Yale asks its students to cough up quite a bit of money every semester. We come to Yale as bright-eyed freshmen, expecting that we’ll milk our education for all it’s worth, do every page of reading, and have our papers done a week ahead of time. But as a senior, I’ve found that many are jaded with their Yale education. So I investigated to find out what’s really going on in our most famous classes:
HUMS 345: Genius and Genius
Students became disconcerted when professor Harold Bloom changed the name of the course to “I am a Genius.” Apparently the focus of the course has shifted from masters of the Western Canon to Bloom himself.
“One day, he just showed a slide show of himself growing up,” one student said. “He passed out all these papers he’d written in high school and college and just asked the class, ‘Wasn’t I so smart, even as a youngster?’ And the exam questions are weird too. Sometimes a whole essay question will be something like, ‘What’s the smartest thing I’ve ever said?’ or ‘Aren’t I the greatest professor ever?'”
Another student added, “This is the really strange part. Whenever we do read a book, he scratches out the name of the author and writes ‘Harold Bloom’ in its place. I always thought Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, but I guess I was wrong. Maybe Bloom really did write it.”
PSYC 139: Popularity, Friendship and Peer Relations
“First of all, look at the syllabus!” cried one student in this psychology class. “It doesn’t even have books on it. It’s just a list of things to buy!”
And sure enough, the professor had provided students with the following “requirements”: Diesel jeans, a Kate Spade bag, Camper shoes.
“How am I supposed to explain a credit card bill from Bottega Giuliana to my parents?” she wondered. “I couldn’t even afford to get the recommended items, like a Burberry umbrella or a nose job.”
Guest speakers have also taken students by surprise, such as one supermodel who came to give a talk on “How to juggle work, friends and an eating disorder.”
“For the final exam, I developed rampant anorexia, and I got an A,” one student said before passing out on the sidewalk as I interviewed her.
“I started taking steroids,” her boyfriend, also in the class, said. “My voice is now higher than my little sister’s, but I’m really popular, and I think I’ll get my TA to write a really good rec.”
CSPC 321: Comics as Literature, Comics as Art
One student lamented the volume of reading. “Sometimes there are two Archie comics a week. I thought this class would be a gut,” the Pierson College senior said. Weekly assignments include coloring in blank pictures of Betty and Veronica. “Is Betty the blonde one or the brunette? Who can remember this stuff? If I wanted to memorize stuff I’d have been a pre-med. I just hope his Connect-the-Dots seminar next semester isn’t such a killer.”
The Superman unit also came with problems. “The professor keeps saying that Superman and Clark Kent are the same person, but that seems really crazy. I keep going in for extra help, but I just can’t get it.”
After several minutes of interviewing, the student started to inch closer to me. “Hey, you look a little like Lois Lane. What are you doing tonight?”
I backed away, mentioning I had to get to my Cold War class. A blank stare came across his face.
“What’s a Cold War?” he asked.
HIST 261: The Cold War
“This class is the place to see and be seen,” one student said. “There are about 300 seniors taking the class, so it’s like going to Toad’s. But without the booty cam of course.”
Students sometimes question the choice of footage professor John Gaddis chooses to show.
“Once, he said he was putting in a tape of the Reykjavik Conference. But what came up on the screen was footage of Reagan and Gorbachev smoking pot in the bathroom.”
Meanwhile, students cringe at the volume of reading.
One student explained, “There was this one really scary time when professor Gaddis announced the readings for next week, and there were cries of terror from the class. He took off his Bruno Magli shoe and pounded it against the podium, shouting, ‘We will bury you.’
“No one really knew how to respond.”
Nancy Levy is a senior in Pierson College.