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.

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