ROSEN: Don’t scare the freshmen

Camp Yale gave the class of 2016 many new experiences — getting repeatedly lost in a four-block area, Yale Night at Toad’s, more sex talks than one could have imagined and, among other happenings, a public safety meeting.

Now I have to admit something: I fell asleep during that event. SSS — that big hall across from Commons, as I then thought of it — was way too hot, and after the cheesy safety video ended, something within me decided I would be better off catching up on the sleep inevitably lost during the first few days than listening to the presentation.

So, obviously I am not completely sure about everything that was said during that public safety meeting, but I do know that as I exited the building with hundreds of other talked-at freshmen I heard murmurs all around me.

“Do you think we’ll be safe walking over to Toad’s tonight or is that too far off campus?”

“I bet they don’t have to do this in Cambridge.”

From what I could pick up, students felt less safe than before the talk. They had suddenly become aware of New Haven as a dangerous, crime-ridden city that they would have to deal with during their four otherwise fantastic years at Yale.

The safety meeting was by no means the only mention of the dangers of New Haven during Camp Yale. Freshmen were given constant reminders not to walk alone or carry their cell phones visibly.

I found it hilarious how many times we were told to “practice common sense.” If it was, after all, just common sense, then why did we need so many reminders? At the same time, very little information about alcohol safety was given to us, and what vague tips we were given varied significantly from college to college. A few days ago I witnessed multiple freshmen physically carried out of my building by frocos due to their high levels of intoxication. I have not heard of any street crime against freshmen. It seems that our safety information may have been concentrated on all the wrong concerns.

But the damage has been done. Walking around what many Yale freshmen consider the streets of New Haven (and by this I mean Broadway), students whisper about how scary the homeless people are, warn each other not to go down the “sketchy” blocks and bitterly complain about how much New Haven sucks outside of Yale’s gates. I even had someone tell me that my decision to walk across the street from Bass Library to L-Dub alone late at night was way too risky and that I should never do it again. Where else am I supposed to do my homework safely?

A few days ago I finally had the chance to explore the New Haven on the other side of the Green, the side very few freshmen have even contemplated. I met up with a recent Yale alum still living in the area and walked around for an hour. She took me to Woodland Coffee, showed me the small bakery with the best cannoli she had ever tasted and walked me through Wooster Square. I could not believe that this all existed. Coming from Chicago, I had already begun to feel claustrophobic in the small bubble of the Yale campus. Walking around on the other side of the Green felt like being back at home.

Yes, New Haven is a city and cities have crime. But the amount of reminders we get of this fact is absolutely ridiculous. Sure, a quick overview of how not to make yourself a target for theft would be fine for those of us who did not have the pleasure of growing up in a city. But there is a distinct difference between telling us not to be stupid and making us feel unsafe.

It is very unfortunate that most Yale freshmen won’t ever really explore most of New Haven. After all, with the amount of danger warnings we are given, why would we not choose to occupy our time with the countless activities going on just a block or two from Old Campus? Yale has a tense relationship with New Haven residents as it is, and this pushed segregation of us privileged students from the real city only exacerbates this fact. New Haven is our new home now too, not just Yale. It’s time to treat it that way.

Diana Rosen is a freshman in Pierson College. Contact her at diana.rosen@yale.edu.

Comments

  • sre2012

    Dear freshman: chill out. You’ve been here for what? Two weeks?

    You have time to explore New Haven (at least, New Haven within walking distance of Yale), and most Yalies do. We know about the delicious pastries (and pizza!) near Wooster Square. Check out the farmer’s market there on Saturday’s. Also, in the spring it’s filled with lovely cherry blossoms. Yalies hike East Rock, shop at Nica’s and Edge of the Woods, eat at Miya’s, Barcelona, and Sono Bana. We drink coffee not just at Blue State, but at Fuel, Bru, and Green Well. And those are just the beginning.

