Duke University freshman porn star Belle Knox responded to being outed by her classmate Thomas Bagley by giving a series of interviews ( 1, 2) in which she defended her occupation and described her experiences in the most positive terms:
For me, shooting pornography brings me unimaginable joy. When I finish a scene, I know that I have done so and completed an honest day’s work. It is my artistic outlet: my love, my happiness, my home.
Few adult readers will agree with her that acting in porn films constitutes an artistic outlet or believe that her industry really offers a “home,” but it seems at least that her employer was disposed to come to her defense, retaliating for her outing at Duke by revealing her outer’s thousand-dollar-a-month porn habit and mockingly daring him to come out to sunny Los Angeles to star in his own porn film.
Peter Augustus Lawler, in Intercollegiate Review, makes a good argument for the initially counter-intuitive thesis that HBO’s “Girls” (television series) really ought to be seen as a trenchantly bleak and realistic morality play, devastatingly critiquing the lives and philosophic failures of its four principal characters.
There are reasons not to watch the HBO series Girls. For one, we see way too much of Hannah (Lena Dunham) way too often. Ms. Dunham, the show’s creator, doesn’t know that when it comes to nudity, less is more. But Hannah’s promiscuous nudity is not pornography. That, as Flannery O’Connor explained, requires the idealized, sentimental detachment of sex from its hard relational purposes linked with birth and death.
Yes, Hannah’s body is “unsculpted.” For more reasons than that, her nudity plays as pathetic, as the sign of a wounded soul. It embodies her detachment from the forms that shape a decent life. There’s nothing safe—and nothing idealized—about Hannah’s sexual life. The main reason she’s so “inappropriate” with her body is that she’s very confused about what it is for.
We could also wax indignant about the show’s vulgar language and disgusting incidents. Maybe Girls goes too far, but for diagnostic purposes good art can exaggerate what’s revolting. And everything that is genuinely revolting here is portrayed that way. We see time and again, for example, that there’s little more degrading than casual sex in the absence of love. When we’re shown an abortion clinic, or women contracting STDs, or a string of pathetic hookups, and whiny, brittle, pretend marriages, we see the stupidity and misery of an abysmally clueless life. The show’s bitter, intended irony is this: while these girls are so proudly pro-choice, they lack what it takes to choose well.
What’s wrong with these Girls (and their boys) is that they lack character. Their easygoing world of privilege has saved them from any experiences that might build it. Their affluent parents are hardly “role models,” and they’re too flaccid to give their kids the “tough love” they need. Aristotle was right: your skill at soundly using your moral freedom depends a lot on how you were raised.
We also see plenty of evidence that what these girls really want is meaningful work and personal love. But they have not the first clue on how to get them.
Their education has failed them—another piece of realism. Hannah majored in film studies at a school in Ohio that we know is really Oberlin (Dunham is an Obie). Her major was neither “liberal” nor “vocational.” She learned nothing that would help make a living, but she did glean enough vanity to make her unfit for the “entry-level” jobs for which she barely qualifies. She also fancies that she can earn a living as a writer. While her prose style is pleasing, she has nothing “real” to write about. She didn’t read with passionate care any “real” books in college. Her education taught nothing “real” about her responsibilities as a free and relational being.
So here’s another solid takeaway from the show: few students whose majors end in “studies” have the education, talent, or discipline to succeed. In lieu of marketable skills and a work ethic, they boast a rich sense of entitlement. They spend lots of time, quite shamelessly, figuring out how to thrive as parasites. Their extended undergraduate adolescence prepared them only to scheme to stretch dependency out ever further. The girls aren’t becoming women. They do know they’re supposed to grow up, to change in a maturely relational direction. But they lack most of the resources—beyond mixed-up longings—to figure out how.
Weekend before last, the Times Magazine published one of those heavy-breathing, “We’ve got trouble right here in River City” sorts of articles about Ivy League hook-up culture, which maintained that today’s coeds at elite universities are too busy with grade-grubbing for serious relationships and are therefore settling for brief, meaningless encounters.
All this didn’t really ring true to me, so I was not surprised to find some skeptical pushback in Time from recent Yale graduate Eliana Docktermann.
