The Greening of Yale
Cabbages and Kingman
The following article, by Michael E. Kinsley '72,first appeared in The Crimson on November 21, 1970. Some things were different then; there was this matter of a war in Southeast Asia, for example. Some things have stayed the same.
The game ended abruptly as the ball was pushed over a locked fence, and Mr. Capiello, with other campus policemen, quickly deflated it and drove it away in a pick-up truck.
"Pigs! Pigs! Pigs!" the students shouted benignly. "Free the bladderball!" --the revolution at Yale, as captured in the New York Times, November 2, 1970.
CHEAP vituperation and petty chauvinism are rarely more apparent than on Harvard-Yale weekend. Traditionally, most of it comes from the other side. We could laugh off their peculiar taunts of "Yale Reject!", knowing the opposite to be almost exclusively the case. Down in New Have, one could assume, they had nothing better to do than buy blue and white scarves (the Official Yale Scarf, incidentally, is manufactured in Harvard Square), carve their initials into the tables down at Mory's, import girls for football weekends. Harvard was more worldly than that, initiating academic, political and social trends which Yale could only sniff at or copy (or both).
Suddenly things are different. Yale now wears the bell-bottoms in the Ivy League family. Their president gets attacked by Spiro Agnew. Their Classics Professor Erich Segal writes a "novel" about Youth Romance Today (Jen...what would you say if I told you...I think...I'm in love with you." "I would say...you were full of shit." The ellipses are his.) which clings moistly to the top of the bestseller lists, bringing lumpen to the throats of the proletariat (because a baker's daughter can marry a banker's son, even if she dies forthwith) while Harvard classicists are still back in the middle ages translating Greek. Then there's Yale law professor Charles A. Reich (all of whose students, the Times exclaims, call him "Charley"), who reports in his book, The Greening of America (currently churning off the Random House presses at a rate of 15,000 a week), that the machinery of Corporate America is destroying itself and that we should all await with him the inevitable emergence--like grass through the cracks in the sidewalk--of a new Consciousness of love, blue jeans and rock music, a Consciousness III. Says the Times: "Youth culture has gotten its very own Norman Vincent Peale." They were not referring to William Sloan Coffin, Yale's famous Radical Chaplain.
(Have you noticed the Times obsession with Yale of late? Their second front page talks of little else. I've read that Yale has girls now. They even live in the same dormitories, though in different entryways. There aren't very many, but as Kingman Brewster so aptly put it, Yale has a responsibility to produce "1000 male leaders" every year. What with Consciousness III around the corner and Yale so hip, I guess they figure this is a good a time as any to begin attempting to fulfill that responsibility. Yale Admissions Director Inslee Clark--students call him Inky!--said Yale was going coed to improve the education of her men. I've also read in the Times that many Yale students are against the war in Vietnam and some are even working for liberal Senators Obviously the Times knows where it's at.)
THE CYNICAL here might take comfort in the knowledge that both Segal and Brewster were educated at Harvard, and that most of Reich's analysis is really Galbraith without the economics (a concept, admittedly, somemight find as ludicrous as Galbraith without the modesty). They can snort to each other--and rightly so--that each Brewster speech, each Segal movie, each Reich pronouncement, each flattering Israel Shenker Times profile is a triumph of style over content, content still residing somewhere north of the Charles. But it's a triumph nonetheless. And can we ignore it? More than we suspect, Harvard's future may be truly affected by the greening of Yale.
For one thing, there's the presidency. Last Spring, I asked Brewster for an interview for the Crimson. He protested shyly that "What with Harvard looking around for a new president, perhaps it's not the best time for my name to be splashed all over the Crimson." But like it or not, Brewster's name has been mentioned (if not splashed) practically everywhere else. With the possible exception of S.I. Hayakawa, he is the best-known college president in America. With dozens of colleges looking for male leaders, his national reputation has followed three of the four steps traditionally ascribed to the rise and fall of a movie star: I "Who's Kingman Brewster?" II. "Get me Kingman Brewster." III. "Get me a Kingman Brewster type." IV. "Who's Kingman Brewster?" A Kingman Brewster type can be all things to all people. Most important, to alumni, he will keep things quiet. At a dinner last month the directors of the Associated Harvard Alumni--slavering in anticipation--asked student politicos from Faculty committees, "Would Harvard students fall for a Kingman Brewster?"
Would they? Would Harvard students be taken in by a grinning hypocrite who came glad-handing his way down to Lowell House to pacify the natives whenever they got restless? Some of Brewster's stunts seem so obvious as to insult the intelligence even of Yale. A year ago, for example, Brewster spoke in front of the Yale Political Union, an apolitical student forum, and gained national publicity for his proposal that any Yale president's term be "reviewed" by the Yale Coproration every seven years. Whatever that meant--since no president has tenure and can be fired at any time--Brewster's first seven years just happened to be coming to a close and, to no one's surprise he was allowed--nay, encouraged-- to remain at his post. In that same speech, however, he dismissed unilaterally the prowing pressure for student representation in university decisions. Students don't want power, Brewster revealed, they really want responsiveness (whatever that meant) from the administration. And he planned to supply them with all the responsiveness they could eat. Do Yale students want responsiveness? "Yes!" editorialized the Yalie Daily. Responsiveness is exactly what we want!
SOMETIMES they got responsiveness beyond their wildest dreams, most notably last May. Students announced a strike against Yale in support of the Black Panthers who were on trial in New Haven. Brewster announced he supported the strike. Or did he? At any rate, he didn't mind in the least if his students and faculty members skipped classes. And Yale would supply food and lodging to all those coming down to support the Panthers. He never said, of course, that he supported the Panthers. He never said he didn't, either. He did say he doubted the ability of black revolutionaries to receive a fair trial anywhere in the United States. Whatever that means.
A little revolution can be a dangerous thing. Especially when it comes without cost. An elegant critique of the American Corporate State means little if you follow it up by saying that everything will be okay because. "No one can take himself altogether seriously io bell-bottoms." And moral outrage--however correct--summoned up upon convenience for its publicity value produces atrocities like the U.S. Government's current prosecution of the son of a blue-collar family for murdering civilians in Vietnam.
So team, when you get out there on the field today, look straight through the purple shades and into the eyes of the Yale fullback in the paisley helmet. Think of him and Erich Segal and good ol' Charley Reich tossing flowers at each other in the Pierson College dining hall as Kingman Brewster broadcasts the Fugs out of his office window. Think of jean-and-workshirt-bedecked Yalies pouring out of Skull and Bones to spend their dividend checks on grass and anti-war ads in the New York Times. And win this one for Consciousness II.