    But lots of Yalies come here with a dearth of what most people would understand to be “common sense.” New Haven can be a dangerous town — both for Yalies and for non-Yale residents. The reason you have safety training is because there are far too many clueless Yalies (grad students are not exempt from this!) In the past couple years there have been muggings on campus– outside WLH and right next to TD.

    So yes, explore New Haven. It’s an under-appreciated city that many of us have come to love during our time here. But don’t belittle the importance of the safety advice that you apparently slept through.

    • grumpyalum

      The problem is that this attitude is becoming pushed on the frosh more and more every year. I saw that as campus became safer, the obsession with ‘safety’ as only possible around Yale became worse.

      New Haven’s a great city and people need stop fearing it. Yeah, safety is important, but dude…you don’t think that getting a ‘NEW HAVEN IS GOING TO MUG YOU’ sale is going to drastically affect your vision of the city and it’s going to take you awhile to overcome it?

  • ethanjrt

    I wasn’t there, so I’m not going to start speculating about what was actually presented at the safety meeting and how different students interpreted what was said… but neither should Diana, given that she “fell asleep during that event.”

  • Devaghost

    The (potential) damage that’s been done as been done by you, lulling other Yale Freshman (or, as we townies like to call you – victims) into a dangerously stupid sense of safety and security. You visited the third wealthiest neighborhood in the city and felt safe. No surprise there.

    Most of your fellows are not from Chicago (or E. St. Louis, Camden or Detroit). Making them feel unsafe is exactly what should be done because they are unsafe.

    New Haven is not Cambridge (or Ithaca or Princeton). Your new home is, depending on the details and the weight given to them, the 4th, 16th, 18th or 23rd most dangerous city in the country.

    You do a great disservice to your classmates by minimizing, with childish ignorance, the dangers of living here.

  • yalengineer

    Meh, the feeling goes away by the time you’re a sophomore. However, it is probably a good idea to be paranoid when you’re doing dumb idiotic things as a freshman.

  • aviahunt

    Cities New Haven is comparable to: Salt Lake City and Honolulu.

    “A 2010-2011 ranking of the 350 largest comparable U.S. urban areas by CQ Press, using audited FBI statistics [shows] New Haven is ranked at 168 on the danger scale, similar to Salt Lake City, Boston, Honolulu, and Eugene, Oregon.”

    source: http://www.ctdatahaven.org/blog/

    “Thanks to the determined efforts of public safety professionals and the entire Yale community, crime on campus in 2010 was the lowest it has been in 20 years. Campus statistics for 2011 show a continued positive trend. Crime throughout New Haven is also much lower than twenty years ago – down 56% from 1990 to 2010. The U.S. Census shows New Haven had the largest population growth of any place over 100,000 in New England in the last decade and Bloomberg.com reports New Haven has the nation’s second highest apartment occupancy rate, topped only by New York City.”

    source: https://light.its.yale.edu/messa

  • The Anti-Yale

    Sally’s Pizza in Wooster Square: Voted the best pizza in America years ago
    Worth a try.

    PK

  • DC14

    First of all, thanks for writing this, Diana. The way Yale cultivates fear and disdain of New Haven in its student body is sickening, and tied to real-life, on the ground problems in this city. When Yalies start out thinking of New Haven primarily as the scary area beyond the boundaries of their gated community, and not as a community we are actually a significant part of for at least four years, it becomes a lot easier to turn a blind eye to what is really going on in this city (injustice! oppression! exploitation!) and refuse to recognize our/Yale’s role in it. When we see the disparities in wealth and safety between campus and the rest of the city and think “Well, guess I better stick the the blocks I was told to stay on” rather than “There must be something deeply wrong going on here” we are participating in perpetuating social injustice in this city by refusing to see, think, and act.

    Also, upperclassmen on this comment board need to cut out the condescension. Yale’s problematic attitude towards New Haven and its effects on students do NOT go away with time; I’ve been here a while and Rosen’s criticisms still ring true.