I’m straight, white, female, and just graduated from an Ivy League school, so these trend pieces are supposedly about me. But they don’t ring true, and after a year of reading them, I am exhausted by the media’s obsession with the “hookup culture.” Why, besides the obvious reasons, is this topic so irresistible? Dr. Lisa Wade, an associate professor of sociology at Occidental College who has done extensive research on the subject, explains, “The media is talking about it because we love moral panic.”
As it turns out, there’s not all that much to panic about. If you look at the data, this Ivy League “hookup culture” exists for only a tiny percentage of college kids. What’s more, the sex lives of most of today’s college students may not be all that different from those of their parents or grandparents at the same age.
So let’s look at the … biggest misconceptions about college kids and sex:
1. College students are having random hookups rather than meaningful relationships.
Well, it depends on how you define a hookup, but in general rampant casual sex is not the norm, despite what the media is saying. ...
[A]ccording to the survey quoted in that same Times article, 20% of female students and 25% of male students have “hooked up” with 10 or more people. That sounds like a lot. But wait—10 or more people over the course of four years in college? That’s only two to three partners per year. Moreover, the definition of “hookup” spanned from kissing to intercourse. Of those women and men who had hooked up with 10 or more people, only 40% of those instances were sex.
Crunching the numbers, that means that only 8% of college women who responded to this survey had sex with 10 or more men who they were not dating over the course of four years. ...
Most Ivy League girls too busy and ambitious for relationships.
[T]he demands of the modern world have left women at these elite institutions with no time for boyfriends, so they are opting out of relationships and into hookups.
Raisa Bruner …, who graduated from Yale with me in May, was dissatisfied with the conclusions of [an Atlantic] piece and decided to find out if Yalies were really dismissing relationships for hookups. She wrote in the Yale Daily News:
In a survey I conducted of over 100 Yale students, almost all of the single respondents, ambition be damned, said they were currently seeking a relationship involving dating, commitment or, at the very least, monogamous sex.
I know a number of very successful women—women who are now students at top med schools, analysts at the State Department and Rhodes scholars—who found the time while at Yale to maintain serious relationships with equally-as-busy boys (or girls). I know many other women who left Yale wishing they had had a relationship in college.
And while I can’t say that the sex lives of Yalies represents all college students or even those in the Ivy League, the data from the school about sex is a good reality check. In 2010, the Yale Daily News conducted a sex survey on campus and found that only 64.3% of students had had sexual intercourse over the course of their Yale career. The median Yale student had had only two sexual partners by the time he or she graduated. Promiscuity is not the norm. Not even for men (whom we never hear from in these articles for some reason). 30.5% of Yale men had never had intercourse. Plenty of students are forgoing sex entirely, limiting their sexual partners or engaging in exclusive relationships.
Bloomberg reports that Ivy League colleges everywhere are taking swift and vigorous action to suppress student misbehavior.
Harvard and Cornell universities have joined Yale University and Dartmouth College in cracking down on out-of-control behavior as drinking, hazing and sexual harassment endanger students and tarnish Ivy League reputations.
Harvard faculty voted last month to require registration of parties and ban drinking games, and Cornell ordered fraternities to have live-in advisers. This fall, Dartmouth began security checks at Greek houses and Princeton University banned freshmen from joining them.
The moves are the latest effort to regulate campus behavior since rules controlling students—known as in loco parentis—were abolished in the 1960s. Disobedience crested last year for Ivy League schools, which cost more than $50,000 a year to attend. A Dartmouth hazing article detailed rituals involving bodily fluids. A Cornell student died of alcohol poisoning, and Yale was hit with a discrimination complaint after fraternity members chanted “No means yes! Yes means anal!”
“Colleges have been in an arms race to prove to students that they’re cool and give more freedom than the others,” said Lisa Wade, head of the sociology department at Occidental College in Los Angeles. “Now, maybe the pendulum is starting to swing the other way.”
College students have come to equate the absence of boundaries with fun, said Wade, who studies the casual sex culture on campuses. That, combined with large amounts of alcohol easily available on campus, can skew students’ sense of what is acceptable or even normal.
