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editors’ note

Editors’ Note Dear readers, It’s strange because most magazines don’t have breaks built in. They publish indefinitely, with one production cycle blending in to the next. Following a school calendar allows us, as students and as a publication, to take a natural pause — time to reflect, tie up loose ends and arrange things so that they may renew themselves. This installment gives endings to things that were started long ago. Britton O’Daly ’20 culminates a year of reporting on Greek life at Yale by examining fraternity culture across the Ivy League. Monica Wang ’18 details the would-be demise of a controversial admissions policy. Jacob Sweet ’18 says goodbye to Yale with his final humor piece for Mag. Far more personal closures are spoken of in Andrew Kilby’s ’18 reflection on the morning of his father’s death and Jack Ross’ ’79 remembrance of the life of his son Hale Ross ’18, who would have crossed the

2 | May 2018

stage at Commencement this month. But not all things are ending, and so we are reminded. Ko Lyn Cheang ’21 looks into relocation and identity formation in the life of a former Geisha. Meghana Mysore ’20 details the beginnings of efforts toward inclusion for minorities in clinical studies. Zoe Nuechterlein ’21 reports on the attempts at reform in the Connecticut prison system. Henry Reichard ’19 opens a door many students purposefully keep closed: Evangelism in New Haven. Lucy Sternbach ’19 and Alice Oh ’19 restructure our images of intimacy. Jordan Cutler-Tietjen ’20 delves into the reinvention of money in a feature on cryptocurrency at Yale. So, at the close of the semester, while you pack up your things, let this magazine get new conversations going. Follow their lead. Till the next beginning, in September, Flora & Frani

table of contents 7


Toward Inclusion MEGHANA MYSORE


personal essay




WADING INTO YALE’S CRYPTOCURRENT Feature by Jordan Cutler-Tietjen

photo essay







Aoi Saito’s Three Names KO LYN CHEANG



bits and pieces

A Message From Your Senior Week Coordinators




THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS Insight by Henry Reichard



MAGAZINE Magazine Editors in Chief Flora Lipsky Frani O’Toole

Photography Editors Schirin Rangnick Vivek Suri

Managing Editors Kate Cray Nicole Blackwood

Illustrations Editors Michael Holmes Sonia Ruiz

Associate Editors Liana Van Nostrand Lucy Silbaugh Jordan Cutler-Tietjen Elaine Wang

Copy Editor Brett Greene

Magazine Design Editors Mari Melin-Corcoran Valeria Villanueva

Editor in Chief & President Rachel Treisman Publisher Elizabeth Liu Cover photo by Britton O’Daly





Yale Daily News Magazine | 3




ormac Slade Byrd ’20 wakes up early. Never mind that it’s Sunday: Byrd doesn’t want to miss his 9 a.m. He won’t leave his room until lunch, so he doesn’t change out of his purple plaid pajama pants. He might as well be comfortable. He sits down, facing dual monitors, and, as his mouse clicks speed up, his bare toes twitch in syncopation. He culls eight tabs from the web. He stares down one screen, then pivots to stare down the other, neon graphs and ticker tapes dancing across both displays. He waits. He switches tabs. He scrolls through the finance board on 4chan. He switches back. He waits. And then, without fanfare, he presses a button to purchase a small amount of Po.et, a digital currency, with a small amount of Bitcoin, another digital currency, and sits back: The morning’s trading has begun. For the past four months, Byrd has begun almost every day this way, trading small amounts of one digital currency for small amounts of another. It may sound frivolous, but Byrd’s strategy is surprisingly straightforward. “If Shitcoin is 11 cents in Ethereum and 13 cents in Bitcoin,” Byrd explained, “I can, in the span of 2 minutes, buy Shitcoin at 11 cents, sell it at 13, and then trade back to what I started with. And then I do it again and again.” Arbitrage, the technical term for this trading technique, may happen in the blink of an eye, but figuring out when to blink takes time. Byrd only attends one class regularly, because to him, arbitrage is a full-time job. Some

$ 4 | May 2018

days, he watches the graphs for four hours. Others, for 12. Since Byrd began trading in earnest, his single-minded dedication to the cryptocurrency market has paid off. In December, Byrd owned $500 in Bitcoin. Now, his crypto assets are worth $30,000. “It’s like investing in the wild west,” Byrd said. And like the gold rush of yesteryear, cryptocurrencies have attracted eager prospectors from all around, elevating Bitcoin from mere technology to cultural phenomenon. At Yale alone, hobbyists, economists, entrepreneurs, skeptics, computer scientists, social theorists and diehard day traders are digging (albeit virtually) for their eureka moment. That moment tends to elude those who treat cryptocurrency as a side hustle. To make money or effect change in the cryptocurrency scene requires deep immersion in the rabbit hole of its subculture. And to those on the outside of it all, who feel perfectly content with Mastercards and $100 bills, “Bitcoin” can seem more buzzword than real, its significance obscured by its outsized hype, opaque to all but its most dedicated adherents. SO WHAT IS BITCOIN, REALLY? Analogies break down in the face of cryptocurrencies, which chafe against most people’s understanding of how money works. Cryptocurrencies do not have intrinsic value, like gold, and they are not controlled by a central authority, like U.S. dollars. Instead, they are simply lines and lines of code, reliant

on something called the “blockchain” to store and regulate their transactions. The pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto conceived and popularized the blockchain in the now-famous eightpage white paper they published online in 2008: “A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.” In a peer-to-peer transaction, there is no bank or middleman between the two parties. Instead of deferring to an uberpowerful core authority, each computer operating in a particular blockchain’s network validates every other computer’s transactions. Once verified, this block of transactions gets added to the ledger, a chain of blocks that contains every transaction ever made. The blockchain is open-source, meaning anyone can download and trace each and every transaction, all the way back to the “genesis block.” This is why many techies wax poetic about the blockchain — to them, it embodies trust, decentralization and democracy as the Federal Reserve never could. Nakamoto’s development of the blockchain couldn’t have been timed better, according to Stephen Roach, an economist at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs get rid of this space. “The period when cryptocurrencies really started to take off was immediately after the housing crisis of ’08 to ’09, when central banks decided to debase their currencies, diminish their value,” Roach said. “If you are holding wealth in a currency whose value is being drawn into question, maybe you want an alternative.” But trust in machines has never

feature come easily to our culture. If each computer in the network has vested legitimacy, what’s to stop hackers and forgers from wrecking network-level havoc? Austin Tuan ’21 is one small part of the answer. He owns a high-powered computer that works to audit the transactions of the network and, in doing so, generate new Bitcoins. This process is called mining. Like its geologic namesake, it requires heavy machinery. Instead of splitting rock, Bitcoin miners compete to bundle transactions into a block, which requires the computers to solve a hypercomplex mathematical problem. The answers to these problems don’t actually matter — it’s the rigor the problems demand of the machine that’s important, as they prevent the blockchain from being easily rewritten and so guard against fraud. When a miner successfully solves a problem and is validated by the rest of the network, they are rewarded with 12.5 Bitcoin, which in late April was worth roughly $120,000. With a figure that life-changing available six times an hour, mining Bitcoin might seem unbelievably lucrative. Not so for the layperson miner, Head of Silliman College Laurie Santos discovered. She, her husband and a few friends “got into [min-

ing Bitcoin] a bit late and only mined a few” before they realized they were outgunned. If you were to use your Mac to mine Bitcoin, you would be pitted against Chinese corporations like Bitmain, which operates 24/7 computer farms in Iceland and similarly nippy locales, where they don’t have to waste money on air conditioning the machines. Aware of the competition, Santos and Tuan see their miniature mining operations as novelties, rather than legitimate money-making investments. Santos stopped mining a few years ago and never bothered to convert her small earnings into real-world tender. Tuan’s uncle, a tech mogul, gifted each member of Tuan’s family a personal mining rig. Since Bitcoin is designed to make mining more difficult as more Bitcoin enters circulation, most individual miners pool their computing power with other miners and split the reward. So Tuan’s machine still whirs away in Taiwan, earning a miniscule cut of the Bitcoin profits. THE BITCOIN BALLOON Millions upon millions of miniscule

cuts mean that the global scale of this activity is hard to conceptualize. Two years ago, the only people who seemed to own Bitcoin were libertarian-minded millennials, Silicon Valley venture capitalists and high schoolers. (Byrd and three other students with whom I spoke were introduced to Bitcoin when buying fake IDs on the darknet.) But after the value of one Bitcoin ballooned from $900 to almost $20,000 in 2017, it went mainstream. As Byrd put it, “These days, your grandmother can go on Coinbase [a digital currency exchange] and buy Bitcoin.” With the explosion of interest in Bitcoin came an explosion of interest in alternative cryptocurrencies. This interest was both altruistic — “Maybe we can design a better application of the blockchain, one that more resolutely resists centralization” — and self-serving: “If we create the next big cryptocurrency, we’ll be rolling in dough.” As a result, the crypto market has widened dramatically in the past six months. At last count, 1,552 altcoins, the colloquial term for cryptocurrencies “like Bitcoin but different,” are available. If Bitcoin is famously volatile, altcoins are infamously so. Although all altcoins rely on some iteration of the blockchain, which is self-regulating, the market for these technologies is almost completely devoid of regulations. Some altcoins, like Dogecoin and Trumpcoin, are more internet meme than viable business venture. That’s not say they aren’t worth something — Dogecoin briefly had a market capitalization of $2 billion and funded part of the Jamaican bobsled Yale Daily News Magazine | 5


team’s Olympic run — but they attract buyers with virtual stars in their eyes. “I have to be in an investing world where people are making dumb decisions,” Byrd said. Because of Byrd’s arbitrage practice, what matters to him is not the prices of altcoins but the momentary differences in prices. “The cryptocurrency exchanges I use release their coins at 9 a.m.,” he said. “The moment the coins are added is the time of the most volatility. There’s not a set price, so it’s more likely to have a scenario where someone’s price in Ethereum is very different from someone’s price in Bitcoin.” Although he estimates that 90 percent of these newly introduced coins crash and burn, he takes advantage of the initial confusion and turns a profit. Bryce Bjork ’20 and Tyler Caldwell ’18 think they’ve hit upon an equally fruitful cryptocurrency project. They are the CEO and chief financial officer, respectively, of Hexa Financial. The project is a startup funded by Tsai CITY ’s Startup Accelerator. Their big idea is an app called Splash, which they’re marketing as “Paypal for Bitcoin.” The app would convert Bitcoin into U.S. dollars, allowing users to make purchases with cryptocurrency. With an interface inspired by Venmo, Splash is hoping to provide a model for how cryptocurrencies might be treated not as speculative investments but as usable money, according to Bjork. Splash is still wooing seed investors, but Bjork and Caldwell are optimistic. They’ve already hired a product designer for the summer, and their posting for a summer internship garnered 35 applications in three days. They might even take a gap semester with the other co-founders, Tony Oliverio ’20 and Lukas Burger ’20, if Hexa continues to expand at its current pace. “Classes are far less pressing than the job I’m trying to create for myself,” Caldwell said. 6 | May 2018

