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The Problem at Yale Is Not Free Speech (palladiummag.com)
332 points by jseliger 43 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 167 comments



I find this piece fascinating. To honor it I offer a tl; dr

1. Author recounts experiences of people lying about their class/wealth at Yale, often feigning less wealth.

2. Explains behavior 1 as style, safety, loss-of-perspective, and avoiding social responsibility

3. Retells several incidents where a vocal minority of students at Yale picked and won battles over verbiage (e.g. emails, Calhoun, "Master of college").

4. Interprets the battles in 3 as at best insignificant and at worst a distraction from real problems of class disparity in America. Contrasts these protests against Vietnam protests.

5. Proposes "American Elites" have no idea what they stand for anymore, are shirking their responsibility, and have no capability to be self-critical for fear of losing belonging in the in-group.

6. Rejects these Yale social movements: "This ideology is filled with inconsistencies and contradictions, because it is not really about ideological rigor. Among other things, it is an elaborate containment system for the theoretical and practical discontent generated by the failures of the system, an absolution from guilt, and a new form of class signaling."

7. Interprets the "inconsistent" Yale protests as an unproductive way for students to avoid guilt of their privilege and distance themselves from failing "legacy institutions."

8. Holds the Yale administration accountable for siding against a "vacuous" student cause instead of their own faculty. Demands more from "an institution older than the Republic"

9. Asks what it means if "Yale dies" and why this matters. Proposes it speaks to a more universal problem.

[All that said, I recommend reading the whole thing if you can find the time. This distillation has only a fraction of the value of the whole piece. Many tangential points are very interesting.]


> All that said, I recommend reading the whole thing if you can find the time. This distillation has only a fraction of the value of the whole piece. Many tangential points are very interesting.

Over time, I’ve come to appreciate all of the little things that get left out of summaries like this to the point that I wonder if they might be harmful. In the time it takes to read a summary, it is also possible to read the first few paragraphs of the article, which should be enough for someone to tell if the writing connects with them.

Fundamentally, this is a persuasive piece and its power comes from providing a vicarious experience to the reader of the author’s experiences at Yale. Whether you agree with her conclusions or not, reading this will help you understand the fundamentals of her position much more than a summary. I worry that, by spoiling the ending, this kind of summarization encourages people to only read the piece if they already agree with the conclusion it ultimately reaches. Thus, the people that would gain the most insight avoid exposing themselves to arguments counter to their beliefs and the echo-chamber is perpetuated a little bit more.

(Side note to ‘alexandercrohde: I don’t really intend to single you out; I applaud the effort you put into writing this summary, and you achieved what you set out to do. I’ve just had this particular rant growing inside me for a while, and this was the first place it made sense to put it.)


I'm returning to this discussion having read (well, most of) the essay, and finding it far better than the HN discussion was at the time I'd first encountered it.

There's a cost to informational complexity, but also a value. The problem is that complex ideas require complex exposition, but complex exposition discourages exploration.

There are a few classic ways around this. One is the Hollywood Film / Bestselling Book blurb, often a brief sentence, if not a single word, supposedly capturing the gist of a work (or at least enticing someone to drop a dime on seeing/reading it).

Another is the in-depth review. See various London / New York / Los Angeles book review articles, some of which have graced HN. These can give an entry point, but are often themselves complex.

There's offering a few choice samples of quoted text from the work. If there's a concise and sufficient lede 'graph, that can work, though much contemporary writing seems to actively avoid this. Otherwise, a few exemplary sentences pulled from the piece may work (I'm curating a few for posting to Mastodon as I write this).

Or you can highlight the key structure of the article. alexandercrohde's comment is of this sort.

I liken this to the barker ("See the Amazing Thing!"), cracking the coconut -- making the hard-to-get-at bits immediately available, sampling, much as a grocer might provide tastes of fruit or cheese to give a preview of wares, and of providing a roadmap -- not revealing all the delights of a trip, but at least preparing the reader for the journey ahead. That's what the parent comment of this thread does, and pretty well.

There's a place for each of these, and a value in matching the appropriate preview mechanism to the corresponding form of content. Given the complexity of marketing information, it's a necessity. The sample is not the product, but it can help in deciding which products you choose to spend time on.

I'm finding the article fascinating, myself.


Having read the article first I found the summary to be helpful. You are suggesting we remove the summary to prevent people coming to false conclusions? I think actually these summaries help us to have more structured discussions?


It’s not so much about false conclusions as it is enabling tribalism by helping people avoid opposing viewpoints. It’s certainly a trap I’ve fallen into myself a few times: commenting on the general topic without reading the article and arguing against the usual counterpoint instead of the one that was actually made.

I haven’t come to any firm conclusions on this matter, so I certainly wouldn’t recommend banning or removing summaries yet. I did, however, want to point out a potential downside of them that I hadn’t seen anyone talking about, so that can inform people’s future decisions to write and post such things.


An investing analogy. Warren Buffett doesn't read analyst reports. He reads each company's own reports (primary sources) instead to make up his own mind.

Summary here = analyst report Article from author = primary source


> 4. Interprets the battles in 3 as at best insignificant and at worst a distraction from real problems of class disparity in America. Contrasts these protests against Vietnam protests.

I tend to agree. I view the "tempest in a teapot" protests that go after some academic functionary in the same light as I view most of the animal rights protesters--deeply hypocritical.

You don't see these college students go after someone with actual power just like you don't see the animal rights advocates throw paint on Hell's Angels for wearing leather.

Protest is good--until you you might actually face consequences for your protest. Sorry, protest without consequences isn't a real protest.

If the Yale students want to protest, we have an oversupply of things that need to be protested--feel free to join us. But, these might upset people with real power, they might get arrested, they might wind up with a criminal record like the plebeians and that might upset their getting that cushy Goldman-Sachs position in a couple years.


> You don't see these college students go after someone with actual power just like you don't see the animal rights advocates throw paint on Hell's Angels for wearing leather.

This is a strange example of inconsequential protest, as the movement against furs was highly successful.


You’re kind of illustrating GP’s point. Throwing paint on a fashionista wearing fur poses very little risk- compare the risk to a Hell’s Angels biker who might literally kill you. And furs were always expensive which kept the quantity relatively low- compare the number of fur animals killed to the number that are killed for their hides to make car interiors, house furniture, clothing, and more.

If the fur protesters want to make a big impact they should protest leather, but you don’t see that. Instead they took their smaller symbolic victory because the meaningful fight is too hard and too risky.


No one raises and kills cows for the leather; the leather is a byproduct.


The leather is a product, not a byproduct, just not the sole product. I fail to see the logic that killing a mink for its fur is wrong, but killing a cow is okay because we get meat along with the leather. You can also make arguments about how it’s okay because cows are raised specifically to be killed, but the fact remains that we kill orders of magnitude more cows than we ever have minks. My previous argument stands unchanged about how protesting mink is a small victory and most animal rights protesters stopped short of going for a big one.

Btw, I’m not an animal rights protester, I eat meat and have leather furniture. I’m just backing up the top level argument that Yale students aren’t protesting the big stuff.


Part of activism is picking the right battles you can win and where you can be effective.

The main focus of animal rights protesters consequently are industrial meat production and animal cruelty, not the fucking Hell’s Angels. That’s absurdity to the highest degree.


So you're not really protesting unless you light yourself on fire? You understand that if everybody who protested the "big stuff" did so by doing extremely risky things, you're going to end up with nobody left with the will to protest?


Not to mention cows are a major contribution to global warming.


So are datacenters. And cows were here first.


The interesting question that follows is:

What would the critics have said, if they had done just that?

