Not invincible

For all our intelligence and talents, Yale students seem to accidentally hurt themselves and others alarmingly often. Being surrounded by gifted people who make everything look easy causes us to have undue confidence in our own abilities and to overlook the gravity of what we’re doing.

The first thing you learn from your classmates at Yale is that you’re capable of more than you ever imagined. Unfortunately, given the endless accomplishments of our student body, there is little to temper the message. Inevitably, we go too far, and someone gets hurt.

Take, for example, the Habitat Bicycle Challenge, a cross-country charity bike trip started in 1995 and cancelled in 2007 after catastrophe struck. The first participants were able-bodied and skilled cyclists. As the years went by, more students got involved, until, by 2006 when I did the trip, it felt as if anyone could do it. Unfortunately, that was also when the accidents started. Emboldened by those who had gone before me, I didn’t think twice about my ability to complete the nine-week trip safely. Frankly, I’m lucky I didn’t get hurt.

The same can be said for working late at night alone in the machine shop or driving a loaded U-Haul through a field full of people — both things I, too, did as an undergraduate and both things that, in retrospect, were more dangerous than I realized. As classmates and alumni, we owe it to each other to be appropriately cautious, stopping to assess risks even as we embark on new adventures.

Neil Chatani

Nov. 19

The writer is a 2008 graduate of Timothy Dwight College.

Grow up, Rhodes

The rigidity of the Rhodes Scholarship committee vis-a-vis Patrick Witt’s necessity to show up for an interview Saturday is quite disturbing. One of the hallmarks of maturity and health is flexibility; clearly, they failed this test.

John A. Talbot, M.D.

Nov. 21

The author is a 1957 graduate of Harvard College.

Poor Bulldogs!

After reading Sunday’s New York Times Magazine article “Can the Bulldog Be Saved?”, I’m disturbed to hold a degree from an educational institution that supports the barbaric breeding regime that has ruined a great breed of dog.

I pity dogs that can’t breathe, walk, poop, or sniff easily because of genetic manipulation. Just as people should be made aware of the genetic modification of their foods, Yalies should be aware of the decades of genetic engineering that have so crippled the bulldog. Maybe Yale’s mascot should be named GMO.

Tricia Knoll

Nov. 27

The writer is a 1970 graduate of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.