THE BITCOIN BUBBLE Despite student optimism, Bitcoin’s future is anything but written in stone. The currency’s value plummeted from almost $20,000 to about $8,000 in the first four months of 2018. Roach, an economics professor, believes that Bitcoin’s erratic price might signal the existence of a bubble. Bubbles occur when an asset’s market price skyrockets above its usual value. “When lines go up, when security prices go up, in a short period of time you know it’s going to end in tears,” he said. Seen only on screens, Bitcoin can seem detached from our physical world. But the energy demanded by Bitcoin mining is so great that The Guardian called miners a “climate threat.” Bitcoin has resuscitated defunct coal mines: The Digiconomist Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index estimates that Bitcoin mining operations, most of them owned by large firms, expend more electricity per hour than the country of Ireland. For all the buzz surrounding Bitcoin’s capacity to emancipate its investors, they often remain at the mercy of existing power structures. Emmett Chen-Ran ’20 was thrust into the cryptocurrency world during his internship at Bloomberg last summer. He bought NEO, an altcoin, on his mother’s advice. “She said, ‘The Chinese government is intending on adopting it, I heard about it on my group chat,’” Chen-Ran remembered. “Put in a thousand and I’ll pay you back.” He bought in when one NEO was worth $40. Last month, it was worth $200. Then cryptocurrencies were banned in China and it dropped to $65. Chen-Ran is justifiably pessimistic. “It’s a long waiting game, and I’m going to be waiting a while. I’m just sad now. I keep losing money,” he said with a sheepish laugh. THE ALL-APPLICABLE BLOCKCHAIN Many Bitcoin skeptics share the sentiments behind Chen-Ran’s experiences. As Bitcoin prices have fluctuated and fallen, analysts and amateurs alike have refocused

their excitement on the blockchain itself. According to Martin Wainstein, an Open Innovation Fellow at Tsai CITY and an affiliate of the MIT Media Lab, “The fundamental blockchain technology is still in a research and exploration phase. What values can it bring for specific sectors of the economy, specific processes? What new business models can it enable?” To begin answering these questions, Wainstein helped to organize a campuswide blockchain conference. On March 2, 150 members of the Yale community attended “Blockchain for Sustainable Solutions.” Professor of economics and Nobel laureate Robert Shiller delivered the keynote, and three panels addressed the ways blockchain technology is being used to improve energy and water trading, bolster food and fashion supply chains, and improve systems of government. Presenters speculated that, in the future, national elections might be carried out with blockchain. We could vote from our phones, assured that the election could not be rigged because no authority could manipulate the vote ledger, and every ballot could be traced back to the citizen that cast it. Ideas like this are popping up around the world according to Shiller. “Everywhere I go they want to talk about blockchain,” he said. Yale is eager to integrate the blockchain into its fabric. Tsai CITY, Yale’s innovation hub, inaugurated two blockchain initiatives this semester. Liana Wang ’20, a staff columnist for the News, who participated in both, said that the initiatives have fostered her interest “in how blockchain might be used to facilitate sustainable development or address certain human rights problems.” This vision of radical empowerment undergirds much of the blockchain excitement. Then again, so does the prospect of getting rich quick. Like most technologies, the blockchain is neither good nor bad — it reflects and refracts people and ideologies. Byrd too believes the blockchain will outlast Bitcoin. But for now, he’s content to arbitrage away. He said he’s not going to stop until he hits seven digits.


TOWARD INCLUSION: Minorities in Clinical Studies at Yale // By Meghana Mysore // Illustration by Joy Lian


n 2011, the National Institutes of Health urged all university clinical research centers to increase minority recruitment for medical trials. In response, the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation developed the Cultural Ambassadors program, an initiative that “had potential to bend the curve,� or, in other words, to change the way in which minorities engage with clinical studies. Cultural Ambassadors superseded the Clinical Scholars program, which promoted communityengaged work until it lost funding in 2015. The four remaining sites of this program, which were located at Yale; the University of California, Los Angeles; the University

of Michigan; and the University of Pennsylvania, then came together to become the National Clinician Scholars Program, which includes doctors and nurses who have doctorates in nursing. Through Cultural Ambassadors, the rate of minority participation increased to 10 percent in Yale clinical studies — triple what it was before. The Cultural Ambassadors program aims to create a holistic partnership between the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation and two New Haven nonprofit organizations: Junta for Progressive Action and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, or AME Zion, which Yale Daily News Magazine | 7

feature serve Latino and African-American communities, respectively. This partnership advocates “clinical trial participation [that] reflects the diversity of New Haven’s population and will benefit patients in the community and beyond,” according to the Cultural Ambassadors website. Yale was one of the first universities to consider minority recruitment in clinical studies as a major objective. Dr. Margaret Grey, director of the Community Research Core of the Program and deputy director of the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation, said that in her 28 years at Yale, she has seen an incredible level of distrust of medical researchers by minority communities. Despite efforts toward greater minority inclusion in clinical trials, the historically antagonistic relationship between medical researchers and minorities lingers. The crux of the issue, Grey said, is that “minorities are afraid to be in the trials.” Grey emphasized that medical researchers should attempt to cultivate awareness about the lives of minority participants: “We’re taking their blood,” she said. “It’s critically important to create a two-way street.”


he underlying goal of Cultural Ambassadors is to work toward bridging the gap between Yale and New Haven. Grey said that this goal is founded on the belief that dismissing marginalized communities jeopardizes the integrity of research results. Every month, in a conference room at the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation, researchers meet with leaders of Junta for Progressive Action and AME Zion for two hours to present plans for recruiting more minorities for clinical research. At these gatherings, investigators solicit ambassadors’ input on new research ideas and ask for recruiting assistance. Ambassadors advise on every aspect of the study while also learning about health problems that affect their communities. Certain diseases disproportionately affect minority communities; diversifying clinical trials aims to collect more relevant, accurate data on conditions such as sickle cell anemia, which is much more 8 | May 2018

prevalent in African-American communities. Despite these efforts to apply clinical trials to study diseases more prevalent in minority communities, the relationship of minorities to clinical trials at Yale is still fraught. Including more minorities in medical trials cannot single-handedly remedy the broader historical erasure of minorities within the medical sphere, Grey acknowledged.


yellow building sits on Grand Avenue in New Haven, shrubs and flowers outlining the shape of its structure. A sign at the entrance reads, “Junta for Progressive Action,” with a large and winding J. Inside, children and their families are reading, talking and running around. Natalia Xiomara is the director of Junta for Progressive Action, a childbased nonprofit that aims to bring the Latino community of New Haven together through educational and economic support. Xiomara said the overall impact of minority inclusion efforts in clinical studies has been positive. Yet she noted that contact between Yale researchers and minority participants in clinical studies sometimes ended after the trials. One interruption between these two communities is language itself. The language barrier between Yale researchers and the Latino community necessitates the presence of Spanish to English translators. To meet this need, Junta for Progressive Action prioritizes translation services within the organization; all of Junta for Progressive Action’s forms and documents are written in both languages. Members of Junta for Progressive Action have expressed frustration with the medical community because researchers do not always consider the linguistic and cultural needs of minorities in their trials. “We need to be raising awareness in a very particular way,” Grey said. “We need to pay attention to [minorities’] needs.” Dr. Larry Davidson, a professor of psychiatry and the director of the Yale

Program for Recovery and Community Health at the Yale School of Medicine, said that he has seen progress in bridging the gap between medical and minority communities in the last 20 years. Davidson’s research focuses on processes of recovery from serious mental illnesses and the implementation of policies and interventions in systems of care. Davidson echoed Grey, saying that the complications he has noticed within his research and the local mental health care system stem from a lack of attention on the part of medical researchers to the specific needs of minorities in New Haven. Progress “involves making mental health services accessible, understandable and more appealing to minority communities. We need to understand minorities’ life contexts and make our approaches less biomedical and more culturally and linguistically aware to human complexity — albeit within an under-resourced health care system,” Davidson said. To work toward truly closing the gap between minority and medical communities in New Haven, Xiomara said, a prolonged effort to extend the conversation between Yale and New Haven beyond medical trials is necessary — otherwise, many minorities might end up feeling that they have been reduced to statistics. Examples of these efforts include a follow-up meeting with participants in a cardiovascular study. At the meeting, which was jointly conducted by the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation and Junta for Progressive Action, people shared their family histories with heart trouble. Xiomara said that the meeting helped her see more clearly how these issues affect personal lives beyond the lab. Grey said that many participants want to know outcomes after the completion of a study. The Cultural Ambassadors program tries to provide a time frame for when participants will hear back from a study. Cultural Ambassadors also holds informational workshops with participants in the trials to inform them about the research they are participating in. Still,

feature according to Grey, the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation could work toward making this information more accessible. Kathryn Dudley, a professor of anthropology at Yale, said clinical trials can be effective only if researchers educate minorities about what they are participating in and what the value is to them. “Otherwise, we’re not measuring whether the organizations’ desires are being met,” Dudley said. “It becomes just another form of exploitation.”


