Tag Archive: opinion

  1. Nothing small about these ‘Little Women’

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    Society today is experiencing a renaissance of women storytellers. 

    “Women Talking,” “The Barbie Movie” and “The Woman King” are just a few of the most recent blockbuster hits by female directors. Yale’s production of “Little Women” is so pertinent, not only to society at large but also to the unique experiences of being a student at Yale and all the expectations and obligations that come with that. 

    My aunt gifted me a green-bound, delicately painted copy of the novel “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott when I was 10 years old. The edges of the pages were gilded in gold foil, and the thickness of the copy made it look like a solid bar of gold. I was intimidated by the book — so much so, that it ended up sitting on a shelf for several years.

    My first real encounter with “Little Women” was in 2018. My eighth-grade history teacher invited a few students to go see our local high school’s musical adaptation of the show. I didn’t expect much; my only experience with the story was the massive copy my aunt gave me. To say that I was absolutely blown away by the show is an understatement. No book, play, song or movie had ever made me feel so seen. 

    I became a devout follower of “Little Women,” absorbing any medium of the story that I could find. I felt strengthened by Amy and her ambition. I felt comforted by Beth and her soft, kind disposition. Meg inspired my hopeless romantic nature. Jo made me want to become a writer, to follow my dreams, to go as far as the world would take me and never look back.

    Girlhood is a fickle thing. Every now and again I still feel like I’m eight years old, sitting on a stool in my mom’s bedroom while she braids my hair. But then, I am suddenly confronted by adulthood. I have to get my own groceries, maintain my relationships across state lines and manage my own finances. 

    Yale’s production of “Little Women” captured the essence of girlhood and womanhood, telling a story at the intersection of dreaming, loving and growing up. 

    On Wednesday, I had an exclusive preview of Yale’s new production of “Little Women” at their invited dress rehearsal. Kate Hamill’s stage adaptation of “Little Women” was performed in the Dome of the Schwarzman Center this weekend. The production was entirely student-produced, and featured a majority female cast and crew, with Abby Asmuth ’26, a WKND editor for the News, as the show’s producer and Elsie Harrington ’25 as its director. 

    Harrington said she had familiarized herself with Hamill’s stage adaptation of the book from a theater in her hometown. When Asmuth and Harrington met to discuss putting on a show together, “Little Women” seemed like the perfect fit, according to the two. 

    “The team and the rehearsal room are always full of laughter,” Harrington said. “It feels like we’re all connected to the story that we’re telling because we’re all relating to it in our own personal way, but in a way that’s very palpable.”

    In my conversations with the cast and crew, I found it endearing how much they all seemed to enjoy each other’s company, and seeing that translate on stage. The laughs seemed genuine, the smiles wide and their words earnest. 

    Nonetheless, the rehearsal had its challenges. 

    One roadblock the crew faced was the seating layout. The crew was not able to create layered rows of seats because of the Schwarzman Center’s fire hazard regulations, which made it difficult for audience members to view the entire stage at all times. 

    Despite the stage’s lowered visibility, I appreciated the theater’s coziness. The simple stage setup and unique lighting features drew the audience into the lively March household, making me feel like I was sitting among the girls. It reminded me of my own chaotic household, evoking a sense of nostalgia and subtle homesickness.  

    The aisles act as walkways for the actors, immersing the audience in the story. I’m not usually a fan of audience participation, but the immersive atmosphere of the stage didn’t feel uncomfortable. I was surprised when Mrs. Mingott, played by Betty Kubovy-Weiss ’25, thrust a member of the audience on stage as a potential dance partner for Jo, who was played by Ellie Atlee ’25. If that were me, I know I would be mortified, but everyone in the audience got a good laugh out of it.

    The technological aspects of this production are simple but well executed: live sound effects for knocking on doors, voiceovers of Jo’s inner dialogue and tinkling piano notes to match Beth’s playing, to name a few.

