Camp Yale gave the class of 2016 many new experiences — getting repeatedly lost in a four-block area, Yale Night at Toad’s, more sex talks than one could have imagined and, among other happenings, a public safety meeting.
Now I have to admit something: I fell asleep during that event. SSS — that big hall across from Commons, as I then thought of it — was way too hot, and after the cheesy safety video ended, something within me decided I would be better off catching up on the sleep inevitably lost during the first few days than listening to the presentation.
So, obviously I am not completely sure about everything that was said during that public safety meeting, but I do know that as I exited the building with hundreds of other talked-at freshmen I heard murmurs all around me.
“Do you think we’ll be safe walking over to Toad’s tonight or is that too far off campus?”
“I bet they don’t have to do this in Cambridge.”
From what I could pick up, students felt less safe than before the talk. They had suddenly become aware of New Haven as a dangerous, crime-ridden city that they would have to deal with during their four otherwise fantastic years at Yale.
The safety meeting was by no means the only mention of the dangers of New Haven during Camp Yale. Freshmen were given constant reminders not to walk alone or carry their cell phones visibly.
I found it hilarious how many times we were told to “practice common sense.” If it was, after all, just common sense, then why did we need so many reminders? At the same time, very little information about alcohol safety was given to us, and what vague tips we were given varied significantly from college to college. A few days ago I witnessed multiple freshmen physically carried out of my building by frocos due to their high levels of intoxication. I have not heard of any street crime against freshmen. It seems that our safety information may have been concentrated on all the wrong concerns.
But the damage has been done. Walking around what many Yale freshmen consider the streets of New Haven (and by this I mean Broadway), students whisper about how scary the homeless people are, warn each other not to go down the “sketchy” blocks and bitterly complain about how much New Haven sucks outside of Yale’s gates. I even had someone tell me that my decision to walk across the street from Bass Library to L-Dub alone late at night was way too risky and that I should never do it again. Where else am I supposed to do my homework safely?
A few days ago I finally had the chance to explore the New Haven on the other side of the Green, the side very few freshmen have even contemplated. I met up with a recent Yale alum still living in the area and walked around for an hour. She took me to Woodland Coffee, showed me the small bakery with the best cannoli she had ever tasted and walked me through Wooster Square. I could not believe that this all existed. Coming from Chicago, I had already begun to feel claustrophobic in the small bubble of the Yale campus. Walking around on the other side of the Green felt like being back at home.
Yes, New Haven is a city and cities have crime. But the amount of reminders we get of this fact is absolutely ridiculous. Sure, a quick overview of how not to make yourself a target for theft would be fine for those of us who did not have the pleasure of growing up in a city. But there is a distinct difference between telling us not to be stupid and making us feel unsafe.
It is very unfortunate that most Yale freshmen won’t ever really explore most of New Haven. After all, with the amount of danger warnings we are given, why would we not choose to occupy our time with the countless activities going on just a block or two from Old Campus? Yale has a tense relationship with New Haven residents as it is, and this pushed segregation of us privileged students from the real city only exacerbates this fact. New Haven is our new home now too, not just Yale. It’s time to treat it that way.
Diana Rosen is a freshman in Pierson College. Contact her at email@example.com.