Techies vs. Fuzzies

The techie vs. fuzzy border war is one that I learned quite a lot about in college. As far as I can tell, the terms techie and fuzzy were coined or popularized at Stanford, where a “techie” is an engineering or natural (hard) sciences major and”fuzzies” are those majoring in the social (soft) sciences and the humanities. Although some of us whom took a significant number of classes in both might be called “fuchies,” there isn’t a stable or vast middle ground; you’re either more techie or more fuzzy.

While this seems like a minor affiliation, the divide is real at Stanford and I don’t think it becomes any less vast in the real world either. The Stanford campus is simply a microcosm of the off-campus post graduate job market. Techies are pasty nerds with poor hygiene and psychotic work ethics who mutter constantly about problem sets and deadlines. Fuzzies are overly tanned slackers who don’t see the inside of a classroom before 1pm or after 4pm and never on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, or Mondays. Techies take drugs to stay awake and study, Fuzzies take drugs to chill out and hasten sexual encounters.

The Techie/Fuzzy divide isn’t just a preference for objective and quantitative standards vs. subjective and qualitative standards, it’s actively created by the University’s policies. Stanford is on the quarter system, which are more logically called trimesters (three normal terms per year, one summer term). Twenty units is a full term and you can apply to take 21 units, but most students take 15-18.

Techies are faced with 160 unit majors where none of the prerequisite classes count and none of the general education requirements count, the hardest classes require 50 hours a week of work for only 3 units of credit, weekly problem sets, biweekly midterm exams, a final exam and a final project, large impersonal lectures with professors who can’t tell you from Adam (good luck finding a faculty adviser or getting a recommendation letter), and killer curves when half the students in your introductory class are sandbaggers taking the class again or who belong in the more advanced class. If you want an A, expect to teach yourself most of the material, and if you get behind at all it’s nearly impossible to catch up. If you’re in a popular techie major (like Computer Science) expect most of your experience with faculty to be hostile and classes designed to weed you out. If you want to study abroad, the only location that has any classes that will apply to your major are taught in Japanese in Kyoto, and you’ll likely have to cram in an extra quarter over the summer somewhere to make up for being unproductive while you’re away.

Fuzzies, on the other hand, get 5 units (the max) for almost every class, their majors can be completed in less than a year (50 units), most 5 unit classes are two short papers and one exam and you can get by without doing any of the reading because the lectures are typically a handful of students sitting right next to the professor who goes over everything anyway. Teachers will invite you into their homes or to travel overseas with them to assist with their research projects, actually read and grade the material you hand in instead of passing it off to foreign national grad students who don’t speak English very well, recommend you for awards and special programs that compliment your interests, and have you read books other than the ones they wrote.

Techie students are justifiable in their anger and jealousy because they’re being left out of the social and intellectual orgies that Fuzzies are free to indulge in all year long. Techies pay the same to get face time with grad students while Fuzzies can sleep in and travel overseas to any number of romantic and exotic locations and earn usable credit for it. Techies console themselves with the idea that they’re doing it for the degree, which is clearly more marketable than a Fuzzy degree, but Fuzzies could care less about getting a job because they’re having such and ideal college experience. The only real downside for Fuzzies is the notion that they are less intelligent or fastidious simply because they aren’t asked to become homicidal to earn their degree.

Outside of the Farm, the names might be different, but I think the phenomenon is the same. There are people who are technically minded who prefer objective standards and numerical measurements and there are people who are artistically minded who prefer subjective standards and qualitative measurements. If these people didn’t already have enough reasons to dislike each other, considering that they value different things and essentially speak different languages, there is the added impression that one group has it better or easier and the other group is more respectable or has more impressive jobs.

Besides the fact that almost all college majors are irrelevant to any real world jobs, I guess college did teach me a thing or two about the real world.

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.