There seems to be a tidal pattern about this sort of thing. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, when students were really riotous and disorderly in lifestyle and behavior, university administrators went home and hid under their beds, allowing student mobs to occupy administration buildings and even to shut down Yale a month before examinations and graduation.
Today, when students are meek and mild and cause little trouble, bold, brave deans react to every little contretemps that hits the newspapers the way the German Occupation reacted to the Warsaw Uprising.
The Berkeley Daily Californian (surprise! surprise!) has a regular sex columnist named Nadia Cho, whose most recent contribution, an account of celebrating Thanksgiving with romantic liaisons in on-campus locations other than her own room has attracted greater than usual attention.
I actually smiled indulgently as I clicked on the link to the young lady’s column, not having failed to remember with affection certain on-campus meetings with young ladies of my own back during the consulate of Plancus; but, alas! I found myself, upon reading the piece, involuntarily conscripted into the ranks of the censorious and disapproving.
Nadia Cho’s literary approach to the sensitive subject of love-making includes large servings of crude colloquial expressions embedded in a conspicuously unreflective rah-rah, just-let’s-do-it ideological perspective which inevitably strikes the reader as Philistine and coarse.
Berkeley is the best place to explore your sexuality. Our school is a predominantly safe and accepting space with many places, people and resources to help you discover your sexual self. It is the place where I learned what it means to be queer, to recognize the presence of patriarchy, to attempt polyamory and to become more confident in my sexuality so I could go ahead with new experiences — attending naked parties and orgies and writing a sex column, just to name a few.
Learn to appreciate your sexy side and experience a few frisky things during your time here. Take the Female Sexuality DeCal, have sex in Morrison, do the naked run and talk to people who are willing to share their personal experiences. The wide acceptance and freedom of open sexual expression are among the greatest legacies we have the opportunity to uphold at this university.
On the other hand, maybe Berkeley really isn’t the best place to explore your sexuality. You’ll probably get a dose, and it seems to turn some people into empty-headed, communist skanks, who think that Lawrencian latitudinarianism constitutes an intellectual legacy.
Try getting university recognition, support, and the use of university facilities for your newly founded alternative conservative newspaper, a film society, or a polo team, and see how far you get. But ask Harvard to recognize a BDSM & kinky sex club, and Harvard’s Committee on Student Life is on board, Man.
As the Crimson reports, things will be better for those a little bit different at Harvard now.
“If you come to campus and you have the sexual interests we represent, you may not even suspect that such a group exists,” Michael said.
Munch is also now allowed to apply for DAPA food grants, making it easier to find a convenient time and location to meet, instead of gathering in small dining halls.
But for Michael, the biggest advantage to being recognized comes with “the fact of legitimacy,” he said. “[Our recognition] shows we are being taken seriously.”
Britain’s Daily Mail described the club’s founding and membership.
The group, which goes by ‘Harvard College Munch,’ first began its meetings in one of the university’s dining halls to discuss personal stories and broader issues related to BDSM and other forms of ‘kinky sex’. ...
Munch’s membership has grown to about 30 members from seven when it began more than a year ago and is one of 15 student organization that will be approved by Harvard’s Committee on Student Life this Friday.
None of the group’s members quoted by the media have been willing to give their full names.
One group member, who goes by ‘Marie,’ told the New York Observer that she enjoys ‘Bondage, handcuffs and ice play.”
‘I’ve been hit with a riding crop, a belt, a paddle, canes, a flogger,’ she said, ‘Floggers are my favorite.’
The Vanderbilt Avenue entrance to what used to be a respectable gentleman’s club.
The Yale Club of New York City (Bad idea!) resorted to a membership survey to determine whether the club’s perfectly proper and conventional dress code ought to relaxed.
60% (shudder!) favored relaxing the code, and rather than driving up to New Haven to shoot the people in charge of Yale’s admissions office, the powers that be at the Yale Club reached what our Bolshevik-edited alumni magazine describes as “a Solomonic decision.” (Just imagine what these guys would have said about Chamberlain at Munich!)