    The lighting design in this show was particularly notable. Lighting designer Lucy Xiao ’26 created beautiful color schemes to transport the audience from scene to scene. The March home was warm and inviting, the snowy lawn was cool-toned and bright and the spotlights used added to the isolation that Jo and Laurie experienced during the ballroom scene. The lighting changed to match the mood of the characters, transitioning from warm to cool colors depending on the emotions present. 

    While the crew was responsible for bringing the setting to life, it was the actors who brought the story to life. 

    Paloma Vigil ’25, who is an Arts editor for the News, played Marmee, the caring matriarch of the March family. Her warm presence on stage provided a sense of comfort amid the humorous chaos of the March sisters, often caused by Atlee’s Jo March. 

    “She is really opinionated, she’s headstrong, willful,” Atlee said about her character. Beyond demonstrating these traits in her character, Atlee also helps us understand the feminist and familial motivations behind her character’s choices. 

    Nneka Moweta ’27 played the ambitious and, at times, selfish Amy March. Moweta’s Amy is a smart and calculated girl who uses societal expectations to her advantage. We so often disregard Amy’s character because she acts in foil to Jo. I found myself deeply invested in Amy’s storyline. Moweta adeptly developed Amy from a young girl frustrated with her sister’s teasing to a young woman frustrated with her sister’s choices. 

    Crawford Arnow ’27 as Laurie was immediately lovable. His playful energy, endearing facial expressions and caring nature captured the hearts of the audience members. His dynamic with each sister was unique — playful with Jo, soft with Beth, earnest with Meg and loving with Amy — which added to the charming nature of his character.  

    If Moweta and Atlee’s characters were the battling brains of the March family, then Carigan McGuinn’s ’25 Meg March and Layla Felder’s ’26 Beth March were the heart. McGuinn’s Meg was a kind and hopeless romantic. As an audience member, one hoped alongside her for the love she dreams of. Felder’s Beth embodied sisterly love. Soft-spoken and tender, she was the unifying force of the March family. Felder pulled at your heartstrings, and I couldn’t help but hope that she kept her family together the way she longed to. 

    I could resonate with each one of the sisters. I don’t think we are supposed to characterize ourselves as a single sister. At some point in our lives, we can relate to all of them. 

    Over generations, “Little Women” has adopted a variety of mediums — books, musicals, films, plays — resonating with women today by demonstrating the “many different versions of what a strong woman can be,” according to McGuinn. “They all show love and passion for each other and their dreams in different ways.” 

    I see my own struggles as a woman reflected through this play. Growing up, I often felt like I had to make a choice between being feminine and being respected. Throughout elementary and middle school, I was the only girl in my advanced math courses. I had to mince my words and stifle my interests in order to be taken seriously in class. I grew ashamed of the feminine aspects of myself and tried to hide them in the hope of being respected as an academic. 

    It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school that I went through a revival of my femininity. It all started with a 2019 movie called “Little Women.” I started listening to One Direction, wearing dresses just for fun and letting the people around me know how much I cared about them. I defined my femininity on my own terms. 

    Yale’s “Little Women” identified the complexity of the transition from girlhood to womanhood in a way that instilled strength and hope in its viewers. 

    “No character is diminished and no character’s dream is diminished,” Arnow said, “it’s a celebration of individuality.” 

    Little Women will be playing from Nov. 9 to Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the Dome.

  2. REVIEW: Sketch comedy shows so good they’ll make you forget about midterms

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    Amidst the chaos of the midterm season, a time filled by grueling several-hour study sessions, Yalies are prone to finding themselves overwhelmed, overworked and teetering on the brink of collapse. Fortunately, on Oct. 7, Fifth Humour and Red Hot Poker offered welcomed respite in the form of good old-fashioned comedic therapy.

    Donning their signature matching green baseball jerseys and red Converse, respectively, two of Yale’s premier sketch comedy groups, Fifth Humour and Red Hot Poker, took to their stages on Oct. 7th. Their performances marked their returns since their joint recruitment show, “Back to Skool Special,” on Sept. 3, and their first performances alongside the class of 2027 taps.

