Sunday, September 20, 2009

Yale's President Levin and the Art of Platitude

Of course, nobody expected Yale's President Levin to come out with anything other than a string of trivialities aimed at placating the public in the wake of a horrible tragedy on the university's campus. His letter to the Yale university community has just appeared at Huffington Post. As one could have predicted, this letter doesn't attempt to provide any kind of analysis of the general atmosphere on our campus. The letter offers nothing but feeble efforts to whitewash Yale as much as possible lest the murder of Annie Le manages to scare away rich parents and alumni.

The title of Levin's piece is "What Happened at Yale and the Dark Side of the Human Soul." This title immediately signals that there will be no analysis of the collective environment where the tragedy has taken place. Presiden Levin prefers to foster the mystique of an isolated incident that "could have happened in any city, in any university, or in any workplace." Of course, it could have but the problem with Yale and New Haven is that bad things happen there all the time. The university abuses the graduatee students, the supporting staff, and the junior faculty. It abuses the surrounding community. Eventually, students and university workers turn against each other in violence. Does anybody see a connection here? Apparently, Levin doesn't.

As one of my readers suggested, the only response Yale is likely to provide to this tragedy is the growing nubmer of surveillance equipment and security on campus. My only contact with the New Haven police made me feel more victimized than I felt by the actual crime I was trying to report to them. The police officer who talked to me made nasty, harrassing remarks and made feel extremely uncomfortable. Having more of such officers crawling all over the campus will make Yale look "more secure" to the outsiders but it is very unlikely to actually change the way things are.

Yale has been going in a very wrong direction and nothing but some very profound changes would help this university.


Anonymous said...

Why do you hate Yale so much?

Clarissa said...

Short answer: because I went there.

Long answer: I don't hate the university. I hate the policies of the current administration of Yale that create an intolerable environment both in the town where it's located and within the institution itself.

I have never felt less respected, less safe, and less secure than during the years I spent at Yale.

donna darko said...

It's always treated grad students, townspeople and employees like second class citizens. Undergrads are treated like gods.

Clarissa said...

Exactly! But the undergrads also end up suffering. They are mostly taught by underpaid over-worked and sometimes severely under-qualified grad students. Instructors have access to very few resources. Even the photocopies are limited. The way classes are conducted has to be done according to one outdated model and personal initiative on the part of instructors is punished.

So everybody loses out as a result.

donna darko said...

They were extremely overworked but I never noticed anyone underqualified. I heard lots of stories though. Then there's the gloomy DGS building and DGS coffee lounge. I spent time there as a friend of a econ grad student.

Anonymous said...

I am a New Haven townie, a former Yale grad student and a current Yale faculty member. I have no idea what you're talking about.

Clarissa said...

What, you don't know who President Levin is? Never heard the name Annie Le? That's a little weird, my friend.

Are you in New Haven right now? Because I wonder how you could have missed all that.

Anonymous said...

I love Yale. President Levin is detestable to me in many, many ways, but he was right about this issue. Such murders can and sadly do happen in many places. Look at the murder two months ago in Manhattan of one custodial worker by another, and the cluster of post office massacres that occurred several years ago. The tragic list goes on and on.
There's a minority of people in the Yale community who seem to thrive on hating the university that gives them a great education and a prestigious name to carry with them for the rest of their careers (and yes, we do have to work for it and take some stress, and although Yale is generally a friendly environment, no, not everyone in the entire university is going to be 100% nice and respectful to you at all times). Unfortunately, this group of people tends to be part of the small, cult-like group grad student union that has been trying unsuccessfully (including a lost election) to organize for over twenty years. I fully support grad student unions in general; in fact I have worked as an organizer for various (blue-collar) unions for years and one of my best friends was a shop steward for the grad union at U. Michigan. However, GESO is so flat-out crazy and venomous that most grad students just can't bring themselves to support it. I have another very close friend who is a grad student at Yale. She has been there seven years and has not felt exploited at all; in fact she has been quite happy. She believes in unions and wanted to support GESO at first, but she found them so vitriolic and bizarre that she couldn't. I even tried to persuade her to support GESO just on pro-union principles, but after some conversation with her, I could see why she chose to just ignore the union.
I don't think I can change your mind about Yale, but I hope you will include this post in order to provide a different perspective and different information to your readers.

Clarissa said...

Thank you for your post, Anonymous. I feel, however, that your dislike of GESO blinds you to what is really going on.

The crime on campus is not promoted by GESO. When I was assaulted, that was not done by a GESO member. When my friends were mugged, assaulted, menaced and beaten up on Yale campus, that was not done by Geso members. When the policemen I called after my assault harrassed me and insulted me, that wasn't the fault of GESO members.

As to what Yale has to offer. It has a name, yes. I haven't been able to discover what else it can offer other than a name.

My department treated me so badly that I had no enthusiasm to bring to my students. I wasn't allowed to introduce fun original activities in my classes. I wasn't allowed to use the copy machine to make copies for my students. There were no technological means available to teach courses that truly need them.

There was a lot of favoritism and nepotism, where rich grad students with trust funds and stuff like that were treated nicely, while students from modest backgrounds were treated like rubbish.

Unlike your friend, I couldn't have stayed at Yale for 7 years. I would have just gone insane. That place traumatized me beyond belief. And I know many other people who feel the same.

There are many things about GESO that I hate. The thing I hate the most is their rich-boys-and-girls-club environment that they fully share with the university's administration. So, please don't think I'm some kind of a GESO-agenda promoter.

All I'm saying is that I've worked on different campuses and Yale is BY FAR the most dangerous. I worked in different schools and Yale is BY FAR the most diisrespectful and hateful towards its students and non-tenured employees.

Clarissa said...

"not everyone in the entire university is going to be 100% nice and respectful to you at all times"

-How about the fact that my department was NEVER nice and respectful towards me?