Ever since our university announced that it was considering building two new residential colleges for $600 million, we Yalies have been subjected to a steady trickle of idiotic complaining. “It’ll violate our community spirit,” some students whine. “There hasn’t been enough transparency,” others insist as if it means something.
Worst of all, no one has even thought to mention the main problem with the new colleges: that Yale is proposing to spend $600 million in order to add just 600 students to our ranks. Why hasn’t the University explored better ways to expand?
“Increasing Yale’s scope,” President Levin told the Herald last year, “means making the University more international.” Levin and the rest of the Yale administration should stand by those words: Instead of dumping millions of dollars into two new residential colleges, Yale should use the money to build a bridge into the global community by acquiring the Central American nation of El Salvador.
I admit that this is an unprecedented plan, but Yale is a university that has not shied away from innovation in its past. And it is true that El Salvador is not really for sale — but this, like all problems, is easily resolved with a bit of imagination and an eighteen-wheeler full of cash.
According to Wikipedia, El Salvador’s defense budget was $160 million in 2005, considerably less than one percent of Yale’s $22 billion endowment. Without dipping too far into our financial reserves — or significantly exceeding the price of the new residential colleges — we could likely gain the loyalty of their entire military by way of a generous buyout package. Should the El Salvadorian military prove stubborn or resistant, it may be necessary to hire outside help to secure control of the country. Incidentally, I hear that Blackwater’s military contractors are looking for new projects, having completed their wildly successful campaign in Iraq.
El Salvador is a nation with a hardworking populace and a rich cultural heritage, which will benefit the University far more than two new residential colleges. Rather than adding space for some six hundred scholars, Yale can expand its dominion to include the 6.9 million inhabitants of El Salvador — a ten-thousand-fold greater return!
El Salvador’s range of terrain and infrastructure will be a boon to a University that, having placarded all the “weenie bins” in Bass Library, is now down to endowing the individual nosehairs of its faculty (The “Philosophy Department” option costs $80 and comes with a no-tweeze guarantee, FYI). Yale’s creative fundraisers will surely make the most of a country’s worth of naming rights — possibilities include the Wright River, the Thain Family Missile Defense System, and the Sterling-Whitney-Woolsey-Lanman-Bass Memorial Capital, which a recalcitrant student population would refuse to stop calling “S-dub.”
Ruled by fiat from the safety of New Haven, El Salvador will be a great proving ground for student-generated political theories. In particular, I think the standard of debate between Yale Political Union members will be vastly improved by the threat of having their ideas actually put into practice. The same goes for the YCC.
In time, we could move Yale’s entire base of operations into a walled enclave in the capital, thus becoming the first warm-weather Ivy. Until then, a satellite campus in our newfound nation would afford Yale’s biologists an unmatched opportunity to explore the biodiversity of the lush El Salvadorian jungle, and provide to our psychology researchers a vast pool of willing participants for five-dollar behavioral studies.
As the El Salvadorians would do well to realize, this plan will not just benefit Yale. Immediately after the takeover, the nation will begin to feel the nourishing effects of gentrification. Entire villages will be revitalized by the introduction of a single J. Crew, while rundown carts hawking questionable “indigenous” food items will quickly give way to an immaculate legion of Au Bon Pains.
China would greet El Salvadorian diplomats with banners and guided tours, and would finally begin to return their phone calls. The El Salvadorian treasury will flourish in the hands of financial genius David Swensen GRD ’80, under whose supervision Yale’s endowment rose an astounding 28 percent — about $5 billion — in 2007. According to the CIA World Factbook, the El Salvadorian government took in just $3.5 billion in the same time frame, and the country’s GDP rose only 3.4 percent. Surely, Yale’s brain trust will bring with it an economic and political golden age for El Salvadorians.
Today, Yale has an astronomical amount of money. Yet, instead of using this windfall intelligently, we are planning to fritter away $600 million on two buildings that everyone knows are going to end up being ugly. This will not do. We must take the bold route; we must seize the day; we must annex El Salvador before Harvard beats us to it.
Michael Zink is a junior in Saybrook College. His column runs on alternate Fridays.