In a growing list of work environments and industries, denim has become an accepted and popular addition to sartorial correctness. The Club’s ban on denim in all areas, except the athletic and guest room floors, denies many members the ability to either have a meal or a drink in the Clubhouse. Accordingly, we will now allow denim – neat, clean and in good repair – to be worn on the roof this summer, on the library floor at all times, and in the Grill Room on weekends .
The dress code in the Main Lounge, Tap Room and other areas of the Club will remain business casual.
—————————— Caty Weaver, at Gawker, was deservedly abusive.
In a stunt so preposterous it could only have been dreamed up by a Harvard man, the Yale Club of New York City announced earlier this summer it would permit members to wear the rough twill fabric of Nîmes in select areas of the Clubhouse at certain times.
Yale, which, no offense, is literally a third-rate vocational-technical school that only offers night classes, is frequently ranked among the top universities in the country due to a long-standing clerical error.
At one time it served as a finishing school for America’s elite. In recent decades it has fallen into favor with the kind of people who would be seen in denim out-of-doors on the Sabbath.
Previously, the Yale Club observed a ban on denim in all areas with the exception of athletic and guest room floors. However, recently plain-faced Yalies with calloused hands and backwoods manners had begun grunting about their desire to wear tuxedos of the Canadian variety. To have shirtless wrestling matches in the middle of the club’s fine dining room. To turn cocktail hour into some kind of stockinged feet hootenanny.
Accordingly, the lord of the club, Mr. Yale himself, released a survey to members attempting to gauge how far they were willing to debase themselves.
The results were Fucking. Horrifying.
Over half the respondents reported a desire to wear jeans and probably bikini tops and bedroom slippers that look like cushy oversized sneakers all the time, including in bed and in the shower. Meanwhile, a mere 40 percent of respondents felt it should be legal to shoot and kill a person wearing denim on sight. ...
Thankfully, the non-brothel areas of the Club will remain business-casual.
A liberal academic classmate has been giving me crap again on the class email list for letting Blogads run that “Mutually Beneficial Arrangements” ad in NYM’s right-hand column.
When the notice to review that proposed new ad came in a few months ago, I had conflicting attitudes. On libertarian grounds, I thought I ought to let it run. It did seem to constitute an amusing commentary on society’s morals today after all as well. But I really am also pretty stuffy and I was not entirely comfortable with resembling the Village Voice and lending aid and comfort to the Oldest Profession.
I actually shilly-shallied about making up my mind on that policy issue and then, lo and behold! I found that Blogads actually had it up and running without my explicitly granting permission. I looked into the whole thing, and I was amused to find that NYM readers were clicking through that ad in much, much larger numbers than usual. So I concluded that my readers were also finding amusement and food for thought in that ad.
Readership interest seemed to me to argue decisively for the libertarian side, and I refrained from eliminating the ad.
HuffPo actually did a long feature on what has become a booming business in the Age of Obama last year.
Many 20-somethings are beginning their adult lives shouldering substantial amounts of student loan debt. According to Mark Kantrowitz, who publishes the financial aid websites Fastweb.com and Finaid.org, while the average 2011 graduate finished school with about $27,200 in debt, many are straining to pay off significantly greater loans.
Enter the sugar daddy, sugar baby phenomenon. This particular dynamic preceded the economic meltdown, of course. Rich guys well past their prime have been plunking down money for thousands of years in search of a tryst or something more with women half their age—and women, willingly or not, have made themselves available. With the whole process going digital, women passing through a system of higher education that fosters indebtedness are using the anonymity of the web to sell their wares and pay down their college loans.
“Over the past few years, the number of college students using our site has exploded,” says Brandon Wade, the 41-year-old founder of Seeking Arrangement. Of the site’s approximately 800,000 members, Wade estimates that 35 percent are students. “College students are one of the biggest segments of our sugar babies and the numbers are growing all the time.” ...
Wade, who started Seeking Arrangement back in 2006, can easily identify with the Jacks of the world. He created the site for fellow high-net-worth individuals who “possess high standards but don’t have a lot of time to date the traditional way.”
