Tercentennial lame but merry

I admit it: I am but a willing cog in the Yale 300 machine. I’ve ordered my tickets, printed my schedules, attempted to make sense of Linda Lorimer’s e-mails, and even wondered what sort of shoes one wears under a gown. But for all the build-up of the past year, starting with the so-called weekends for the “community” and the “alumni,” I can’t help but wonder if this three-part saga has written itself out.

I’ve been looking forward to Yale’s Tercentennial celebration since I was an impressionable freshman. Sure, a year of partying it up sounded a little excessive even to someone who was used to fighting for magic punch and dancing on tables (only once, I swear), but the prospect of a final weekend “especially for students” won me over. My participation in the past two Tercentennial weekends has been wholly conditional. The first weekend, I cheerfully woke up at 9 a.m. to stale cake outside of Commons. The second, I schmoozed with crusty alums with the understanding that my reward would be some abstract form of bliss come Oct. 5.

As it is wont to do, my pantheon account was first to bear the bad news with the warning that, “Alas, if it is raining, the ceremony will have to be held in Woolsey Hall with limited attendance; each College Master will have selected twenty students to represent your college. We hope everyone else will watch the ceremony which will be broadcast live on Yale cable in your residential college TV room and on Yale cable, generally.” Forgiving the paragraph’s perverse usage of English grammar, the fact still remains that: 1) Woolsey Hall seats 3,000 people 2) my parents did not forfeit their “new kitchen” funds so that I could enjoy Yale via television and 3) the Tercentennial committee is, to put it politely, screwing us over.

I wasn’t expecting Yale to hand me a “Birthday Girl” crown and give out ice cream and presents in Woodbridge Hall, but my vision of the Yale birthday extravaganza (which, by the way, is far catchier than this “Yale 300″ stuff) did not predict that we’d be relegated to the roles of mere extras in this, the final installment of the Tercentennial Trilogy. Aside from the Counting Crows (free concerts are good), this weekend couldn’t be less student-friendly.

A word about the “Yale 300 Festival” itself. The corresponding pamphlet promises a bizarre slapdash assortment of Yale-ish things. Mr. Rogers must have re-entered the workforce so he could name the tents at the Bowl: there’s “Eli Village” and “Ivy Town,” where you can tear off your cardigan and go nuts taking a “ride” on an immobile street trolley. For older students, there’s a “Children’s Medical Dress-Up” and face-painting, but sadly, no balloon-animal-making clown. Not to be missed is the “They Are Our Own Robots” tent, which raises the question of if so, then why don’t we use them to take out our recycling and do our problem sets?

And should students find themselves dazzled by the random variety at the Bowl, there will be a more sedate lecture series. Catch up on your sleep Friday morning by attending one of the “Democratic Vistas” speeches — don’t worry if you doze off, because they’re the same ones you heard last year if you were enrolled in the Devane Lectures.

Originally, it was explained that this weekend would be the culmination of Yale’s 300th year, outshining the previous two and devoting its events to Yale students. After two birthday parties in one year, though, not even Martha Stewart would have the energy to throw a third. Students have become the victims of a Tercentennial committee that’s just plain tuckered out, a fact that’s been made clear by the disorganization and lack of information about the upcoming celebration.

The first two weekends of birthday madness were fun, but now that the earnestness of the year has worn off and the “1701-2001″ logo apparel has gone on sale, we’re all a little weary of it all. Somewhere along the way to trollies, roving klezmer bands, and box dinners, Yale lost sight of why it was celebrating in the first place.

Events of the past month raised questions over whether the Tercentennial celebration should proceed, and rightly so. I would never advocate granting evil a victory by canceling a joyous event. But, instead of gratuitous self-congratulation, let’s revel in all that this university represents. Happy Birthday, Yale.



Sarah Merriman is a senior in Pierson College. Her columns run on alternate Thursdays.

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