Forget about classes. Despite what some Group IV majors might tell you, the center of Yale life remains its unbelievable array of undergraduate organizations. Yale students regularly find themselves devoting more time to their activities than their classes. A real Yalie blows off classes, tests, papers, and sometimes funerals to rehearse with his singing group, publish his journal, or plan a party for his fraternity. A few Yalies have been so enthusiastic for their activities that they have actually flunked out. But don’t worry, it probably won’t happen to you.
Being the go-getting bunch that we are, Yalies create new organizations nearly every day. It seems that every student is so power-hungry that he refuses to serve under anyone else, and thus goes off to form his own organization. Consequently, we do not have one, but two parties on the left and three parties on the right in the Political Union. We have a constantly fluctuating number of papers, magazines and journals— somewhere over twenty undergraduate publications. The Women’s Center has over thirteen separate subgroups. The Dwight Hall Social Justice Network is just that, a network of activist groups. Even the Asian-American Students Association has nine different groups within it.
But the Yale Daily News and Herald freshmen issues forgot to mention that having all these groups is not necessarily a good thing. Each group creates its own clique that is both social and yet quite competitive (often in a rather nasty sort of way). You haven’t seen backstabbing until you’ve survived a Political Union election (held every semester). You haven’t seen tough until you’ve seen one singing group criticize another at a jam. And you haven’t seen brutal until you’ve watched the editor of one publication reading another.
The advantage of Yale is that you discover groups and organizations you couldn’t find anywhere else. The problem is that there are groups and organizations you wouldn’t want to find here or elsewhere. It’s kind of neat to have a group devoted solely to juggling (the Anti-Gravity Society). But the multitude of groups spreads talent thin.
A substantial portion of Yale’s organizations are superfluous political advocacy groups for causes no one cares about and no one really understands. Other groups do have specific agendas and the power to carry them out. Some of Yale’s tight-knit ethnic communities have formed fairly powerful student groups that espouse radical political agendas. Intensive lobbying by ethnic groups lead to the creation of the Ethnicity, Race, and Migration major four and a half years ago. Yale’s feminist groups can always be relied on to shake things up at least once a semester with some sort of protest.
No one, not even the YFP staff, begrudges these myriad groups the right to exist. Indeed, we must confess that we would have much less to write about without them. However, many students never truly understand the motivation of these groups or the extent of their politically radical ideas or highly specialized interests.
When you walk in to the Bazaar, people will flock around you like men around a beautiful woman in a bar. In fact, there is very little to distinguish the Freshman Bazaar from a Friday night party. There will be people screaming seemingly random, somewhat amusing utterances. And each participant has just one thing on his mind: self-preservation through reproduction. Just like a party, some will be subtler than others about wanting and needing you. Some will have good pick-up lines. Some will be clever. But the goal is universal. Every serious member of every Yale organization wants you to join their ranks. Patronize them. They’re trying hard. And as silly and obvious as they get, you should seek out what they are offering.
As freshmen, you are the most vulnerable to these groups’ entreaties. It is not unheard of for a dying group to recruit a freshman fall semester and by January abandon the group to that same freshman.
The following brief guide will help you wade through the morass. It focuses on those groups we know best. We may be biased, but at least we’re honest. If you want to find out how the rest of the campus feels about us, try this: when you get to the Women’s Center table at the Bazaar, tell ‘em the Yale Free Press sent you.
Tied closely to the New Haven Democratic Party machine, the College Democrats are for liberals who don’t mind descending into the mud of New Haven politics. Some members of the CD’s make it into office; others get tied down in votefraud scandals. The CD’s win the prize for most obnoxious advertising on campus— ”College Democrats. We’re the good guys.”
The CRs are mostly active in election years. They’ve done their job for the time being. There is a Republican in the White House, and we probably won’t hear from these guys until 2004.
Historically, the CL’s have held periodic small speaker meetings with guest libertarian thinkers. The CL’s are much less political than the CR’s or the CD’s, so it’s actually bearable to enter conversations with them. We suspect that most Yalies agree with Libertarians on many issues, but just don’t know it yet.
Yale Political Union
The PU is the ultimate playground for budding politicians and political hacks (is there a difference?). Mainly, the PU serves as a forum for discussion on major national political issues of the day, such as abortion, welfare reform, affirmative action and terrorism. Its long history and formidable reputation enable it to bring in big name speakers such as Kenneth Starr, Bill Bradley, Ross Perot and, uh, Larry Flynt (sigh). But to satisfy the needs of its politically obsessed members, the PU is divided into six separate parties that vie for PU offices each semester.
This is where the PU’s nasty reputation is born. Parties battle it out for the right to chair meetings, invite speakers, and pad resumes. Of course, the parties themselves also hold elections. It gets ugly as friends backstab each other, enemies sabotage candidates, and rival parties leak nasty rumors. What can we say? It’s not pretty, but it is politics. Here are the six parties, each with a life and character of its own.
