As a long time townie I’ve seen many changes at Yale that have contributed to the sense of entitlement that the students feel on campus and in New Haven. Yale has reached deep into communities and squeezed small businesses and lower income residents out, ignored the continual outsourcing of its staff while at the same time demanding favored status by claiming to be New Haven’s largest employer, and sequestered its students behind locked gates and high walls because of a few high profile incidents that on balance are NOTHING compared to what residents face daily.
Unfortunately, the students (who, any townie will tell you, are just generally a royal pain in the ass) are part of the problem. They are rude, obnoxious and arrogant; they regularly silently espouse an ownership of the city that the institution has perpetuated throughout the years. (not to mention actual OWNERSHIP of a large swath of downtown)
So it comes as no surprise that the latest round of protests are being met, even by people who would normally be on their side, with either a sigh or a mighty WT ever lovin’ F!
Yale town/gown relations have gone down the toilet since our lord and master decided to clean house on Broadway (New Haven’s Broadway that is) and eliminate all the deadbeats who brought locals in to mix with the Academics, and as a consequence brought some of them together maybe a little closer than the university would have liked. Yale has systematically, through its ownership or acquisition of over 400 properties invaded distressed neighborhoods, redeveloped, re-purposed and otherwise changed the face of New Haven.
Casualties have included a gathering place/coffeehouse that regularly hosted meetings between Yalies and Townies, Profs and Skaters, Punks and early Hip Hop kids, one of the best damn art-house theaters on the east coast, small family owned restaurants, clothing stores and basically any trace of local color. Pretty much all the things that made New Haven an interesting place to shop and visit.
So now we have a multiracial (good start!) group of students angry over patterns of discrimination and cultural insensitivity at the institution. An admirable protest subject(s) indeed, if it weren’t for the inherent irony in the whole damn thing. I’m not talking about the glaring irony of the students looking to express themselves, shouting down a professor who was there to answer them. Yes, becoming the thing you hate takes about 5 seconds as opposed to the lifetime it used to take, PROGRESS! I mean the GREATER irony, the great and powerful irony, the man behind the curtain wears no clothes irony of LOOK IN THE FUCKING MIRROR!
It’s not that I don’t feel for the students affected, and It’s not that I don’t agree with the principal of what they are upset about, but the fact is that they are already a privileged group, and they wave that privilege in every single resident’s face regularly is just too much to process. They are protected from much of the poverty and violence that wracked some parts of the city and they have pulled back further and further into their own “community” that they seem to have no concept of what that word means outside of YALE. In short, while looking inward at the Yale community, they need to be looking outward into the larger community they occupy. They regularly treat the city as a playground, whose crosswalks they ignore with impunity and whose residents they crowd off the sidewalk four abreast. Subtle as these things may be, and some of them are, they still indicate a pattern of well…abuse.
And then, of course is the little matter of that irony I mentioned.
I remember being a student when the PC movement started and I remember looking around at the “correct” sanitized result and can honestly say that I saw this coming. On both the Left and the Right there is a growing movement away from meaning and to increasingly meaningless language, we are so preoccupied with what we call ourselves and not who we really are. We are so enamored with labels and so ignorant of the lives of the people behind them.
Yale has many recent sins to atone for, as I listed above. Instead of simply protesting about insensitivity, the many students gathered need to open their eyes to the community surrounding them and reach out into it by becoming reengaged with it. Yale students are a big part of the reason New Haven has been dubbed one of the most unfriendly cities in the US. The superiority and snobbery has caused increasing amounts of town/gown tension in the past 20 years.
Cultural insensitivity is not just racial in nature, it is also based on class, education and privilege, ignorance of that is on display regularly in New Haven by the Yale community, Unfortunately, I’m sure many guilty parties took part in the “conversation” currently going on at Yale.
Folks, this ain’t #blacklivesmatter.