Life Inside the Haverbubble

Most Haverford students rarely leave campus.  This like life inside the bubble too much to venture outside.

By Robert Breckinridge
Students at Haverford College often find they are lulled into a comfortable complacency that leads them to rarely venture out of the confines of campus. For decades, they’ve called this tendency the Haverbubble.

But, is the Haverbubble real or a myth? Is is only a legend passed down from one generation of students to another, or is it the real thing. Now it can be told: it is the real thing.

In an anonymous survey to students at Haverford, 58 % of the 509 respondents – a reply rate equal to 45 % of the student body — said the Haverbubble is real and they never escape it. Another 32 % said they rarely leave the campus.

The survey shows that most students spend most of them time at Haverford on campus, rarely venturing outside – even to nearby establishment, even more rarely to Philadelphia, which is just a 20-minute train ride away.
And, according to the survey, most of them like it that way.

Sophomore Steve Chehi said, “the Haverbubble is a great thing for about 25% of the student body 100% of their time here. And a great thing for the other 75% of the student body for their first two years they are here.”
Part of the attraction of Haverbubble is that it can be as insulating and comfortable as crawling under your covers on a cold night.

“To me the Haverbubble is an island, it keeps me safe, its where I learn,” said Kyle Norton, another sophomore.
It is easy to imagine Haverford being an isolated 19th century village.

With 99% of the student population living on campus, everything on Haverford College’s 216 acres is within walking distance. A single road marks the perimeter of the campus. Freshman are not allowed to bring cars to school, and a majority of upperclassmen don’t feel the need to have one. On most days, the only vehicles spotted going through the campus are bicycles and long boards, a type of skateboard.

There are plenty of activities on campus that students find interesting. “There are parties, dances, movies, game rooms, raffles, and FUCS is pretty cool. FUCS is the shows in Lunt Basement. They pull in pretty cool Indie bands and there’s always beer there,” said Norton.
Andrew McGaghran, sophomore, likes to “hang out with friends, go out to dinner, go to a couple parties or improv shows, whatever. I go to FAB stuff [Fords Against Boredom]. FAB provides student activities, you know like FAB films. They get students involved and try to eliminate the stress, you know, midnight breakfast, Ben and Jerry’s Bingo.”

Other students are active in arts organizations like sophomore, Josh Samors. “I sing. I’m in the S-Chords. I do Greasepaint, the student-run musical theater group,” says Samors.

Haverford has an honor code created by the students and is ratified by the students every year. The Honor Council is also student-run. Haverford’s website says “The College does not have as many formal rules or as much formal supervision of undergraduates as most other colleges; rather, it offers an opportunity for students to govern their affairs and conduct themselves with respect and concern for others.”

Self-governance and fear of rules are an intrinsic part of the Haverbubble.

“The way the Haverbubble was presented to me,” said one junior, who did not want to be named, “is that at Haverford you get away with a lot more stuff than you could outside. You take things for granted at Haverford. You can drink wherever you want and smoke wherever you want. You can’t get away with that anywhere else.”

At Haverford, it is tacitly understood by students that they are allowed to drink alcohol in and around any dormitory on campus. It does not matter if a student is 21 or not. Smoking marijuana is also not an issue, either.
Junior Raffi Williams relates a story of a student who was living in the Haverford College Apartments and who was growing a marijuana plant in his room. The plant was situated by his window. Someone walking in the neighborhood saw the plant and called the police. The police called campus security and asked them to take care of the situation. They did and the student removed the plant. No further action was taken at the time.

The college’s Safety and Security office often acts as a buffer between the students the police. According to the students, the local police have an unwritten understanding with safety and security. Security keeps things calm here, and the police visit campus minimally. When safety and security comes to one of the many parties thrown on campus on a weekend, they are usually there to make sure the noise level is not too high. They are rarely there to discipline students.

While sophomore Jason Leeds agrees with olne junior’s definition of the Haverbubble, (“the Haverbubble means no rules. A safe environment.”), but he is not as fond of the Haverbubble as others. “I think it gives kids a false sense of protection that is not there in the real world,” He said.

As an example, Leeds notes, “I drive a lot more recklessly after being at Haverford because I don’t appreciate the rules as much. I don’t feel like I’m going to be caught for anything. I drive a lot faster.”

The comfort of the Haverbubble “extends beyond the scope of the campus” said Junior Andy Wee “It extends into the Haverford district itself because it’s a safe, upscale, rich neighborhood.” Students rarely go beyond the Haverford township shopping centers where they often eat. Most rarely get into Center City. Sophomore Katie Drooyan said, “I rarely get into Philly, almost never. I don’t necessarily have anything specific to go out there for.”

Though the main entrance to the campus is merely a block from the R5 Haverford train station. Ethan Joseph, sophomore, does not get into Center City as often as he would like.

“Maybe that’s the Haverbubble,” said Joseph. “The fact that you’re in a place where you can get wherever you want but you still stay right here.”