    Fifth Humour

    Fifth Humour kicked off the evening at 8 p.m. with their show, “Five-Trick Pony,” held in room 101 of Linsly-Chittenden Hall. Their sketches debuted their five newest “Stallions:” Charles Englander ’27, Matt Letourneau ’27, Alexis Mburu ’27, Dora Molot ’27 and Giacomo Sotti ’27. The performances, all relatively safe roles, gave new members the opportunity to “feel out” the stage (cursing in front of a large audience, for one) without venturing too deep into untrodden territory. 

    Taboo subject matter was circumnavigated carefully. Offhand lines about sex, race and gender, were themselves the butt of jokes, although 5H avoided broaching any of the subjects for further commentary. But don’t be mistaken, their jokes don’t dawdle; every sketch lands a punch.

    The first act of the night featured an exceedingly candid and sexually adventurous character, played by Roy Kohavi ’26,  sharing their experiences on a sexual health panel. The sketch’s humor cleverly echoed the recent fake Yale Health “masturbation” notices that were disseminated around Yale’s campus only weeks prior. With each delivered anecdote — dildo and sex toy references aplenty — Kohavi’s stories ramped up in vulgarity, keeping audience members laughing, and parents who had come for Family Weekend blushing. The sketch climaxed with a joke about a “weekly circlejerk.” The group was clearly parading how much obscenity they could get away with on stage, and it was, admittedly, thoroughly entertaining to start the show with.

    5H’s later performances were similar in set-up. One character played the “odd one out” — played by Kohavi, for example, in this first sketch. There’s either the lone “straight-man” amidst a stage full of zany characters or a single oddball between voices of reason. This set-up creates a manicured environment full of comedic tension, conflict and interaction, highlighting the ensemble’s on-stage chemistry, producing comedy gold over and over — no mining required.

    While diverging from this set-up could provide more variety to the sketch selection, 5H’s delivery and timing were exceptionally well-rehearsed and stuck their landings each time, ensuring that audience members did not get the impression of redundancy. 

    To aid with sketch fluidity, scenes of a continuous bit involving a hockey player, played by Letourneau, were interspersed between longer segments of stage-presence and were endowed with some of the best jokes of the night. In one skit, as Letourneau walks to the penalty box, a hockey announcer asks “But did he have to say those things about the 19th amendment?” to which Letourneau yells, “My mom’s a woman!” 

    Although the hockey sketches’ undeveloped overarching narrative may have come across as jarring to some viewers, their quick pace and solid punchlines more than compensated. Even when it’s a little unfocused, it’s clear the 5H crew takes humor seriously, and the result is seriously hilarious. The visual comedy of a shirtless wrestler pouncing on Letourneau in the middle of a darkened LC classroom alone, undoubtedly left a lasting impression. 

    The set design was minimal, consisting primarily of tables and chairs, occasionally supplemented by a few small props and costume items. A single video skit was played halfway through the evening on the retractable video screen that most indoor classrooms come equipped with, taking advantage of the video medium to deliver a parody advertisement for the group. 

    The video amplified the contrast between pre-taped sketches — how most contemporary comedy is consumed — and live performances. Social tension and delivery have a greater emphasis placed on them without the fancy cuts and edits that pre-recorded comedy relies on. There’s something especially natural about consuming comedy live that sheds the artifice of the hundreds of re-recordings that video comedy is able to shield itself behind.

    “To do comedy is to put yourself in an incredibly vulnerable position,” said co-director of 5H Betty Kubovy-Weiss ’25. “We do this because we love it, and it’s so fucking scary. So when people laugh, it’s such a validation.”

    What Betty mentioned is absolutely true — comedy is a mutually validating experience. Watching the 5H sketches felt like there was someone out there who also understood that absurd, iteratively raunchy humor you share with your closest friends in states of delirium and the state of “giggles” that takes you over in the late hours of the night. It’s a sort of heartening and encouraging experience. 

