In working on the opinion page these past two years, first as the page’s editor, then as one of its columnists, I must say that there are few things as entertaining and educational as watching Yalies gripe at each other. In terms of my own griping, I’ll devote my final words to what has made writing this column sometimes easy and sometimes difficult.
On the “sometimes easy” front, I have realized that as brilliant as Yale students are, we still tend to be wrong about many things. There are plenty of reasons why, but I will point out an important one: too many of our opinions are formed by knee-jerk impulses. Some are prone to this more than others, but we all suffer from it to at least some degree.
That’s not to say that students are uninformed about what they are advocating. In actuality, sweatshops protesters know more about workers’ rights and multinational corporations than your average economics major. Extremist Zionists are often well-versed in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But too often, we pick a side first, then find arguments to support that side. Researching the issue takes a backseat to our gut instincts. It’s only after our opinions are made — often in a vacuum of ignorance — that the information-gathering process kicks in.
By that point, it is too late — we’ve already chosen our stance. While we may be willing to modify it, we are not so willing to depart from it altogether. The problem with forming our opinions in this way is that, often enough, our gut instincts are determined by arbitrary factors in our upbringing — our socioeconomic backgrounds, the political persuasions of our parents, etc. Why should these factors influence our stance on the war in Iraq or whether graduate students ought to unionize?
On the second point — why griping at Yale is never an easy task — the problem facing every Yale columnist is that the audience is too intelligent and well-informed to endure lackluster articles or run-of-the-mill arguments. That said, as difficult as that has made my job, I wouldn’t have wished to provoke, heckle and incite at any other campus. To all the graduating seniors who have treasured the marketplace of ideas that is Yale University, drop me a line if you are ever in Canada.
Sahm Adrangi is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College.