Five years after the Wabash Report, Harvey Mudd continues to reckon with workload and culture

A student wearing a Harvey Mudd sweatshirt looks stressed at the pile of books in front of them.
(Lucia Marquez-Uppman • The Student Life)

Updated April 1 at 7:22 p.m.

Five years ago, in March 2017, TSL published the leaked Wabash Report, a 2015 investigation that exposed the severity of Harvey Mudd College’s curriculum and workload. Students quoted in the report spoke about sacrificing sleep, hobbies, hygiene and religious practices in order to manage their classes.

“The Mudd curriculum was brutal when I was there. You’re really thrown into the deep end very quickly,” Felipe Borja HM ’19 said. “First year I was probably sleeping every other day. I even cut down on my eating time just to have more time for work.”

Borja said that throughout his four years, he spent anywhere between 40 to 60 hours a week on homework and studying alone, not including the time spent in class. 

The Wabash Report leak resulted in protests by Harvey Mudd students, classes canceled for two days and demands for increased mental health support. A 2018 study at Mudd reaffirmed the overwhelming workload. Curriculum changes began in 2020 but were slowed by COVID-19.

So how are Harvey Mudd students doing five years on? It depends who you ask.

Some current students told TSL of the same need for intensive time budgeting that was reported in 2015.

“I basically live life by my calendar. I think it’s a little sad that I have to schedule my friend’s birthday tomorrow. I need to remember to go to dinner with her and not accidentally promise someone else that I’ll work on computer science [homework],” Kip Lim HM ’22 said.

Lim estimated they currently do around 30 hours of work outside of class.

Lim said that while the workload can be too much, the structure makes sense given the college’s goals.

“It’s a very structured curriculum that has many requirements to fill and it very much aligns with their mission to be a well rounded, liberal arts college, but it really pushes the students, sometimes a little too much,” she said.

People were upset that it was leaked, as opposed to released, because that kind of implies that those results were never meant to be released.”

Yvonne Ban HM '17

Yvonne Ban HM ’17 said that despite the academic challenges, she had a good experience at Mudd overall: “I think I grew a lot as a person.” But she said that the leak of the Wabash Report allowed many students to realize they were not the only ones struggling at Mudd and that there was a wider issue.

“People realized [that] more than one person has this problem — that indicates that it’s a systemic problem. That [it’s] an institutional problem. It’s a structural problem. People were upset that it was leaked, as opposed to released, because that kind of implies that those results were never meant to be released,” Ban said. 

“If those results weren’t meant to be released, it appears that you’re still covering up the fact that there’s a structural problem with people not being able to handle the workload,” Ban added.

Artemis HM ’24, who asked to be identified by their first name for privacy reasons, told TSL that they were hospitalized this semester after suffering extreme burnout due to their workload. 

“[There is] this culture of feeling that you always have to be doing work,” Artemis said. “At 16 credits, it felt like I was just constantly doing work … I felt like every time that I wasn’t eating, I was doing homework or studying.”

Terrence James Diaz HM ’17 described a similar culture during his time at Mudd.

“I remember being so overburdened with the workload and its emotional/mental toll that I  sometimes wasn’t able to reply to family/friends outside of Mudd. I remember one time my sister had to call the school because she was worried something had happened to me,” Diaz said via message. “Friends would sometimes worry the same thing. Time, to me, became a precious commodity. If I even had just a 30 minute gap between classes, I needed to use it wisely for stuff like catching up on sleep or eating.”

Time, to me, became a precious commodity. If I even had just a 30 minute gap between classes, I needed to use it wisely for stuff like catching up on sleep or eating.”

Terrence James Diaz HM '17

Artemis said they felt like they had to prioritize school over everything else, including hobbies, talking to friends from home and socializing on-campus. 

“I’ve definitely sacrificed a lot of my social life. I feel like a lot of my time socializing with friends is just instead staying in a room together to study. And that’s the main way we socialize,” they said. “I’ve stopped doing stuff, I used to play piano, I don’t play piano anymore. So I definitely dropped a lot of that and I’ve definitely gone off the grid.”

Diaz described a similar feeling.

“It got to the point where if I got sick, I was worried about wasting my time. You’re always thinking about what the next thing to do is, and that kinda thing taking up your mental/emotional space can get incredibly toxic,” he said. “Post-grad to me was all about finally having the time to enjoy the movies, shows, video games, etc. that came out while I was at Mudd but never had the time to enjoy.”