    In a way, the jokes feel familiar. One could imagine the ideas behind many of the sketch premises coming naturally from conversations held around Yale’s campus — no small part due to their vulgarity. Any repetition in sketch structure could easily be justified by the idiom, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” 

    Impressively, many of the new 5H members had little to no prior experience in comedy or the performing arts. Dora Molot ’27,  a 5H “Stallion” and prospective chemistry major, said about 5H, “This is my only performing arts related [extracurricular]. I’m actually starting to get more involved with more STEM things.”

    All evening, distinguishing between new members and veterans was a challenge, a testament to the deliberate casting choices made behind the scenes. Dean Farella ’26, co-director of 5H, explained their collaborative creative process: “We all write together and independently. If someone has an idea, they’ll pitch it to the group and people might join in.” He explained that the process involves pitching ideas, casting roles and editing as a group. Before shows, group members submit sketches to the directors who narrow down the perming list. 

    In short, the performance was a welcomed showcase of 5H’s “bread-and-butter.” Sketch ideas pitched by new members were treated the same as any others—recursively edited and formatted into a structure known to generate laughs. Audience members were delighted by the profanity and overjoyed by the opportunity to watch comedians risk being in front of an audience again. While we hope to see the new members experiment more further in their tenure, this first show celebrated the fundamentals of 5H sketch comedy in a way audiences will happily welcome more of.

    Red Hot Poker

    Zoe Larkin ’24, Director Emeritus of Red Hot Poker, described the RHP experience as a series of “iterative punch-ups with a group ethos and an eye towards game,” which is likely as succinct and accurate a description of watching RHP sketches as anyone will ever get. 

    Red Hot Poker delivered “Hit Me Baby One More Show!” at 10 p.m. in room 201 of William L. Harkness Hall to a full house — yes, I know, wrong “poker,” but I couldn’t help myself!. Their sketches debuted their five newest members: Kianna Jean-Francois ’27, Devika Kothari ’27, Millie Liao ’27, Nicolas Maynulet ’27 and Victoria Mnatsakanyan ’27. In a world of long setups, these comedic fledglings are already masters of the punchline, never failing to make the audience laugh, despite a few missed opportunities for comic escalation. Their clever sketch premises and commitment to their performances remained remarkably consistent all night long.

    Coincidentally, RHP began their show with a circular seminar, not unlike 5H, providing introductions to several members all at once. This first sketch featured the art of hamboning — the slapping of one’s own body rhythmically to produce music. While members of the seminar relay touching personal stories, Fred, a lost member of a hamboning troupe — played by Prentiss Patrick-Carter ’26 — responds not with quiet snaps of affirmation but with barrages of surprisingly impressive knee slaps. As the sketch progressed, the hamboning routines grew more intricate and slowly converted the seminar’s “non-hamboners” into devoted “hambonees.” When Fred exited the scene, three seminar members stood up as the lights dimmed and dramatic music swelled, leading to the humorous conclusion that Fred’s hamboning might just be a “gift from God.” This first sketch expertly handled comedic buildup, in a way that successive skits seemed to lose sight of. Nevertheless, RHP’s brilliantly creative sketch premises carried their weight tenfold.

    RHP explored a college application panel more concerned with their school’s rave culture than academics, a feminism panel so enthused that they accidentally reinvented sweatshops and even Abraham Lincoln’s reaction to his daughter’s poor theater performance. 

    Chesed Chap ’25, RHP’s Director, explained that the “voice” of RHP is in constant flux, evolving each year as old members graduate and new members join the ranks. New taps are encouraged to write, pitch and suggest edits to sketches, ensuring that everyone is involved in the creative process from the very beginning. This encouragement of new voices is a huge factor as to why RHP sketch ideas can feel so continuously fresh.

