Conformity: Western Campus vs. Main Campus
Abercrombie and Fitch. Gap. American Eagle. J Crew. As a general Western rule, these names have no meaning here- that's a ěmain campus thing.î Main campus Miami is heavily affected by conformity, this is undeniably true, and these corporations reap the benefits. Miami is known to the outside world as a ěpreppyî school, and as J Crew U. Walking the grounds of Miamiís campus has been referred to as like walking through an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog. We note that these are generalizations- not every Miami student dresses according to this code, but an overwhelming number do.
On Western Campus, however, things are thought to be different. Westerners try to create an ideal, open community where all tastes and styles are accepted. The result is a community with a variety of people seemingly ědifferentî then the social norm. Western Campus becomes the opposite of main campus; what is shunned there is cherished here and what is shunned here is cherished there. To wear a name like Abercrombie and Fitch on Western requires an explanation, ěOh, it was on sale...really cheap,î or ěOh, I donít really shop there, this is the only thing I own.î Westerners have become so absorbed in differences that those who do choose to conform to the ěsocial normî, in this case, the Abercrombie and Fitch trend, are ostracized.
Our hypothesis is that there is as much of a need to conform on Western campus as there is on main campus. The difference lies in the direction of the conformity- students on main campus tend to conform to the current trendy, popular style and students on Western tend to conform to the art of being as different from theses cult styles as possible. One might call main campus ěconservativeî and Western campus ěliberal.î
Relevance of Research Question
Conformity is a basic part of human nature. Humans are social creatures- needing the companionship and love of others as desperately as air and water. Sociologist Peter Berger studied human behavior at great length and stated that ěone cannot be human all by oneself,î(Berger, 100). In seek of human companionship, individuals adapt themselves in subtle ways to appear more like, or pleasing, to their potential peers. There is a sense of belonging and comfort that comes from a pocket of close peers, that brings the individual a sense of security.
One may find himself unwittingly imitating the slight idiosyncrasies of a close friend, or an old married couple may find themselves finishing each otherís sentences. This is conformity in its purest form- individuals becoming so like one another that the beings actually think alike. On a larger, more obvious scale, conformity is the root of cliques and fads. One can look through history to be presented with a clearer view of this theory. For this research we turned to a series of books, edited by Ezra Bowen, dealing with fads and fashions of the past century. At the turn of the century women pinched themselves into tiny corsets t achieve the ideal hourglass figure, (Bowen, Vol. I, 156). The 1920s was a big decade for fads- people sat at the top of flagpoles, danced for days on end, and participated in a number of bizarre activities for the sake of conformity, (Bowen, Vol. III, 240). During the 1950s, there was a shift to the suburbs- people were expected to settle in identical homes in identical neighborhoods with identical cars and identical 2.5 children, (Bowen, Vol. VI, 156). And in the 1970s there was the pet rock craze, (Bowen, Vol. VIII, 144). What is the practical purpose of a pet rock? None other than to conform to a current cult trend.
With our experiment we hope to prove that there is as much pressure to conform on Western Campus as there is on main campus. Main campusís conformity is easier to observe and identify. Westernís conformity is more difficult to define because it is based on differences. The key is, however, that Westerners take pride in how different they are from students of main campus. This pressures those Western students who fit the main campus mold to conform to Westernís differences.
Materials and Methods
To gather the data necessary for our lab we will be taking a survey of main campus students and Western students. We will give surveys to 200 main campus students (100 men and 100 women) at different times and locations about Miamiís campus. We will also survey 50 Western students (25 men and 25 women) for the second part of our survey and compare the results of both. This survey will also be taken by students in our own NS class for class involvement, but we need a larger sample then just first year students. We will be asking a range of personal questions concerning fashion, music tastes, political affiliation, and opinions on main campus vs. Western. We will also include inquiries about the individualís beliefs and concerns about conformity. As well questions of favorite clothing, background, activities involved in and income range will be included.
We also plan to briefly interview faculty members and alumni, although this portion of our experiment can not be finalized until we find such willing individuals. We hope to interview long-time professors of both Western and main campus for their opinions on current student behavior and alumni for a historical perspective.
After the results of the first survey are compiled, we will be taking a follow-up study on a specific aspect of conformity. This subject will be decided on after the results of the first survey are collected. We want to narrow the subject of conformity to a certain issue, whether it be clothing, alcohol, music, etc.. The first survey should confirm that there is a high rate of conformity in this area. The first survey will give a broad outlook on conformity and the second survey will look indepth into a specific topic.
Below are questions that will be included in our student survey:
1. Sex(M or F)
4. What brands of clothing are you wearing today? What do you usually purchase?
5. What political party do you affiliate yourself with?
6. What type of music do you listen to?
7. How often do you consume alcohol?
8. Are you comfortable with your appearance?
9. What is your initial impression of (Western campus/Main campus depending on which survey is being given)
10. Do you ever feel yourself conforming to a social norm?
11. Do you feel Miami fits its reputation as a ěpreppyî school?
12. How would you compare main campus and Western campus? Is there a major difference?
13. How would you classify yourself? (ie preppy, conservative, liberal, rebel, artistic, etc.)
14. Do you fell out of place when not dressed a certain way?
15. Do you feel you need to go uptown to party or to frat parties?
16. Do you feel you can be yourself without ridicule?
When interviewing faculty members and alumni we will ask the following questions:
Do you feel there is a major difference between the students on Western campus and on main campus?
Do you feel Miami fits its ěpreppy imageî
What was the relationship in the past between Western and Miami? How did the students feel about one another, to the best of your knowledge?
How would you classify the students of Miami in the past? (ie... preppy, conservative, rebels,artistic) Indicate the era of referral
How would you classify the students of Western College in the past?
Berger, Peter L. Invitation To Sociology. Anchor Books, New York, 1963.
Bowen, Ezra, ed. This Fabulous Century. Vol. I. Time-Life Books, New York, 1969.
Bowen Ezra, ed. This Fabulous Century. Vol. III. Time-Life Books, New York, 1969.
Bowen, Ezra, ed. This Fabulous Century. Vol. VI. Time-Life Books, New York, 1969. Bowen, Ezra, ed. This Fabulous Century. Vol. VIII. Time-Life Books, New York, 1969.
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