Probably something among the lines of: ”see, this proofs they are unreasonable lunatics! Nobody in their right mind would protest against the Hells Angels. How does that even further thwir goals? They should go against $TARGET”

The key to understanding a lot of criticism is that it happens often in defense of the critics sense of superiority and is therefore not necessarily an rational argument against a certain movement, but a justifiction from the critics why they aren’t part of it. And the answer equates usually roughly: ”because they don’t go far enough, are not brave enough, not clever enough, not efficient enough, not radical enough, not consequent enough, taking on the wrong target, ...”

The interesting aspect: this kind of criticism rarely brings to light any valid argument against the underlying motivations of the movement. So as an example you rarely see critics go: “The idea that we shouldn’t wear fur is wrong - we totally should for the following reasons ...” ¹

This makes clear that the critics realize they can’t make a moral argument here — yet they want to maintain a feeling of superiority over those who question the status quo and so they aim for the character of those they criticize.

Critic: ”If only I were part of that movement, I would protest even more than they do, by going for the dangerous Hells Angels.”

B: ”Yeah but you aren’t. As it stands now you do less than those who you criticise for not doing enough — what does that make you?”

Critic: ”I am still better than them because ...”

If I ever feel I need to criticise a movement for not doing enough, I stop and think about what I am in the process of doing and whether I am really in the position to phrase that criticism.

--- ¹: Usual arguments like “We always did it like that and it was no problem” just proof the critic didn’t really think about the topic.


> You don't see these college students go after someone with actual power

What a bizarre claim.

Protesting their own college administration, and getting arrested for it: https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/05/08/arrests-...

Hunger strike, football team strike, and many other protests resulting in university president resignation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015%E2%80%9316_University_of_...

Protesting the CIA director, who I hope counts as someone "with actual power" - https://upennstatesman.org/2016/04/01/violent-protests-end-t...

I imagine almost every college in the country has had protests against the president: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2016/11/0...

Arrested protesting at their state government: https://www.concordmonitor.com/UNH-students-protesting-votin...

Arrested protesting ICE: https://middleburycampus.com/45615/news/two-midd-students-ar...

Yale students arrested protesting their administration: https://www.nhregister.com/news/article/Yale-students-arrest...

Arrested protesting Israel occupation: https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/15-jewish-college-students-a...

You can find many more examples with ~5 minutes of research.


So they're hypocrites because they don't try go out of their way to be physically harmed? That's a unique take.


Ah, obviously anything less than getting the National Guard called to your university to murder you isn't "real protest"?


There are some really interesting ideas floating around in the article and this summary.

But I do wonder if the overall interpretation is a little off - the interesting question to me is 'has anything changed'.

Particularly 3 and 8 - was there ever a time the administrators were not spineless bureaucrats? I'd like to interpret that in light of 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 as the student body is a lot more organised via social media than it used to be, and suddenly students are capable of imprinting an immature, half-formed culture on the university rather than the university imprinting the elite's culture on the students.


>4. Interprets the battles in 3 as at best insignificant and at worst a distraction from real problems of class disparity in America.

Note however that there is nothing in the article describing economic disparity as a problem. There are laments about social position and altering or eliminating traditions but no hint of criticism of economic inequality.

So the claims aren't about inequality, they're about the "wrong" people (in the author's opinion) being rich. In particular, the rich students behavior regarding the culture war.

And the author is annoyed that some of the rich students live austere and ascetic lives. But the implication is they should act rich instead to become more worthy of respect.

Also the article talks about the energy students devote to racial issues as done merely to avoid social responsibility. But this does not make sense for a couple of reasons:

1) The students described believe there are issues around race and are acting in a way they think will help. So what are the other unstated higher responsibilities are they shirking during their time at University?

2) Walking in protests or wearing cheap cloths only works on people who are literally in physical view. Hiding wealth is done through a Cayman island bank account, that is how one would shirk responsibility.

3) The opinions and behaviors of the minority of students described are extremely rare among the super rich so it's obviously not a very good avoidance technique. Or, by implication, the author signals that the behavior of the Koch brothers or Walton family is more appropriate to the responsibilities of the rich.

So honestly, although there is a brief point raised about two wrongful terminations, the article is really just lamenting the culture war and claiming that the students participation in it is wrong minded and fad driven. There is no call that they should be protesting war or helping the poor or anything. Just that they stop taking these stances on culture war issues.


> they should act rich instead to become more worthy of respect

No, the point is that "if you put on a façade for long enough, you end up forgetting that it is a façade"


No, the point is an anti-race equality rant which is intentionally blurring a few anti-elite and anti-dysfunction sounds so it would get published. If it were genuinely anti-dysfunction, it would include much lower hanging fruit like admittance practices focusing on wealth and wrongful terminations. If it were anti-privilege it would focus on that privilege and not on race protest or fads.

So yes, in abstraction, if you put on a facade long enough you forget you're wearing it. But that is not remotely the theme of the article. The one and only theme is that racial equality activism should stop on the grounds that it is being done by rich kids


I agree, I got the impression the author was desperate to find explanations that would distract from the issues of race and gender. Despite its length, there is no sincere consideration of the perspectives of others or attempt to understand them. In fact it's outright dismissive, and attempts to reallocate credit for hard won civil rights progress from minority groups to rich white people.

It should be celebrated that the institution finally- after generations, sees having buildings named after slavers as problematic all on its own. It shouldnt take mass student protests to move such things forward, especially when they are symbolic and represent little to no cost to the university to implement. I would like to think that competent people dont need it explained to them why a person of color might be uncomfortable at an institution that celebrates people who raped and murdered their ancestors. This article reeks of willfull ignorance.


My reading of the essay is the elite are now completely out of touch with reality, and a complete abdication of their responsibilities. Also, the piece ties this prevailing ideological virtue signaling as a class indicator. It's been interesting to read the comments, as there are some serious knee jerk reactions to anything which questions the orthodoxy of prevailing thought in our universities or come to the conclusions I have. Ad reducto Trump, you see this on the other side as well; that's a whole other bag of worms though. We having something incredibly toxic in the air and the zeitgeist's humors are wildly out of balance. I'm going to address this thought below to inform you on why I have a different conclusion and the lens I see things through.

> The one and only theme is that racial equality activism should stop on the grounds that it is being done by rich kids

For right now let's get over the fact there is an elite. We are going to look at how this is playing out. Social hierarchies are pretty much built into all social creatures, and plain as day in human civilizations regardless of political, economic structures or point in history. The powerful have always ensured their progeny have a slot at their standing; it's what people of all societies do. From this axiom we can arrive at this conclusion, there will be a small group with more capital (social, political and economic) which have a heavy hand on the scale of power and structure of society and set the direction it takes. In the future we might figure out a system which mitigates this while preserving individual freedoms, who knows. Right now in 2019, this is the behavior we are seeing from the top echelons, the old guard have been rent seeking, while the new are hung up on de-gendering pronouns and outraged at tactless yelp reviews. We now have those people filling in slots at the top of the food chain now pushing their ideology, while maintaining the status quo.

One narrow anecdotal example (I know, I know, this is to illustrate how this behavior manifests itself) is the Advertising Club of New York. They give presentations on promoting women in advertising, it used to be a mens only club and how they are fundamentally changing the nature of the industry. Though, advertising still works as it ever did and showing no signs of stopping, but now women make up all executive positions of this group. Ambitious women should be allowed to succeed in their pursuits, there is no argument there, and I'm not saying it's an even playing field. The issue is we have this elite pat themselves on the back for promoting diversity, but none of the fundamental issues are addressed. The moral hazard of the pharmaceutical industry, payday loans, junk food, liquor or whatever social ill which gets your goat are still kicking hard and our 24/7 media outrage cycle are completely dependent on revenue from advertising. Basically, the money is too damn good, but our navel gazing makes this ok.

