To the Editor:
I was charmed by your editorial (“College system ill-served by disparities,” 9/28), and not least because it made me, not even 10 years out of Yale, feel quite old. You write: “No one could look at the conditions in Morse, Stiles of Calhoun and argue that those colleges offer an environment even approaching newly revamped Davenport or Pierson.” But I well remember the mid-’90s, when Calhoun’s recently renovated facilities were the envy of Yale. And now Calhoun is the poster child for dilapidation? Times change.
When I got to Yale, in 1992, the main improvement in dorm life over the 50 previous years was the advent of private telephone lines. By the time I left in 1996, everyone was getting Ethernet connections. Now, it seems that students feel underserved if they don’t have organic food, cable TV and state-of-the-art gymnasia.
I am all in favor of the continuing renovation of Yale’s colleges. But it’s hard to sympathize with the poor dears in, say, Morse or JE who feel that they are living in substandard conditions. Are your bathroom fixtures falling out of the wall while you brush your teeth (to recall a famous Bingham Hall incident from my freshman year)? If so, then complain. But if your main problem is that Alice Waters didn’t design your menu or that the aerobic glider is on the fritz, then you need to take a deep breath and look at the big picture: You’re at Yale. You get to linger for hours over meals and talk with bright, fascinating people. Once in a while, one of them may even sleep with you — and when he or she does, you’re not vulnerable to expulsion, as you would have been in 1900. You have great professors. You have a bright future. If your dorm room is a little shabby — well, call it shabby genteel, and trust that Yale chose to give financial aid to some worthy student instead of refurbishing your light fixtures. Mark Oppenheimer ’96 Ph.D. ’03
Sept. 28, 2005