Wade, whose legal name is Brandon Wey, says he changed his name to better appeal to his clientele. “They’re more familiar with Hugh Hefner than with some Asian guy from Singapore,” he explains. Wade got the idea for Seeking Arrangement more than 20 years ago, while in college at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Watching from the sidelines as his beautiful dorm mates pursued significantly older, moneyed men, Wade fantasized about someday becoming one such man. After business school at MIT and stints at General Electric and Microsoft, Wade dabbled in various start-ups before finally creating his own.
Awkward and shy, he started Seeking Arrangement in part because of his own inability to attract younger women. “To get the attention of the girl I really wanted to meet, I was kind of at the mercy of the statistics of traditional dating sites. I’d write hundreds of emails and only get one or two replies,” says Wade, who is now divorced. He says married men account for at least 40 percent of the site’s sugar daddies. Sugar babies outnumber sugar daddies by a ratio of nearly 10 to 1. Wade declined to disclose how much money he makes from the site. With more than 115,000 sugar daddies averaging $50 a month in membership fees, and some paying more to belong to the exclusive Diamond Club, it’s safe to assume Wade’s investment has more than paid off—and that’s not even including advertising revenue.
Debt-strapped college graduates weren’t included in his original business plan. But once the recession hit and more and more students were among the growing list of new site users, Wade began to target them. The company, which is headquartered in Las Vegas, now places strategic pop-up ads that appear whenever someone types “tuition help” or “financial aid” into a search engine. And over the past five years, Wade says he’s seen a 350 percent increase in college sugar baby membership—from 38,303 college sugar babies in 2007 to 179,906 college sugar babies by July of this year. The site identifies clients who might be students by the presence of a .edu email address, which the site verifies before it will allow a profile to become active. Although, it should be noted that individuals without .edu email addresses can identify as students as well.
At The Huffington Post’s request, Seeking Arrangement listed the top 20 universities attended by sugar babies on the site. They compiled the list according to the number of sugar babies who registered using their .edu email addresses or listed schools’ names on their profiles. New York University tops the list with 498 sugar babies, while UCLA comes in at No. 8 with 253, and Harvard University ranks at No. 9 with 231. The University of California at Berkeley ranks at No. 13 with 193, the University of Southern California ranks at No. 15 with 183, and Tulane University ranks at No. 20 with 163 college sugar babies. ...
“I’m honestly surprised there aren’t more college students doing this,” says Jennifer, not blinking. She’s a 23-year-old recent graduate of Sarah Lawrence College.
Fed up with young, unemployed men her own age, Jennifer recently began trawling for a sugar daddy to pay down about $20,000 in student loan debt. She also wouldn’t mind a clothing allowance or rent money for her studio apartment in New York’s East Village.
A week ago, she boarded a plane to Florida to spend the weekend with a 30-something banker she met on SugarDaddie.com. He told her his house was undergoing a renovation and instead drove her to a nearby hotel, where they spent the night together. ...
“I realize I’m not going to have it forever,” Jennifer says, brushing her blond, wavy hair off to one side. “While I’ve still got it, I’m going to milk it for all it’s worth. I mean, maybe I’ll get swept off my feet. Really, anything could happen.”
It’s clear that the kind of materialist utilitarianism preached by today’s universities combines very effectively with whopping piles of tuition debt and hard economic times to popularize the philosophy expressed by blues singer Ruth Brown in this old number:
Me: Blue hair, silver tube top, fishnets, Knee high black biker boots.
You: Red mohawk, black pentagram gauges, viper piercings.
I was grinding on you in the pit, then we went to the bathroom, and got f***ed up. You had a nice c**k and I was wasted so I let [you] raw dog it in the stall. You were really good and you had to gag me so I would make too much noise.
Anyway I’m pregnant. It’s yours. contact me if you want to be part of your child’s life.”
I looked for photos of those scantily clad young conservative hussies. I really did.
Erick Erickson scolded some of the flaming youth attending CPAC 2012 for their inclination to party.
I am more than a bit shocked by the young men at CPAC this year who just seemingly refuse to grow up or act their age. More troubling, while in 2005 it seemed to be just college kids, as the years have passed it is not just the 18 to 21 year old set, but the twenty and thirty somethings who just can’t seem to grow up. It’s like they started out at CPAC this way in college and each year at their CPAC reunion descend back to their freshman year rush week.
