I started Yale on a literal high. I was on steroids because of an allergic reaction on my FOOT trip. Bees stung me on our first day in the Berkshires, and my leaders gave me Benadryl. Less than two days later, my eyelids swelled to the size of golf balls. My lips puffed up.
The doctor at the mountainside clinic informed me that I was actually allergic to the Benadryl. As a result, I had to take steroids for two weeks. She told me that my body would be weak but sometimes experience unusual peaks of energy. She said to pace myself, but I wasn’t very good at listening. Like many other frosh, I hardly slept at the beginning of Camp Yale. I was restless and voracious and way too eager to be liked.
It’s easy to overextend ourselves during this time of the year. Since the semester hasn’t really begun, we often burn ourselves out juggling extracurriculars and shopping. As we try to get into seminars and audition for performance groups, it’s tempting to try very hard to be nice. In the process of trying to belong, we become overeager to please those around us. So, we become very good at talking about how amazing Yalies are — and Yale by extension.
Deans and other faculty give us all inspiring speeches about how we are all smart, wonderful, talented, caring, wonderful, kind human beings. We are the exclusive, chosen few. It’s pleasant to hear such praise, but I fear that the overemphasis on Yalies’ brilliance can inhibit us from being critical of one another. We also avoid confronting the reality of the immense privileges that make Yale a lot easier to navigate for some members of this community.
I started this weekly column for a lot of reasons. I wanted to have a voice, and I wanted motivation to consistently put my thoughts out in the world. This publication has given me a unique platform to share my thoughts, and while I’m grateful for this opportunity, I’m afraid of not being honest enough. I’m afraid of glazing over what needs to be said. I’m afraid of being too nicely complacent in a place that needs to be challenged. As much as I love things about Yale and its people, there is so much work to be done. To the best of my abilities, I want to incite dialogue about how to make this place better. For everyone.
Yale is an institution of higher learning that caters to the world’s academic elite. Most of the professors here are white, cisgender men, and about half of the student body comes from upper-class American households. This institution is built on a foundation of immense socioeconomic, racial and cultural privilege — something that I’ve struggled with as long as I’ve been here.
As a Latina and survivor of sexual violence, I’m well aware of the fact that this place was not built for a person like me. Though I was admitted and welcomed, I’ve had radically different life experiences than the majority of people who have ever taught at or attended this institution. While the support and resources that I’ve encountered in the past three years amaze me, I am tired of saying thank you without acknowledging the complexity of my gratitude.
I will spend the rest of my life making meaning from the opportunities that this campus has afforded me. However, I think that because we are afforded such privilege through our association with Yale, we need to get better at challenging one another. Because Yale gives us so much, we have a responsibility to make this place better, to hold it accountable for its contributions to society.
I’m sure plenty of people will read this column and wonder what I mean by “responsibility.” We need to think about how different students experience Yale and how they are represented on campus. I want to draw attention to the fact that I’m the only woman of color with a column in the most widely read publication at my Ivy League university. I’m angry that the Yale Herald recently published a satirical article reducing the appeal of the cultural centers to “dope ethnic food.” I’m frustrated that most people on this campus would scoff if I asked them to tell me their preferred gender pronouns.
We need to stop assuming that everybody here feels safe, or that everyone here had to overcome the same obstacles.
Four out of every 10 members of the class of 2019 attended private high schools. Legacies have a 20 to 25 percent admittance rate, making them three to four times more likely to be admitted than the average applicant. I understand that the world is unfair, and it always will be, but I’m angry that we don’t try hard enough to acknowledge its injustices.
Audre Lorde, acclaimed feminist writer and academic, once wrote, “I was going to die, if not sooner than later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.”
Between now and graduation, I aim to write about our silences. I don’t intend to be nice.
Adriana Miele is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College. Her column runs on Thursdays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .