In a recent article in the Congregationalist, entitled "American College Customs," Professor Fisher of Yale incidentally pays his respects to some of Yale's pet institutions. His remarks, coming from the source they do, have a peculiar interest, for they show that "Yaleism," in some of its forms at least, does not meet with universal approval, even among the officers of the college itself. We give below Professor Fisher's comments on two of the institutions in question.
"In some of the colleges," says the professor, "it has lately become a fashion to publish 'class statistics,' tabulated facts respecting the age, stature, weight, prospective employments, etc., of the graduating class. Not content with reporting these facts, which are not wholly devoid of interest, the compilers of these documents proceed to set down a statement of the number of profane swearers, of habitual imbibers of intoxicating drink, and of those who have occasionally drunk to excess. They have not yet arrived at the point of inquiry of the candidates for the bachelor's degree whether they have been guilty of adultery or perjury or forgery; but the questions on which they do seek information are in some cases only a degree less insulting to those to whom they are addressed. The information of this sort which they collect and spread before the public, it is needless to say, excites no other feeling than disgust in the mind of every one at all sensitive to the claims of decency and propriety. Like other matters of taste it is not a subject for argument. It is difficult to see how any instructor in an institution where such a publication is issued can avoid blushing at the sight of it; that is, if he cares anything for the tone of manners in the academic body to which he belongs, and for its reputation among persons of refinement.
In the remarks on secret societies, the "Skull and Bones" and "Scroll and Key" come in for a share of attention.
"Secret societies are an anomalous feature in American college life. A student from Oxford or Paris who visits one of our colleges is surprised to find many of the students decorated with breast-pins, inscribed with Greek characters. These insignia are sometimes wrought in strange forms, such, perhaps, as Anchorites of old kept in view to remind them of death and the grave. On being informed that these ornaments, with their strange devices, are badges of secret fraternities of a social or literary character, the foreigner is curious to inquire into the nature of the secrets which are so carefully guarded, the existence of which however, is thus signified to the public. If this inquiry happens to be addressed to an older member of one of these societies-a graduate, say, who left college a score of years or a quarter of a century ago-it will be answered by a smile which conveys the idea-which, very likely, will also be verbally expressed-that the secrets are of no account. If the question happens to be directed to one of the young members of some of these fraternities, the stranger receives no answer at all. He probably is some-what astonished that a natural and civil inquiry as to the significance of a conspicuous and quite peculiar decoration is met with the rebuke implied in blank silence. It is a kind of response which he finds it hard to reconcile with ordinary standards of civility. To put on a peculiar, if not grotesque, badge or decoration which inevitably challenges inquiry as to its meaning-a natural and proper inquiry on the part of an acquaintance-and then to be dumb when any remark is made respecting it, strikes the stranger not wonted to our ways as a want of courtesy."