A sense of unity in a community is a key to its survival and success — and, over time, it has become easier and easier to unify ourselves. Cavemen didn’t really get out much, as they were too busy merely trying to survive. Biblical times were defined by many parasangs of dirty sandals just to talk to someone outside of one’s hometown. Then, communication got easier, and friendships began and ended much more quickly. Trust required less effort to attain, and our communities got bigger.
Our world is now much more unified than we could have ever imagined. With the idea of six degrees of separation, every person is only six relationships away from any other person, regardless of his location, language or social circle. In other words, you are only six or fewer relationships away from Jake Gyllenhaal, Kim Jong Un, Emma Watson or any other person in the world that tickles your fancy.
Obviously, unity plays a huge role in today’s Yale community. Yale makes its strongest contributions to the world when a collective group of people works as one. That is why each group at Yale — from small a cappella and improv comedy groups to large organizations like Community Health Educators — can succeed. Within each group lies a sense of community and unity, and each member propels the group to greater heights.
Because Yale realizes the power of unity, the University actively tries to unify the student body. However, are administrators and leaders really doing a satisfactory job, or are they in fact supporting programs that divide the Yale community further?
Residential colleges, although designed to instill a sense of community across the campus as a whole, actually divide the student body into 12 random buildings. I still have not met a single person from Branford College in my months here, an event that is quite bizarre and would have never happened if the student body was categorized as one collective group. The fact that residential colleges host their own Master’s Teas, have unique facilities like Silliflicks and offer selective events emphasizes the blatant divisions that colleges artificially create. Although the residential college system fosters a small community with close relationships within one’s own college, it also draws a solid line between you and the other eleven-twelfths of students attending Yale.
However, the institutions at Yale that really alienate members of the student body are the cultural centers. There is some latent sense of irony hidden in this concept, as the cultural center is supposed to embody unity, bringing people of similar cultures together. However, from a holistic point of view, the cultural center sacrifices the whole for the benefit of a minority.
Events hosted by cultural centers either celebrate the positive or gravely address the negative, hosting programs that address people, countries and issues associated with a particular culture. A good majority of the emails notifying students of these events might as well have some cheeky “If you’re not part of our culture, you won’t enjoy this” notice trailing after the time and place.
The events hosted by cultural centers are extremely exclusive and inapplicable to the majority of students here at Yale. Though many events at Yale are esoteric, when the University supports the exclusive and specialized programs at cultural centers, it also supports the divisive effects that come from these events. Namely, cultural centers promote self-segregation in the student body.
Groups succeed when their members can think in different ways, combining individual thought processes to come up with new approaches and innovative solutions to today’s projects and problems. When spending time in a cultural center, students are spending time with people who think in a similar fashion as they do instead of exchanging ideas with people of different cultural backgrounds. In a campus where there’s so much to do in not enough time, every hour is crucial, and we want to be spending our time in the right places.
Now, I definitely don’t want to state that cultural centers are wastes of our time. Learning about our heritage and current events in our communities is an essential part of learning about ourselves as human beings. However, there is an undeniable sense of irony when we realize that an institution meant to give a sense of community to the Yale student body actually divides it.
James Lee is a freshman in Silliman College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .