Tag Archive: forum

  1. Forum: Response to Ross Douthat

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    In this installment of the YDN Forum, contributing bloggers Jacob Sandry ’15 and Julian Debenedetti ’15 respond to a recent column about diversity in the Ivy League penned by Ross Douthat of the New York Times. 

    In his recent New York Times column, Ross Douthat paints the Ivy League as a surreptitious tool used to perpetuate the insularity of a highly educated, elite upper class. Douthat mocks critics of Susan Patton, the now-famous ’77 Princeton grad, for exposing an “unspoken truth”: that elite universities exist solely to preserve that educated upper class.

    Beyond the irony that Douthat berates a system he himself embodies, he is gravely out-of-touch. Not everyone at Yale is prep school-educated, white or affluent, as Douthat would have his readers believe. Douthat claims that the student-body diversity at Ivy League schools is “mostly cosmetic” and thus does not threaten existing hierarchies. Yet, in the fall of 2011, across the Ivy League fewer than 50 percent of students identified as white compared to 63 percent of the population overall. Similarly, need-based financial aid is given to the majority of Yale students (56 percent), opening Yale’s gates to hundreds who otherwise would not have access to the community we currently call home. This is hardly cosmetic.

    Is Yale a perfect cross-section of the U.S. population? No. Are students from households in lower income brackets currently fairly represented? No. Is Yale’s admissions process fair? No. The admissions process is inherently imperfect. But blaming Yale or Harvard for enforcing social stratification is a sinister tactic to hide the larger structural deficiencies that enforce inequality.

    Inequality in contemporary society is not the fault of Yale or her peer institutions, but rather the result of a broken education system that blocks students from poor areas from opportunities a decade before they even think about SAT scores. It’s the fault of discriminatory housing policies that enforce de facto segregation on communities across the country. If anything, Yale and her peer institutions continue to do more to improve outcomes for those underrepresented in the educated elite than many of Douthat’s regressive policy prescriptions ever could.

    What we find most striking is Douthat’s assertion that “elite universities are about connecting more than learning.” This entirely misses the point of the “elite” education we are so lucky to receive. Connecting is part of learning at Yale. Interacting, befriending and even, gasp, marrying the diverse peoples — ethnically, racially and socioeconomically — on campus is a formative part of our education. Learning happens in the classroom, too, but what has provided us the most growth as students, citizens and people is exposure to the wide range of individuals not found within the walls of our suburban high schools.

    Ultimately, Douthat’s article would have perhaps been appropriate in the 1950s. Yes, Yale is not a utopia where socioeconomic inequity evaporates the minute you walk through Phelps Gate. Nonetheless, Douthat would do well to visit our campus (or even that of his alma mater) and see that we are not Tom Buchanans running around to find mates. We are diverse in every way, shape and form. Douthat’s article does a disservice to us all by misrepresenting that reality.

  2. Forum: UCS

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    As internship deadlines loom and interviews approach, Yalies are beginning to think more seriously about that dreaded question: “What are you doing this summer?” In today’s Forum, our staff bloggers weigh in on Undergraduate Career Services, the conduit between many a Yalie and his or her eventual summer job.

    John Masko, Staff Blogger | Junior in Saybrook College

    Undergraduate Career Services at Yale has its formula just right.

    In the face of an educational institution all too often focused on molding us politically or making us “citizens of the world” (rather than the loutish misfits we’d no doubt otherwise be), it is a great relief to find an on-campus organization that trusts us to determine our own path. The internship opportunities offered at UCS simultaneously cater to student interests and push the boundaries of what a Yale education offers. Each summer offering with a museum curator or lawyer has its counterpart in education reform, health policy, finance or conservative journalism. Such opportunities not only allow students to explore beyond the boundaries of a Yale education, but can also, by their continued popularity, give the school an idea of what it may be unjustifiably leaving out in its academic programs.

    UCS is frequently criticized for the large proportion of finance internships it offers. Such criticisms, though, are far more often indicative of the speaker’s inherent prejudices against the morality or social usefulness of a whole industry than an actual lack of student interest in those careers. On the contrary, the pull toward financial careers is often so strong that Yale students study independently, despite the dearth of relevant Yale courses, to prepare themselves for cutthroat finance interviews and applications. UCS’s support of these aspirations is a welcome relief from a school culture which stigmatizes careers in finance and, indeed, money-making in general. As a student with no interest (and no plan to have any interest) in a financial career, it still strikes me as refreshing to see an organization willing to be an impartial, but helpful, umpire as students discover their own mission.

    UCS gears itself instead toward supporting students in their own push to define what success means for them. And, it provides a relatable setting in which to think through that question: Its hiring of student representatives to advise their peers in the organization’s offices and to hold office hours in residential colleges (though these programs could both be better advertised and utilized) creates a level of comfort that a talk with an older staff member sometimes can’t give.

    Most important of all, the organization points a way to escape from the allure of a perpetual life in academia. It reminds us that we can’t stay in Disney World forever, and is there to both challenge and support Yale students as they take their next step.

    Scott Stern, Staff Blogger | Sophomore in Branford College

    I’m ambivalent about my decision not to utilize Yale’s Undergraduate Career Services to find a summer internship. UCS seems quite alluring — with its vast networks of job possibilities, its willingness to coach you through every step in the process and its knowledge of the murky workings of the fellowship world. Yet I feel I should qualify the past sentence.

    In theory, UCS will help me find a summer job, get the job and make it feasible. But theory is not always the same as practice. And I fear there are several systemic problems with UCS.

    For one thing, its resources are heavily tilted to help people who already know what they are doing. If I want to meet with someone to help me find a job studying ecology in Papua New Guinea, UCS might be the place to go. But if I’m not sure whether I want to study ecology or psychology, or if I want to go to New Guinea or Guinea Bissau, UCS is not the place to go. It has been my impression and that of the people I’ve talked to that UCS discourages students from coming in just to brainstorm ideas.

    Even if I knew what to do, for UCS to really help me I have to want to do a certain type of job. Those who want to pursue jobs in music, theater or the arts find limited aid at UCS; those who are looking to find a finance or health care internship are in luck.

    In response to considerable criticism about the availability and helpfulness of its staff, UCS launched a program two years ago that hired a number of student liaisons to advise their classmates on jobs and summer opportunities. Programs like student liaisons or peer advisers have good intentions, but they are misguided. I don’t want to talk to a junior in JE about summer possibilities. I want to talk to a professional. UCS should take the money they spend employing students, and put it toward hiring professional counselors.

    UCS is doing a decent job helping us find decent jobs. They can do better.

    Diana Rosen, Staff Blogger | Freshman in Pierson College

    The UCS website has an efficient system set up for students who want to search through the large number of summer internship opportunities as quickly as possible: one-click searches. With just the click of a button, students can access every internship available in each of 13 categories ranging from “Jobs with upcoming application deadlines” to “International Opportunities.” I decided to check out this convenient website element.

    When you click on “STEM opportunities,” the search returns 248 internships. “Non-Profit Opportunities” gives you 242 responses; “Education Opportunities” gives 176. The “Arts” and “Global Health” options return 72 and 63 results, respectively.

    But “Business Opportunities” returns a whopping 489 search results. There are only 1,085 posted opportunities at this time, meaning that nearly half of those listings are in the business industry.

    Columnists have taken to the pages of the News for years with complaints of the ways in which Yale seems to feed its students into consulting and finance. But generally those complaints have to do with the heavy recruitment of upperclassmen for post-graduation positions. The problem with the heavily skewed number of business-related opportunities posted by UCS is that this website is a resource undergraduates make use of starting freshman year. For some students, the summer after their freshman year will be the first time they have held a real job or internship. If they choose to secure that position through UCS, they will find that the largest number of opportunities Yale can give them are in business, which immediately creates the impression that the business path is the logical way to go.