ne issue that greatly impacts the overall health of minority communities in New Haven — and that clinical research attempts to address — is mental health. Junta for Progressive Action frequently sees individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder or other trauma-related disorders, many of them from the Puerto Rican community, which is recovering from last fall’s Hurricane Maria — a hurricane regarded as the worst recorded natural disaster in the region. Once Junta for Progressive Action receives individuals struggling with mental health, they are often transferred to the Clifford Beers Clinic in New Haven. One difficulty with addressing medical and mental health concerns in minority communities in New Haven is that participation in clinical trials often feels inaccessible. Many who join Junta for Progressive Action or AME Zion are simply trying to adjust to their surroundings. Some might even be homeless and must attend to basic human needs before they can even confront the trauma they have experienced, Xiomara said. The opportunity to participate in a clinical study with the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation therefore seems unobtainable to many minorities. “It’s a long way to them saying that they need help,” Xiomara said. Many members of Junta for Progressive Action who have been displaced from their homes and are seeking mental health treatment go to Clifford Beers Clinic in New Haven, a children’s mental health clinic that has operated for over 20 years. The clinic services around

5,500 children and their families per year. Sixty percent of those served are New Haven residents, one-third are Caucasian, one-third are African-American and one-third are Hispanic, according to Christine Montgomery, vice president of Clinical and Community Based Services at Clifford Beers. In addition, a third of the families speak only Spanish, so translators are often consulted. Some families say that they are not interested in being guinea pigs for mental health clinical research, according to Montgomery. “There’s some hesitation for the populations that we serve to participate in clinical studies,” Montgomery said. “Many of our kids’ families have been involved in trauma, and they want to reinstate some kind of control in their lives, so participating in a clinical study is scary,” she said. Many patients at Clifford Beers, Montgomery said, are more concerned with day-to-day living than participating in clinical studies. The individuals that Montgomery encounters are often “so disenfranchised, so disempowered,” she said, and some lack access to basic health care. Some older patients remember past abuses with nonconsensual studies, recalling them as part of racist medical practices from 50 or 60 years ago. For others, social stigma around mental health issues makes getting help even more difficult.


lthough programs such as Cultural Ambassadors recognize the importance of providing accessible systems of mental health care to minority communities, according to Davidson, it is “too early to tell what the impact [of clinical studies] will be.” There is still a deep and long-standing mistrust between ethnic minority communities and research communities. A challenge of mental health studies, Davidson explained, is that it is difficult for many people to distinguish between clinical disorders and sadness caused by life events, such as losing a spouse. Clinical studies sometimes narrow complex mental health issues to a list of symptoms. Within this framework, he said, “It’s hard

for people to understand that depression is more than a serotonin deficiency.” Relying on drug trials to treat mental health disorders may contribute to a reductive view of mental health. The diagnostic system of identifying mental health issues does not capture the relationship between mental health and socioeconomic and personal factors in many participants’ lives, Davidson explained. Dudley emphasized that there are many questions one could consider with mental health in minority communities. For example, she said, one should situate mental health concerns in the broader terrain of socioeconomic status. “Regardless of the populations involved, the pharmaceutical ways in which mental health issues are treated are already shot through with gendered, class-based assumptions,” Dudley said. If these studies are attempting to address mental health in minority communities, Dudley feels the approach should be more direct. “To really address mental health concerns in New Haven’s minority communities, what’s required is the interest of mental health professionals in the distinct problems of people’s lives,” she said. Dudley said the field should resist “the medicalization of social trauma.” If medical researchers do not take the time to learn about the particular circumstances of minority participants’ lives beyond the scope of their clinical trials, Dudley said, “A pill is not going to address the deeply ingrained forms of social injustice that the system has produced.” As Dudley explained, a universalized pill cannot capture the specific struggles of participants’ lives. To this end, programs such as Cultural Ambassadors aim to recognize the diversity of individual background and experiences. The difficulty, however, is in directly connecting: “Because there have to be middlemen between Yale and the folks they’re trying to engage,” Xiomara said, the clinical study approach often just doesn’t work. Yale Daily News Magazine | 9

personal essay



ome mornings, a few minutes after 6, I’d hear his first footfall on the stairs. He’d go up them two at a time: a metatarsal thud, a hardwood creak and then the faintest snick as the balls of his bare feet unstuck from each step and rose toward the next. He’d reach the carpeted landing, and the creak would repeat, not from wood but from bone. His runner’s ankles would click and pop, like radio static, all the way down the hallway until he’d pause in my doorway, a father in frame. The world was big those mornings, and my feet reached only halfway down my twin bed. The wall was far away, the ceiling even farther, and my father filled the doorway, in a T-shirt and running shorts, and offered a softly sung good morning. A sixth up and a third down. And then he kept walking, kept clicking and popping, on to my brother’s room. The walls of the hallway were smooth and soft brown — chocolate milk.


lost him in the morning. Two and a half years ago, my mother got out of bed and used the bathroom. She washed her hands, walked back into the bedroom and noticed that his back looked different: white on top and purple on the bottom. He was on his side, facing the window, knees bent, hands clasped gently at his chin. He 10 | May 2018

was 51. I was 19. It was Monday, Aug. 10, in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. He died in his sleep. He died in my sleep. In my mother’s sleep. Sometimes I wonder if he knew — if he let out a small grunt, if he gave a faint twitch, if he noticed his dream uncurl — or if it all just slipped away, all at once, everything, nothing. My mother took me by the hand that morning and pulled me into their room, where an hour ago she’d wrapped him in the blanket and dragged him off the bed — slowly, gingerly, careful to keep his head from hitting the floor — so she could attempt chest compressions. He had let her practice on him when they were in medical school; he told her how uncomfortable it was to have someone else’s air blown into him. But that morning she pushed and pushed on his chest, then tried to pull his jaw open to blow the air back into him. Now the police officer and medical examiner hovered outside the door while I sat cross-legged next to his head, peering down at his face — big, still, inverted. He seemed to be a toppled statue, and yet I could see the blond fuzz on his cheeks, the dotted pores on the bridge of his nose, the eyebrows above it all, like cirrus. His right eye hovered partly open, revealing a glimmer of blue beneath, and I went to pinch it shut, brushing his cheek, cool and rough

personal essay

with stubble. He looked so heavy, stretched out there across the hardwood, my leaden father, and I knew it was no use to look at him, not anymore, not now. But the moment dragged on, a little lifetime of sitting by him, his head near my hands and his feet far, far away.


stepped out onto the back porch to call my brother. I was in my underwear, a pair of black boxer briefs, and I sat in a rocking chair, the lukewarm wood pressed against my skinny thighs. As I tapped Matthew’s name I noticed my finger tremble next to the screen. When I told him, I heard the air rush from his lungs, an elongated no. He was hundreds of miles away, in Chapel Hill, and I offered nothing tangible: We’re still figuring things out, still piecing it all together, still guessing at the cause of death. I’ll call you back soon. Then I hung up. Matthew’s no caught in the breeze, floated somewhere between us, and I cried until the porch seemed to shake.


he next morning I woke up three times. I’d slept in my parents’ bed so that my mother wouldn’t have to be alone, and I awoke in it

the first time to the sound of her crying. She did it softly, delicately, but her irregular breaths woke me up all the same. I lay there, listening to her gasp and sniff, her muted sobs shaking the bed. Afraid of consoling her, afraid of embarrassing her, I let myself shrink into the sheets. I awoke the second time, and she was shaking me. I turned over, blinking through the morning light. Her face was pale, her eyes red. “I thought you might be dead,” she said gently. The third time I was alone. The sun shone in, irreverently bright, and I stared out the window at the narrow pine trees and the marsh grass, the sky-blue sky and the tea-brown water. This was the first morning I’d get the feeling: the feeling that he was dying again, that we’d just lost him, that everything was brand new, raw and pale. The feeling would last for months, would stretch through the fall and into the winter, would stream in with the sunlight, red before I even opened my eyelids.


nd now it’s gone. The sense of urgency, the feeling that we just lost him. Every morning I start to fear that I’ve forgotten some-

thing else, forgotten even what “grief ” means to me. I’m here, sifting through pictures of him, a whowwle folder called, simply, “Dad,” hoping to find that feeling again: of fear, of longing, of outright denial, just anything to bring him closer. I pick a photograph and try: I try to think about him, about his face, about it moving, and I try to build him up, feet first, then ankles, then skinny legs, looking down at my own for reference. The image slips away, feels stupid. I go to the next photograph and try again, and again, until there are no pictures left. Just my own feet. My own ankles. My own skinny legs, a foot away, and him, nowhere, in an urn in my mother’s room. Every morning I know I’m a day further, a day closer to three years, 10 years, a lifetime without my father. After he’d sing his soft good morning to Matthew, he’d walk back down the hallway, creaking and popping, and down the steps, two at a time. He’d set out bowls for breakfast, then napkins, then spoons; he’d pour everyone’s cereal, slice a peach or an apple or a banana, and place a sliver on each napkin. Then the door would open, a fuff of air through the house, a beep-beep from the alarm — and he would be gone.

Yale Daily News Magazine | 11


True Prison Reform: Bringing European Ideals to Connecticut // BY ZOE NUECHTERLEIN // ILLUSTRATION BY KEYI CUI


henever someone asks James Jeter to describe prison, he tells the same story: Jeter’s cellmate was walking to dinner. Jeter, then incarcerated at the Cheshire Correctional Institution, was not present. His cellmate had left his shirt untucked, disregarding the instruction of a corrections officer two days prior. That evening, the corrections officer yelled at Jeter’s cellmate, “Tuck your shirt in!” He complied but did not acknowledge the corrections officer and kept walking. After dinner, Jeter found his cell in disarray. All his belongings were tossed carelessly to the middle of the floor, jumbled together with those of his cellmate. All his food was opened and his floor was wet and slippery with cleaner. “That incident is prison because I’m always in that state. I’m always a hostage and I’m always in a home invasion,” Jeter said. “Whenever I have to live in that constant state of vulnerability, there’s no space to grow.” The Cheshire Correctional Institution’s Truthfulness, Respectfulness, Understanding, and Elevating pilot program aims to provide 18- to 25-year-olds with that space to grow while in prison. TRUE, which was established at the Cheshire Correctional Institution in March 2017, supports incarcerated young adults with specially trained mentors and programming geared toward

12 | May 2018

preparing them for success after their release. Roughly 3,000 miles east of Connecticut, incarcerated young adults in Neustrelitz, Germany, experience a dramatically different prison system. According to officials from the Vera Institute of Justice, the inside of a German prison has more in common with a liberal arts college than with a standard American prison. Instead of brown or orange uniform jumpsuits, incarcerated people wear their own clothes. Instead of drab, cramped cells, incarcerated people live in rooms that

look like “dormitory rooms that you would have at Yale or any other school,” according to Vera’s President and Director Nick Turner. A law requires that cells have access to natural light. Individuals have their own private bathrooms and sometimes keys to their own cells. Posters, family photos and other decorations deck their walls; laptops and TVs sit on their desks. They retain the freedom to vote, to get the newspaper and to cook their own meals. In 2015, a team of Americans, including Connecticut’s governor and leaders from Vera, traveled to Germany to observe the prison system and plan reform at home. “It

feature was funny to watch the corrections administrators when they saw [aspects of the system] in Germany,” Turner said. “They kind of couldn’t believe it.” According to Turner, this trip inspired Connecticut’s TRUE project. Steffen Bischof, director of public relations at the Neustrelitz prison, explained that German prisons are less restrictive and punitive than American ones. “Our constitution reads, … ‘The dignity of man is inviolable,’” Bischof wrote in an email. “Every person deserves respect, no matter what he or she did!” Turner explained that Vera chose Germany because the country possesses both a model justice system and a population with characteristics comparable to those of the U.S. In Germany, “Mere deprivation of liberty is, in and of itself, the punishment,” Turner said. “The conditions shouldn’t be the punishment. How you’re treated shouldn’t be the punishment.” With that starting point, the German prison focuses on what Bischof called Resozialisierung, or resocialization. Potential corrections officers must complete a competitive application process before earning a spot in the prison. Training for officers takes two years and includes role-playing, intelligence tests and physical tests. In addition to considering the human rights of incarcerated people, Germany’s commitment to dignity proves beneficial from an economic standpoint. Though, according to The Marshall Project, Germany spends about 1.6 times more per incarcerated person than the U.S. does, Vera statistics show that the country’s incarceration rate is more than nine times lower than the U.S.’s. Germany also enjoys a lower recidivism rate. Some argue that even if the U.S. spent more on individuals in prison, it would not be enough to impact the country’s relatively high conviction rates and would ultimately become an economic burden. Vera points out that over time, a system more conscious of the lives of convicted individuals earns high economic returns as it lowers recidivism rates.


RUE brings a taste of the German prison system to a small number of incarcerated young men in Connecticut. Abdul Bradley spent two years incarcerated in the general population of the Cheshire Correctional Institution, then one year in the TRUE unit before his release last January. After first hearing rumors about the more lenient policies in TRUE, he was “flabbergasted.” Bradley and Jeter described the cells for the general population as small and monochromatic. Once in the TRUE unit, however, Bradley could paint his own cell and hang up photos and decorations, such as posters with inspirational quotes. Inmates in the general population usually spend 22 hours a day inside their cells. “[Prison is] an environment that can hide dysfunction,” Jeter claimed. “[Incarcerated people are] in their cells all day long, so you expect them to be in their beds. You don’t realize that they’re really in their beds because they’re suffering through deep depression.” In contrast, incarcerated young adults in the TRUE program meet at 7:45 a.m. daily for a check-in, during which they listen to an inspirational word of the day, quote of the day and rule of the day. Each person in the circle then shares his name and picks a number one through 10 to represent how he is feeling. “This remarkable sharing of emotions … might feel common for many of us who have not been locked up, but [it’s] totally unusual in a prison context,” Turner from Vera said. Throughout the day, members of TRUE have access to several rooms, including a library, a barber shop, study rooms, a computer room and an expression room that features a large chalkboard for writing out thoughts and feelings. In the center of the unit mentees participate in learning activities like slam poetry, “hip-hop hermeneutics” — in which individuals select songs and explain their personal reactions to the music — and discussion groups. TRUE members are not required to return to their cells until 9:25 p.m. Bradley cited improved family visit rules

as one of the most important features of TRUE. He gave his mother a hug for the first time in five years after joining the program. Typical contact visits at the Cheshire Correctional Institution — which are only offered as privileges to those without disciplinary issues — allow one brief embrace after the incarcerated individual and his family member converse from opposite ends of a table. The TRUE unit allows engagement visits in which incarcerated individuals may hold their children and sit next to their family members. Additionally, in the TRUE unit, incarcerated young adults form more positive relationships with corrections officers than they do in general population. Vera conducted one survey with incarcerated people before TRUE existed and then another survey with TRUE participants six months after the program opened. One question read, “Do I think a corrections officer has my best interest at heart?” Between the two surveys, the number of affirmative responses skyrocketed. “[In TRUE], I sat down, talked to corrections officers for a couple hours, … played cards with corrections officers,” Bradley said. “You don’t get that in general population.” In addition to corrections officers, incarcerated young adults in TRUE find guidance from mentors who are hand-picked from a group of incarcerated men with life sentences. Though not obvious candidates for mentors, men with life sentences all undergo training in motivational interviewing and therapeutic techniques, and many have college degrees from a Wesleyan program. Most importantly, Turner said, “They’re prepared [to be mentors] because of their own life experiences and how they have developed within the facilities.” “A mentee can’t tell a lifer that they don’t know what they’ve been through because they have, they just did it 20 years earlier,” said Cheshire Warden Scott Erfe. “The difference is, in the TRUE unit, we all want to uplift each other,” Bradley said. “In general population it’s like you’re just really on your own. If you do express yourself to somebody, it’s kind of seen as a weakness.” Yale Daily News Magazine | 13



espite the overwhelmingly positive view of TRUE among participants and leaders in prison, the program is not well-received by all. Jeter pointed out that many incarcerated individuals in general population don’t support TRUE. Though it serves only a small proportion of the population, the TRUE block obtains a disproportionate amount of the prison’s limited resources. “That’s a hard pill to swallow,” Jeter said. In some cases, Jeter explained, TRUE harms the general population as it supports participants. For example, when TRUE threw a one-year anniversary party, the rest of the prison was locked down for longer than usual. “Their reality isn’t celebratory, it’s ‘I’m stuck in my cell more,’” Jeter said. With only one block, it is currently impossible for Cheshire to admit every young adult who would benefit from the TRUE program. Bradley was rejected from TRUE three times before finally getting accepted. But the staff makes “a deliberate effort not to pick ‘powderpuff ’ inmates,” said Mike Lawlor, Connecticut’s undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning. “This is a challenge. Let’s see if we can get some outcomes.” Erfe confirmed that he and his staff select a mixture of well-behaved and non-well-behaved individuals for the block. As a result, he said, critics cannot point to the type of people admitted to explain the program’s success. Even Erfe said he was “very skeptical” about TRUE at first. “Some of the ideology that may work in other states just won’t fly here at Cheshire Correctional Institution,” he said. “We house a lot of bad people. … It’s a maximum security prison.” Erfe noted that the Cheshire prison was nicknamed “the Rock.” However, Erfe now stands a firm proponent of the TRUE philosophy. “Now after a year, after seeing all the progress that we’ve had here, it’s hard not to stand 14 | May 2018

behind the program,” he said. Historically, the American prison system has treated incarceration as a chance to punish offenders rather than to promote their growth. But Turner claimed it is “surprisingly easy” to find the capacity for the forgiveness of incarcerated people. “It boils down to this,” he said, “you [and] I are human beings and we’re not the sum total of the worst things we did.” Connecticut Department of Correction Commissioner Scott Semple plans to open another unit of TRUE at Cheshire, which will allow twice as many men to benefit from the program. Additionally, Women Overcoming Recidivism Through Hard Work, or WORTH, a unit similar to TRUE, will open at York Correctional Institution, a women’s prison in Connecticut. The Vera Institute of Justice is currently working to bring TRUE’s philosophy to prisons beyond Connecticut. In Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Vera just helped open a progressive prison unit called People Achieving Change Together. Vera is also working with criminal justice leaders in South Carolina to develop something similar. Still, “We come in with a process, not a prescription,” clarified Alex Frank, leader of the Restoring Promise project at Vera. “TRUE will be unique to Cheshire. We would never say, ‘Oh, TRUE should just be implemented in South Carolina’; no, South Carolina needs to come up with the program model that works best for them and their culture. Those are two completely different states.” Lawlor, the criminal justice policy undersecretary, is optimistic that the TRUE program will continue even after Gov. Dannel Malloy, a proponent of a progressive criminal justice system, leaves office. Criminal justice is no longer a divisive partisan issue, Lawlor explained. He is heartened to see conservative legislators becoming champions of reform.


radley said that, only one year after its launch, the TRUE program has already created noticeable changes among incarcerated young adults. He highlighted one incident that revealed how TRUE helps individuals grow even in the face of harsh prison circumstances. Bradley and another mentee in the TRUE program passed a corrections officer from general population on the way to the gym. The other mentee was white and had his hair braided in dreadlocks. The corrections officer was also white. The corrections officer yelled out “wigger,” a racially charged reference to the hairstyle. “That’s disrespectful,” Bradley said. “[But the mentee] didn’t respond in the way I thought he was gonna respond.” The other mentee simply kept walking and did not reply. When he returned to the TRUE unit, he debriefed the incident with a mentor. “I think it showed growth,” Bradley said. “The way he responded to him was outstanding.” As for himself, Bradley said, “I’m definitely thankful for being in there. I’m just trying to apply [what I learned] so the program can work, and it is working.” About a month after his release, Bradley had already secured two jobs — one at PetSmart in Stamford and one at a restaurant in Norwalk. “It’s crazy how doors open when you change your attitude,” Bradley said. “I think before I act. I want more out of life.” Trutz von Warburg helped with German translations for this piece.

