Indeed, I find this to be an odd and rather sad story, despite it being wrapped in fond reminscence. Whether there was actual bullying, or just the creation of a word that was used as an insult, the story suggests one of the many reasons that we don't have greater numbers of well-rounded, intelligent young people majoring in STEM fields -- social ostracism among their college peers.
I was at WPI in the early days (1976 to 80) of the plan, though not at the beginning, which as 1973 I think.
Those were the years of the competency exam, or "Comp" as we called it. For those not familiar with WPI or who came later, the EE comp was a five-day take-home exam.
Day 1: You were given two or three deisgn problems from area of concentration (analog, digital, control systems, semiconductor physics, etc.) and you chose one. later that day, you met with the head of your review board, which consisted of three professors. The meeting was to make sure you understood the problem.
Day 2: after working all day and most of the night and morning, you met with the full board and showed your progress. Your board would give some help if needed.
Day 3: You worked all day and night on your design problem and wrote your report.
Day 4: You handed in your final report and tried not to think about how you could have done a better job. But, you did anyway and that could ahve been a good thing to prepare for your final review meeting.
Day 5: You met with the review board, then hoped you passed.
Day 6: You went to the department office to receive your grade. If you passed, you ran down the halls and into the street jumping for joy. Some would jump and yell "I'm competant" while feeling that they could conquer the world.
Then you graduated and took a job where learned that you hardly knew a thing.
The comp was killed around 1986. Best thing WPI ever did. Many of those who went through the Comp complained that it was what made WPI different from other schools. I think they felt that the school had lowered their standards by dropping the Comp. All it did was give you a false sense of confidence.
In my days, we didn't have A,B,C grades, just acceptable and distinction. The A,B,C grades were implemented later because some graduate schools wanted them.
It was actually the unconventional curriculum that attracted me to WPI in the first place. And in my 20 years since I left I've found that engineers from other schools tended to be more narrow than those from WPI, because of WPIs humanities and project requirements. The old "WPI Plan", with the single exam, was dead by the time I arrived. Replaced by the new "WPI Plan" with somewhat more conventional grading (though you still couldn't 'fail' a class - it was A,B,C,I (Incomplete) or NR (Not Recorded)) and projects.
It was quite a week and a half, first with the chicken pox and then my roommate's tragic death. I had two exams on the last day. I took one and the CS professor let me come back two weeks later to take the last exam.
There was some serious bullying at WPI when I was there. There was a particular frat that was well-known for it, including some nasty stuff like throwing firecrackers at people(!) and stuff like that. It was pretty bad. It didn't matter if the "dorks" "seemed to have a good time in their clique," there were always people willing to shout things/throw things/be generally threatening.
Hail from another wedgerat and GDI who well remembers the VT 100s. Don't know where the original author was coming from as an EE myself. I knew a lot of CS majors who were'nt anything as he described. Aww well, some never learn. Were you around 83 to 88?
I don't get it. I was bullied from 7th grade til 10th, so I know what bullying is. I had butch hair in the 70s when all others had long hair, tell me about it.
I never felt anyone did any real bullying at WPI. I knew pretty much knew most of the students of all the classes of those in the early 80s, and no one really bullied anyone. I felt that it was great to finally be in an environment where that did not occur. Sure, people joined fraternities and had their little cliques, I joined one as well. There were Gweepers in my fraternity that had fun with the concept. I went to all the other fraternity parties and for meeting with friends, and as weird as I was, I was accepted there without threat of harm, mentally or physically.
I knew who the weirdest of the weird were, maybe you could call them dorks, but they seemed to have a good time in their clique.
With my son growing up, he had a hard time with others. In Junior high, he would react anytime anyone stuck up their middle fingers at them. What I had to explain to him, that which I wish someone had to explain to me, is that that was just the way middle schoolers say high. Then when you react angrily, they see that they can push your button and dig harder. I just told him to not internalize it, just wave and smile, and he made friends. He is now very popular in school with all other students, popular and weird.
I agree that there are instances where people continue with poor actions without stopping to think, perhaps because they were outcasts at some time and feel a need to push back, I was not a witness to that and would not have stood for it if I did. There were people who did not want to join a fraternity (GDI), another term people used jokingly. I had friends who were GDI as well (I shall not spell out the acronym as some people may be offended for other reasons) . I suppose you could take that derogatorily as well.
Gweeper was a term for fun, describing those that went to the computer center to do their work in the middle of the night. I suppose it could be hurtful to some if overused in a mean manner, but at the same time, we grow up and move on.
I have been to quite a few of the reunions, and found that all that attend accept each for who they are in a positive manner. I am happy to say that all my gweeper friends went on to happy productive lives.
That's a very sad story. Thank you for sharing it, and doing what you could. Unfortunately, bullying is rampant in USA educational and other institutions, and from what I've seen the people who run these institutions way too often tacitly or actively encourage it.
The drinking age is now 21 in most USA states, but student drinking is probably worse now than it was then.
I was an indirect victim of the bullying in my freshman year. My roomate was a chemistry major. The losers on the dorm floor called him "The Dork." He did nothing but study and did look the part. He always went home on weekends. We would often find writing in shaving cream with the word DORK on the door, usually put there on Saturday nights when people were drunk (drinking age was 18 at the time).
I would tell these jerks to grow up and then look like the defender and take some criticism, but I knew I was right.
My roomate was under tremendous pressure from his family to excel academically. On the next-to-last day of D term, I awoke and found him passed out, half on the floor, half on his bed. We called security and he was taken to the hospital where he died at age 19. I never found out that actual cause. It didn't matter. He never drank or did drugs.
The bullies didn't feel like bullies that night, May 24, 1977.
I ended up taking my CS course final over the summer because of that and because I was home the previous week with the chicken pox.