It's easier to create empty symbolic gestures, rather than actually address the issues. For the majority of Americans these are the real issues which impact millions on a daily basis: lack of economic opportunities, lack of social cohesion, decay of infrastructure, by age 23 49% of black males, 44% of Hispanic males, and 38% of white males have been arrested, living in a dangerous environment and the few options out there force crap decisions which nearly guarantee no social mobility. Just because we now have a few more rich (insert minority group) women at the top of the heap doesn't change the fact childhood diabetes is alarming high. The elite feign moral outrage on the inconsequential, while people are literally dying from their inaction. It's tone deaf, and comes across like a slide show of Christian missionaries in Africa painting a chapel.

Yale produces, whether you agree with it or not, the future elite of this country. They are not proposing real solutions to the problems above. Instead it's witch hunts, getting caught up in language we use, and the highest stakes seems to be throwing bike locks at each other. Do you think poor black single moms working working two jobs to support her kids are out there risking arrest to protest the proud boys? No, it's wealthy kids on both sides playing a really stupid game. What we want and desperately need is for our leaders to look at what's going on, stick their necks out there and take some real risks with the power they wield. 2 cent idea, setting up business centers with ability to loan money in impoverished neighborhoods with the goal of setting up local small businesses with tools to give them a solid shot. Here's another, ease the crazy zoning and approval laws in place to develop housing for working people in urban areas. How about this, implement the German system of unions on corporate boards. How about creating a new dealesque army corp of engineers? The fact there is no real risk taken on unsexy problems shows a lack of responsibility.

So yeah, I don't really have an issue with protesting anything. It's your right, and I firmly believe in the 1st amendment. The issue is these elite are squandering the opportunities they have, and lost the plot. Out of many countless people who don't have the opportunity, countless others which tried their hardest at the mere chance and failed, these select few which got in have a very real shot at improving society, and what are we getting? Can't use the word freshman anymore.


I agree that a focus on economic opportunity might be more effective. And Universities need to stand behind their staff. But the article is not remotely suggesting that students should focus on economic reform. And if there were any doubt on that issue, it is made clear by the authors other articles. Indeed, the author went to Yale, we know she did not participate in any protests. What exactly did she do as her responsibility?

Those students _are_ focused on wide reform in _every_ field. The article and those like it are cynically composed to describe only racial reform efforts in order to drive a wedge between white and non-white working class voters and to demonize the few wealthy who are actually on the side of reform.

Indeed it is the very group doing the anti-racist protests that are the ones _allied_ with economic reform. That's where the Bernie Sanders supporters are. The problem would be the polar opposite students in Yale solely there to learn how to increase hereditary wealth and power.

These exact same techniques and even words were used in the 60s to demonize economic reforms by railing against the "extreme" behaviors of student then. Portrayal of universities as Communist (still a common theme on Fox), focusing solely on pro-integration and anti-war protests to falsely portray disregard for white poor and national disloyalty. They kept two out of three today.

And they found they same audience to stoke the same unjustified resentment then as now by falsely convincing working class whites that powerful liberal economic reformers are only interested in non-whites. And so drove a wedge between working class whites and non-whites. And so Nixon and Trump.

The catastrophic rent seeking and inequality is certainly _not_ coming from those few privileged students who publicly disapprove of that. The one involved in dramatic reform protests (that includes but are not limited to racial items). There are zero students in those protests who oppose dramatic economic reform. The problem is from the actual people causing it: the Koch brothers, the Waltons, Murdoch, people who don't get remotely as many outraged articles as these students.


I think the author is ascribing too much intent to a simple economy of shame that’s omnipresent in all classes; if people find out you have more than they do, they hate you.

The author herself appears to be biased by this. She believes that the “rich elites” have a great burden of responsibility towards the world, which she justifies with shaky zero sum logic that suggests that because they have more, they necessarily took it from those who have less (her bulky villager metaphor). She might not be openly jealous, but she still seems to believe that her rich peers must somehow earn this wealth (an undefined and likely impossible undertaking), and writes about them with condescension when she sees they do not meet her burden.

The kind of “rich elite” that attends Yale—that is to say a child who has access to vast sums of wealth they themselves did not amass—is an otherwise normal person who simply wants to live a happy life. Some end up president, some end up “gypsies”, but as the observes all of them have learned that in order to pursue these goals unmolested they have to put on the cloak of being less privileged than those around them. If they don’t, they’ll drown in a sea of hate from those of lesser means than them.

Thats it. There’s no mystery here, just a bunch of kids trying to avoid being systematically bullied for circumstances outside of their control.


> She believes that the “rich elites” have a great burden of responsibility towards the world, which she justifies with shaky zero sum logic...

"Noblesse oblige"? "With great power comes great responsibility"†? "To whom much has been given, much is expected"? The belief that the wealthy and powerful have a duty to use that power to improve the welfare of the society in which they live has been around for a long, long time. Characterizing it as "jealousy" is unfounded.

† A phrase that I today learned existed long before Stan Lee's popularization of it; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/With_great_power_comes_great_r...


The point that struck me was the assertion that American elites have become dysfunctional. And, that wokeness is more of a symptom rather than cause of that dysfunction. That is a very interesting idea and worthy of consideration. Historically, crises among elites are dangerous. Elites losing the confidence of the people, for example, is destabilizing. Severe conflict among elite factions (sometimes during a loss of confidence period, sometimes not) can also produce instability or worse.


Perhaps you'd be interested in Peter Turchin's theory of "overpopulation of elites" being a root cause of societal dysfunction.

http://peterturchin.com/cliodynamica/intra-elite-competition...


Thank you for posting the link. I have read this. What do you think about Turchin's theory? I'm unsure whether I agree with it or not.


I find it plausible, because of my understanding of how revolutions happen. At the least, it's one view of things.

People who are really scraping to get by don't have the mental bandwidth to put time into revolution. You need people with spare time to organise to kick things off, and only then once you've started a movement you can get the masses on your side because you're offering an alternative.


> "Noblesse oblige"? "With great power comes great responsibility"†? "To whom much has been given, much is expected"?

"Eigentum verpflichtet. Sein Gebrauch soll zugleich dem Wohle der Allgemeinheit dienen."

That's article 14 paragraph 2 of the German Grundgesetz (Basic Law ~ Constitution). Translated: "Property entails obligations. Its use shall also serve the public good."


I went to college in the Bay Area and to a small private college with significant portion of very wealthy. Some in the private college concealed their wealth, some didn't. The thing is, most middle or above folks with an once of sophistication can sense the trust fund kid a mile away - most working class can sense something too, just maybe don't know the middle-class from the trust funders. I'm shocked the author was shocked to discover someone, at Yale, who spent their time in self-absorbed, non-survival-oriented activity was very wealthy. I guess some at the Ivy League spend their time learning to act wealthy without realizing that's what they're doing (I think the 2% of actually poor who get into the Ivy Leagues tend to be "hard working rules followers", who by this tend to not notice the obvious about people).

But given the real wealthy folks signal who they are, whether they like it or not, all day long, the situation makes your point about "they have to conceal it to be treated as human" ring totally false. Nah, they can't conceal it, not to very many, and most know it.

I've met some who didn't know but they were sad and I assume there are others who go in for much deeper cover but that's a small minority.


> the thing is, most middle or above folks with an once of sophistication can sense the trust fund kid a mile away

My experience has been the same as the author's. My college classmates (at Swarthmore) and I were repeatedly surprised when we learned that our friends were trust fund kids. I remember junior year we found out that one kid was super wealthy because he bought a last-minute cross-country plane ticket, first class. Even his roommates, who had lived with him for years, had no clue he was wealthy.