    By no means am I advocating that Yale stop offering business opportunities for students via UCS, but the student body would benefit from the addition of a comparable number of nonbusiness opportunities in the future. Even many of the “nonprofit” internships are essentially just consulting positions, and many of the education opportunities are finance positions with charter school networks. Of course, there are students at Yale who want to take the business, consulting and finance paths, but UCS should make more of an effort to provide opportunities to those who hope to contribute to this world in a different way.

  3. Forum: Shopping Period

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    With shopping period upon us, students are scrambling to assemble that perfect schedule of seminars, lectures and sections. In this edition of the News’ Forum, our contributors chronicle the ups and downs of this important Yale tradition.

    Scott Stern, Staff Blogger | Sophomore in Branford College

    Shopping period is stressful. As someone who is currently trying to weasel my way into two seminars and decide among four other lectures, I can attest to this. But it’s not just me. Pretty much everyone I’ve talked to has commented on the worry inherent in attending classes for two weeks without knowing whether you’ll actually take them.

    But shopping period is one of Yale’s hottest selling points. To prefrosh (and to my friends at other schools), it sounds highly alluring. You can try a class, and if you don’t like it, you can just get up and leave! To people who would otherwise register months in advance and then have no way out of an annoying class, this sounds great.

    Yet after enjoying and enduring four shopping periods, I agree that the institution needs to be reformed. The remedy, I believe, is quite simple.

    If we were to make seminars exist strictly on a preregistration basis — with absolutely no way to get in after the fact (i.e. annoying emails, refusing to leave, bribery) — shopping period would be saved. Students would still have a week (or two, I don’t care) to “shop” lectures, but the stressful part would be eliminated.

    Students would preregister for seminars by submitting an application stating, say, their first five choices in descending order. Upperclassmen in the major would get an advantage for junior or senior seminars, but everyone else would be chosen via lottery. Residential college seminars and English seminars would use lottery systems — as they do now — but with no wiggle room if the short straw is drawn. (The possible exception to this rule would be language seminars, for which I would suggest additional sections be opened up to satisfy all demand.)

    My solution isn’t perfect. Some may say it’s unduly harsh, or that it misses the point. Sticking around in a seminar, hoping to find a way in, demonstrates true interest as well as stick-to-itiveness. But for every lucky soul chosen late in the game, several more get completely winnowed out — and their final schedule suffers as a result. During shopping period, choices must be made: If I miss the first two classes of a large lecture for a seminar I probably won’t get into, I may find myself hopelessly behind when that lecture becomes my only option.

    The very concept of shopping period works phenomenally well for lectures. It would work better if seminars weren’t a part of the equation.

    Jennifer Gersten, Contributor | Freshman in Saybrook College

    Freshmen haven’t been at Yale long enough to use the word “always.” We don’t always screw up; we screwed up first semester — and there’s time to do something about it.

    But it feels as though I’m still dancing the awkward shopping period dance I set ineptly for myself in the fall. Back then, I had 19 courses on my schedule, an agglomeration of hues on Yale Blue Book that put my Crayola box to shame. But just a few hours ago, I reluctantly eliminated course 20, “Neurolinguistics,” from Spring 2013, version five. That brings the number of overlapping courses during that time slot from a preposterous four to a totally manageable three. I should probably log off before I find a replacement, but it’s hard when every course seems like the one.

    My parents couldn’t care less what I decide to be. Whether as a doctor, lawyer or burger flipper (and there are no other viable options, just so we’re clear), if I’m happy, they’re happy. And maybe that sounds wonderful, but it’s not. Picking a major is far too complicated without a rigid imperative from the Mr. and Mrs.

    If you don’t know what it’s like having parents this tolerant, I guess I could come up with an analogy. It’s like being offered a kazillion courses, but someone says that you can only take a few, and two meet at the same time, and you need to apply to some, and there’s no QR for people who need to review their times tables — does anyone know what that’s like?

    For now, it feels like the only “always” I’ll ever be is “lost.” To be honest, though, I can’t think of a nicer labyrinth in which to wander.

  4. Forum: Veterans Day

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    This Veterans Day, Yalies reflect on themes of service and sacrifice. Read their reflections in today’s News’ Forum.