Those Who Bring // BY HENRY REICHARD // PHOTOS BY SCHIRIN RANGNICK AND VIVEK SURI How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:14–15


n an uncommonly blue afternoon near the end of a wintery March, the evangelist Eileen Lee sat across from a journalist who did not believe in God. It was three days before Easter, and the small meeting room of Peniel Community Church was illuminated by a delicate yellow light that glazed the rows of empty chairs, the unattended lectern and an unplayed guitar. The evangelist and the journalist sat together at a small table, two Bibles opened to Genesis, one of which — the journalist’s —

was fraying at the edges. They were alone in the yellow room. No one else had come to the weekly Bible study. Lee met me for the first time on Cross Campus more than a year ago, during one of Peniel’s daily evangelism rounds in New Haven. On that day we talked for nearly an hour about love, free will and why God allows suffering to exist in the world, and Lee gave me Peniel’s little green card and asked me to come to the next Bible study a few days later. I did not go. That was not unusual. When Lee evangelizes, she tries to speak with about 30 people in a day, but she is happy if three of them really listen. “It’s like knocking on a stranger’s door,” she said of evangelism. “And that can be humiliating if you’re turned away. But that’s how God comes to us. Sometimes they don’t listen, but the truth is the truth. Their soul listens. If you scatter the seed, then it is sown.”

Lee sat with a notebook open before her, wearing a gray fleece and a tiny jeweled cross that hung at the end of a thin necklace. She wore an expression of anxious intensity. Anxious because she had been criticized before — sometimes even insulted — by students who objected to evangelism, and because I had just told her that I wanted to write about her, and she was worried about what people would say. Intense because she had spoken with me many times before, and now I was finally at the church, and maybe I would listen. “What we need to do is wipe out doubt,” she said to me as we read Genesis. “A child never doubts that his parents love him, does he?” “But there are some children whose parents do not love them,” I answered quietly. “Is it better for those children to believe that their parents do?” Lee’s face darkened. “You’re talking about bad parents? Maybe this is Yale Daily News Magazine | 15

insight not a perfect analogy.” She tried something else. She had me flip to Matthew and read the first commandment — to love God with all your heart and soul — and the second: to love your neighbor as yourself. “The bird is made to fly,” she explained, “and if it does not fly — if it chooses to walk — then it will suffer. We were made to love. And we will suffer if we do not love.” So this is faith, I thought. And in my thought there was acceptance and denial and the bitter awe felt by the layman who hears a choir singing in a foreign language. I marveled at the melody but could not understand the words. There was a light in Lee. I wanted to talk with her, not to find out which of us was right and which was wrong, not to be converted, but to learn whether we could believe different things and talk about them calmly and sincerely. At the end of the Bible study, I asked her a question: Why does God need evangelists? One year later, Lee asked me to flip to Romans 10:14–15, and then she guided me patiently because I did not know where to find Romans or how to interpret the numbers she had given me. Finally I found the passage. “There should be a person, because that is love,” Lee said. “The presentation of love is between a person and another person. And Christianity is love.”


he Rev. Edwin Pérez remembers it well. On the New Haven Green in late April 2017, the sun had sunk low enough that the evening’s uneven light entirely missed the man in black with the microphone. Bearded, wearing a black hoodie, Phillip Blair — director of Torch of Christ Ministries — turned to the rainbow flag of United Church on the Green. He began to preach from the middle of a darkening shadow. “[God] will change everything about you if you go to him,” Blair began. “He will help you turn away from that fornication, having sex outside of marriage, he will help you turn away. He will help you turn away from abusing your wife and being impatient and abusive to your kids.” 16 | May 2018

A crowd of spectators, one of whom was recording the sermon, had gathered, and the preacher became more forceful. “We have perverted our affections to fulfill and satisfy the lust of our flesh, and God is commanding us to repent, to turn back to foundation and biblical truth and to pursue holiness without which no man will see the Lord. Repent, Church on the Green. You’re not teaching the Bible. You’re leading souls to hell.” It was not the first time Pérez had been the target of evangelists. “You’re an openly gay minister, you need Jesus,” other Christians would sometimes say to him. “I’ve got Jesus,” Pérez would reply. After seeing the video of Blair’s sermon uploaded to YouTube, Pérez had gone home and prayed. He had prayed that, someday, Blair would meet the loving God Pérez had found years ago. Leaning forward across a small table in a bustling cafe, Pérez remembered how he had started as an evangelist. He began preaching at the age of 14 with the Assemblies of God. He had walked through the streets asking people, “If you were to die today, would you go to heaven?” Pérez is still an evangelist. But that is not the way he preaches now. “When you join a relationship out of fear, you’re on a path to self-destruction,” Pérez told me in the cafe. “I think that everybody is on a journey; I think that everybody has a veil and that it’s slowly being lifted. I don’t necessarily believe that God is a Christian. … I don’t look to convert people. It’s more of an invitation. Because love can’t be forced. Love can’t be coercing.” Love. When I began talking with evangelists, I did not expect to hear so much about love. I was familiar with evangelism delivered at the knife edge. The evangelism of the childhood barber who, when I told him I was an atheist, looked at me with dilated eyes and said he was frightened for me because I would burn and that I should be frightened as well. The evangelism of the grave man with the sign who stopped me on York Street and, learning that I was a scientist, began to explain patiently, as one explains simple

things to a child, that evolution is illogical and intelligent design is self-evident. The book-bound evangelism of theologians who tell me that, because I have no God, I cannot have morality — I must be a hedonist. More than my secular friends, more than my scientific professors, more even than myself, these were the people who turned me away from God. And yet here was Pérez, speaking softly amid the chattering students in the cafe, telling me that he did not want to convert me; he only wanted to talk with me. “I can only spread the good news of my faith with the hope that you will receive it,” Pérez said. “I don’t try to convert, because that’s not my job.” He paused, turning to the right and focusing his gaze on something above him — something I could not see. “My job is to preach the good news.”


he large meeting room in Linsly-Chittenden Hall was dimly lit on the Thursday after Easter, crowded with 50 or 60 members of Yale Students for Christ, one of whom was the dark-eyed Karin Nagano ’20. It was Thursday Night Together — a weekly gathering for members that Nagano helps organize — and on this day they would listen to New Haven Police Department Chief Anthony Campbell ’95 DIV ’09 talk about how, as a police officer, God has guided him. Nagano stared at Campbell fixedly, resting the long, thin hands of a concert pianist on her lap, and in the room’s semidarkness the deep brown of her irises melted into the pupils. It has become harder and harder for Nagano to reconcile her religious and secular lives at Yale. “My suitemates accept me for who I am,” she later told me, “but they see my Christianity as a sort of extracurricular activity.” In Paris, where Nagano grew up, Catholicism is widespread, but for many, it is merely a formality, and back then, Nagano did not feel a personal need for God. “I would say that I was Christian, that I believed in God,” Nagano explained, “but I didn’t really understand what that meant.”


Coming to Yale, leaving most of her friends behind in Europe, she began to ask what really mattered to her. And she realized that she was unhappy. In November of Nagano’s first semester, one of her friends, Lucy Wang ’17, came to her suite with a group of other members of Yale Students for Christ. They asked if they could clean the suite’s bathroom. Every year, the members of the organization’s outreach team go to certain first-year suites in a form of community outreach that is called, appropriately enough, toilet cleaning. They do not hand out pamphlets or ask for email addresses. They tell the first-years what organization they are affiliated with only if they are asked. Nagano did ask. There was something about Lucy — the serenity with which she approached life, the fact that she never forced her faith on her friends, the humility of toilet cleaning — that moved Nagano.

She began to attend Yale Students for Christ’s weekly meetings; she read the Bible for the first time. And finally, a year later, she participated in toilet cleaning. Now Nagano had come to listen to Campbell, and I had come because I wanted to see something that the Rev. Ian Oliver, a senior associate chaplain at Yale, had told me about a few days before. He had said that evangelism could sometimes be done without proselytization or knocking on strangers’ doors — simply by living a life of grace and talking with those who come to you — and I had wondered if that was what had drawn me to Lee and Pérez. Maybe that was the conversation I wanted to have. “Ideally,” Oliver had said to me, “you’re living a life that is so distinctive that people wonder why you are the way you are.” Campbell was seated at the front of the room, relaxed and in uniform. For the past half hour, he had talked

about his life without notes or hesitation, spoken compassionately about a father who had sometimes threatened to kill him, joked about the time he woke up from a coma in the hospital, and told us that, in his opinion, “When we make an arrest, we’ve already failed.” He spoke humbly, profoundly and insistently, with a voice like running water. “Our faith is not something that can be compartmentalized,” the chief said, staring at the crowd before him. “It is part of who we are the greatest part of who we are. And we are called on every day to live it out.” There were a few more questions, and one member asked the chief if he initiated discussions about faith with his subordinates. The chief said he did not need to. “I’ve had people come to me and say, ‘I don’t know why you are the way you are. I don’t believe all the things you believe. But I see the light in you. And I want to be more like you.’” Yale Daily News Magazine | 17

photo essay

On Intimacy


LUCY t was a late evening in September, and I ran into you on the corner of York and Elm. I wasn’t drunk, but you were, a little. You did not pick up on my hesitation when you asked me to come back to your room, only a block away, to hang out and talk. I didn’t know you so well, as I had just been settling into my first year — did I know anyone yet, really? — but I was curious. Curious about you, who you were, what your life was like at this school. As you and I walked to Ezra Stiles and wound up a few flights of stairs, you didn’t ask me much about how my night was before running into you. You opened the door to your suitemates playing video games, and even though I wanted to stay, to see the way you interacted with friends, to let your friends witness the way you and I interacted, you walked straight into your room and closed the door behind me. You had an agenda: You turned some music on, took off your shoes, your T-shirt, your belt. I watched, beginning to wonder, to panic: Are we not going to hang out and talk? At Yale, I heard about classmates hooking up, already infatuated with


