What is the purpose of attending an institution such as Yale? Is it prestige, or is it the ample diversity or the numerous qualified members of the faculty? Arguably it is all of the above, but there is certainly one overarching purpose no matter the motivation for attendance, and that is education. The Yale experience is about learning and growing with other unique and talented students. This occurs not only within the classroom but also in the numerous extracurricular activities and sports that students participate in. Most of the time these experiences are seen as positive, but sometimes they take on darker tones.
The incident involving Yale students outside of Gourmet Heaven which ended in a shattered window is one of these gloomier experiences in the course of education, but it is important to see it for what it is: another lesson that will be equally as important as the ones taught in the classroom to the students who were involved. The experience of being arrested and of being lambasted by both coaches and faculty, and the knowledge that both teammates and fellow students have been embarrassed by their actions, will indeed weigh heavily on everyone involved. At the same time, these feelings and this incident in general will allow all Elis involved to look back on their actions and learn from their mistakes.
Individuals both within and outside of the Yale community are too eager to point to this event as yet another product of university administrations’ turning a blind eye to athletes. In fact, it is this blatant segregation of the Yale athlete from the Yale student that is the problem. In the Oct. 18 editorial titled “Coaches, teams must set a good example,” the News makes a valid point in claiming that athletes should be held to higher standards because of their public representation of the University. But what the News forgets is that these are still students who are in their late teens or early 20s and have never been in such a situation before. They have gone from high school to the national spotlight, and rarely do they realize the ramifications their actions will have on the school.
The only way that individuals such as the students involved in the Gourmet Heaven incident will learn this lesson is by making these mistakes and learning from them. As a former Yale student and athlete, I can personally vouch that both the Yale administration and coaches go out of their way to try to teach that an athlete’s actions will affect the University, more so than will the average student’s. However, while coaches and faculty can attempt to transfer their wisdom as best they can, the responsibility of learning the truth behind the wisdom falls to the student themselves.
While these students are all responsible for their actions, they have also learned the type of role that they occupy at this University and the adverse effects that their actions can have on their friends, coaches and the school as a whole. They are now able to pass on what they have learned to others and they certainly will be much less likely to place themselves in similar situations in the future. This incident has educated them in a way that they never would have experienced within the Yale classroom. So before students, faculty members and others begin to view this incident as a negative for the University, perhaps they should see it as the learning experience that it is. It has certainly taught those involved how their actions can affect more than just themselves, and I hope it will teach the Yale community as a whole how easy it is to segregate a particular group, particularly in the name of sensationalism, and to look at what could be viewed as a positive learning experience as a negative experience.
Michael Dunleavy Jr. is a 2006 graduate of Yale College.