“I don’t get into Philly often at all. Maybe like two or three times a year,” said sophomore Alok Bhattacharya. “Because of the Haverbubble, there’s enough stuff going on campus and I guess that adds to the laziness that stops me from getting on the R5 to head out.”

Bhattacharya also said that “the Haverbubble means to me the space of comfort that everyone feels at Haverford that sets into complacency instead of going out and doing things because its kind of easy to sit around because there’s always going to be something happening here.”

The other students who feel the same way amplify this complacency that Bhattacharya feels. When asked why she does not get into Philadelphia more often, Freshman Hannah Silverblank said, “I think it’s just a matter of getting a bunch of friends together. I’d rather go with a group of people than by myself. Getting a group of people is pretty difficult.”

For some, n ot getting off campus often enough can sometimes feel stifling and hinders students’ connection with the real world., like being under house arrest.
Martha Lecauchois, sophomore, feels that “the Haverbubble means cutting me off from the rest of the world. It’s big, huge.”

Sophomore Nathan Shelton recalls that earlier this year, “the recession was going on and people were like ‘oh we’re having a recession that sucks, I didn’t even know.’ I’m like ‘that’s ridiculous dude, have you not read CNN in the last three months?'”

Students like Norton often get their information about the world from gossip with their peers. Most of the time it does not include things beyond the scope of the campus. Also, Norton said, “The only newspaper I read while I’m at Haverford is the Bi-Co [the Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges’ student newspaper] which is in the Haverbubble. Anything that happens outside of the campus I usually hear through classes or a teacher, which skews what comes in.”

This is not to say that all students don’t read the newspaper and keep up with current events. It simply takes an extra effort for them to stay in tune because they find themselves busy with classes and activities offered at Haverford. When students have free time they usually don’t spend it reading the news online. Their time is more often spent with their friends. It takes no more than 5 minutes to walk anywhere on campus so it is easy for students to mingle with each other. Freshman Andrew Ahn finds this advantageous. He said, “I see the same faces and I get to know the same people better and I get to meet new people that I know I will keep seeing.”

But this insularity can be overbearing. A common complaint amongst students is that they see the same faces day in and day out. With only one dining center on campus, Haverford College often feels more like Haverford High School. Students sit in more or less the same place everyday with more or less the same crowd.

Senior Calvin Okoth-Obbo, is so used to seeing the same people everyday that he asked the rhetorical question, “What other place do you know where you can be aware that someone does not go to Haverford?”

Ironically, there are students so entrenched in the Haverbubble that many students don’t know they exist. They are known as the Phantom 500. According to most students, the Phantom 500 stay in their room or the library and study all the time. Or they have Bryn Mawr girlfriends and are always at Bryn Mawr. Many students don’t know the phantoms exist until graduation day. Samors claims to have known a phantom. “I had one on my hall freshman year. We saw him the first week then never again.”

The Phantom 500 has a reputation beyond the Haverbubble. Ahn said that his college counselor told him that if he was going to go to Haverford that he better not become a part of the Phantom 500.

The survey sent to all the students at Haverford confirms the general notion conveyed by the students interviewed in this article. 60% of the respondents were female and 40% were male. 31% of the respondents were freshmen. They were followed closely by sophomores, who contributed 29% of the responses. Seniors contributed 21%, juniors make up the remaining 19%.

Fifty percent of the students said they go to Center City to dine at a restaurant when they leave the campus. Forty percent they get downtown for concerts. That, of course, is only when they leave the campus. Fifty eight percent of them said they stay on campus every weekend.

Seven percent of the students said they were part of the Phantom 500. Firty of them stay on campus only 3 times a month. They seem to have more of a propensity to leave the campus than students who do not consider themselves phantoms. This is contrary to the impression that most students have of the Phantom 500. All of these students live on campus. One phantom respondent defined the Phantom 500 as “the 500 students disenfranchised by the drinking culture at Haverford; invisible to the partying population.”

Ninety eight percent of the respondents said they they lived on campus. Forty five percent said they get into downtown Philadelphia 1-3 times a semester, if ever. But the 2% of students who live off campus said they got into Center City 3-6 times. This is telling because they are not in the physical realm of the Haverbubble and may be less likely to be affected by it. And yet 50 percent of those hwo do live off campus saud they come onto campus every weekend, mostly for parties.

One of the questions on the survey asked ‘what does the Haverbubble mean to you?’ This was perhaps the most telling response: “Yes, there’s a community/environment that is created by Haverford and its social and educational honor code that shelters us and cuts us off from everyone else. For example, it is possible to be at school and have no idea what is going on outside of Haverford unless you frequently watch the news read newspapers or go on news websites. I don’t think its a realistic setting to have and sometimes it gets overwhelming which is why I try to leave once in a while, but I feel like it is not only created by the institution it is implemented by the student body as well, so I guess there is no one really to blame…”