    One of the evening’s standout sketches featured Princess Peach, played by Mnatsakanyan, suppressing her laughter in the Mushroom Kingdom war room while her Toad advisors relayed news in their iconic shrill croaks. The Toads’ discordant screams and hilarious hats, alongside Victoria’s royally pompous performance, were a joy to view. However, the sketch’s mishandling of escalation made its later half feel unfortunately redundant. In the sketch, the Toads tell Princess Peach increasingly horrible news about the war against Bowser. Peach, distracted by the Toads’ voices, struggles to remain serious. This premise is ridiculously clever, but its performance preemptively “jumps the shark” by having the Toads’ reveal news about death too early. Luckily, a slew of fantastic performances saved this sketch and the rest that suffered from the same mishandlings.

    While some of the more involved sketches, such as the ninth-grader in a second-grade classroom, played by Chesed, overshadowed the more subdued ones like the bodybuilding and flight safety sketches, RHP, especially its newest members, shone most when they were compounding on each other’s humor in bombastic displays of over-the-top-ness. 

    Noah Bradley ’25, a RHP member, explained that everyone was welcome to RHP and that their strength as a troupe comes from their inclusivity. “We get straight-up theater majors, we’ve got people that did improv in high school and we’ve also got pre-meds who were the funny ones in their friend groups who choose to join us on a whim,” he said. “That makes it easy to integrate new members because there isn’t this idea that everyone has to be perfect.”

    The camaraderie among members of both 5H and RHP is palpable, both on and off stage. Their mutual respect and enjoyment performing together create a collaborative atmosphere that enriches the comedy scene at Yale. We promise that any Yalie won’t regret going to see either act perform at least once. They’re the comedy shows you didn’t know you needed, until you realize you can’t live without.

  3. REVIEW: The Yale Symphony Orchestra’s opening concert — a night of storytelling 

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    I sat in Woolsey Hall on Sept. 30 awaiting the pianist soloist’s entrance to the stage to begin the Yale Symphony Orchestra’s opening concert. As a first year who chose Yale because of its esteemed classical music scene, I was expecting a solid, well-polished performance on par with those of professional orchestras. At the same time, as a friend of several YSO members and piano soloist Alex Nam ’25 himself, I was excited about how all their long hours of preparation and meticulous sectional work would come to fruition.

    The night exceeded any of my expectations. 

    YSO, led by maestro William Boughton, programmed two pieces with an intermission in between the works for that night’s concert: Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 featuring Nam and Richard Strauss’s “Also sprach Zarathusa.” 

    Two days before the performance, I was in the same hall listening to another rendition of Tchaikovsky with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra and world-renowned pianist Joyce Yang. With Yang’s powerful interpretation still present in my mind, I wondered whether Nam and the symphony orchestra would live up to those standards. 

    After bowing, Nam nodded to the conductor. Maestro Boughton lifted his baton, and Tchaikovsky’s iconic horn motif filled the hall.

    Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor was written in 1875. Written in three contrasting movements, this concerto was first criticized by pianists, who loathed its difficulty and its progressive elements, such as stating the first theme in D flat major, the relative major signature of the key of the piece — which seems silly in retrospect today given some works written after the Tchaikovsky. 

    However, after receiving a premiere in the United States, the piece received praise for the way it moved audiences. Ever since, Tchaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto No. 1” has been notorious for its difficulty and known for its popularity. As someone who has been training in classical piano for 13 years, I refuse to attempt it. 

    I was immediately drawn in by Nam’s opening chords in the first movement,Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso — Allegro con spirito.” Nam’s tone was firm but never harsh, providing a cushion for the symphony orchestra to sing the melody of the piece. Their lush lyricism warmed my heart, and as a friend of Alex who has discussed the difficulties in achieving the right sense of phrasing with these chords, I smiled. 

    The drama and beauty the performers evoked made me lose sight of my role as a reviewer. A special moment came during an iteration of the second theme of the first movement, where a flute soloist’s melody soared above Nam’s supportive accompaniment figures. The collaboration between Nam and YSO was electrifying. I pictured myself as a bystander in their musical dialogue, lost amid their dramatic interactions. When Tchaikovsky asked for the soloist to battle with the orchestra, I heard extreme conviction and stubbornness from both parties. When Tchaikovsky wrote unison lines, I observed that all sounds blended into an exuberant melting pot.