    Katharine Spooner, Guest Columnist | Freshman in Timothy Dwight College

    Yesterday was a special day for the British and Commonwealth armed forces. Nov. 11 is the annual Remembrance Day for those who sacrificed their lives while serving their country. The nation observes a two-minute silence as Big Ben strikes at 11 o’clock. It marks the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month — the anniversary of the 1918 Armistice.

    Yesterday was no different. Her Majesty The Queen led the tribute at the Cenotaph at Whitehall as the red flash of poppies dotted the military parade. Church services up and down the United Kingdom commenced, just as they have since George V initiated the first Remembrance Day in 1919.

    As I scrolled through the BBC website over Sunday brunch, reading the Remembrance Day coverage, I was reminded of the camaraderie and solidarity of the country on such occasions: elderly WWII veterans standing shoulder-to-shoulder with civilians, children laying scarlet wreaths on war memorials. Generations connected. Leaders of the opposing political parties came together, too. Cameron stood next to Miliband, and far away from home, under the blazing Afghan sun, soldiers shared a poignant moment as the last post sounded.

    A few years ago, I visited the Western Front, now a haven of gates, memorials and cemeteries. At the edge of Flanders Field, in the rebuilt town of Ypres, the poppies still grow. No one who fought in those trenches now lives, but the poppy’s symbolism remains raw.

    In 100 years time, these Remembrance Day ceremonies will not have ceased. Already, we remember the fallen of Afghanistan in the same way we do the soldiers of two world wars. War will not end. The Western Front may have been reduced to annals and monuments along the Maginot Line, but a frontline remains.

    The brilliant red poppies that grew upon the battlefields of 1918 will continue to represent future generations. They will still be worn each year, not to glorify war, but to remember the personal sacrifices made for us.

    We will not forget, not least because the armed forces still sacrifice.

    Leah Sarna, Guest Columnist | Junior in Pierson College

    For the longest time I have been wracked with guilt over the following question: what is it, exactly, that makes my life so valuable such that a soldier might give her life for me, but I will never reciprocate? How do I justify this imbalance enough to live with it every single day?

    Over time, I have come to believe that the soldier and I pursue a mutual goal with our lives — and that goal is larger than “Leah’s wellbeing.” We both aim, or ought aim, to protect the security, freedom and prosperity of our families, neighbors and fellow citizens. Right now, I work towards this objective through hours of community service, providing crucial services, dignity and freedoms to the homeless individuals of New Haven. Through my academic work I stock up on potential, preparing for future impact. Others serve in schools or government. Some manufacture, market and sell goods and technology.

    The non-military methods of pursuit, obviously, do not involve the same elements of danger. Yet I firmly believe that the military could not fulfill its aims without us. One cannot protect the wellbeing of citizens if those citizens have no wellbeing — if there were nothing to protect.

    On Veterans Day, though, I think that we civilians need to take a moment to reflect: Are we doing our part? Have we created a civilian life worth protecting with the lives of our countrymen and women? If not, let us redouble our efforts, recommit and refocus. We owe it to ourselves and to them.

    Dhruv Aggarwal, Guest Columnist | Freshman in Jonathan Edwards College

    In the midst of the 1982 Falklands War, the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, hailed and reviled as the Iron Lady, did something other than coordinate battle plans. She wrote letters. They were to the mothers of soldiers who had died in the conflict, expressing her empathy as a mother to two children.

    Mrs. Thatcher’s gesture is just one example that war is more than tank battles and regiments trying to outflank and outgun each other. It is a delicate interplay of human emotions, mostly loss. In the midst of all this suffering, the fact that a few could volunteer to step forward and willingly face the harshest of conditions and the direst of possible predicaments is testament to their character.

    Veterans Day reminds us of the very human, transient nature of life – that for all the pomp and ceremony of war, the blood that it spills is all too human. And that the sweat, tears and toil that go into warfare are those of ordinary men and women, made extraordinary by chance and fate.