18 | May 2018

new partners; to me this was a spectacle. I had just gotten out of an emotionally abusive relationship that lasted all of high school and felt like I needed years to begin to imagine intimacy for myself. How could anyone be ready, so soon, to be with someone new? To be sexually or romantically vulnerable again? You began to kiss me, pulling me onto your bed. I tried not to show that I was uncomfortable. You positioned yourself on top of me, draped a flimsy blanket around us (our bodies) and worked to undo my jeans. You felt smooth, warm — “Just let me think, only for a second,” I wanted to say. I

really needed a couple more hours, maybe months or even years, to think. How could I even begin to communicate my (many) feelings about sex to you, right then, under that blanket and under you? “What are you doing?” you asked me. I kept still. I told you I wanted to stop. “You can get out, then.” You turned on the light, threw on your shirt and opened the door for me to go. “Next time, stop me before we get here.” I left and stood in the empty stairwell; I caught myself pulling out my phone, as if to send you an apology. For what — ruining your night? Failing to follow your script?

photo essay

ALICE & LUCY e began “Tangent,” our photography project, in October of our sophomore year. We were two strangers trying to figure out what intimacy could look like. That fall we focused on nonromantic relationships — seven pairs of friends, roommates, twin sisters — because aren’t we told too often that intimacy is romance? In the spring, we both studied abroad, and when we came back we found our peers honing in on cases of sexual misconduct: investigations into Delta Kappa Epsilon’s sexual climate, Saifullah Khan’s acquittal and the silence around the allegations against professor Thomas Pogge. We were infuriated that Yale could overlook violations of the most basic standards of interpersonal relationships. That social groups could continue to host campuswide parties without having deeper, consistent conversations about what a good social interaction could or should look like in their space. That people were not working enough, get-


ting creative enough, to imagine what they really wanted from sexual experiences and nonsexual ones, friendships, day-to-day interactions and chance encounters at Yale. “Tangent” had asked us to be more aware of the power we (should) have to create, or opt out of, intimate moments and to push the boundaries of our perceptions of intimacy at the basic levels. So when we resumed “Tangent” this year, we expanded it to include romantic relationships. The partners we photographed allowed us access into their private moments as they transposed feeling onto Yale spaces: Miguel and Christian with their bodies a breath apart on the corner of College and Wall streets, Genevieve and Jordan reuniting in the early light of Sterling’s Egyptian Room, Sofia shaving Genevieve’s head on a back porch on Lynwood Avenue. I remember leaving these seemingly random places, turning off my camera and wondering how other rooms around campus were being occupied in those same moments. What conversations were people having, and what

silences were taking place? LUCY Later as I was editing these photos, putting Genevieve’s slight exhale into Adobe Photoshop’s layers, I couldn’t help but think about that night of my first year: “You can get out, then.” These photographs, our work, represented — became — a subtle railing against the script I had been asked to follow. His script, fully imagined and performed with power, did not allow me to explore intimacy as something that could change across moments, that I could re-evaluate from the stairwell to the bedroom. This script, layered with (internalized) misogyny, had almost prompted me to apologize for not having sex with someone, for not being “intimate” enough. Maybe his script is not really his, at all — maybe it is written into the very libraries that we center our campus around, sometimes in different words, but always the same language. What language are we passing down? Yale Daily News Magazine | 19

photo essay LUCY & ALICE he truth is, as photographers, we are used to feeling intrusive. The camera works to bring us together, but it can also interrupt closeness in our daily lives — do you remember the last time you had one pointed at you? That slight panic of “What do I do with my hands? Should I even smile with my teeth?” Cameras are often bound up in power, exemplified by not only their steep cost but also the visibility of their bulky bodies. The camera physically imposes itself between the subject and the photographer, taking your image while obstructing your view of the photographer. It’s uncomfortable to let yourself be


seen. Intimacy often asks that of you. And before we photographed anyone else this past fall, we decided to ask it of each other. To see what we were asking of others, to see what it felt like. Or maybe to understand each other and each other’s visions further. To find intimacy not just in front of our cameras, but on both sides, between the photographer and the photographed. ALICE pause and lower my camera to look at you face to face. Hesitantly, I ask, “Are you okay?” Maybe it’s a dumb question. Your hands are a noose around your own neck, fingers outstretched and grabbing at flesh. Your wrist is raw red from where your hair tie did its job too well, hugged your skin too tightly, and I wonder if this is you mimicking its actions. Sometimes you need to be held a little too hard to ground yourself in the reality of your existence, and sometimes you have to hold yourself. And as I pause, I wonder if this looks like intimacy. I think it must: It is easy to smile serenely into my lens as you lie in my bed, at ease in each other’s company under the still warmth of the late October sun. But to so viscerally express anything other than “I’m fine” suggests trust in the relationship, at least for that very moment. It’s a different sort of feeling comfortable with the other person; it’s being comfortable enough to not be okay. But this is maybe at odds with how uncomfortable you, an onlooker, may feel looking at the final product. Faced with the physical manifestation of her anxiety forever memorialized in an image, do you recoil from its intensity? Are you uncomfortable because you feel you haven’t earned her honesty? Sometimes I still feel uncomfortable too.


personal essay

The Dark Lining of the Prefontaine Mantra: Lessons from Hale Ross’s Life at Yale // BY JACK ROSS ’79 // PHOTOS COURTESY OF JACK ROSS ’79

Editors’ Note: Please be advised, the following piece includes sensitive material relating to depression and suicide.


everal months ago, I received a “save the date” flyer about the Yale graduation events this May. I will not be in attendance. On Oct. 30, 2016, my son Hale, class of 2018, ended his life. Hale’s death was a tragedy on many levels — a profound loss not only for his family and close friends but also for the hundreds of people who had been touched in large and

small ways by his compassion, kindness and keen sense of humor. At a candlelight vigil on Cross Campus after his death, many students reflected on Hale’s impact on their lives and wrote kind notes to his family. I think of Hale every day but recently reflected more deeply on his remarkable life as I read an obituary of Roger Bannister, who first broke the four-minute barrier in the mile run in 1954. Bannister observed in his autobiography that spectators “fail to understand … the men-

tal agony through which an athlete must pass before he can give his maximum effort. And how rarely, if he is built as I am, he can give it.” Hale put his heart and soul into his running. He was inspired by Steve Prefontaine, known in running circles as “Pre,” who competed in the 1972 Munich Olympics before his life was cut short by an automobile accident. In his riveting and insightful essay for his readmission to Yale after a mental illness tragedy his second semester, Hale focused on a quotation from Prefontaine displayed on a poster of the runner that adorned the wall of his Calhoun bedroom: “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” Hale was inspired by Prefontaine’s all-out commitment, noting in his essay that “every time he toed the line, he charged into battle not only with his competitors, but also with the upper ranges of his own body’s physical and mental limits.” He explained, in words that assumed a portentous tone after his death, “I sought to emulate his doctrine. ‘To give anything less than your best … ’ became my mantra not only for my training but also for my academic and other various endeavors.”


have countless images of Hale. Undoubtedly the darkest is when I first saw him at Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital in February 2015 following his shocking leap from the fourth floor of Bingham Hall early in his

Yale Daily News Magazine | 21

personal essay second semester. I thought then that it was my worst day as a parent: seeing my normally vibrant, positive son in a near catatonic state, immobilized mentally by the throes of depression and physically by a broken pelvis and cracked vertebrae. As I drove back to central Massachusetts that dark and frigid evening, I could not comprehend the calamity nor envision where Hale’s life would go from that point. As I visited the hospital over the next several weeks, I tried to draw on my own battles with severe depression to provide Hale with some perspective on his situation. (Hale struggled with an anxietybased variant of mental illness but was stricken by depression after his ordeal.) I had experienced disruptive depression and social anxieties during my years at Yale and continued to be beset by severe episodes of bipolar depression throughout much of my adult life. (I also struggled with alcohol, which I used at times to medicate depression and anxiety.) In fact, as my legal career and marriage in Washington, D.C., were disintegrating when Hale was 7 years old, I descended into a dark state of hopelessness and would have suffered the same fate as my son had not someone in the basement of a group recovery house where I was living seen multiple empty pill bottles and called 911. Sometimes random events dictate the courses of our lives. During those visits to the hospital, between games of cribbage and Boggle, I did my best to penetrate the sinister fog enshrouding Hale’s brain and convince him that the dark thoughts he was experiencing were mere cognitive distortions caused by his illness and did not reflect who he was as a person. I developed a visual construct: “Put the thoughts in a box, and work on the box.” It was a way of trying to drive home to Hale that the kind, thoughtful and unselfish person we all loved was still there buried beneath the veneer of the depression and that this core being was more important than Yale and career paths. A miracle happened. During his stay at the hospital, as he hobbled around on 22 | May 2018

crutches and enjoyed the cake — a football theme with goal posts — I brought on Feb. 12 to “celebrate” his 19th birthday, Hale gradually returned to life. His Boggle skills improved markedly. On my last visits, he was able to joke about life at “Liberty Village” (his ward) and focus on his return home to Washington, where he would enter an outpatient hospitalization program at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. In early March, Hale’s brothers (both also accomplished runners) and I gathered in Washington in a show of support. As the four of us watched the Yale-Harvard Ivy League championship basketball game, I was encouraged to see that Hale — although he sometimes seemed distracted — was beginning to assimilate himself back into the stream of life. Light was gradually emerging from the darkness.


