I’m a FroCo. Even more than that, I’m a head FroCo. I’m supposed to lead a team of eight freshmen counselors who are supposed to collectively oversee the wellbeing of 122 freshmen. I’m supposed to be a “live-in” model student. I’m supposed to get decent grades and show leadership in extracurriculars. I’m supposed to give advice and help those in need and handle myself well under stress. In many ways, I am first response damage control and the ground-level mouthpiece of the administration.
The past couple of weeks have been rough for Yale, to say the least. Recent headlines include an allegedly violent case of sexual assault, perceived improper conduct on the part of the Yale Police Department and the death of a student. Even more has happened beneath the headlines that my FroCo contract forbids me to speak of — things that I could not comprehend the first time I heard them, and things I still have a hard time believing are true.
I want to think that these weeks have been an anomaly for Yale. That our school is usually a pretty happy place, and that it’s rare for the students around me to grieve for their friends. But looking back on my three-and-a-half years at Yale, I’m not completely convinced. Off the top of my head, I can recall a freshman year acquaintance taking his life, calming down a friend who’d been harassed by a police officer, chalking over swastikas on the sidewalks of Old Campus, long walks to visit friends in the inpatient psych ward, consoling a suitemate after a sexual assault and reading YDN op-eds about eating disorders, depression, anxiety, alcoholism, sexism and racism.
Thinking more, I recall my own experiences enduring panic attacks, crying myself to sleep and skipping out on meals. Creating a “mean at midnight” forum with friends to vent about all the ways in which Yale and the people around us had failed us. A senior telling me during my Bulldog Days visit that the worst thing about Yale was feeling like he needed to pretend to be happy all the time.
The more I try to recall, the more and more I realize how common it is for Yalies to struggle and how quick we are to cover it up. How easy it is to write headlines off as a rarity, to claim that most issues only affect a small subset of students, to defend Yale as thoroughly and passionately as possible just so we can leave this place with the same Ivory Tower idealization that we came in with.
Dated Sept. 7, 2013, a question sits in my journal staring back at me. In small innocuous print, between lengthier and more eye-catching paragraphs, I ask: “Do I lie to myself to be happy?”
Looking back, I know that my answer at the time would have been yes. Knowing what I know now, my next question is: “Why?”
Yale College is just that: a college. It’s where we live — leaky faucets and faulty wiring. It’s where we attend classes — expensive textbooks and difficult midterms. It’s where eat — under-spiced food and drafty dining halls. It’s where we socialize — bad parties and forced smiles. It’s where we date — bitter heartbreaks and unfulfilling hookups.
It’s where thousands of 17 to 22-year-old human beings will try to figure out who they are and hundreds of (equally human) adults will try to help them get there — mistakes expected and failure imminent.
So again, why? Why can’t we accept that we will fail and that Yale will fail along with us? Why can’t we acknowledge that these failures will occur more regularly and run more deeply than we’d hope? Why do we think that the correct response to failure is to cover it up?
Why does no one realize that the more people with whom we share our failures, the more people there will be to join in and help us succeed? Why can’t we just let Yale fail?
Dara Eliacin is a senior in Branford College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.