REBECCA BAINER — General Assignment Reporter
Two of New Haven’s largest universities, one public, one private, are just three miles away from one another; Yale University, the Ivy League and Southern Connecticut, the state university. Author Ann Mullen explores the differences between the two schools in her book, “The Degrees of Inequality.”
“It was a really interesting book. She looked at the differences–the class differences–between students in different kinds of colleges through the prism of the two largest colleges in the New Haven area,” said Michael Bingham, editor of New Haven Magazine who wrote a review of the book.
Bingham said in her book Mullen writes about expectations and the confidence of students at both universities. Having taught classes at Southern for the past 13 years, Bingham said he doesn’t see a difference in intellectual ability between Southern and Yale students but rather intellectual confidence.
“I think a lot of students at Yale have been told since a very young age that they’re the cream of the crop and they internalize that. They say, they keep telling me I’m the cream of the crop; it must be true,” said Bingham. “A lot of my [Southern] students when they enter college they’re kind of on less solid intellectual footing. But, that’s why they’re here and by the time they get out of here they’re much more confident in their abilities.”
According to the CollegeBoard website, Southern’s acceptance rate is 70 percent, and the student to faculty ratio is 15:1. Yale’s acceptance rate is only 8 percent, their student to faculty ratio is 6:1 and there are over 135 organizations available for students to participate in.
“A lot of my students at Southern are taking full course loads and also working 20 or 30 hours a week,” said Bingham. “So, they don’t have time to hang around on campus and sing in a capella groups or row crew of things like that.”
Bingham said in her book Mullen writes about one particular scenario in which Southern was holding a conference on Global Justice featuring a Noble Prize-winning speaker. When Yale faculty and administrators decided to attend the talk as well, they said they had never been to Southern and didn’t know where it was.
“Somebody at Southern had to fax them a map to get to Southern from Yale,” said Bingham. “What a put down.”
Dan Marsella, a senior business administration major at Southern, said he is not offended that others did not know how to get to campus.
“It’s a pretty prestigious school, so I mean if you go to Yale you might be a foreign student or from a different state,” said Marsella. “You don’t know much about the area; it’s understandable.”
With each school comes stereotypes about the types students who attend, but Bingham said he believes it’s a one-way street when it comes to labels.
“I think Southern students certainly harbor more stereotypes about rich Yale kids, and they’re not all rich and Southern kids are not all working class,” said Bingham. “I think the stereotypes are dangerous and it’s not that simple; it’s not that black and white.”
Jon Bloch, sociology department chairman at Southern, said stereotypes can be a sign of laziness in understanding others.
“Stereotypes are sometimes kind of a shortcut to understanding people, or not really wanting to understand people,” said Bloch. “So you base your opinion of someone as being just this one kind of person. So when we think of a Yale student we maybe think of someone who is much more affluent than a Southern student and so on and so forth, which may or may not be true.”