    So this Veterans Day, seven decades after VE Day, six after Korea, four after Vietnam and zero after Iraq and Afghanistan, let us not celebrate war. Let us instead celebrate the innate calling that drives men and women to sacrifice life and all for country. Let us celebrate that, as Nathan Hale said, we have but one life to give for our country, but a few brave souls venture to put them on the line in their pursuit of duty.

  5. Forum: Yale-Harvard game shirts

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    This year’s Freshman Class Council Yale-Harvard game shirt will go on sale this week, but not without its share of controversy. Read perspectives in the News’ Forum:

    Kathryn Crandall, Guest Columnist | Freshman in Saybrook
    It’s a well-known fact among all Yale students. It’s printed on T-shirts, sweatshirts and even boxer shorts: “Harvard sucks.”
    Why do they suck? Who cares? That’s not the point. The point is they — the cold, calculating androids of Harvard University — are our rivals, academically and athletically. That in and of itself is reason enough. And so, it is our duty as Yalies to crack jokes, pull pranks and print witty T-shirts at their expense.
    But for the second year in a row, the Freshman Class Council’s original T-shirt design was rejected. The original shirt poked fun at Harvard’s recent, and embarrassing, cheating scandal, altering Harvard’s crest to read “CH-EA-TAS” instead of the traditional “VE-RI-TAS.” This design was rejected by some combination of the Harvard and Yale licensing offices.
    With this rejection, the licensing offices of Yale and Harvard are contaminating the purity of a beautiful rivalry. The point of a rivalry is to keep your rival on his toes with constant banter, relentlessly displaying how you are better than him in every way shape and form. That is the fun and the beauty of it all.
    And without a rival, there are no challenges. If we didn’t have Harvard, whose name would we boo? Whose football fans would we trick? Who would motivate us to put our heads together and create droll and slightly offensive T-shirts every year?
    As much as I hate to admit it, we need Harvard. We need their rivalry to keep us sharp. And Harvard needs us. They need us to print that shirt. They need us to show them that cheaters never win. And they need us to be a constant reminder that they need to do better.
    Besides, it isn’t our fault they give us so much material to work with.
    Nathaniel Zelinsky, Staff Columnist | Senior in Davenport College
    Yale’s licensing office (acting on behalf of its Cambridge counterpart) recently told the Freshman Class Council they can’t sell a Harvard-Yale T-shirt. Why? FCC’s shirt called Harvard “cheaters,” a reference to the scandal that rocked the Crimson campus early this year.
    Is this a suppression of free speech? Is the legitimacy of academia under attack? Is it a slippery slide from a banned T-shirt to McCarthyism?
    As you can probably tell from my tone, I don’t think so. Yale and Harvard licensing are well within their rights to prevent FCC from printing this shirt.
    I am a free speech advocate (or “nut” depending on whom you ask). And I was deeply troubled in 2009, when Dean Mary Miller prevented the then-Freshman Class Council from making a similar The Game T-shirt that called Harvard men “sissies.” Apparently the term is homophobic and violated Yale’s community standards. Many saw Miller’s actions, correctly, as censorship. She abandoned Yale’s stated policy that any speech, no matter how offensive, deserves protection (see the Woodward Report of 1975, Yale’s ur text on free speech).
    So what’s the difference between 2009 and 2012? Why is “sissies” shirt protected but a “cheaters” shirt is not?
    In 2009, Yale College decided it was in the censorship business. A select few in Woodbridge Hall and Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona imposed arbitrary “norms” — and the logic wasn’t limited to T-shirts. Taken to the extreme, “norms” could extend to every aspect of Yale life. We could be told what guest speakers are within the community’s norms, what plays are okay and what activities go beyond the pale.
    In contrast, in 2012, a corporate licensing office makes a more narrowly tailored claim: This, particular article of clothing cheapens our brand. There is no “norm” based argument that claims to govern all of collegiate life. The potential repercussions are far less worrisome.
    This isn’t an issue of free speech at all — it’s an issue of a corporation controlling its merchandise.

    Want to contribute? Email opinion@yaledailynews.com