This may be an unprecedented situation for the Oldest College Daily, but I’m about to scoop the news desk on an important campus story right here on the opinion page. Yes, I realize that the tradition is to comment on stories that have already been reported, but I just felt this one couldn’t wait.
Headline: “Snuffed Fires Deflate Potential Yalies’ Passions, Number of Applications Drops.”
Some bemused (and nefarious) critics of academic freedom and open discourse have blamed the fleeting presence of Taliban Man, a.k.a. Rahmatullah Hashemi, for nixing the plans of many high-school students who once aspired to attend Yale (see “Some blame fall in apps on Hashemi,” 2/9). However, our sources have confirmed the real truth: Thousands of potential applicants did not apply to Yale this year because the administration canceled the Anti-Gravity Society’s annual Halloween fire show. Some might suggest that applications fell simply because Yale has become less fun, but all the evidence points directly to the canceled show.
A rigorous survey of scores of college counselors (for our purposes “scores of” is equivalent to “two”) revealed that their students’ application choices were deeply affected by the show’s cancellation.
One unnamed Harvard-Westlake counselor said of a parent, “She always wanted her daughter to go to Yale, but at some point one has to say Yale’s good reputation can’t overcome its being a bad sport.” She added, “Sometimes, girls just want to have fun [with fire].”
While statisticians everywhere are suggesting the drop may be the result of a paranormal phenomenon known as “random variation,” this reporter knows causation when he sees it. A Wall Street Journal columnist whose son decided not to apply to Yale confirmed that the claim of randomness is bogus.
“If you think my son and the other boys and girls like him don’t have sophisticated reasons [like a canceled Halloween show] behind their college application decisions, then you’re crazy,” he said. “They’re not just numbers and they’re not just random.”
One student who applied this year debunked the other common myth that applications dropped because of increased selectivity.
“If Yale could only get its acceptance rate to zero, I know more kids from my high school would apply,” he said. “Yale would be swamped with applications.”
Unfortunately, the true decline in applications has been misrepresented. This is because the reported 9 percent decrease from last year’s applicants does not account for the previously expected increase in applicants for this year. Taking the standard (but non-statistical) assumption that the number of applicants would grow at least as much this year as last, we should have expected 22,916 applicants. That translates into 20 percent fewer applicants than expected. All because of a fire show!
Not everyone was dismayed by these results. Fun Czar Zac Corker, Harvard’s special assistant to the dean for social programming, claimed victory.
“It’s clear that Harvard has won the battle for fun,” Corker said. “Yale is just a downer.”
While Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel denied this as the cause of the drop in applications, he was unable to marshal any evidence to convince us otherwise. Therefore, we were forced to press on with the conclusions from our own definitive data.
Local 35 President Bob Proto joined in the criticism. He said he didn’t see why the administration couldn’t cooperate with students on these issues, noting that Yale staff members often find cooperative solutions with students. He suggested that the Yale administration should begin planning a WPA-style program for when no more students are enrolled at the University.
“You can see the fun drained right out of their faces, and that means they’re not going to keep coming,” Proto said. “Whether they’re here or not, we’re still going to need jobs.”
While the future for Yale seems filled with despair, Yale historian Gaddis Smith offered Yale’s past as a source of hope.
“Times change,” Smith said. “In the early days of the University, older students would simply beat the younger ones to discipline them, and that was their source of fun, too. Students will always find new things that are fun.”
Patrick Ward is a junior in Branford College. His column appears on alternate Tuesdays.