The third-oldest university in the USA, Yale dates back to pre-Revolution times. A school that has produced 5 US presidents, 19 supreme court justices, has 19 living billionaires and an endowment of over 27 billion dollars, reeks of old money, culture, privilege, and discovery on the world stage. This is one of the universities for the upper, upper class of the USA, with names like Vanderbilt, Harkness (Standard Oil founder), all over buildings. I didn’t realize how much research and people have come out Yale that has changed the world. The posters advertising lectures and organizations made me want to be able to spend a year or two in graduate school there. It would be a fabulous place to study. For me, it would be better for graduate school, because as an undergrad, I think I would have been intimidated and put off by the students from wealthy families. Being a bit older would have allowed me to ignore it focus on learning while I would be there.
I spent several days here as a chaperone for my students at the World Scholar’s Cup. The academic event for middle school and high school students is super popular, especially with international schools in Asia. The Tournament of Champions, the final event of the three rounds, is partly successful because it is hosted at Yale, and that brand is powerful. I think a lot of the south-east Asian families coming here with their children are here to soak up the autumn weather and colors and experiencing Yale like a New England, Old Money theme park. One of the optional tours families could take showed them Boston and toured MIT and Harvard campuses.
It has been inspiring for me to see all these contributions to humanity’s knowledge base at Yale. I loved sitting in the cafes and working on my doctoral studies and catching up with work emails in between supporting the students. There is so much going on here. One of the events took place in a lecture hall at the Yale Law School. Pictures of Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford (Michigan product!) hung on the walls of the library there. Amazing to think of the many famous people who took classes in that building. Professors were advertising for graduate assistants. I would have loved to been there and been mentored by Yale law professors.
However, as much as Yale is a global world leader, with the brightest students from around the world striving to get accepted here, I felt that it is really failing in the town of New Haven, Connecticut, where it is located. This is simliar to other universities, like the University of Chicago and my Lehigh University. I went for a walk one day down to the shore, and went through some of the poorest neighborhoods I have seen in the USA. The striking contrast between rich and poor here is in your face, with groups of homeless people hanging out on the famous New Haven Green, the central plaza of the university. I know the economic disparity is growing all over the USA, but you would think with the thousands of brilliant people who studied or worked here, they would be able to improve the lives of the poor living next to the university.
You can argue that the leaders of Yale prioritize national and world issues over helping the poor of the town. However, I think the growing income inequality and hopelessness of the poor in America is becoming a national problem. I know they must see it and probably try to help, but I wonder if they have given up.
It was delightful to get to know Yale University and Connecticut!