Another time, I learned that a girl was wealthy because she bought an iPod ($400 in 2004!) on a whim. I'd previously thought she was upper-middle class because she drove a Honda CR-V and didn't have any other trappings of wealth.


I'm always reminded of my college friend who went to an international private school in Asia.

Her classmates were the children of billionaires and sultans. Everyone in the school would know because you could just Google them and find paparazzi pictures of them with the parents.

She said for the most part, they did act like normal teens. Just more aloof because the second they left the school, they had a contingent of people, like bodyguards and chauffeurs. Perhaps people like that change more when they are in college.


Both of those examples are put-it-on-a-card-and-worry-about-it-later territory for even normal, middle-class people. Super-wealthy is buying a yacht on a whim.


I think this is a very common perception issue. I am at a university with enormous wealth concentration, but wealth is opaque and everyone orientates upwards.

For students without means or parents buying them toys, someone buying an iPhone on a whim because their old broke is rich. Having any money to spend on non-essentials is rich.

Students who can buy an iPhone on a whim because it's just a random expense for their parents would never think of themselves as wealthy - that's the people who go on first class trips and wear designer clothes without thinking twice.

The people who wear overpriced clothes and go on expensive trips don't feel rich either, they don't even have a building at the university in their family name, and no multi-generational wealth.

I briefly went out with the daughter of an Asian billionaire tycoon, the kind with lots of buildings named after. She never mentioned it or brought it up and I wouldn't even have known until it suddenly clicked about her name and the name of some buildings. I never asked her who she orientated upwards to, though. Some richer tycoon's family?


First class round-trip tickets across the US? Thats a thousand bucks. And $400 for a music player? Those are not normal expenditures for middle-class 20-year-olds (in 2007, before MP3 players were ubiquitous and inexpensive).

Regardless, I’m not saying these are only ever purchased by the ultra-wealthy. I’m saying this was the first sign anyone had that these kids had any money whatsoever. It turned out both have trust funds and are extraordinarily wealthy.


That particular example resonated with me. I'm not super-rich, far from it, I certainly wasn't even earning much in that time-frame. And I did a similar thing because it was the last ticket left and I had to get to a funeral. There must have been other clues that lead to the conclusion that they were trust fund kids!


The last ticket left was a first class ticket?


Yes. It was about $2000. But what was I going to do, just not be there? Took me a bit of work to pay it off but I would have regretted not going so much more.


> the situation makes your point about "they have to conceal it to be treated as human" ring totally false

They can smell it sure, but their reaction is proportional to some product of distance between their socioeconomic positions and how much shame the other party signals. Pretending to be poor is demonstrating shame of one's higher position. In your case, this seems to have been enough to placate their less privileged peers.


But it really occurs to me, the rich aren't acting poor to fool the poor. The rich don't care about the poor and don't encounter them that much. The rich act "poor" to fool themselves or just flatter themselves, to tell themselves they face challenges or just because their idea of the poor is romantic. Back in college X, lots of folks dressed vaguely dock workers, with lots of plaid and such, but no one trying to actually seem a dock worker. It was just a starting off point for a pose.

No, the rich are ashamed but aren't ashamed to you, they're ashamed to themselves.


Calloquially this is known as humility.


A thing being known secretly and a thing being known openly are two very different scenarios. That they can't completely conceal their wealth and that they know that, is not a reason to believe they're trying to conceal their wealth.


> She believes that the “rich elites” have a great burden of responsibility towards the world, which she justifies with shaky zero sum logic that suggests that because they have more, they necessarily took it from those who have less (her bulky villager metaphor).

A single person can only be so productive on a consistent basis. There's a threshold of wealth where you can say that on average 90% of the money is coming from the labors of other people.

Labor and trade are not zero sum. The decision of where the generated dollars go is zero sum.

> She might not be openly jealous, but she still seems to believe that her rich peers must somehow earn this wealth (an undefined and likely impossible undertaking), and writes about them with condescension when she sees they do not meet her burden.

Do you mean they can't 'earn' it in her eyes, or are you agreeing that a certain amount of wealth cannot actually be earned?

Ideally nobody would condescend here, and taxes would have taken care of things right from the start. But taxes in the US are a lot less progressive than they used to be, so they come nowhere near taking care of that burden on their own.

(Well, ideally ideally social services could be funded well without taxes at all, but that's not a real-world outlook. And income inequality would be fixed too.)


But taxes in the US are a lot less progressive than they used to be, so they come nowhere near taking care of that burden on their own.

This is one of those “facts” that simply isn’t true.

US taxes have become more progressive over time.

Look at the first chart: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/11/02/the-s...


On the other hand, this chart: https://www.washingtonpost.com/resizer/taHyLEiwFvxZO4U3BfvmJ...

The top percent or two are sucking up increasingly large amounts of GDP, and they're not paying taxes appropriate for being at that level.

And capital gains taxes push the high end down even more.


That chart doesn’t tell you much at all. Who cares what the marginal rate is, if you’re allowed huge deductions (as was common back in the 1950’s).

That’s why the marginal rate was higher 40 years ago, but the amount of taxes collected was lower.


> Labor and trade are not zero sum. The decision of where the generated dollars go is zero sum.

Certainly, my point was that possessing a greater share of wealth is not the same as the completely unearned disparity in distribution of common resources in the author's hypothetical scenario. We live in a world of scarcity, so disparity when that scarcity is left up to market forces is to be expected and in fact could even be argued to be earned. This is completely different than this sort of village commune that the author envisions. Nevertheless, the author equates the two to justify her argument, which I believe is fallacious.

> Do you mean they can't 'earn' it in their eyes, or are you agreeing that a certain amount of wealth cannot actually be earned?

The former. This responsibility that the author posits her rich peers have is based on nothing other than her feeling that they didn't earn their position and aren't even using it properly, which will only go away after said peers do something that alleviates this feeling. What is that thing? Only the author knows. Maybe she doesn't even know, she just knows that she wants the rich people to fix it.

> they come nowhere near taking care of that burden on their own.

I don't believe it's fair that they even be under some sort of implied burden. Unless they are criminals, their family earned that wealth playing the same game as everyone else and have chosen to use it to ensure their offspring are comfortable. I see no problem in that.


The game isn't half as fair as it should be. I see great problem in that.

Even though some fraction of the disparity is earned, a lot clearly isn't.


The game was and has never been fair. The parent is merely arguing that you should blame the game, and not the players.


You can blame the players for not helping other players, and not wanting infrastructure that takes excess resources from the winners to help all players.


> You can blame the players for not helping other players

Assume we did, what is the correct amount of help that the successful players should help the unsuccessful ones? Unless it's codified into the game itself (being made to pay more taxes based on wealth for example), it's unfair to expect arbitrary players to pay some undefined price to the satisfaction of another arbitrary set of players.


> Assume we did, what is the correct amount of help that the successful players should help the unsuccessful ones? Unless it's codified into the game itself (being made to pay more taxes based on wealth for example), it's unfair to expect arbitrary players to pay some undefined price to the satisfaction of another arbitrary set of players.

It's completely appropriate and reasonable to answer that question with: I don't know exactly how much, but certainly a lot more than is currently occurring, so let's {double, quadruple, 10x} the current levels and then re-assess.


It definitely should be codified. And anyone with power that isn't strongly advocating for that is acting immorally. The nature of the game is very much not an excuse, it's something to rally against.


> a bunch of kids trying to avoid being systematically bullied

The author thinks the Elite Universities are the center of the world and defines what happends everywhere else. They aren't and they don't. There isn't anything anymore which is "the center of everything".

