On a sunny and brisk Friday afternoon, Yale was invaded. The invaders came like marauding bandits, swarming in from all sides, armed to the teeth with cell phone cameras and winter clothing from home. I am speaking, of course, about our parents.
First things first: It was great to see them. As a freshman, I’ve never been away from home this long. Weekly phone calls and the occasional Skype chat were good, but it was wonderful to see my parents in person. With winter seeming far closer than we had thought three days ago, my parents brought me sustaining food, sweatshirts from home and an afghan knitted by my grandmother.
This being my first Yale Parents’ Weekend, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I guess I had thought this would be a sort of prolonged parent-teacher conference — only without the teacher. I guess I had imagined a protracted hello, some joyful moments spent together, and then an abrupt goodbye; the two days in the middle had never crossed my mind.
What I did not expect was the feeling that I — the child — had to keep my parents — you know, the parents — entertained. What I did not expect was the sheer amount of homework I still had to do. What I did not expect was just how eerily similar some families look. What I certainly did not expect was the God Quad sponsoring a parent/child beer pong tournament.
But, above all, what I did not expect — or at least, what I did not fully comprehend — was that Parents’ Weekend coincided with Halloween weekend. If you have been attentively corresponding with friends at other schools, you may have noticed that many of their Parents’ Weekends have also been this past weekend. Why does there appear to be a growing trend of Parents’ Weekends around Halloween, you might ask?
Well, let me answer that question with another question: Do you remember the Yale Halloween of two years ago? I certainly don’t; I was still in high school. But from what I’ve heard, there was the usual revelry, the outstanding movie at midnight and … then a tragic death in the early hours of November 1.
On the morning after Halloween, two years ago tomorrow, Branford sophomore Andre Narcisse was found dead in his dorm room. His autopsy would later reveal that he had died as a result of taking multiple drugs. This death was an utter tragedy. It also epitomizes the dangerous Halloween partying that happens on college campuses across the country. Fear — reasonable fear — surrounds the excessive Halloween partying.
So — one would assume — Yale scheduled Parents’ Weekend to nearly overlap with Halloween.
The rationale behind this move, if it was indeed intentional, is understandable. No student wants to face his parents with a hangover from a night spent socializing in costume. Perhaps our parents’ presence has grounded us, made us more conscious of our filial responsibilities. Perhaps it forced some students to rethink this weekend’s blowout status. Pierson College, for example, moved its famous Inferno Party a week back to avoid Parents’ Weekend, according to the Yale Herald’s Bullblog. Or perhaps it did nothing at all.
Yale was still host to dozens of parties last night. As parents slept in ridiculously overpriced hotel rooms — did you know the Marriott’s rates more than double during Parents’ Weekend? — their children imbibed similarly overpriced liquids of a festive variety.
Also, the parents left last night, the day before the really monstrous party. It was literally on the evening of Halloween, after all, that Andre Narcisse died — though the holiday fell on a Saturday that year. Does a parental presence on the days leading up to Halloween really do anything once they are gone?
That argument could be made, I suppose. Certainly one might think parents’ presence abated some of the partying, at least on the weekend leading up to Halloween.
But Yale is guilty of some degree of hypocrisy. While scheduling Parents’ Weekend around Halloween, the Yale administration sent out a single email warning students to be extra careful at this most festive of occasions. While the Yale administration apparently manipulated the arrival of our parents, they still gave money for parties to be thrown in numerous designated party suites. And while freshmen were subjected to numerous discussions about drinking and drugs during Camp Yale, our safety net has apparently been replaced with a shroud of silence.
I don’t want to be lectured at. I sure don’t want the parties to cease. All I want is a little consistency. I appreciate that Yale is trying to keep us safe. I just wish it would go all the way. If there is going to be more partying than usual, caution students more than usual. Don’t just bring our parents here and expect them to do that instead.
It was great to see my parents. I would hate to think that their presence was just a prop.
Happy Halloween, Yale. Enjoy. And be safe.
Scott Stern is a freshman in Branford College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.