Letter: A student space

Did Yale College Dean Mary Miller seriously think that her column Friday (“An open letter regarding disciplinary procedures,” Oct. 23) would help stem criticism of her and the University surrounding recent disciplinary measures (or lack thereof)? Could she really have thought that this was the fairest, most effective way to address us students? And did the News think it was helping its readers by publishing the piece?

Friday’s column was, more than anything else, boring. It was 1,038 words of bureaucratic junk, a recitation of the Yale College Undergraduate Regulations, a barely readable account of the workings of the executive committee, published in the independent student newspaper. The column was not helpful to the students that both the paper and the University seek to serve.

It was not the first time this year that Yale officials have used this page to address students. In early September, soon after the News reported on the Preseason Scouting Report e-mail, Miller used this page to tell us, as she did again last week, that the e-mail may or may not constitute a punishable offense according to the Undergraduate Regulations (“Speaking out for community values,” Sept. 7). And two weeks ago the masters and deans of every residential college signed a column: “Why bladderball was (and still is) banned,” Oct. 14). In each of these pieces, administrators told students, in uninspiring terms, that rules are rules.

My dad was a Yale College student when women were first admitted, and back before bladderball was banned. When I shared my bladderball experience with him by e-mailing the News’ coverage, his biting response surprised me: “Back in my time, we were never to trust anyone over 30, or anyone in authority (effectively the same thing), on any issue from Vietnam to marijuana use. The assumption was that these people … had become wedded to order/power as an end to itself. And now we have the masters’ oh-so-reasonable 2009 Bladderball Column, inserted … right in the students’ newspaper. Could it be that we weren’t all wrong?”

Back in September, when I was the editor of this page, my parents questioned the News’ decision (which was, they knew, my decision) to run Miller’s first column, unedited, unquestioned and unrebutted. Their criticism woke me up to something I should have realized earlier: Whatever benefit the News’ editors think the paper gets from the gravitas of a high-ranking official’s words on this page may be less than the damage to the collective student spine when we cede our space to administrators writing to tell us we’re wrong.

Then Miller wrote again Friday. Even more than the two previous columns by administrators, this one read as an old person’s attempt to squeeze the life out of youth. And, as with the earlier pieces, its publication in the newspaper was unnecessary and unhelpful, since Miller can reach students whenever she wants by sending a college-wide e-mail.

My dad, age 59, was right — at least about the News, if not about trusting people over 30: We should not be handing our forums over to middle-aged authority figures seeking to chastise us or tell us why they’re so much more reasonable than we are. They have their own means to do so; they don’t need the help of this newspaper.

Pete Martin

Oct. 25

The writer is a senior in Morse College and a former opinion editor of the News.

Comments

  • Veritas

    Amen.

  • TD ’10

    Admittedly, I have trouble parsing Mr. Martin’s flowing prose, but I couldn’t find in them anything approaching a rebuttal of anything that Dean Miller wrote. Instead, he seems angry with the way that she wrote it, and with the fact that the News printed it all. Putting aside his juvenile screed against Dean Miller’s style, Martin’s essential argument is that the News is the “students’ newspaper,” and that if Dean Miller wanted to convey her views to the student body, she could just have just sent a college-wide email. Fair enough, but that’s hardly an appropriate motto for a newspaper. If the student body’s demand for news and opinion could be met by mass email, then what’s the point of having the News at all? The founding premise of any news organization ought to be that the free exchange of ideas is good. Why should Dean Miller’s views be any exception? I suspect his gripe is really with the fact that Yale has not yet flayed the email’s authors. I would expect much better from someone as closely connected to the YDN as Martin.

    More to the point, while Martin found the column to be “1,038 words of bureaucratic junk,” I found it supremely comforting. It showed me that, (unlike, say, Duke) at the highest levels of administration, Yale follows through on its commitment to due process and fairness. And it gave me confidence that should I ever be accused of assault, Yale would protect my rights, even in the face of public criticism. Bravo, Dean Miller! I hope to read many more of your columns in the future.