The oldest party of the PU, the Liberal Party has a long tradition which it regularly ignores. Members of the Liberal Party hold weekly debates, which are informal and policy-oriented.
The Progs were founded seventeen years ago by members of both the Party of the Right and the Independent Party. They come to the Political Union to drink beer, disrupt debate, and occasionally give joke speeches (imagine having to spend five minutes hearing someone argue that human rights aren’t inalienable because they aren’t in aliens).
The Independent Party has many neat slogans like “We are the political spectrum” and “We reject the dungheap of dogma.” This is undoubtedly true. Many IP’s have an incoherent set of political beliefs. Many more are utilitarians. Others agree to disagree.
The Tories split off from the Party of the Right about thirty years ago. The Tories call themselves “reasoned conservatives.” Some call them self-satisfied, rich Republicans. Others call themselves intellectual lightweights. At this point, they are on the verge of death with no more than six active members.
The CP, though the youngest party in the Union, spends much time trying to revive the culture of Old Yale—except this time, they’re including women and minorities. If the class of 1937 were actually the vanguard of conservatism, these people would be on to something. They tend to use the big words, but you’ll have to decide whether they have the substance to back them up.
Party of the Right
The Party of the Right is the secondoldest party in the PU. Members enjoy good cigars, lots of liquor, and philosophical debate at weekly meetings. The POR suffers from (or glories in) one of the nastiest reputations on campus. Don’t believe the hype—members don’t come from another planet. Check it out for yourself.
Yale College Student Union
The YCSU was founded as a rival to the YPU. It is primarily a lecture circuit, rather than a forum for debate. It serves as an outlet for YPU hacks who lose elections and Yalies who want to be talked at rather than to talk and be listened to.
The LGBT Co-Op
Lewd posters, easy outrage, S&M workshops (really). Their main function on campus for the past few years has been running dances for “queers” and others. Watch out for the chalkings and posterings of Queer Pride Week next spring, the Co-op’s busiest time. Luckily, they’re pretty quiet 51 weeks out of the year.
Dwight Hall Social Justice Network
The umbrella organization of umbrella organizations, the Social Justice Network purports to fund student opinion groups of all leanings. In reality, the SJN does some good volunteer work, but also supports just about every bleeding-heart cause on campus.
Asian-American Students Association (AASA)
AASA is one of Yale’s more radical ethnic advocacy groups. Members fight the stereotype of the passive Asian by yelling a lot and bemoaning the plight of Yale’s second-most over-represented minority (after Jews). Some Asians want to be more exclusive and form their own subgroups such as KASY, the Korean American group. Others simply stay away from AASA and its affiliates.
The Women’s Center is the butt of student jokes, and not just in the pages of the YFP. With as many as six co-coordinators at a time, essentially anyone can be a feminist leader. Maybe it’s good resume padding. The Women’s Center covers the entire spectrum from Students for Reproductive Health all the way to Women of Color for Reproductive Freedom. Once, they even let Yale Women for Life into the Center.
Yale Student Environmental Coalition
YSEC is an organization dedicated to saving the planet from human beings. They constantly protest the building of new power plants and demand more stringent recycling rules. It’s ok. They’re just a bunch of spoiled rich kids who don’t mind paying more for recycled paper.
Yale College Council
The YCC has a long tradition of irrelevance. Four years ago, they achieved their only recent coup—replacing one-ply toilet paper with two-ply. In general, the YCC has even less power than your high school student council did, which doesn’t stop them from passing resolutions regarding sweatshops and Slobodan Milosevic. Aside from screwing up occasional campus events, such as last year’s Spring Fling, the YCC goes unnoticed, even in election season.
Students for Union Compliance
Workers of the world, get back to work! That is the rallying cry of this group, devoted to counter-protesting and subverting New Haven unions’ agenda. SUC always becomes active every year there is a labor dispute brewing. Expect them to be a presence this year as labor negotiations start to boil over.
Reproduction Rights Action League of Yale College (RALY)
Formed in response to the Pro-Life League, RALY engages in lobbying, debates, and movie nights (we shudder to think). They do keep very busy, though. Maybe that’s why leftists seem to be unable to come up with an acronym to save their lives.
United Students at Yale (USAY)
This recently-formed union for undergraduates is even more pointless than GESO, their graduate student counterpart. Again, self-obsessed Yalies want to identify with the suffering of others, by imagining that they too are oppressed by some ghoulish “management.” Allied (somehow) with Locals 34 and 35, they demand financial aid reform and increased dance performance space. Again, we’re not making this up.
