The young Yale student caught on video behaving poorly wanted a personal champion. Her complaint of Silliman College master Nicholas Christakis was that he failed to deliver. He failed to fulfill the promise that the residential college would be her home.
She was unnamed in the post here, though she’s been doxxed elsewhere. Daniel Denzer had a point about what happened, that this was a child at her worst, and shouldn’t be forever tainted because her moment of childishness went viral. What Greg Lukianoff’s video represented was an example of what was wrong, not a personal condemnation of the young lady who did it. You can’t blame a child for doing childish things. That’s their nature.
But a champion has appeared to explain the broken promise of which she spoke, and that champion is no longer protected as a child. Vox’s Dara Lind is one of those non-lawyer writers who tries her hand at writing about legal issues. She may not be Radley Balko caliber, but she’s better than anyone at Slate and certainly the best Vox has to offer. Mostly, she tries to get it right, which is worthy of recognition.
Lind wears her heart on her page to explain for the young lady who felt entitled to berate Christakis, and the other young lady who wrote a Yale Herald op-ed that was later removed because it was seen by unsympathetic eyes. Lind offers her first-person view, that Yale broke its promise to Lind, as well as to these students, and outsiders don’t understand.
I want to talk about betrayal.
Betrayal is a strong word. It’s a deeply personal word. It’s the word Lind chose.
From the [Yale admissions] website again:
“According to Dean of Yale College and former Calhoun College Master Jonathan Holloway, an important part of what makes the residential colleges ‘home’ is that ‘adults live alongside the students, celebrating their successes and helping them navigate their challenges.'”
“A Master and Dean oversee each residential college, setting the cultural tone and atmosphere of the college. The Master of each college is responsible for its academic, intellectual, social, athletic, and artistic life. Masters work with students to shape each residential college community, bringing their own distinct social, cultural, and intellectual influences to the colleges. “
The dean is the academic adviser for the college’s students. The master is in charge of its distinctive student life. He or she is the guardian of the students’ “home.”
Home. It’s the word used by the shrieking young lady, and again by Lind. The residential college concept doesn’t mean that each student gets to create his or her own private world, perfectly matched to her every feeling, her every urge, her every desire. But then, it’s unlikely that’s what “home” meant before they arrived at Yale.
Parents at home, who (for the sake of argument) loved and adored their child so much that they would take a bullet for them, still did not acquiesce to their every infantile demand. Don’t touch the flame on the stove. Don’t jump off the roof. Do your homework and wear your galoshes. Love means sometimes saying no, as that’s a parents’ duty to their children, to guide them toward maturity.
Lind lapses into “mental health,” oddly conflating the ordinary sense shared by almost every college student (and almost every other thinking human being) that they suffer from imposter syndrome, of unworthiness, of not fitting in, with clinical mental illness. She characterizes normal feelings of inadequacy as a “challenge of mental health crises.”
The challenge of mental health crises is that the people going through them are the ones least likely to seek help on their own. Sometimes they’re in denial. Sometimes they know, but feel for precisely this reason that they are incapable of doing anything about it. It’s hard to make an appointment, to show up on time, much less admit to a stranger that you’re in trouble and need help. You’re certainly never going to seek help, and make yourself vulnerable, to any institution you already distrust.
This is true no matter how old you are.
Not necessarily. Most people, especially smart people, and even more especially smart people who are given one of the most elite opportunities available to anyone of college age, grasp that their every feeling of discomfort doesn’t constitute a mental health crisis, along with the wealth of excuses that have become so popular.
Much as this might seem to be a non-sequitur to adults, this is deeply revealing about the misperceptions carried by children. They believe that they are entitled to feel good about themselves at every moment, and if they don’t, they are entitled to demand that someone else make them feel good about themselves. It’s a crisis. The moment they feel discomfort, a crisis exists for which they’re entitled to a grown-up fix. They are responsible for nothing.
I never felt more defective, as a Yale student, than when I was walking through my college courtyard at 3 in the afternoon after sleeping most of the day, having skipped all my classes and half of my meals. I had to keep my head down and my earbuds in to avoid seeing anyone in my residential college — particularly the master or dean.
I knew it was supposed to be easier to turn to the administrators of my college for help than anyone else. But I didn’t have a relationship to them as individuals, or to the college as a whole. I assumed that was my fault, that I’d missed the point of the residential college to begin with.
Every time I thought I ought to ask for the help I needed, I was choked with guilt that my college wasn’t home to me. The very thought that it should have been easier to seek help there than anywhere made it harder.
The residential college provided the opportunity to Lind to establish a home, a relationship to the master, a place to go if she needed help. She actively avoided it, so it’s someone else’s fault. Why didn’t the grown-up do it for her, make it home to her?
This is true of every student I knew who felt most bitterly toward the residential college system: They were betrayed.
They needed help and went to a residential college administrator to get it. They were fighting some other arm of the university — a professor, the financial aid department, the dean in charge of readmitting students who’d had to withdraw. They needed a champion within the system. Their residential college was their last best hope.
The residential college was uninterested in championing them.
Did your father say yes to everything you ever asked of him? Your mother? Everything? Did you really think the Yale admissions pitch meant the master would love you as deeply as your parents? Did you not realize that their world didn’t revolve exclusively around you? There are other students there, those other warm bodies you saw walking around campus, and each one of them, like you, thought they were the center of the universe.
I suspect I took the sales pitch about residential colleges too much to heart. I took a lot of Yale’s rhetoric too literally before I arrived on campus. It was all I knew of the school.
I suspect you chose to misapprehend the sales pitch. Somehow, you inexplicably thought that the “home” of a residential college meant you get everything your heart desired, your own personal perfect little world that was all, and only, about you. Yale didn’t say that. Yale could only offer you the means to feel at home. Yale couldn’t make you seize the opportunity.
The author who wrote the Yale Herald op-ed made a simpler demand: She wanted a home on campus, a place where she would be supported by default.
She may be asking to be coddled. Automatic support might not be something any university ought to give a student, in the classroom or outside it.
But it’s also, almost certainly, what she was promised.
The student was supported. So were you, Dara, in ways you obviously can’t imagine. And still it wasn’t good enough to sate your feelings. Your college experience happened in the most wonderfully, magically sheltered atmosphere of support imaginable. You weren’t forced to carry a gun into battle, to kill or be killed. You didn’t have to pick rotting food out of a trash bin to eat that night. You weren’t beaten for having a fresh mouth.
The young lady who shrieked at Christakis felt sufficiently supported that she could behave poorly. The other young lady who wrote that she wanted to talk about her pain felt sufficiently free to do so without fear of challenge. And when she was challenged, her words were taken down to protect her from criticism.
Your complaint is that your world is so perfect, so protected, that your concept of pain is any feeling of personal awkwardness or discomfort. You had a pebble in your shoe, and cried as if someone stuck a needle in your eye.
But you were at home, even though you couldn’t appreciate it. Your mommy and daddy told you to not eat candy before dinner because it would spoil your appetite, and you felt betrayed. Home is where someone cares enough about you to guide you through your childishness, not where they acquiesce to your every childish thought.
Instead of looking back at your magnificent great fortune, you see only that you didn’t get everything you desired. That happens in the real world. That happens at home. Yale gave you paradise. You just didn’t appreciate it.