  • Paul Keane www.http://theantiyale.blogspot.com

    They aren’t seeking to chastise—the entire administrative mind-set is based on Cover-Your-Ass mentality. I am ashamed to say the my first master degree is in something called “Student Personnel Services and Administration in Higher Education” (M.Ed. ’72 Kent State). It is the most bogus of the bogus “education” degrees. A former Yale president, A. Whitney Griswold, had it right; he ABOLISHED Yale’s Graduate Department of Education saying, “It is unnecessary to teach teachers how to teach”. I would add only, in agreeing with Mr. Martin’s (and his over-30 ,I presume, father’s)premise, that it is unnecesary to teach bureacrats how to bore. Deadening the English language comes naturally. They actually enjoy this arid stuff!! (AND they think it means something!)

    BTW: It is true: You can’t trust anyone over 30 OR anyone who owns property. They have sold their soul–and their future– to Mercantilia. Even I.

    Paul Keane, M. Div. ’80
    M.A., M.Ed.
    http;//theantiyale.blogspot.com

  • Fight the Power

    I agree. In fact, I don’t think any YDN article should feature quotes from adults. Adults make me nervous, and they always lie. I like it best when your reporters just manufacture quotes and assign them to their roommates.

    Your position on the two pieces you attack is inconsistent and misleading: Miller’s comments on the scouting report matter (though, yes, bureaucratic and familiar) addressed the restrictions which impede the Executive Commitee from making its rulings public (a recurring complaint given expression in the YDN); the Masters/Deans letter acknowledged the fun of bladderball and then recalled the legitimate reasons for the ban. Power for the sake of itself? C’mon. Your dad, drunk on nostalgia, is doing you a disservice. Banning Op-Ed pieces by oppressive adults? How about, instead, someone taking the time to write a substantive editorial counterpoint, and running it alongside? That might do the community the YDN serves a greater service.

    In the meantime, stay true to your newfound convictions, Pete. At least until you’re 30.

  • BR ’10

    Are you likely to be accused of assault, #2? If so, I’m not sure you’re the sort of person we want to listen to on this subject, given you probably don’t see anything wrong with the Scouting Report in the first place.

    I don’t think this article was ever meant to be a rebuttal to Miller’s article. It was exactly what it reads as and what its title indicates: an objection to using student space to print material written with the aim of “putting us in our place.” I felt the same way about this and the bladderball columns…why use this forum? Why not make sure everyone does see it by having an e-mail pop up in each students’ inbox? It’s unfair because many students do have respect for the deans and masters and for Dean Miller, and it’s hard to justify writing a rebuttal, particularly if that rebuttal warrants harsh criticism of the administration.

    Ultimately, Martin’s right: administrators should administrate from their own platform, and allow us to protest (if necessary) from ours.

  • If this is the voice of the revolution…

    …I’ll stick to the decaf.

  • over 30

    A bit of an ageist response, don’t you think, Mr. Martin?

  • Under 30

    1) Dean Miller’s response was ridiculous.
    2) Dean Miller’s response was not an opinion’s piece but an attempt to outline a administrative policy, that is flawed.
    3) The idea that pursuing disciplinary action on the PSSR authors should be secret does nothing to discourage a culture of sexual harassment.
    4) Miller’s horribly written essay was a policy discussion meant for Yale students – why she chose the YDN is beyond me.

  • Townie

    I just love legacy admits…

  • 2010

    Just to make sure we’re not misinterpreting what this piece is about …. Martin simply says that the Opinion Page is not the most appropriate location for a statement of policy. This seems to be especially true given that Dean Miller has other (perhaps more appropriate) avenues at her disposal through which to outline policy to the student body.

  • JE ’10

    I completely agree with Pete here. Dean Miller just used the YDN editorial page as a forum to copy 1000 words or so of rules out of the undergraduate regulations, and then not bother giving an adequate summary at the end for those of us who had better things to do with our time than troop through that whole article. I’d imagine many students had the response to that article that I did; skim it, and ignore it.

  • ROFLCOPTER

    There should be no punishment for the authors of the “PSSR” – this is a free speech issue. Should I be afraid of an ex-comm the next time I email a few friends about a hot girl I meet at Toad’s?