The Committee for Freedom
Recently, members of CFF were threatened with arrest during their protest of a Yale event honoring the People’s Republic of China. Other events that the police didn’t show up for included counter-protests of Yale union rallies, protest against Dubya’s drug policy, and a celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the fall of the USSR. The CFF may be the only rightwing guerrilla theater group in North America. Props include Communist flags, copies of Being and Time and cigarettes.
Dedicated to incessant whining, Continua publishes every issue with the same cover. Don’t worry; what’s inside is the same every time too. We like it. It’s a reliable source of material for our Media Watch section.
Light and Truth
Slick conservative mag. Looks good, but doesn’t seem interested in talking to the Great Unwashed. (That means everyone who doesn’t already share their opinions. And the Yale Free Press.) Recently, they have only published twice a year, and all of their issues look pretty much the same. For a wild night, grab an issue and drink a shot of scotch for each time you see “Bass Grant Scandal” or “Phelpsgate.” L&T may think that using works like “Yalensian” is traditionalist and well educated. The rest of us just think it’s prissy.
Type claims to have garnered “national attention as one of the few campus magazines to deal with [issues of race and ethnicity].” Are they joking? A few of Type’s pieces are genuinely engaging, but most are staring contests with the authors’ bellybuttons.
Resume padding goes multinational! Dedicated to reviving old International Studies term papers, every issue contains some Malthusian nonsense that the world will soon run out of resources and calls for people to stop waste. The first step is for them to stop publishing.
Yale Review of Books
When the Yale Review of Politics died for lack of anything better to do, its writers formed the ROB. The books it reviews may be interesting, but you’d rarely guess it from the colorless writing. The reviews are usually either noncommittal and vague, or rabid and incoherent, although they have improved lately.
The Yale Free Press
The YFP is the publication of Yale’s small group of alienated conservatives. The YFP covers all the bases of conservatism:
- Pretentious Country Club Republicans (Econocons): “All’s well with me and my BMW, all’s well with the world.”
- Evangelical, Dogmatic Fundamentalists (Traditionalists or Trads): “I possess the truth. All the world shall be enlightened — by any means necessary!”
Amoral, Free Marketeers (Libertarians): “Hey, the market works, in ideas and economics. Just sit back, light up a joint, and let it flow, man.…”
- Lifetime Democrats (Neocons): “Sure, I was liberal in high school. But I went to this meeting where they wanted me to talk about my oppression as a Yale dining hall worker. I just can’t take it anymore.”
This variety of viewpoints makes the YFP a lively publication. Perhaps the greatest unifying force for its writers are a common disgust with Yale’s dominant, knee-jerk liberalism and an unwillingness to pull punches.
Yale Daily News
The YDN is Yale’s oldest publication (and the oldest college daily in America), with its own castle on York Street. The YDN lives up to its name: it’s daily and it’s news. But if you’re looking for entertaining or insightful writing, look elsewhere. And watch out — the editorials can cause brain damage. So should you read the Daily? Yes, for campus issues of the day and sports scores. It is current, if not accurate. Last year, they had to retract an entire article fabricated by a reporter all too eager to prove discrimination of a former Yale employee. Writing for the Daily is another matter, however. The YDN is infamous for bitter elections, dirty politics, and hacking.
The Herald actually verifies quotes, and manages to be funkier and more politically balanced news than the YDN, but it only comes out once a week. That doesn’t stop it from regularly scooping the Daily. The Herald’s comics are abysmal, and the whole paper is sex-obsessed. Other than that, it’s a pretty good weekly.
DKE parties, Political Union sex scandals, and Yale’s 50 most beautiful people — read all about it in Rumpus, the oldest college tabloid. Rumpus claims to be the only magazine at Yale about stuff at Yale, and it’s probably right. Unfortunately, a lot of that stuff is boring — unless you’re fascinated by a field guide to “the best and worst bathrooms at Yale.” It’s about as funny as gonorrhea, and twice as disgraceful. Although they’d know more about that than we would.
Regular updates on God. However, it recently broke the story that those who authored the Yale Slavery Report fabricated and distorted many facts to make people after whom Yale’s buildings are named sound racist.
Objectivist Study Group at Yale
Devotees (and survivors) of Ayn Rand meet weekly to eat chips and discuss things like: Do I exist? Are sweatshops the path to freedom? Does A equal A? Come see Randians do battle with walking death premises.
Yale Christian Fellowship (YCF)
A group comprised mostly of recent converts, YCF deals mainly with feelings. In its attempts to reach out to new members, it relies on a “happy” message that conforms more to our own times than to the muscular, offensive Christianity of the New Testament. If you’re looking for something a little more hardcore, try Yale Students for Christ.
Yale Students Academic Competitions
At Yale it is no different. The people on the “Quiz Bowl” team are still nerds, just like in high school. However, here, they have more fun and actually go to tournaments at exotic places. Their practice schedule can be demanding, but you don’t have to go to each practice to compete. If you possess useless knowledge, err...are good at trivia, give these guys a shot.