If this was only about rich people at Yale, Harvard, etc, then it would be a storm in a glass of water. It would have no consequence in most universities.

But we see the dysfunction at many universities in the western world. A good explanation would explain why this also happends in many other places.


She did explain that I think?

What happens at Yale sets an example which influences what happens at other universities not just in the US but around the world because Yale has always been the university which educates much of America's ruling class.


Well, by that logic, it should always have been this way. And yet, conspicuous consumption by the children of the ruling class, is not an historically unusual event. Pretending you're poor when you're very rich, while perhaps not unprecedented, is at least not the norm. So I think an explanation is called for, and hers is at the very least quite plausible.

Whatever the reason, it would have to be something that is not common to all times and places, because the college-age children of the ruling class don't always act this way. One wonders if, for example, the equivalent demographic in China (a rising power) acts this way.


>Pretending you're poor when you're very rich, while perhaps not unprecedented, is at least not the norm. So I think an explanation is called for, and hers is at the very least quite plausible

Here's mine: social media and culture in general seeming to centralize around the internet places rich people in the same cultural environment as their poorer counterparts at a scale that is historically unprecedented. The elite have always been inaccessible, now they are within a stone's throw of us. American pop culture is disdainful (or at worst hostile) towards outwardly rich people, and has been legitimized by the popularity of the political concept of privilege. The rich want to participate in this culture but are surrounded by messaging telling them they're somehow lesser or a bad person for being rich. Cause, meet effect.


Yes, that's the superficial explanation. The interesting stuff, and the stuff of the essay, is when you peel back that layer with the first "why?"


I think it’s still a form of status-signalling. It’s like how the ‘old money’ rich turn up their noses at the ‘new rich’ because they’re too gaudy and obvious in how they display wealth. Even if you can make more money than any of the old rich, you can never obtain the level of social capital and political power that being in the club gets you just by making tons of money—you need to be granted access by existing members who will carefully scrutinize your behavior and ideology before deciding you’re one of them.

But that doesn’t mean that the old money folks aren’t showing off their wealth and power—they just do so in coded ways. What the article describes is basically the same thing.


Yalies have been "rich enough to play poor" at least since the 90s. I remember seeing the son of a prominent senator at a picnic with a hole in the sleeve of his old (but probably expensive) sweater and a local friend commenting that those Yalies always want to look poor.


> as he[sic] observes all of them have learned that in order to pursue these goals unmolested they have to put on the cloak of being less privileged than those around them.

This isn't really the issue. The issue is not that they are pretending, it is that they are forgetting that they are pretending.

> We forget the extent of our own power and start blaming an ephemeral elite beyond ourselves for the ills of society.


If you only look at wealth as a bunch of numbers on account statements, then yes, it's pretty unfair to feel responsibility thrust upon you for having a bigger number.

But that's an abstraction and a distraction from the truth of the matter: wealth is capital. It's access to means and it's ownership of resources and property and everything else. It's one thing to be bullied because you drive an expensive car (as a teenager) and take luxury vacations to private islands. It's another thing entirely to be heir to a huge corporation, let alone a petro-state like Saudi Arabia.

With the twin spectres of climate change and trade war (escalating into armed conflict), there is a hell of a lot of responsibility placed upon the elite. Frankly, I'm not shocked at all that people are overwhelmed enough to abdicate. The question is who will step and take charge? The current crop of candidates do not inspire confidence.


The articles contends the rich kids at Yale pretend to be poor to shirk the elite responsibilities, which then leads to deterioration of the elites. I find it doubtful that the kids have thought it through that far. A couple of more likely explanations come to mind:

- Rebellious teenagers always want to establish independence from their parents. Giving up part of the money takes you part of the way there.

- It's hard to be friends with people much poorer than you are - they may not accept you, and you may have hard time adjusting your spending patterns creating various embarrassments. Pretending to be poorer significantly increases the number of people you can be friends with.

As to the deterioration of the elites, I believe that our country lacks raison d'etre, and absent a clear mission people to turn to scrutinizing wealth indicators, culture wars, and such to decide why they get up in the morning. The US used to defend freedom from the Soviets and that was a pretty solid mission in the mind of the missionaries, then it coasted for a while, then tried to fight the terrorism which frankly was never the proper scale of a mission, and now it's just adrift.


The article's explanations for why rich people pretend to be poor are exactly the "more likely" explanations you say that it misses. The article is saying that shirking responsibility is a side effect.

Quotes from the article:

> Rich people pretend to be poor to fit in

> They want independence from their parents


The article does seem to get there eventually:

> The result is an institution increasingly unable to carry out its own mission, as tuition rises to pay for more administrators, and ideological drama makes it harder and harder to actually teach. And now we are back at the original question. What was the point of Yale? What was the point of going to Yale? What is the point of elite institutions?

I don't think it's just the lack of a mission that's the problem though.

I think that these kids have been disrupted.

A sort-of-smart rich kid who went to a good school used to be valuable. They could be like a LinkedIn for a new business with their social network. They could be a StackOverflow, because smart people would want to curry favour and answer their questions. They were a Venture Capitalist for people who had no idea what that meant, let alone where you'd find one. They were a Quora with a rough idea of what management at various levels and in various areas was like.

OK, they are still valuable. But they're no longer quite so important - there's plenty of half-decent substitutes.


The article didn’t really consider what I think is the most likely explanation- like you said, these kind of “elites” don’t really have the kind of power or influence they once did. They aren’t just faking humility rather they are somehow accurately perceiving that in the current order power is held by some mix of corporations, special interests, big tech companies, and (left or right) populist movements, but probably not by individual rich kids with prestige and connections. I tend to think its for the worse but am probably too conservative.


This is an interesting thesis: social media and other c2c content exchanges have partially democratized social capital.


The author seems pretty confused about rich kids. Having rich parents doesn't necessarily mean that you have a lot of cash in college. (Sensible parents are going to give their college kids enough money to get by, not enough to go on a spending spree.) Thus, it's totally reasonable that college kids are commonly broke. It's not some role-playing to escape their responsibilities as members of the elite. In other words, there's a big difference between being broke and being poor.


Even if the rich parents aren't injecting a huge cash flow, that student still has the safety net to fall back on.


I came from a rich family. My parents let me flounder on my own in college. Never gave me a dime and I had earn everything I ever had. When I was 25 and my GF got pregnant, my parents said, “Well, you’re a responsible adult, you’ll figure it out.”

For me? There was no safety net. A year on food stamps, paying child support, working three jobs and being clinically depressed was me “figuring it out.”

At no time did they ever step in to help me financially. When I moved out for my freshman year was their idea of kicking me out of the nest.


I’ve got to ask. But did you consider your parents rich or just just upper middle class. I have a few rich friends and nothing like what happened to you would ever happen to them. First, they would not need to ask for money. That comes from a trust where they get an allowance.

I had one friend who feigned being broke because he would spend all his allowance before the next disbursement arrived. And would borrow money from friends.

In each case their job was assured. they were graduating into the family business or to manage its wealth. Or start their own business with financial help from the trust.


Sad to say, you have assholes for parents. Sure, I can see them reasonably thinking that making you support yourself in college was a fine idea. But providing no support that would benefit their own infant grandchild? No.


Rich people can be really stingy


My experience having observed rich friends I knew from my high school and Ivy league college days has been that, when it comes to their own children, this is the exception, not the rule.


Yes, however the thing with safety nets is people typically avoid having to fall back on them. I could go broke and fall back to living with my elderly mother, but you can bet your ass I'd rather avoid that.

A rich kid might be able to ask their parents for more cash, but the embarassment and scolding that might come with that is likely enough to get a lot of rich kids to avoid the situation by choosing to live within the artificially imposed bounds of their allotted budget.