This is more and more common in society and none of us should expect that a behavior increasingly common in society should not spill over into any event including CPAC, but just because something is common does not mean it is responsible or acceptable.
We can be thankful that CPAC is not like the communications war room at Media Matters. But it should be much more than that. The young men and women who go to CPAC are often present or future leaders on their college campuses and within the conservative movement. They go to CPAC and are often on near equal terms at CPAC with people much older than themselves. Unfortunately, too many treat CPAC like spring break.
More than a few of the twenty and thirty somethings who go to CPAC seem to treat it like an extension of their college days doing their best to hook up before passing out. It’s not the majority to be sure, but it is a noticeable minority.
———————————————— Dr. Melissa Clothier was even more censorious about the attire of some of the naughty young conservative girls.
Women will be future leaders, too, and I was dismayed to see how many of them either looked frumpish or like two-bit whores.
First, are these young people being taught anything by their parents? I was at another service-oriented gathering of young women where the girls were in tight bandeau-skirts (you know, the kind of tube-top skirts that hookers wear on street corners?). They were sitting with their mothers. What is going on here?
Second, have women so internalized feminist dogma that they see themselves in only two ways? Butch, men-lite wannabes or 3rd wave sluts who empower themselves by screwing every available horndog man?
Neither path is a way to self-love and respect, mind you. Both tracks will inhibit future success.
Women, if you’re at a conference where you’re learning to be a future politician or wish to succeed in the business of politics, dress the part. No, you don’t have to be in a business suit with pearls. However, modesty is a minimum. So:
1. No cleavage. That’s right. Cover that up. I say “no” in absolutist terms because women will show a tiny bit and that’s okay, but really, in a business environment where ideas are the priority, a dude thinking about your ta-tas is counter-productive.
2. Skirts no more than three finger-widths above the knee. Why do I even have to write this? Well, because someone is allowing these girls out of the house with mini-skirts that reveal too much.
3. Save the stilettos for Saturday night on a date with your boyfriend.
4. Bend at the knee. No, I don’t want to see your butt.
Young women, you degrade your own value by dressing and then acting the ho.
But, really, no pictures?
How can you properly denounce the times and the morals without whipping out your cell phone and recording the goings on at the Fall of Rome for posterity?
You know what I always say? If you’re going to drink too much and scandalize the godly, come sit next to me.
———————————————— Jim Newell, at Wonkette, was appropriately derisive.
It is a true fact that there were a full dozen or two ladies at CPAC this year wearing sparkly cocktail dresses approximately ten million inches above the knee from nine in the morning ’til eleven at night, each being pursued by 10,000 sex-starved young conservative males. Why else would they all go to CPAC? To respectfully take notes on Richard Viguerie’s conservative movement stories from the mid-60s while sipping on a club soda? ...
Boys will be boys, ladies will be evil family-shamers. This is just the way of the world and there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s conservative.
Someone bring that man another drink, and one of you young ladies ought to offer him a tour of the interior of that Marriott gift shop storage closet.
My hatred of the Boomers, who have brainwashed and wasted these kids is boundless. There is nothing wrong with them. They have just never been taught anything but bullshit. They have been betrayed by their parents and their teachers. It is very depressing. The country has been shamefully dumbed down.
Reading all this with just a little partisan bias, I’d say that he then blames left-wing Baby Boomers for both the intellectual vacuity of their young epigones and for the country’s inability to reform its policies and effectively address the current crisis.
They say they want a revolution. To have a revolution, you must have a secular social catechism that accumulates the sort of strategic effects that will trigger a fatal split in our current set of societal elites. In the crisis so far, we’ve only seen dusty formulas trotted out by ancient and creaky Boomers yearning re-fight the glorious battles of youth.
Here’s an unintended side-effect of extended human lifespans: ideological stasis. To butcher Max Planck: a political notion does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. Boomers, given unnaturally long biological life by historical developments they barely comprehend, give unnaturally long life to their foolishly destructive notions. Society may stagnate in some areas while progressing in others with unforeseen effects. This may make the process of sorting out of what’s needed to grapple with our current predicament prolonged, painful, and prone to triggering frustration and outbreaks of corrective violence.
