Mistakes Were Made

On January 10, 2007, in his address to the nation, President George W. Bush (Yale ’68) stated that, “Where mistakes were made, the responsibility rests with me.” He was referring to the Iraq war, but he could have just as easily been referencing mistakes made at his alma mater, Yale University. Yet not even Bush can be blamed for everything that has gone wrong with that dismal institution.

Rather, the morbid state in which Yale finds itself today can be traced back to a series of mistakes made by many different Yale affiliates. After all, the founding of Yale was based upon the biggest mistake of all when, in 1701, a group of ten Harvard alums thought they could do better than their school along the Charles. They came together, threw all of their books into a heap to form a “library,” and declared a new college established.

Yale, then called the Collegiate School, spent its infant years getting passed around from city to city like a plate of cheap hors d’oeuvres until its founders finally settled on New Haven, Connecticut in 1718. Now, we know hindsight is 20/20, but really—New Haven? A Google search for “found in New Haven” yields “body” as the most common result. Next down: “suspicious package.” Consider that a warning for Harvard women this weekend.

But how about naming the school after Elihu Yale, on whose tombstone it is written, “Much good, some ill, he did; so hope all’s even.” If only it were all even.

In retrospect, these were poor decisions. But, though modern Yale suffers from mistakes made throughout its history, no one has ever learned from them, and thus they haven’t stopped.

Consider Yale’s most recent big mistake—not ending early action. We hope their admissions office enjoys reading those extra thousand early applications they’ve just received. Stressed much? Take comfort in knowing that all those extra applicants probably consider Yale their second (or eighth) choice school and will be applying to Harvard in the spring, regardless of what you offer them.

But alas, come spring, over 1,000 naïve high school students will still make the mistake of matriculating at Yale. Of course, since only people prone to make bad decisions would ever go to Yale, this cycle of mistake-making is self-perpetuating.

Every year we make fun of these and any of the other countless mistakes made in New Haven. But so what if you chose to go to Yale? Everyone makes mistakes! Today we offer to forget the mistakes of the past, if Yalies would simply drop the act. We all need to admit that Yale was a mistake from the beginning. It is time to pretend that it never happened.

Students should stop going to class; it’s what’s best for their future. Alumni should stop going to work; it’s what’s best for our economy.

Undoubtedly, if we woke up tomorrow and Yale had shut its doors, the world would change very little. If Yale athletic teams failed to show up to games, the scores would be practically indistinguishable. And would anyone notice if Handsome Dan were not dragged around the field? Probably only Handsome Dan, and the mascot would surely be all the happier to skip the exercise.

Maybe we could also finally stop hearing about Aleksey Vayner. It is so tiring when it is that easy to make fun of someone.

Yale University President Richard Levin could finally retire on his yacht. After making all that money—on the highest presidential salary among the Ivies—he surely deserves a break. Not that he didn’t deserve the compensation, of course; garbage collectors also make a pretty nice living.

And don’t forget that a world without Yalies would also mean that President Bush would take a permanent vacation to the ranch. Cheney might also call in sick—there’s probably a good chance this happens on any given day. Maybe someone could even fix that whole Iraq thing.