This exact thing happened to me in college. I had a few fraternity brothers who were always broke and scrounging around, while simultaneously desperately afraid to let on anything about their family background.

It's always a combination of wanting their kids to go through a phase of knowing what it's like to have nothing (teach the lesson of frugality), and making them spend their early 20's living hand-to-mouth as a way to maintain the illusion of control.

But that's not an indictment of modern culture. You see that pattern occur across generations.


1) rebellious teenagers no doubt always want to establish independence, but they haven't always done it this way, so that can't be the explanation. 2) if there is any place on Earth where you should not have to pretend to be poor in order to have friends, it would be the Ivy League. Also, again, if this were the explanation it would always have been this way.


Teenage rebellion is not a universal, it tends to be found in the so called WEIRD countries the most


Perhaps (though I've seen disputes of that), but since we're talking about a Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democracy country's history, it still is not an explanation for why this generation's elite's children would be pretending they're poor, instead of showing off their status with conspicuous consumption (as many previous generations have).


"Rebellious teenagers always want to establish independence from their parents"

The rebelliousness of college students seems so obvious to me. Everyone here using youthful behavior (almost all in their teens and early twenties) to bash their favorite bogeyman group (usually composed of much older people) is missing the completely obvious.


>The rebelliousness of college students seems so obvious to me. Everyone here using youthful behavior (almost all in their teens and early twenties) to bash their favorite bogeyman group (usually composed of much older people) is missing the completely obvious.

What do you mean?


I mean that 18 year olds at Yale are... 18 year olds.

Protests have been a regular fixture on college campuses (including non-elite campuses) for at least 50 years. Including times when the elite/the country had "purpose". Kent, Ohio isn't exactly New Haven or Cambridge...

Youthful rebellion is as old as time, and arguably isn't even unique to humans. Therefore, grounding a sweeping societal critique in any particular mode of youthful rebellion (be it political protest or inane partying) seems a bit... silly.


Also, middle class struggle makes life more meaningful.


That is the first time I’ve ever seen those words used together in that order.


Isn't it just a rewording of the Calvinist/Protestant work ethic, though? Weird how the US is getting less religious on the surface, but holds on to the rituals - like some societal TSR.


I think "virtuous" would've been more appropriate than "meaningful".


Apart and separately from virtue signalling, i believe the demotion to a life of more struggle, even artificial, gives more purpose and meaning, and thus is pleasant.


I think purpose is important, and creates meaning. I don't know if struggle creates purpose, but maybe it does in the sense that purpose comes from wanting reality to be different than it is, and I guess any way in which reality isn't perfect for you would count as some kind of struggle.


Hopefully the fight turns to sucking carbon out of the air and creating a sustainable future.


Fossil Free Yale kids are making a good effort, not mentioned in the article.

https://yaledailynews.com/blog/2018/12/08/ypd-arrests-48-peo...


It would have been wonderful, but I hardly see anyone trying, alas.


I would say these rich kids haven't heard of noblesse oblige.


I went to an English boarding school long enough ago for the intent of that system to still be to train the officer class of the British Empire. But not so long ago that it was actually practical for any of us to realistically be colonial administrators.

This piece reminds me of that education. We were in the middle of the feminist and multi-cultural ideological revolutions. Being culturally aware; not insisting that British culture is superior to everyone else's, was both socially mandatory and against the dominant narrative of the school's educational message. It made for interesting confrontations between the institution and the students and staff

Britain had lost its empire, and the institutions that were set up to administer that empire, and train the administrators of that empire, were failing. Are still failing; though the UK's latest PM is an archetypal product of that system, he is being parodied for it rather than respected for it.

I wonder if America is going through the same thing? For decades the USA has been utterly, unshakably confident that its values, its culture, are superior to the everyone else's. Now... not so much?


> unshakably confident that its values, its culture, are superior to the everyone else's. Now... not so much?

I feel the same way about American values that Churchill felt about democracy.


I would agree with you. Well, except for the guns and religion bits of it.


Yeah, self victimization is trendy right now. People are desperate seeking to find micro oppression from their life experiences and wear them like accessories, while in fact they are top privileged.

I would say that is just the new 'rich kids get boring' stories in our post-modern/post-truth world, and the fashion right now is to dress/act as their imagined oppressed.

Cruel pleasure indeed.


Economic inequality is at its highest level since 1928 and is about to increase even more due to automation, this climate of victimization/identity politics is being increasingly forced at a higher level by corporations, a simple way to build goodwill in the public opinion and feel that they are in the right.


Indeed, and we can solve it as it was solved in 1929, through massive economic mismanagement. If the money supply is contracted by a third again we’re guaranteed a large destruction in wealth, reducing inequality. We could use one of the other ways we know work historically too, war or famine. After the Black Death killed 30-60% of the European population there was over 100 years of broad based prosperity, similarly after the Plague of Justinian, the fall of the Western Roman Empire or in Germany following the 30 Years War.

Global inequality has been deceasing for decades.

https://ourworldindata.org/global-economic-inequality

> Global inequality is driven by changes both of the inequality within countries and the inequality between countries. The below visualization shows how both of these changes determine the changing global inequality.

> – Inequality within countries followed a U-shape pattern over the course of the 20th century.

> – Inequality between countries increased over the course of 2 centuries and reached its peak level in the 1980s according to the data from Bourguignon and Morrison shown here. Since then, inequality between countries has declined.

> As is shown in the visualization below, the inequality of incomes between different countries is much higher than the inequality within countries. The consequence of this is that the trend of global inequality is very much driven by what is happening to the inequality between countries.


Those were tragic unwanted accidents. But look at the fall and collapse of Western Rome, Spanish Empire and Chinese Dynasties, a foreign power will help to break down our stability in less effective regions and forcing them fight against each others promoting perpetual inequality. Look at the Balcanes or the breakdown of any large enough empire which achieved unity for long enough.


This comment kinda baffles me, mostly cause of the implication that "identity politics" progressives don't talk about economic inequality enough. Not sure where exactly that is the case, except maybe in pop feminism that wants more black women of color to be billionaires. But that kind of thinking is widely criticized by the left too.


In my experience they do not take it into consideration at all. I’ve been told far too many times by silver-spoon identity-politic progressives that I don’t get a say because of racial and gender privilege, with no regard for any economic struggle.

You’ll have to forgive me for daring to ask if renaming buildings of alumni who held what are now regressive views is the hill to die on. Of course it’s a black-and-white right or wrong, so if you ask a question you’re just excommunicado.


This has been my experience as well. My favorite was being "schooled" by a woman who had grown up overseas: with servants who'd wait at her feet, private prep schools, US top private college paid in full by parents, etc. Then telling me how privileged I was. Growing up lower class American definitely did not see a lot of privileges..


It has been my experience as well that being a white guy means the other person - being a bully for the most part - feels that they can talk down on you endlessly with no consideration of your actual life experience.


One thing that struck me from the piece (what I could read, before switching to skimming) was the implicit acceptance of the outsized power of Yale people. It sounded like the concern was that they acknowledge and wield this power well. I didn't see a question of whether they should have this power.


Articles questioning who ought to have power are a lot more common. I found it refreshing that the author left that out to focus on just the issue of what those in power should do. That question may be at least as important, given that those with wealth and power are unlikely to let go of said wealth and power, regardless of what the rest of society may think.


No doubt they should not, but that would be a different topic, one which has been (and will continue to be) abundantly addressed, in this era and every other. Yet, there is always a ruling class, and their children don't always act this way. So, it is a worthy topic to consider: why this way, and why now?

