On the morning of March 22, freelance video producer Rob Montz released a twelve-minute mini-documentary, “Silence U Part 2: What Has Yale Become?” The video quickly garnered 100,000 views on both YouTube and Facebook and claims to investigate “the head-on collision between what Yale was, and what it is becoming” in light of the turmoil of Halloween 2015.
I see little value in debating Montz’s portrayal of campus events, besides noting that he is eighteen months late to the game. More perplexing, and more disturbing, is Montz’s hypothesis for what caused it all: Yale has become too fun.
Montz sources a total of two academics in his effort to paint a picture of the Yale Amusement Park, where students run the ticket booths and professors just go along for the ride. “Yale has become an all-purpose entertainment warehouse, a place to have a good time rather than receive an education,” says University of Pennsylvania professor Amy Wax ’75. Former Yale professor William Deresiewicz — Montz’s other source — echoes her sentiment: “It’s not what we [the administration] expect from you, it’s about what we can do for you. That’s the difference between being a student and a customer.”
Montz claims that this attitude is supported by an ever-growing “administrative squid monster” — the administrative staff, who “hold students’ hands,” has increased by 25 percent in the last decade. The “squid monster” is, apparently, “sinking its tentacles into almost every facet of undergraduate life” and “has started chowing down on the heart of the University.”
Leaving aside Montz’s cringe-worthy selection of metaphors, his argument is astonishingly myopic. As he mocks our College Teas, food parades, recruitment videos and attempts to get to know our residential college dining staff, he glosses over the rigor that students invest in the University: late nights at Sterling studying for midterms, a $13.50 an hour job to fulfill the student income contribution, spare time volunteering for YHHAP in an effort to give back to the community. The “fun and games” accusation is convenient for an outsider looking to dismiss Yale students as entitled brats, but it does a great disservice to those who make the most of the opportunities given to them.
At its heart, Montz’s documentary mistakes community-building — a fundamental component of a residential liberal arts education — for frivolity. The whole premise of the residential college system is to create an environment that is conducive to learning, both inside and outside the classroom. We value our school not because it forces us to work hard, but because it provides us the resources that allow us to do so. What is wrong with an administration that supports its students and values their contributions beyond academic settings? Is Yale seriously being criticized because its faculty does too much to help undergrads? An intramural game can have just as much value to a student’s development as a seminar discussion, just as a chat with a professor in the dining hall can lead to insights as unique as those from a hundred pages of reading.
The video concludes by slamming students for their selfishness, with Montz claiming that most Yale students didn’t accept his interview requests because “they didn’t want to jeopardize their ascendance into America’s ruling class.” It’s just a further demonstration of Montz’s ignorance: You only need to check the myriad of student publications at Yale to find students and alums voicing their disapproval (or approval) of campus developments over the past couple of years.
Montz resorts to the trope of the coddled millennial to predict Yale’s demise, while glossing over the important roles students play in shaping their education and communities. Unfortunately, his themes have widespread currency, even in media outlets more respectable than a Facebook newsfeed.
Instead of offering a balanced assessment of life at Yale, Montz’s documentary taps into national outrage directed against those who are perceived as well-off. We are no doubt among the luckiest college students in the world. But we should not be shamed into devaluing the opportunities afforded to us.
Mrinal Kumar is a junior in Silliman College. His column usually runs on alternate Fridays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .