Yale should raise quality of students, not quantity

This weekend, some friends of mine from Brandeis who were visiting Yale for a Model UN conference asked me to dinner. On the way out of Old Campus, one asked, “So, is everyone here, like, a genius?”

I hesitated as I looked back at my first months at Yale. Faces of members of the YPU who had given eloquent and sophisticated arguments flashed through my head together with brilliant articles I had read in different Yale publications. A twinge of the insecurity every freshman feels when confronted with so much genius crept up on me.

I began to answer uneasily, “I guess?” when a senior walking several paces behind us butted in: “There are a lot of idiots here.”

I doubt that — but the point is instructive in a sense.

The first assumption upon which the case for a larger student body rests is that there is more ‘Yale material’ out there that, if accepted, would come to Yale.

The interjecting upperclassman may claim that there really aren’t any more deserving people out there. I disagree. But if the University thinks it can improve its position by accepting more students, the question is not, “Why isn’t there room for more talented students?” but, “Will they come?”

The larger problem of a lack of capacity can only be solved if it accompanies a change of the misdirected mentality of Yale’s administration.

While a larger student body and flashy new buildings may boost Yale’s rankings in the short term, only the acceptance of a more distinguished, talented and diverse freshman class and greater support for students once they are on campus will allow Yale to host more of the next generation’s future political, social, and intellectual leaders. The number and quality of the leaders Yale produces will secure the University’s long-term reputation, not its ranking in U.S. News & World Report. There is not necessarily strength in numbers.

If the administration seeks to use Yale’s vast resources to augment both the University’s short- and long-term standing, it should do so by courting better candidates with more generous financial aid and by improving student life and educational opportunities for those enrolled. Only when this goal has been met should the Corporation consider if the expansion is wise. Such progress cannot be measured only in numbers. It requires a qualitative change in the values of the administration.

I do not agree with a previous editorial that a larger student body is necessarily a harbinger of dilution of resources and prestige — but it will be unless the administration changes its focus toward a more long-term view of Yale’s reputation and, indeed, duty.

Anecdotes of straight-A students denied by every Ivy League university and stellar pre-frosh who go elsewhere due to inadequate financial aid aside, the larger question of which students Yale admits and would admit in a larger freshman class must be answered before we answer the question of how many. In the information made available to students, the University has not adequately addressed this question.

Granted, the housing crunch needs to be addressed. But if enrollment is to rise 12 percent with the addition of two new colleges, it is all too likely that the University will behave as it has in the past, encouraging or even forcing students to move off campus through less-than-desirable living situations. Without a commitment from the administration to view quality over quantity and Yale’s standing over its statistics, the student body should not support this new venture.

Additionally and more importantly, if prospective students do not receive adequate financial aid or see Yale as a supportive institution, they will choose to attend Princeton, Stanford or Harvard instead — and no amount of additional housing will coax these students to become Yalies.

Although, if they want to go to Harvard, do we really want them anyway?

David Broockman is a freshman in Jonathan Edwards College.