hen Hale told me he was reapplying to Yale, I had mixed feelings. I had never encouraged him to apply to Yale to begin with, but he was determined to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, a Whiffenpoof from the class of ’51. After the incident freshman year, the least of my concerns was whether Hale would return to Yale. I just wanted him to be healthy. I wondered whether he could return, would want to return, and, if he did return, how he would face the challenges of living in the shadows of Bingham Hall. I wondered how much the pressure he put on himself at Yale to achieve academically and athletically — to meet Steve Prefontaine’s severe standard — had contributed to what happened, and whether he would be better off restarting his life in a different venue. But Hale was determined to return to the school — and the peers — that he loved so much. After all, as he had noted in his application essay, his name derived from my family’s genealogical connection to Nathan Hale. In the conclusion of his readmission essay, Hale recalled the 2014 suicide of Madison Holleran, an accomplished runner at the University of Pennsylvania

who had been featured in an ESPN article. He noted the similarity of their stories: “While seemingly put together and happy on the exterior, an internal turmoil boiled beneath her.” He expressed a desire to use the second chance that Holleran did not have to help spread awareness of mental illness and assist others suffering from the affliction. Hale’s essay concluded with the words, “I used to think that my ability to run and my capacity to learn were my gifts, but I have since come to realize that my true gift is a second chance at life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. And I will always remember: ‘To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.’” As I read these words again recently, I found them eerily haunting. At least initially, my concerns proved unfounded. Hale’s mental and physical recovery, and return to Yale in fall 2015, was the most courageous feat I have ever witnessed. Showing characteristic strength and determination — and with two steel plates in his pelvis — he worked his way back to running and assumed a leading role on the cross country team. Rarely does a walk-on in a Division I sport have the impact that Hale had on the Yale cross country program. It was the product of Prefontainean hard work and determination. A little more than a month before his death, Hale was named men’s runner of the week by HepsTrack. com after he ran his personal best and finished second at the Fordham Fiasco meet. A tribute issued by the track program stated, “He was relentless in training, a fierce competitor, and a stalwart teammate. His warm smile, wit, and friendship are irreplaceable; he was truly the best that Yale had to offer.” Surely “Pre” would have concurred. But Hale’s mark on the Yale community transcended the cross country course at the Yale golf course, where I proudly watched him run against Harvard and Princeton his freshman year. As was true at the Potomac School in McLean, Virginia, where he was selected by his peers to speak for his class at graduation, Hale’s friends, teammates, teachers and coaches

personal essay

universally were touched by his warmth, compassion, kindness and wit. Probably only a few had a clue about his inner struggles. Even at the end, he put on a brave face and kept pushing himself. Hale had a great sophomore year and was doing well the fall of his junior year until he collapsed in a meet at Notre Dame after overextending himself — refusing to give less than his best. The dreaded demons returned. I spent a Saturday with him in October. We had breakfast in Silliman College, where I lived while at Yale, after which we took in the Dartmouth game at the Yale Bowl, huddled under a golf umbrella in a light drizzle. The Elis prevailed. During a leisurely dinner at an Italian restaurant, the conversation, as always, ranged among a variety of topics. Hale was ever curious about the world, and I enjoyed our talks. Characteristically, though he was immersed in his own struggles, he was concerned about how I was doing. I knew that day that Hale wasn’t himself — I could see it immediately in his eyes when we met in the Calhoun courtyard. He seemed slightly off, less confident. Sensing that he was struggling, I explained that anyone who has recovered from an experience such as his will

have bumps and that working through the bumps makes us more resilient. He seemed to be doing the right things — seeing his doctor, consulting with his dean on his academic schedule, working hard with the cross country team. I was concerned but not alarmed and left New Haven with the conviction that he remained on course. When I dropped Hale off at Calhoun, I sensed that he wanted me to stay longer. He suggested taking a walk up Prospect Street to look at the new residential colleges under construction. I declined, feeling the need to get on the road back to Worcester. I have recalled that moment on the sidewalk of Elm Street countless times since and wished I had stayed an hour or two longer. But I am grateful that I had that last day with Hale. It was a good day. Over the next week or so, Hale and I exchanged telephone calls and text messages, and, at his urging, I shared more details about my struggles. He seemed to derive hope from my recovery. After his death, I wondered whether I had shared too much. But I have since freed myself from any responsibility for his death. I am in peace with the facts that I did my best to help Hale and could not have altered

the events of Oct. 30.


or reasons I will never understand, Hale was unable to work through that bump. We talked after he returned from a meet in Princeton Saturday evening. That final conversation is forever etched in my memory. He was distraught about his performance. I fumbled for things to say to make him feel better. I later wondered whether I could have been more supportive or asked more questions. But he had told me was going out that night to celebrate a friend’s birthday. I didn’t see any cause for concern. By all accounts, Hale seemed his normal self that night. He participated in the customary Sunday morning run with the team. But late that afternoon he was found unconscious in his suite in Calhoun. It was too late to revive him. Unlike in the basement of the recovery house where I might have met a similar fate in 2003, no one found Hale in time to intervene. After receiving the call that no parent wants to get, I summoned my best friend in Massachusetts for support and drove to New Haven that dismal, rainy evening to see Hale at Yale New Haven Hospital. Yale Daily News Magazine | 23

personal essay It was a surreal experience. I found him propped up serenely in a bed. I kissed him on the forehead, as his mother had requested, and talked to him for a bit. I told him we were all proud of the person he was and how courageously he had fought, that I wished I could have known how much pain he must have been in. He looked to be in peace. I regret that I was unable to help Hale find peace, over time, in a different way. More than 800 people, including the entire Yale track team, attended the service for Hale at the National Presbyterian Church in Washington — a testament to how much he was loved. Julia Adams, the head of Calhoun College, now Grace Hopper College; Paul Harkins, his cross country coach at Yale; and Jason Dwyer, his Potomac School coach, spoke movingly about Hale. I tried to greet as many of Hale’s teammates as possible at the reception. I was inspired by their presence.


o what can we take away from Hale’s life and death? How can such a vibrant soul and accomplished athlete participate in a meet on Saturday, socialize with friends that evening, run with his team the next morning, then perish quietly in his dormitory in the afternoon? None of us can know for certain what was going on in Hale’s mind over those last few weeks and on that fateful day. His doctor found Hale to be a puzzle; he never understood the impulsivity that struck twice, ultimately taking his life. But clues emerge from things Hale said at the hospital and wrote in his readmission essay and from conversations with his peers, coaches and doctor. In addition, there are inferences that I can make from my own experience with depression and anxiety at Yale and later in my life. I know that Hale pushed himself very hard and had extremely high expectations in all of his pursuits. At Potomac and at Yale, he had been on an accelerating path of academic and extracurricular accomplishments; like most of his peers, the sky seemed the limit. Perhaps, in his adher24 | May 2018

ence to the Prefontainean mantra, his relentless striving to reach a nearly unattainable version of “his best” contributed to the sacrifice of the ultimate gift. Most students at Yale are able to embrace such challenges in a healthy way. But for those who, like Hale, struggle with mental illness, academic, extracurricular and social pressures can escalate into a severe loss of mental calibration. In extreme cases, such maladies can cause a profound loss of perspective of oneself; in this dark and unsettled state, one can lose the ability to accurately perceive oneself and one’s connection to the surrounding world. The novelist William Styron once aptly analogized severe depression to insanity on account of the cognitive distortions it induces. I experienced depression and social anxiety at Yale, but I initially didn’t recognize them as manifestations of mental illness or consider seeking help. I often felt like I lived on the fringe of the social and academic order and struggled with low self-esteem, poor work habits and lack of direction. Although there were many good times, I look back on Yale in part as an unfilled opportunity resulting from my own “internal turmoils,” as Hale described them. No one likes to talk about mental illness on a college campus; it is a grim distraction from the exuberance of academic and extracurricular pursuits. But we need to talk about it because it lurks in the shadows of the Old Campus, Sterling Memorial Library, Commons, the residential college dining halls, even the athletic fields. We need to talk about it because of the devastating consequences that can result if it goes unidentified and untreated. Most importantly, we need to talk about mental illness at Yale in the hope that better awareness and support will prevent some students from descending into the dark and irrational abyss in which Hale found himself. Nothing can bring back a life that — as friends and family could see so vividly — possessed immeasurable value and promise. Tragically, at that fateful moment, I believe that Hale was unable to perceive the vast worth of his life that

far transcended Yale or to comprehend that what he was experiencing was a transitory phase of mental illness from which he had recovered once and from which he could have recovered again.


hortly after Hale died, I was interviewed for an article in the Yale Daily News about the mental health counseling system at Yale and students’ experiences after returning from leaves due to mental illness. Some students expressed reluctance to use the counseling program because of confidentiality concerns. I believe that it is critical to make mental health support on campus as accessible as possible. I work with a mental health advocacy organization coordinating a program that allows college students to form clubs to increase awareness of mental illness, reduce stigma and provide peer supports. Unfortunately, there is no panacea. Hale had recovered from a devastating episode, seemed to understand himself better, acquired recovery tools and benefitted from outstanding family and medical support. Yet when the demons struck again in October 2016, he was unable to ward them off and failed to reach out for help in the final hours. But I firmly believe that if we continue to boost awareness of mental illness on college campuses, reduce stigma, encourage students to seek treatment and provide more student-based peer resources, some students who might have suffered Hale’s fate will survive.