To the question of "why does the ruling elite have so much power?", one could answer, "it was ever thus", which is hardly satisfying but is true. But to the question, "why do the children of the ruling elite pretend they are the oppressed?", such an answer is manifestly untrue. So, there is a question there that needs answering, which doesn't already have centuries of answers written.


I've seen "it was ever thus" serve as a rationalization. I'd have liked to see an acknowledgement of the question of rightness of power; otherwise, I think it just reinforces the default. Even (in so many words): "perhaps it's neither fair nor optimal for society that you have so much power over others, but, given that you do [then all the stuff about responsibility]"


That is the take I got to is if the writer feels that there is some golden age in the past that the "elites" should adhere to.

And academic politics (which the article mentions) have always been nasty.


I agree.

We should ask if they should have this power and the people should seize it back if necessary.


Well that is the thing - it isn't granted by us or even talent but by the connection to the resources of others and the benefits - not all of them material.

Many of them even if they suffered full fledged "flee a homicidal government and start with nothing" would have immaterial assets like education and experience running large organizations to gain wealth and rise up again.


You’re right, but all of this flows from perceived status.

Status is not immutable. Stanford was not the elite institution it is today in the 1940s for instance.


too bad Yale didn't teach the author that brevity is the soul of communicating.


i was rooting for some weighty insight but was disappointed by a lack of perspective and coherence. the author writes at length about what yale, and the problem, isn't and much less about about the consequences and potential avenues to shape them. she seems to lack enough life experience to put her critiques into a wider context that's relevant much beyond yale. for instance, the ivy league is viewed through the lens of 3 schools: harvard, yale and princeton, which suggests she's wholly internalized the elitist tunnel vision she decries and can't see beyond.

as far as i can tell, she's saying administrators, students and faculty are at odds, particularly around what it means to have privilege and how to properly account for it (resulting in deadlock & status quo). beyond that, it's hard to tell.

despite the harsh critique, i'm interested to see where this goes. more research and exploratory writing on the subject should help, as she clearly has something she wants to say.


I got a different take out of that. What I got was: 1) the elite know that things are messed up 2) the adult elite have no coherent answers as to how to fix it 3) their children therefore are nervous about being identified as part of that elite. Perhaps they see pitchforks coming? https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/06/the-pitchfor...


Interestingly, I found parallels for what she was describing in much of society these days. The comics, games, movies, anime, etc... industries are all going through this same sort of thing. And if you look at the skeletal structure of what she describes going on at Yale, it's mirrored almost perfectly in those spheres.


Can you elaborate? How do games, for example, display this?


In Christianity, you admit that you are flawed and wicked, but you can repent by accepting Christ as your lord and saviour, and by helping the poor and needy, and then carry on with your business, providing you publicly pour scorn on the unrepentant.

In Woke Studies, you admit that you are white and privileged, but you can repent by accepting Diversity as your lord and saviour, and then carry on with your business, providing you publicly pour scorn on the poor and needy white people who don't share your wokeness.


Fascinating exploration.

It seems the ‘eternal adolescence’ of the modern mind is effecting class dynamics.

At MIT I remember being told that we were expected to be the best in the world at a particular technical subject. I remember a mixed feeling of awe and trepidation at being told of the responsibility we held to society.

I hope the elite can improve and practice sacrificial leadership for the betterment of all.


>But this low number of 2% surprised me because when I was at Yale, everybody kept talking about how broke they were.

>“Want to go out for brunch?” “I can’t—I’m so broke.” This was a common line.

Seems like a huge stretch to assume this is a lie. The 2% figure is for the bottom quintile. The same source says the median family income for Yale students is 192k. That's perfectly consistent with a student who's taking on a heavy debt load to not have much disposable income. The family could have several kids, perhaps be paying partial tuition for 2 kids and have basically no money to give their kid aside from the minimum for food and board.


My second child is starting at Yale this fall, and yes, the tuition struggle is real (trying to do it with no debt). My son has 3 summer jobs, and my daughter is moving off campus to save money. We might make that median this year, but only because I just took on a second job. They won't be posing when they can't go out for brunch -- not when that damned meal plan already took $9 for breakfast.


You should see what happens when these people leave university and continue the charade in a variety of broken down diesels. A lot of the worst behaviour I have ever seen by people in travelling communities has been from the expensively educated children of the exceedingly rich, pretending to be gypsies.


the woke-est girl i ever met was from the ivy league, the daughter of state department parents. she'd been 'traveling' for a year, and just returned to the bay area... to sleep on a filthy couch in the warehouse where i was living with a handful of other folks.

except for the dreadlocks, filth, and b.o., she was as white as the driven snow. she lectured me for 40 minutes. when i told her i was raised by a single mother, went hungry sometimes as a kid, and paid my way through college she helped me understand that i needed "sit down and shut up" to hear other people's oppression

at this time, i don't remember her burner-name. i do remember she was cute, and i had a bit of a crush on her until that day. the experience comes to mind every time somebody asks me "why in god's name?!" would i leave the bay area for texas


It's like the Pulp song Common People. The moral is that you will never have the same experience as common people because you dont have the same existential dread.


Interesting piece although I don't think they represent the point of view of the agitators fairly, for example the author writes: " you ask supporters, they will tell you the cost does not matter so much, because this is about creating an ideal world. Of course the professor should be fired—how dare she stand against the minority student organizations? Of course it’s okay that the Yelp reviews were published—she should never have written them. Of course names should be changed if they hint at or honor the wrong ideology. What does preserving history matter if history is racist? "

What does honouring someone who is extremely pro-slavery even for their time have to do with preserving history? That history still exists whether they have a building named after them or not. And I don't think you will honestly find many people who believe that the ends justify the means no matter what, although you will of course find some people who believe anything. So I think the "ideal world" bit is also somewhat a strawman and a mischaracterisation of people who are anti-racist or whatever.

I do however agree that a lot of this stuff doesn't really help those who need it most. The rich kids paying a 2% wealth tax funnelled into social welfare and education for the working class would do more, as would having Yale include more working and lower-middle class student. But it's easy for me to say as a white guy that having many buildings named after pro-slavery politicians is not really doing any harm. Maybe we should ask those who would be more effected.


I thought the exact same thing, the "Calhoun incident" mentioned completely takes away from the rest of the examples showing that Yale is acquiescing to unreasonable demands. Not wanting to live in a building celebrating a violently pro-slavery historical figure is not at all unreasonable, and is not erasing history. Being anti-slavery and anti-racism isn't some "politically correct fad of the day" that nobody can keep up with.


The Problem at Yale, based on the length of this essay, seems to be Too Much Speech. This is an extended complaint about annoying people one might have brunched with at a few elite institutions, dressed up as cultural analysis.

I am minded of McAdoo on President Harding: “His speeches left the impression of an army of pompous phrases moving over the landscape in search of an idea; sometimes these meandering words would actually capture a straggling thought and bear it triumphantly as a prisoner in their midst, until it died of servitude and overwork.”

In a shock development, university students dress down, pretend to be poorer than they are, and get into conflicts with administrators over things (often pointless things); clearly something that has Never Ever Happened Before.

There are nuggets of good sense here, but the overall message is a scrambled mess. Apparently what's going wrong in the world can be largely attributed to liberal elites patting themselves on the back while trying to do good, or something. I'm sure this plays well in certain circles.

In a world where we have gazillionaire plutocrats actively working 24/7 to fuck other people over (the Koch brothers and the Sacklers spring to mind) I'm not losing too much sleep over this micro-diagnosis about how some kinda-liberal rich people in a tiny slice of American academia pissed off the author and should be spending their lives differently.


fully agreed. the piece exists in some weird space where it suffers from the exact sort of superiority / inferiority role playing anxiety that it's supposed to be about which makes it difficult to draw anything from it.