    The second movement, “Andantino semplice – Prestissimo – Tempo I,” began with quiet pizzicatos from the string instruments followed by a carol-like melody. YSO and Nam passed the melody around, creating a moving, sonorous dialogue. I couldn’t help but be impressed by Nam’s masterful execution of articulation in the “Prestissimo” section, creating a cheerful ballet. Yet, when YSO and Nam returned to the carol-like melody, they took my breath away: they changed characters back to the serene carollers they were — almost like the ballet section did not happen at all. 

    Nam and YSO continued almost attacca to the third movement. “Allegro con fuoco – Molto meno mosso – Allegro vivo,” and they immediately captured the movement’s angst. At the same time, Nam and YSO preserved the rhythmic integrity of the movement that made it exciting. They continued to demonstrate their strong collaborative skills, emphasizing contrapuntal elements in the music that added color and dimension to the piece. Both parties successfully built up to the finale of the movement: a climax where after hundreds of measures of fighting, the orchestra and soloist played a final melody together.

    Their performance, deservedly, received a standing ovation. Nam’s collaboration with YSO was praised by musicians and non-musicians alike. 

    “The orchestra had a good blend and supported the soloist very well. Great listening, but also powerful when it needed to be,” Jeth Fogg ’27, a violist in Davenport Pops Orchestra, said. 

    The orchestra’s goal of having the concert be a vehicle to let classical music be more accessible seemed to be accomplished as well.

    Another attendee, Keely Balfour ’27, mentioned tearing up during the second movement. 

    “I thought it was going to be laid back and mellow, but there were parts where it ramped up,” Balfour said. 

    During the intermission, I quickly did some research on Strauss’s “Also sprach Zarathustra,” YSO’s second selection. It was a piece I was not familiar with. 

    Composed in 1896, Strauss’s composition “Also sprach Zarathustra” was written based on Nietzche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.” It consists of nine movements, each modeling a different chapter in the book.

    According to the classical music magazine Grammophone, the work is an exploration of the relationship between humanity and the universe, with Strauss utilizing different harmonies (B major for humanity and C major for the universe) to depict these two entities. I was taken aback by how deep the music was going to be. How would the ignition and virtuosity of Tchaikovsky, which some criticize as “superficial,” work with the intellectual and philosophical music that characterizes Strauss? 

    When YSO played their first note, a disturbing and haunting rumbling was produced by the lower strings, organ and lower woodwinds. I got goosebumps, as I braced for the beginning of an emotional rollercoaster. YSO’s performance was filled with memorable moments. I felt overwhelmed — in a good way — like I was hit by powerful rays of sunshine when the orchestra filled up the entire concert hall in the “Sonnenaufgang” movement. I danced in my seat during concertmaster Miriam Viazmenski’s ’25 characteristic and confident reading of the violin solo in “Das Tanzlied,” while I held my breath during the haunting last movement that begins with 12 strikes of midnight. 

    Interestingly, Strauss’s intention for this work was to never resolve the dissonance between humanity and the universe, something I understood as the orchestra kept the tension in the ending when the upper strings and winds play a B major chord and the lower strings pluck a low C.

    As a reviewer, I can of course nitpick specific moments of uncertainty, incohesiveness or unclarity in the performance, but my philosophy as a musician is to always comprehend what I felt during a concert. The orchestra concert was far from perfect, but it moved me far away from Woolse — far away from Yale — and into the sonic universes they created. 

    Vien Le ’27, a cellist in YSO, said that YSO members were happy with their performance.

    “The wall of sound we created, it just resonated through the hall … It just brought about this feeling that was so grand, and it’s just kind of an indescribable feeling,” Le said. 

    An indescribable, grand feeling — I couldn’t agree more with this description of the concert.

  4. 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.

  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.

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