I’ve stopped doing stuff, I used to play piano, I don’t play piano anymore. So I definitely dropped a lot of that and I’ve definitely gone off the grid.”

Artemis HM '24

Especially because some faculty in the report were quoted attributing the rise in diversity at Mudd to a decline in academic standards, Ban described the report as a lightning rod for the “helplessness that everyone was feeling” after the election of Donald Trump in 2016. 

The rhetoric, which insinuated that people from marginalized identities were not up to the task of class rigor, ignited a larger conversation about discimination and diversity at Mudd.

“Many marginalized students feel tokenized by the school in that it uses us to attract more students and build the image of the school, but does not commit to fully supporting us,” students wrote in a statement during the 2017 protests.

Diaz said that he felt the difference in his experience at Mudd as a first-generation, low income student of color. Specifically, Diaz said that having to work multiple jobs limited his free time immensely.

“I also don’t think having more ‘time’ would necessarily solve all my problems,” Diaz said. “There was this perpetual feeling of being behind your peers … My high school barely had an AP program. I was never even exposed to a CS class until Mudd. So for some problem sets and concepts, it didn’t matter whether I spent 3 hours vs 8 hours on them.”

During President Maria Klawe’s time at HMC, the school has seen a tangible shift in diversity, which the president has spotlighted as one of her priorities. The newly admitted class of 2026 is its most diverse to date, with over 60 percent of admits being students of color.

But Diaz said he never felt fully supported institutionally.

“I always felt like most of my struggles as a student were my own problems and a result of my own shortcomings. It wasn’t until my later years that I started to change that outlook and felt that Mudd has a responsibility as an institution to support all of its students equitably, especially when students like myself are disproportionately affected by its demanding curriculum,” he said. “In any case, while there were lots of resources offered at Mudd, I never really felt like those resources fit me.” 

Diaz added that the Wabash Report was deeply validating for him and his experiences at Mudd.

The school has seen a particularly noticeable shift in gender and racial diversity, which a 2019 study done by the college recognized as significant but still inadequate. 

Paul Steinberg, a professor of political science and environmental policy at Harvey Mudd, echoed the sentiment, acknowledging that the college has come a long way but still has work to do. 

“We pat ourselves on the back here and there but we’re also trying to be critical of ourselves,” he said regarding the 2019 report. “So it’s all in that spirit of alright, what are we doing well? Where are we messing up here?”

Borja said one improvement that he saw before graduating was that the newer classes of students seemed more able to talk about their mental health and support each other.

“This was a very predominant feeling [among the upperclassmen that] these kids, they’re doing well, they’re doing a lot better than I would have expected the freshmen to do, they’re not miserable, they care about each other,” he said.

But positive changes aside, the workload continues to challenge many students five years later.

Artemis lamented that Harvey Mudd students have a higher credit requirement in order to graduate in four years compared to their peers at the 5Cs. 

Harvey Mudd currently requires 120 credits at minimum to graduate. If evenly spread throughout a student’s four years, this would be a minimum of 15 credits per semester, an average of five 3.0 credit courses. In 2017, the year the Wabash Report was leaked, 128 credits were required to graduate. The other 4Cs currently require students to take 32 units, an average of 4 courses per semester for four years. 

“The one thing I would change would be the required units for graduation to be reduced,” Lim told TSL.

Some Harvey Mudd students said their workload has prevented them from trying to access mental health services at Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services, the 7C mental health resource. 

“I have not [used Monsour] just because honestly it would be another thing on my calendar,” Lim said.

I have not [used Monsour] just because honestly it would be another thing on my calendar.”

Kip Lim HM '22

Claude Kainu HM ’25 told TSL that the negative feedback they’ve heard regarding Monsour’s services has stopped them from reaching out. 

Ban said that the forced leave of Qutayba Abdullatif, a dean of mental health and wellness at Harvey Mudd, furthered the ire of students on-campus in 2017.

Diaz agreed.

“Dean Q was well liked by the student body and he was an avid supporter of our mental health. Regardless of whether his removal was justified or not, as one of the few mental health resources on campus, this deeply affected students,” he said. 

“The official campus email only stated something to the effect of ‘Dean Q is currently on a leave of absence.’ I think this raised even more eyebrows at the school’s transparency at the time.”

Correction: This article was updated to correct misspellings of Felipe Borja and Terrence Diaz’s names. TSL regrets the errors. 

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