore either.Because a lot of my friends have majors, we [...] treated it as a joke, but behind the joke, there’s still that feeling of ‘Darn! We still have a major, this sucks for all of us’,” he said. Not only were his friends supportive and considerate towards him, but many peers also asked for his advice. “A lot of kids feel comfortable asking me about disciplinary issues – they asked me how to deal with this stuff, since it is confusing, so my interactions with others have not really changed.”
Although Shetye’s friendships were not threatened, he raised concerns about how his Major would affect the way faculty members viewed him. “This was actually something I talked to [Student Council Vice President of Honor Nicole Lim’ 18] about early on this year. I told her I don’t know who knows that I have a major, and I heard rumours that all faculty get an email. I also heard a rumor that they send it out to selective people, like my housemaster and teachers, so I was kind of unsure about who knew I had a major,” he said. Shetye also speaks from personal experience – “I went to [a friend’s] house, I was meeting his parents [who were faculty members] for the first time, and I was unsure of how it would affect my interactions with faculty members [...] it’s definitely something I’m conscious about.”
Regarding his future now that he has a Major, Shetye worries “about getting kicked out.” “I’m on probation [...] so even if I were suspected of [something], I would go to a DC immediately,” Shetye said. Shetye expresses his concern in getting expelled, because he “[values his] education at Lawrenceville” and it is something “[he’s] always thinking about.” Shetye’s appreciation towards Lawrenceville also contributes to his decision to stay at the School. “Lawrenceville is a great opportunity. If no one’s forcing me to leave, I’m not going to leave [...] I’m confident in myself that I won’t do anything to get kicked out.”
Shetye sees a number of ways Lawrenceville can improve when dealing with disciplinary problems. He believes, “a lot of things that do go to DC should not go to DC. Obvious things, like, you were caught drunk, you were caught high, or you were caught plagiarising [should go to DC],” Shetye said. However, “if a student owns up to it, [...] then I think it should just be an automatic Major.” Furthermore, Shetye feels it is important to “clarify the tradition of letting people know about the Majors.” “Telling students who would know about their Major, so they understand who knows [would be helpful],” Shetye said. Additionally, “I think a lot more transparency with the student following a DC and the days before a DC would be helpful [as well],” he said.
Shetye greatly appreciates Eldridge’s “focus on keeping the student calm and [his] being nice to the student” during the whole process. However, he believes students would “value honesty more than being falsely consoled.” Thus, he continues to stress the importance of “[transparency] with the student.” “If I’m going there because I’m drunk, I would want Dean Eldridge to say ‘you’re getting a major,’ rather than ‘we’ll see about the DC and maybe you’ll get a major,’ because if I were getting a major, I’d want to know.”
Conallen received a major the summer between her III and IV Form years. Because of the special circumstances, with there being no students on campus to serve as Honor Representatives, she received a modified Disciplinary Committee (DC) hearing and received a Major School Rule Violation.
Leading up to her return to campus, Conallen was “anxious” and “nervous about how [she] was going to be received.” However, she soon found that, while a substantial portion of the student body did know about her major, people generally did not treat her any differently than they had before, and most of her friendships remained largely unchanged. “Some of [them] were affected very slightly just [because] my friends did not expect me to be the type to get a major [...] but I would say looking long-term it hasn’t affected any of my friendships,” Conallen said.
Conallen, unaware that the entire faculty was notified of her Major, also did not notice any changes in teachers’ attitudes towards her. However, she said, “I didn’t have that idea in my head that other faculty were coming into the school year knowing that I had gotten a major [...] If I had been able to observe it, I probably would have seen some different behaviors.”
To Conallen, the only thing out of the ordinary was the way people asked her questions regarding it, which caught her “a little off-guard.” “People were pretty curious and straightforward about [...] wanting to know what happened,” she commented. She also found that the rumors circulating were not about what had actually happened, as is often the case, but rather the punishment associated with it for each individual in the group she was a part of. “I feel like everyone in the group was pretty forthcoming about it; no one was really trying to hide anything that happened,” she said.
Conallen chose to stay at Lawrenceville because she wanted to continue to take advantage of the opportunities Lawrenceville has to offer her. “I was confident and open enough about it that I didn’t feel like [...] I was going to be looked at in a different light [...] and I knew I wouldn’t find myself in a bad situation if I handled myself a certain way for the rest of my time here...It’s a conscious choice to break the rules so you can also make the conscious choice not to,” Conallen said.
Thus, Conallen is appreciative of Lawrenceville’s two-strike policy. At many of Lawrenceville’s peer schools, such as the Hill School, the disciplinary system has a one-strike policy, so a similar offense would typically result in the student’s expulsion. Even so, Conallen takes issue with certain aspects of the disciplinary process, in particular the way the two-strike policy is upheld. “It’s not black and white. [...] There [have been] a lot of instances where a student was receiving their second strike but wasn’t leaving,” she said. “While it does have to do with the gravity of your offence, which is appropriate, I do think there needs to be standard. [...] If you’re going to say it’s two strike, it has to be two strike,” Conallen said.
Through her experience, Conallen’s mindset regarding life at Lawrenceville has changed. Not only does she recognize “Lawrenceville as more of a privilege than a right now,” but she also “knows it’s something that [she is] lucky to still be a part of.” She has also developed a better relationship with the administration as a result of the process – “I felt like I was actually being supported to come back into the community afterwards,” Conallen said. She added, “Dean Eldridge told me when I got my Major that your Major doesn’t define you. [...] It’s how you come back from it and how you prove yourself afterwards. I saw it as a positive experience and change.”
Katie Davis ’18
Davis has received two majors. She felt that going through the process was a difficult time for her because she had to wait a week before she found out what disciplinary action she would receive. For her, it seemed like “living in a weird in-between place because [she] did not know if [she] was staying at Lawrenceville or not.”
Davis believes her case was different because she is not as widely known within the Lawrenceville community. She doubts that people were talking about her and said that “it does not affect her even if they were.” She did not face student gossip or false rumors about her after receiving it. In addition, “the people in [her] close circle of friends were very supportive through the process.” She felt that the process went smoothly and her friends definitely aided her through it.
What surprised Davis, however, was hearing faculty talk about her majors. “I did not think that student majors were something the faculty gossiped about,” she said. Taking things into her own hands, Davis approached her teachers herself. When she found out that she was going to be suspended, she went to talk to each faculty member “just so that they knew what happened and why [she] wasn’t going to be in class.” She believes that “telling them face to face made the process easier because [she] didn’t feel like they were holding a false judgment.”
Davis believes that her majors and DCs were “handled well” and that her transition was “very smooth when [she] re-joined classes.” The only issue she had with the process was “that the time between knowing the verdict and not knowing is a very stressful period that could be reduced.”