Social Studies, History Theses Are Finished

Champagne flowed freely in the social studies and history departments yesterday as exhausted seniors celebrated the completion of their theses.

In the social studies concentration offices, the clock on the wall was indefinitely stopped at two minutes to two, although yesterday's two o'clock deadline had passed.

Eighty-four seniors turned in theses in the honors-only concentration yesterday, joining the 14 who turned them in last fall.

"I am elated for everybody. It is a real accomplishment," said Director of Studies Judith E. Vichniac, who supervised two theses: "Perceptions of Women in the Israeli Army Concerning Military Service" and "Modernity and Mehitzah: Orthodox Jewish Women Confronting the Challenge of the Modernity in the College Environment."

Social studies thesis topics ranged from "Economic Rights and the 14th Amendment" to "Wal-Mart's Struggle in Small-Town America."


Blake J. Lawit '95 said he wrote his thesis on Louis Farrakhan and ran into trouble when an interview was canceled following a recent wake of press scrutiny over an alleged assassination conspiracy involving Farrakhan.

"I originally had an interview set up with a local minister, but he called back and said that Minister Farrakhan told him it wouldn't be a good idea. I don't know if that was geared toward me or just the press in general," said Lawit.

Lawit said he worked around the obstacle, however, and turned in his thesis on time. "Next week I will begin working on 'Son of Thesis,'" he added.

Megan E. Lewis '95 said she shared this point of view. "The pursuit of thesis never ends. Just because it was due today does not mean I will stop dealing with these notions. In fact, I was thinking about looking over it again as soon as I got home," she said with a laugh.

Some said they had trouble letting go of their theses. "I had to have a friend print it out for me; I had a map in it and I colored it this morning. But it's in and it is done," said Sarah A. Bianchi '95, who wrote on welfare in Georgia. "Now I have to go and write a paper due tomorrow for a Core."

The history department, too, celebrated the thesis turn-in day in style. Forty-four concentrators, approximately two-thirds of the seniors in the department, handed in theses.

Head Tutor James Hankins addressed the seniors, saying, "The best thing about this party is that you are all of age, and we can celebrate with champagne."

Deborah E. Kopald '95, who is a Crimson editor, said she found the writing process exhilarating. Her thesis, titled "The Eternal KGB: From Perestroika to Post-Communism," required "unconventional routes of ferreting out information."

Dennis N. Skiotis, the coordinator of undergraduate studies in the history department, said that this is his favorite day of the year.

"You don't get a lot of positive reinforcement at Harvard, and this is a tangible accomplishment for students and advisors," he said. "Everyone is happy today."

For some, feeling good may take some sleep and recovery. Diana I. Williams '95, who has been working since last spring on her thesis about New Orleans creoles of color in the age of Plessy v. Ferguson, said she hasn't slept in two days. She said she is leaving for Puerto Rico this weekend.

Thomas N. Bisson, history department chair, said that he was glad for his students that the process was over.

"The catharsis has been achieved," he said.