New university, ancient story

I refer to the News’ View, “Pre-empting the Singapore dilemma” (Feb. 18). In Greek history, a most learned man, Theon of Alexandria, took great effort to raise his daughter Hypatia to be a perfect human, according to some sources. The young girl’s knowledge quite quickly surpassed that of her father, and Hypatia went on to surpass her peers in literature and science so that students from all over the lands sought her tutelage.

Renowned Yale does sound like the Old Hypatia, where many knocked on its fabled doors. I would suggest, however, that Yale in conception was not quite so a beneficiary as Hypatia was but more so, by any measure and despite any noises, that of the “father” of Yale-NUS College not quite unlike what Theon was to Hypatia. To say that Yale can, at any time, walk away from the venture (an oft-repeated parlance) from the Singaporean college may sound politically assuring (and may be legally calculated) but it is also naive. If that is indeed to happen, I would think Yale ought to be frowned upon like a father who abandons his daughter.

Like your View says, “Yale has committed itself to Yale-NUS — it is too late to turn back now.” As I see it, there is only one direction, i.e., to raise Yale-NUS College as Theon had raised Hypatia, aiming to surpass itself. History indicates that Hypatia died a tragic death at the hands of a murderous mob during a time of divisive cultural and religious conflicts. The world surrounding Yale-New Haven and Yale-NUS Singapore is too big to be dictated by anybody or the collective at either or both institutions. I am convinced, however, that if Yale plays its part well, Yale-NUS will grow up to be like Hypatia and the world (and Yale) will be its beneficiary.

Kah Tan

Feb. 21

The author is a 1999 graduate of the Yale Divinity School and a 2004 law graduate of the National University of Singapore. 


Reject a false reality

I greatly admired the point of view expressed by Alejandro Gutierrez in his op-ed, and it’s equally interesting to read the reactions of those, like myself, who came from quite the opposite background (“Easing the transition to Yale,” Feb. 19). There’s a current of anger beneath many: If you weren’t prepared, they say, you shouldn’t have been admitted in the first place.

I grew up in Westchester, N.Y. I went to private Catholic schools. I had teachers with high standards, parents who drove me hours around the Northeast to science competitions, with all the other benefits one would expect of a wealthy, competitive region of the country.

And I don’t think there’s any shame in acknowledging this.

We all got in. Admitting we took different paths, with different opportunities, does not diminish this fact. I worked hard where I was, and I was lucky. Nothing more.

We’re no more or less deserving because of where we came from, privileged or otherwise. Creating this false reality — in which circumstance doesn’t matter, in which we were clearly selected for our pure merits alone — serves only to boost our own egos.

Moreover, it hides the fact that any accomplishment, from here on out, is our own.

Well done, Alejandro. I hope your recommendation is acted upon.

Madeline Yozwiak

Feb. 20

The author is a junior in Timothy Dwight College.