Spring break has come and gone and social media is, as usual, buzzing with pictures of everyone’s trips to Cabo and Puerto Rico. True to form, Yalies are a preppy bunch — you don’t have to look too hard to find photos of drunken teenagers clad in only the finest boat shoes and pastel shorts. There’s one type of apparel, however, that seems to be worn a little less frequently than you might expect from traveling Bulldogs: Yale gear.
This isn’t a huge surprise, of course. Many Yalies make a conscious effort to avoid advertising their university. I can’t say I blame them — the clothes ain’t cheap. Besides, many argue that donning the familiar “Y” sweater invites ridicule or judgment from folks back home. Perhaps the most common argument is that doing so is tacky and simply serves to increase Yalies’ already overinflated sense of self-importance. Whatever the reason may be, it’s an unspoken rule on campus that Yale gear stays at Yale.
Yalies have a point. We probably shouldn’t flaunt our “Ivy League pedigree” all too often. If several years of complaints in The Harvard Crimson are any indication, people make assumptions about us once they find out where we go to school — often not very pleasant ones. So in this case, listening to the collective advice of campus seems like a good idea. But is it always?
Popular opinion often builds on the seeds of perfectly reasonable premises, only to devolve into caricatures shortly thereafter. Is it right to suggest that Yalies ought to have a sense of modesty about where we go to school? Probably. But it doesn’t make much sense to tiptoe around saying “Yale” by playing coy in conversation (“I attend school in Connecticut,” is a phrase that pops to mind). Should we be discerning about when we wear Yale gear? Yes. But contrary to what some students may suggest, throwing on a Yale hoodie doesn’t mean you haven’t checked your privilege.
The strange thing about this campus is that we often come to rational conclusions for somewhat irrational reasons. From the debate over renaming Calhoun to the Halloween costume controversy, questions about how to treat those who feel offended and hurt have abounded over the past year. We’ve asked ourselves whether enough students feel uncomfortable with Calhoun College to warrant changing its name. We’ve explored whether the history behind the term “master” justifies its continued use. We’ve questioned whether Yale is doing enough to address racism.
Yalies generally came to reasonable conclusions. Most agree that Yale should take a more active role in fighting racism, that it’s not a good idea to dress up as a Native American warrior on Halloween and that the term “master” is probably not intended to subjugate students.
But far too often, the arguments that lead to these conclusions are incomplete. The best example of this is the debate over Calhoun College. Calhoun should be renamed — but not only because he was a racist. Renaming buildings because their namesakes held deplorable moral views will inevitably prove a costly endeavor. Instead, the college should change the name because it’s clear that it has been negatively impacting the experience of a fairly large contingent of students for some years now.
When it comes to wearing Yale gear at home, the jury’s still out. It does seem a bit condescending to assume that people can’t handle the news that we attend Yale with grace. Then again, there can be compelling reasons to keep mum. At the very least, it’s worth giving that unwritten rule a second look.
Shreyas Tirumala is a sophomore in Trumbull College. His column runs on alternate Fridays. Contact him at email@example.com .