  • kafka-esque

    The University has been the scene of three murders and one missing person (never found) since 1983, and its administrators are dilly dallying with memos about bladderball! This is kafka-esque.
    PK http://theantiyale.blogspot.com

  • Recent Alum

    ROFLCOPTER is of course correct; there should be no punishment for the PSSR unless the administration is willing to enforce rules against spam emails on a more consistent basis. But there is nothing wrong with the administration publishing a column in the YDN, particularly when the column responds to criticisms that have themselves been published by the YDN.

  • Observer

    The basic problem is not that Dean Miller submitted a response to the YDN but that, as usual, it is so lead-footed. Dick Brodhead would have done it with panache and clarity and Peter Salovey with some measure of sensitivity and humility. Alas, Mary Miller is just a pedant.

  • Recent Alum

    “Dick Brodhead would have done it with panache and clarity”

    LOL. Indeed, I think we know from his handling of both Van de Velde and the Duke lacrosse non-issue that he clearly is the best qualified to handle these sorts of cases…

  • YLS

    I am afraid many of the critical comments above misinterpret this letter as a rebuttal or attempted rebuttal of Dean Miller’s column. In fact this letter makes no pretense at attempting to refute any of Miller’s claim. Instead in questions the wisdom of ceding a unique, allegedly independent student platform to the end of disseminating the administration’s point of view. While age alone is not necessarily a disqualifying factor (the author’s father’s age would disqualify him according to this rule) it is important to recognize that administrators represent the administration’s point of view. They are very much bound to the reigning order and to the preservation of their power. By printing their opinions as authority, we are stifling an opportunity for organic intellectual development in the student body. Now we allow Dean Miller or other administrators to set the terms of the discussion, rather than ourselves.

  • Old Blue ’73 and Duke Parent

    Brodhead??? Hell, he would have opened the offenders’ email accounts to the New Haven police for rapid arrests within two days of Bladderball.

  • panache

    The same panache with which [President] Dick Brodhead handled the Duke belly-dancer (stripper) scandal? Sounds like sexist nostalgia for the Yale Good Ol’ Boys’ Club. Boola Boola.

    Pedantry requires some academic text or subject over which one hovers with obsessive focus.

    Administrivia is definitely not pedantry. I can’t think of a word to adequately describe its tiny-mindedness and its dis-interestedness in pusuing truth. You’ll have to forgive me.

    Perhaps referee? No, because that would imply that the Administration had the possibility of being ruled “foul” or “out” and that never happens.

    It is a mincing miracle of Administrative language that within 24 hours after the Kent State slaughter the Kent State administration started calling it the “Kent State tragedy” and “the Kent State Affair” draining the murders of both blood and human life until they are now a dry blotch of inked letters in a history book 40 years later under the heading “Protest” or “Anti-War”

    It is quite possible your readers don’t even know to what event I refer, and that is the ultimate triumph of Administratese (ever read “Politics and the English Language”?), the non-pedantry of the Dean X’s of the world.

    Bitter? Cynical? No. Just weathered.

    http://the antiyale.blogspot.com

  • ROFLCOPTER

    Dear Paul Keane:

    Go away.

    Sincerely,
    The Yale Student Body

  • Psi U

    Pete Martin Forever!!!!
    And now, with biases available to all to see, I must write that I found Miller’s article to be a little legalistic and procedural for my tastes, and I enjoy reading regulations. It boiled down to: Don’t expect to hear anything about this thing anytime soon.

  • awesome

    who cares what people put or dont put in the ydn. or in emails for that matter.

    does anyone else think discipline at yale is either absent, or super harsh? never in the middle? we have basically no discipline system in place on the regular (curfews, enforced rules on drinking/smoking/etc in the dorms, opposite sex in bedrooms ….like the schools all our friends are at back home at X state university) I get so many funny emails and texts about getting written up or fined for drinking or being out too late or something similar. we dont seem to have this gentle, yet constant reminder of rules. as a result, the generally lax attitude of the +30 crowd, i would say, lead the student body to believe rules arent so serious anyways, so do u as you please, we trust you! (they shouldnt). that, coupled with students applying their brain power to party planning, pranks, and whatever else, it always goes tooooo far; hence the overly authoritative miller words.

    im not saying i want anyone doing random midnight bed checks, but reaching a middle ground between no rule enforcement and prison could probly do some good.