JESSICA GIANNONE — Opinions Editor
To be within three miles of something, yet differ from it in every way imaginable seems quite mind-boggling; more specifically, for Southern to be less than three miles away from Yale but to possess no similarities to the prestigious university other than location (and the endless yearning for more money—for different reasons, that is) is baffling all the same.
It’s not the question of why the Yale experience is deemed superior, but how. Two universities that share the same scene (downtown, businesses, lunch shops) in New Haven maintain completely different cultures.
What is it about Yale, really, that makes the difference?
It certainly isn’t true that the professors at Yale are more qualified (in fact, I would vouch for the defense that Southern’s faculty may even be more diverse, given the experiences and background of most here, which, nonetheless, have lectured at Yale).
OK, maybe the old and sophisticated architecture of Yale is a plus to its undeniable appeal as a well-respected campus. But it’s not our fault we didn’t exist in the 1700s.
Could it be the classes offered? Eh, not many significant differences in that spectrum.
Shall I daresay the difference is in the students (meaning that the people are simply smarter)?
Before we jump the gun, I think we should consider the opinion of a first-hand evaluator.
In New Haven magazine (which I wrote for over the summer), there is an article from the editor, Michael Bingham (who also teaches journalism at Southern), discussing the difference between Yale and Southern students. In the article, he referred to another work that also analyzed this difference: “Degrees of Inequality: Culture, Class and Gender in American Higher Education” by Ann. L. Mullen, a University of Toronto sociology professor who attended Yale graduate school and has also taught at Southern, as the article says.
Though I’ve never met her, I think we can trust her input. Bingham’s article references an interesting point of Mullen’s. The students at each university do not differ in their capability, but their confidence. Mullen emphasizes the idea of expectations.
There is the notion that Yale attendees are raised to believing that an Ivy League school is the only option; that they will, in fact, get in, and that they are worthy of nothing less. It may or may not be an exaggerated stereotype, but the reality is, society says that Southern students (or those who attend any school that isn’t Ivy League) don’t have the expectations that Yale aspires do.
It would be unnecessary to get into the psychological explanations for differences in individual capabilities (nature vs. nurture), but the differences in those who attend Yale are undeniably a result of nurture. By this, I mean the people who attend Yale are not born amazing and smart; they are just brought up to mold into the perfect Yale candidate.
It’s apparently all about class. Would you categorize the students from Harvard (a completely different university with vastly differing academic standards) in the same group with those from Yale? I think we all know that answer to that. It’s not about the academics—it’s the money, the reputation, and that’s it.
One discussion I remember having with some of the staff at the New Haven magazine office was that basically all of the Yale students take notes with laptops, and Southern students with notebooks. I don’t think your academic tools depend on your intelligence. It’s all about the style of living and again, expectations.
The culture of both schools is so diverse that we are molded into thinking the academics are just as different. I don’t believe this is entirely true.
Outside of Yale, you will see students pacing to the quaint coffee shop across from an academic quad, engulfed in a book or a Word document (and the scene appears to be a form of leisure). Yet just miles away, outside of renovated Southern, you might see students chatting on the stone ledge outside of Engleman with an iced coffee and cell at hand complaining about their downtown hangovers from the night before (this is not to speak for everyone of course).
But wait a minute, I have chatted with class friends in a coffee shop studiously hounding over work (gasp). And I’m still me, a “Southern girl.” And I have met Yale students carelessly partying outside on Crown Street. Well, so what? I think it truly is the atmosphere that makes the Yale experience so desirable. The actual capabilities of students are little factors in the equation.
The fact that both schools are so close, yet so socially different, is proof that the “three Cs” can serve as our explanation: culture, class and confidence.
As much as I believe my lessons would be no better at Yale than they are here at SCSU, I want to peer into the Yale life with my own eyes, instead of quietly forming judgments on the sidelines. I have the confidence that I can adjust to Yale’s “rigorous standards,” and if I reach that point, I will trot along their campus with a latte and cellphone in tow.
SCSU vs. Yale: What is the real difference?
JESSICA GIANNONE — Opinions Editor