That’s Why I Chose Harvard

The “On Harvard Time” parody exemplifies why the Crimson trumps

I came close to applying early action to Yale instead of Harvard. Why, I figured, would I want to attend a school known for its dour student body, just to be able to drop the H-bomb on my resume? But then I visited Yale. Something didn’t seem right. I had heard that Yale students were cheerful, but I wasn’t expecting them to actually jump for joy while leading visitors through campus. Every Yalie smiled. Always. The people there, I sensed, were far too happy to be normal.

Yale’s latest admissions video—titled “That’s Why I Chose Yale”—vindicated this intuition. And after watching the clip’s hilarious dismemberment by the “On Harvard Time” crew last week, I could no longer imagine myself wearing anything other than crimson. Aside from the tasteless line about Yale’s murder tragedy (which has since been removed), the OHT spoof beautifully illustrates why I made the right college decision.

The Yale Dean of Admissions asserted that the new Yale admissions video effectively captures the spirit of the university. And the video is definitely spirited. Yalies, it seems, study less and frolic more. Birds chirp in the background as the Bulldogs’ colorful cast of characters prance in idyllic sun-drenched fields and sing songs about life’s beauty. Yale, in short, comes off as a real-life version of a Walt Disney film.

Unfortunately, that film is “High School Musical.”

Featuring everyone’s favorite flamboyant, pocket-sized vocalist, Sam Tsui, Yale ’11, “That’s Why I Chose Yale” is replete with over-the-top performances, creepy falsettos, and lyrics so cloying (“of course you’ll get a first-rate education/but also thrive on classmates’ conversation!”) that they cause cavities. The filmmakers contend, of course, that it was always their intention to create a campy, “accessible and pop-friendly” film to showcase Yale’s playful side. But it takes tact and wit to do camp right. And because the film so conspicuously lacks both, it implicates Old Eli as a bastion of overly eager students, blissfully unaware of the embarrassment they instill in their onlookers.

Harvard’s video, however, is everything that Yale’s isn’t. Starring the always-hilarious Ryan P. Halprin ’12, “Why Did I Choose Yale” keenly ridicules the aura of obliviousness that surrounds every student in the Yale video. Bright-eyed Yalies who can’t help but burst into song in class get shouted down by their professors. Characters croon in perfect harmony about how excited they are to have pool tables in their lounges just like every other school. Exaggerated facial expressions in Yale’s video get taken to their outrageous extremes in Harvard’s.

Seeing this video replicated the catharsis I felt when I first visited Cambridge. While a fanatical energy pulsed through every single Yalie, Harvardians were surprisingly and refreshingly down-to-Earth. Far from dour, Harvard students have pride in their institution but have no desire to express that pride by waving their arms around excitedly. Indeed, Harvard’s charm lies in the fact that it is so self-assured in its own worth that it sees no need to sell itself by creating loud and garish videos, and such displays rightfully turn off its students. As a result, Harvard resonates not saccharine sweetness but effortless class—a sublime beauty about as ostentatious as a walk around the Charles at sunset.

So it may be true that Yalies are statistically happier. And if you seek a college that its admissions office believes is best represented by a group of people pretending to star in a painfully unfunny version of “Glee,” then by all means transfer. But personally, I prefer a student body that’s self-aware, self-confident, and knows how to call it as it sees it.

Avishai D. Don ’12, a Crimson editorial columnist and writer, is a social studies concentrator in Adams House currently studying abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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