Author wrote a pro-Jordan Peterson piece for the weekly standard. We both know exactly where this plays well.


This article strikes me as extraploating a select few experiences to make far reaching conclusions. 99% of the people at yale are not children of billionaires or statesmen. They are children of doctors, lawyers, programmers, etc. who are wealthy but not wealthy enough to live off their inheritance indefinitely. People attend classes, do research, play sports, or put up performances - in short what's been going on for decades at virtually every college. Maybe there's a larger structural inequality problem in society, but it seems far fetched to point to her anecdotal experiences with rich kids as the cause.


Do you have a source for the claim that 99% of attendees of Yale don't have enough money to live off their inheritance indefinitely?


This mostly makes Yale sound like an extremely unpleasant place to be.


Any place where people LARP and hide themselves behind masks of their own design all day can be caustic, Yale is far from being an outlier.


I'm fairly certain that some group of people LARP at all the Ivy Leagues. I think we all wear masks, though.


Your point being?


The article is interesting and worthwhile, but the author believes she has upper class students all figured out and is a little too condescending towards them.


I remember teaching a physics section at Cornell that had an Indonesian prince who was always attended by somebody who I think was a bodyguard.

He struck me as a pretty nice guy.


This struck a chord, and not as an Ivy League student, but as somebody working at a FAANG: the same continual narrowing of the space of what is permissible to say out loud and same witch-hunts for people who say Wrong things are happening here too.


I think in the workplace it is different though, whereas universities have been progressive environments and places for debate for many years, at companies, people just want to get work done. I don't want work somewhere where I ever have to hear off-color jokes about women or minorities. I am lucky I work somewhere I have not heard those things. People should be permitted to say those things outloud, but not okay at work. Not as a joke. Take it home or to a bar or to golf buddies or something.


If yale is really being pushed around this much and apparently shows zero spine, why is it still considered the place for future leaders? It's far more likely they ll be taught leadership-like qualities in MOOCs these days.


I have many reservations about the rest, but the first point about guilty rich kids deserves to be more widely known.

Forget "upper middle class", let's ban "middle class" from the discourse. It's 1/2 anachronism 1/2 compromise between guilty rich and aspirational poor.


This reads like a prologue to the Cambridge 5 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge_Spies

There too an empire was in decline.


It appears that they are oblivious to just how problematic a culture of poseurdom is and that itself explains the dysfunctions of the old-guard elite of all sorts. It isn't that they are privileged but that they outright spend their time lying to put up appearances instead of actual substance. It might be reverse pathological causology admittedly - that pathological bullshitters get into power not that those positioned for power are trained to be pathological bullshitters.


I would have rather wasted my time reading a Skull & Bones expose.


I'm fascinated by this sub-genre of "political correctness has gone too far" on campus. Parts of this could have come from a script to generate these.

In particular the bit about how some elderly academic was a liberal, and therefore anyone who disagreed with them must be some dangerous extremist.

Always seems more likely that as a youth they would have been similarly distant from a "reasonable" moderate of a similar age.

A couple of years ago the big trope was that this this was the new face of fascist authoritarianism, that republicans were reasonable moderates and people trying to push veganism, or fight climate change or whatever were crazy extremists. The rise of Trump seems to have muted that a little and rendered most of it ridiculous in hindsight. (Well, it was ridiculous at the time too, but got carried by the same media that would then support Trump).


Yale certainly failed to teach the author how to write.


The problem is that Yale exists at all


You seem to be the one person on HN with consistently the right take.


Good grief, get to the point!


I think these paragraphs from the "Abandoning The Ship of State" section summarize it fairly well.

There is a deep comedy to this sort of signaling. Only around 2% of the student body was in the bottom 20% of American society, and yet extremely wealthy Singaporean students who had spent just a few years in America marched in the street and referred to themselves as “people of color.” People’s experiences were ignored when they volunteered information that countered the main narrative, because the surface-level debate wasn’t the point. The point was to signal that you were with the program. Only a select and secret group of student “leaders”—who were already savvy enough to engage comfortably with hierarchy—were invited in to chat with administrators.

Shouting from the rooftops that “They aren’t doing enough!” is much easier than following any traditional system of elite social norms and duties, let alone carefully re-engineering that system to reestablish order in a time of growing crisis.

Western elites are not comfortable with their place in society and the responsibilities that come with it, and realize that there are deep structural problems with the old systems of coordination. But lacking the capacity for an orderly restructuring, or even a diagnosis of problems and needs, we dive deeper into a chaotic ideological mode of coordination that sweeps away the old structures.

When you live with this mindset, what you end up with is not an establishment where a woke upper class rallies and advocates for the rights of minorities, the poor, and underprivileged groups. What you have is a blind and self-righteous upper class that becomes structurally unable to take coordinated responsibility. You get stuck in an ideological mode of coordination, where no one can speak the truth to correct collective mistakes and overreaches without losing position.

This ideology is promulgated and advertised by universities, but it doesn’t start or stop at universities. All the fundraisers. All the corporate events. The Oscars. Let’s take down the Man. They say this in front of their PowerPoints. They clink champagne glasses. Let’s take down the Man! But there is no real spirit of revolution in these words. It is all in the language they understand—polite and clean, because it isn’t really real. It is a performative spectacle about their own morale and guilt.

If you were the ruler while everything was burning around you, and you didn’t know what to do, what would you do? You would deny that you are in charge. And you would recuperate the growing discontented masses into your own power base, so that things stay comfortable for you.


At a higher meta US-political level, this is probably the best criticism of the Left: "all talk without the required hard change- so that to gain power/status."

...and of the Right: "rooting into a comfortable position to deflect, avoid, blame, deny the responsibility to solve structural issues, in order to capitalize on existing power."

Until we can remove the power incentives and 'take money out of politics', it'll be an extremely uphill problem to address large systematic changes on either sides. More than ever, people should stop treating people in government as celebrities, but as they are, important civil servants of the people to do the tasks that their job demands. Until then, it's a dog and pony show.

Even trying to remove the corrupt to "drain the swamp" will be as futile as draining grains of sand at the beach, if you do not first address your terrain (the structure).


Here's at least part of where things fall apart... "What you have is a blind and self-righteous upper class that becomes structurally unable to take coordinated responsibility."

The rich have never "taken responsibility." The rich are rich mostly due to exploitative practices. Yes, the rich cosplay as poor to shirk that responsibility.

The author wants a return to some time when Yale made good elites that lead properly... but the elites have never lead in a "good way." It's all just business as usual.

I haven't fully dissected this all. The author has written for the weekly standard. In particular, articles praising Jordan Peterson. That should clue you into their views.


When was the last time you read something longer than a tweet?


Length has literally nothing to do with it. It's a matter of give and take, and politeness. If there's thirty minutes of content I'm happy to commit my thirty minutes of reading.

If you have five minutes of content in thirty minutes of text you're just being rude.


I want to think it's about "show, don't tell" but I gave up on this article, too..


The author says "this story isn't about me" and yet spends 10 paragraphs telling a personal anecdote.

Who said the problem at Yale is free speech? Is the audience supposed to know what he's talking about? I may never know because I too gave up.


Well, the author is a). she, and b). she tells a personal anecdote because she's about to write an article about her own experience at Yale.

So obviously she needs to present her bio in order to express the position from which she's seeing Yale.


This essay is not well written enough to justify its dilatory nature.


prose is pleasant when it's good


It's over 60,000 characters and rambles


This is precisely why we have capitalism


Brevity is the soul of wit.


did anyone read the whole article? At first I was interested, read a few scrolls, but when I saw that she goes on and on I just couldn't finish it.


The Yale campus may be pretty, but immediately outside, a far less impressive New Haven beckons...




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