Go tell the Boomers that, in the words of Oliver Cromwell and Leo Amery:
You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!
The dining hall of Berkeley College, one of the twelve residential colleges at Yale.
This is where I used to eat lunch.
Michael Rubin (Davenport ‘94) warns us that Yale is going to hell in a handbasket, the colleges are losing their distinctive individual identities, the left is running the place into the ground, and la patrie est en danger!
For decades, residential colleges have both been Yale University’s chief selling point and the feature by which the university differentiates itself from its Ivy League companions and other top tier universities. All freshmen are subdivided randomly into one of 12 colleges, remaining affiliated with it for four years and living there for three or four years. The net effect is that the colleges provide a sense of community—the chief benefit of a small college experience—with the classroom and campus resources of a much larger university. In a society in which identity groups often self-segregate themselves, the residential colleges also enable Yalies to meet a diverse array of people.
While in theory each residential college is equal, over time, they develop different characteristics. Each college is led by a master. Some masters are disinterested: When I was an undergraduate, I was in Davenport College. In my freshman year, the master was a professor of 19th-century Germany and ran the college like a Prussian general. In my subsequent three years, the master was a retired admiral, who, it turned out, was retired not only from the Navy but also from anything which required effort. In contrast, when I was a graduate student, I was for a year a resident graduate affiliate in Pierson College. Harvey Goldblatt, a professor of medieval Slavic literature, was master and quickly catapulted Pierson into the envy of all other colleges: He knew each student not only by name, but also made an effort to interact with everyone. He cheered on the residential college’s intramural sports teams, and even undertook his own alumni endowment to allow, for example, a spring break trip to Italy for most seniors. Behind the scenes, he was involved in administrative issues and stayed on top of everything from employee morale in the dining hall to the length of time scaffolding remained up after work was completed.
Alas, Yale has changed. In the twelve years since I have left New Haven, faculty members tell me that the number of administrators has almost doubled. While Yale University once encouraged autonomy among students to set up organizations, fix problems, and take responsibility for their own decisions, today, an ever-increasing number of deans get involved to regulate all aspects of life and administration. Whereas Yale students could once choose to excel in extracurricular activities or academics, today there is little differentiation: grade inflation and administration intervention has evened the playing field so that a lazy and irresponsible student will, from his or her record, appear equal to one who in the past might have been able to differentiate themselves academically.
The quest for equality and the bolstering of safety nets has not only blurred distinctions amongst students, but also faculty. At some point, administrators—for whom bureaucracy rather than education is a career—decided that it was unfair to have inequality among colleges. After all, if a college master managed to energize both students and alumni, students in other colleges might resent that another master was not up to the job.
Enter President Richard Levin: Replicating what too often happens in liberal society, rather than celebrating success or encouraging competition to keep up, Levin instead sought to encourage mediocrity by “equalizing” the college experience.
He’s basically not wrong, of course. But the rot set in long, long ago. Kingman Brewster, brilliant, talented, and impeccably bred from the bluest blood of Plymouth Colony descent, personified Yale’s style, ethos, and tradition perfectly, better, one thought inevitably, than any other living, breathing person could, but the King was already leading Yale full tilt down the primrose path of fashion, Modernism, and leftism.
One’s other quibble is that no one really goes to Yale for the residential colleges.
Most people admitted don’t even know about the residential college system, a New World, early 20th century attempt to emulate the British Oxbridge style of elite education, until they have read thoroughly their admissions material.
I think it isn’t really possible for Yale colleges to feature the colorful individuality and eclat, which in earlier days reflected the personalities of great men like Basil Duke Henning (a direct descendant of a famous Confederate Kentucky cavalry officer) or Beekman Cannon (whose marriage and private life inspired Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf). America just does not supply a suitable contigent of illustrious, flamboyant, and idiosyncratic WASP gentlemen scholars anymore. Besides, today’s Yale values “diversity” over cultural continuity and arete.