n December 2015, I decided to return to treatment for my alcoholism. The disease ultimately would have killed me, and I didn’t want alcohol to rob me of a full life with the sons I loved. When I was in treatment on Cape Cod, Hale, who had returned to Yale that fall, sent me the most meaningful card I have ever received. He told me that he could not have recovered without my support and wanted me to get better so that he could have me in his life for a long time. I still have that card on my bulletin board, along with a poem I

personal essay wrote about him. I have recovered and now have 28 months of sobriety. I have a full and happy life and have not experienced an episode of severe depression in 10 years. Some of my friends have told me that my life is a testament to the maxim, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Perhaps. Yet it is one of life’s cruel ironies that, though I have recovered, I have lost Hale. We can’t bring him back, but all of us who knew and loved Hale can continue to keep his spirit alive by being kind and compassionate in our dealings with the world. To all of Hale’s former peers at Yale, I would urge you to endeavor to maintain a healthy perspective on who you are as a person — your intrinsic worth — apart from all the accomplishments and goals that drive much of what you do and how you think about yourself. It was a deadly loss of perspective, I believe, that contributed to losing Hale. I suffered an episode of depression during law school at the University of Virginia. At the time, I measured my self-worth by reference to obtaining a position at a prestigious law firm. A psychiatrist, sensing that my struggles ran deeper than my academic and career pursuits, suggested that I take a leave of absence. “You are more important than the law,” he told me. I thought that was an absurd remark and found a new psychiatrist. Decades later I realized the profound truth of his statement. My life was more important than law school. Most of you will go through Yale and life unhindered by mental or emotional obstacles. But some of you, like Hale, might now or in the future face unanticipated demons that will rattle your frame of reference and threaten to derail your carefully delineated life plan. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness. If you broke your leg, you’d go to the emergency room. Mental illness should be no different. Like Hale, you might be adhering to some version of Steve Prefon-

taine’s mantra: “nothing less than the best.” You might define yourself primarily by reference to your GPA, graduate school admissions or getting that perfect job. One day, you might attain a different perspective, where you can appreciate that bumps in life — even severe bumps — can be navigated, that there is more than one route to a happy life and that your true worth as a person ultimately is measured not by career achievements or material successes but by the lives you touch along the journey. Hale believed that we should all “strive to be the best version of ourselves.” As you go through life, try to be open-minded and flexible. Be kind to others, and, most importantly, be kind and forgiving to yourself. Be the best version of yourself as measured in light of the circumstances in which you find

yourself, not by some Platonic ideal. You matter more for who you are than for what you have accomplished. Tragically, Hale did not have enough time to attain that perspective. Finally, to Hale’s friends in the class of 2018 who will gather on Old Campus for Class Day in May, I hope that, although Hale can’t be with you, his spirit will speak to you in the midst of all the joy and jubilation. But the message I hope you hear isn’t the daunting mantra displayed on the wall of Hale’s bedroom but a kinder, gentler sentiment: Strive to be your best, but accept yourself for who you are. As my father once told me when I was in the throes of a major depressive episode that threatened to upend the world as I knew it, “You’re already a success.” I didn’t believe him then. I do now. I hope you do too.

Yale Daily News Magazine | 25


A Fine Line:

Asian-Americans and Affirmative Action, yale Edition // BY MONICA WANG




hen James Chen applied to law school in the early 1990s, he wrote his personal essay on how he planned to lead and serve the Asian-American community with a law degree. A graduate of Cornell University and the University of California, Berkeley, Chen worked at the investment bank Salomon Brothers before he considered going back to campus for more education. Given his credentials and Law School Admission Test score, he thought he had a good chance of gaining admission to the school of his choice: the University of California, Los Angeles. But much to his surprise, he was rejected not just from UCLA but from every law school to which he applied. Bitterly disappointed, Chen, who is Chinese-American, decided to give his application materials to his college roommate, who is white and was applying to law school around the same time. Chen’s roommate was accepted almost everywhere — ironically, with the same essay that passionately laid out Chen’s plan to become an advocate for Asian-American causes. “I don’t want to sound like a crybaby, but you can see exactly what happened to me 27 years ago. Why did they reject me when a similarly qualified white person used my essay and resume and got into Yale and Harvard?” Chen asked me. “Why them? Why not me?” After seeing his white roommate succeed, Chen said he “wandered in the woods for a couple of years.” But one thing was certain: He would never become a lawyer. Chen’s experiences led him to completely re-evaluate the admissions process in higher education. He left the corporate world to work as an independent college consultant, a platform that gave him the opportunity to experiment with the undergraduate process as well. Acting against ethical standards, Chen would submit identical applications for white and Asian students — except, of course, that they checked different boxes for race. While the students had essentially the same profiles, he found that white stu-

dents were getting in but Asians were not. Chen said these “trials” only confirmed his suspicion that race played a large part in his own rejections. And so, a little less than a decade after he first applied to law school, Chen founded Asian Advantage College Consulting, a San Francisco Bay Area–based company with the eye-catching slogan, “Beat the Asian Quota!” While he did not share specific strategies, Chen said his firm operates on the belief that universities admit students based on unofficial quotas. At schools with affirmative action programs, especially private universities like Yale and Harvard, admissions officers actively take race into consideration for black, Hispanic and other minority applicants to ensure that all students have equal opportunity given the historical and current underrepresentation of racial minorities on campus. Asians, who are also minorities in larger American society but who are not thought of as underrepresented in higher education, are generally regarded as being overlooked or adversely affected by affirmative action. For this reason, Chen and others like him believe that Asian students are only competing against each other for spots at elite universities, not against students of other races. What works for white students will therefore not work for Asians, because the admissions process is, according to him, a “rigged, zero-sum game” for Asians. A staunch advocate of repealing racebased affirmative action, Chen prides himself on establishing one of the few college consulting firms that aim explicitly to help Asians overcome the racial “penalty” imposed on them by the current system. “The primary purpose of affirmative action is not what it set out to be, which was to help poor minority families and give them a piece of the action,” he said. “Now, the primary purpose is to make sure those in charge today remain in charge.” Chen believes that Asian-American students are disadvantaged in college admissions because their spots are unfairly limited — seemingly to make room for other minorities, but really to ensure that “white liberals” stay in power, he said. The

genius of this system, he added, is that it pits disgruntled Asians against blacks and Hispanics, not the whites who designed affirmative action in order to protect their own children. Chen explained that, because students of color are relegated to clear but limited percentages, white students still have the vast majority of spots. Affirmative action is not a new topic, especially in terms of its perceived impact on Asian-American communities, but two recent legal challenges posed by Asians against Harvard have intensified the debate over its race-based practices. Proponents of eliminating affirmative action often cite a Princeton study showing that, all else equal, Asian applicants must score 140 points higher on the SAT than white applicants and 450 points higher than black applicants to gain admissions. But given the emphasis on holistic qualities and the opaque nature of college admissions in general, it is difficult to tease out the nuances and determine whether or not affirmative action actually operates on a quota system that hurts individual Asian-American students. Additionally, it is worth examining just who benefits and who suffers from affirmative action among Asian-Americans, since the population itself is highly diverse in terms of ethnicity, socioeconomic status and other factors. No matter what their final outcomes will be, both legal challenges against Harvard are already impacting similar university campuses across the country — including Yale, which is comparable to Harvard in many ways. For Asian-American Yalies, the debate is even more salient. As students who were accepted by Yale, how have they come to understand the role of their racial and ethnic identities in the admissions process? Do they believe that it is possible to have race-conscious affirmative action that addresses the underrepresentation of other minority groups in higher education while also improving current practices that seem to disadvantage Asian-Americans?


ffirmative action was first introduced against the backdrop of the civil rights movement. In Yale Daily News Magazine | 27

feature 1961, President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925, which prohibited government contractors from discriminating based on “race, creed, color or national origin” in their employment practices and urged them to take “affirmative action” in treating employees fairly. A series of decisions under subsequent administrations solidified affirmative action for government employment and established equal opportunity programs to increase the representation of racial minorities. The concept of affirmative action soon expanded into higher education. In 1978, the Supreme Court upheld the use of race as a criterion in the admissions process in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. Allan Bakke, a white man, had applied twice to the University of California Medical School at Davis but was rejected both times. He contended that he was denied admission solely because of his race and that the University of California had violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection. At the time, the medical school reserved 16 spots in each incoming class of 100 for “qualified” minorities, thus operating with an explicit quota system. The court decided that while racial quotas were unconstitutional, race could still be part of the admissions process. For this reason, the case is largely seen as a victory for affirmative action. In 1996, however, California passed Proposition 209, which forbade public universities from considering race in their admissions decisions. Since the 1970s, there have been similar legal cases against affirmative action. Among the most recent and significant was Fisher v. University of Texas, which was decided by the Supreme Court in 2016. Abigail Fisher, a white woman, had applied to the University of Texas at Austin in 2008 but was rejected. She was among the top 12 percent of her graduating high school class (the top decile was guaranteed admission under Texas law). Like Bakke, Fisher claimed that the university’s affirmative action program violated the Fourteenth Amend28 | May 2018

ment’s equal protection clause. But the Supreme Court ruled that race was not the sole determining factor in her admissions decision and that UT’s affirmative action was part of a necessary effort to increase student-body diversity. Because it met these standards, the affirmative action program did not violate Fisher’s Fourteenth Amendment rights. As a racial minority struggling to gain equal access to opportunities, AsianAmericans were protected under affirmative action in the 1960s and 1970s. During the 1978 Bakke case, for example, the University of California included Asians as part of its targeted minority groups because of their underrepresentation on campus. Nevertheless, the rapid increase of Asian representation in higher education and the promotion of the model minority myth in mainstream media led to what some scholars have called the deminoritization of Asian-Americans. Through their own hard work and because of cultural values that emphasize discipline and diligence, or so the myth goes, Asian-Americans were able to overcome historical discrimination and other barriers to achieve success without the help of the larger society. As a result, Asian-Americans were held up as a “model” for other racial minorities who were perceived as problematic and also removed from affirmative action programs. Today, Asian-Americans are at the center of several prominent legal challenges to affirmative action. Edward Blum, the legal strategist behind the Fisher case, is trying to bring another landmark case to the Supreme Court. This time, he is suing Harvard for discriminating against Asian-American applicants. Students for Fair Admissions, a 20,000-strong group that Blum started, includes a number of AsianAmerican applicants to Harvard who were rejected from the university. In the suit, they allege that Harvard’s admissions practices amount to a racial quota system, which was outlawed nationwide by Bakke.

The case was filed in 2014 but has recently picked up media attention since Harvard agreed to turn over six years’ worth of data on hundreds of thousands of high school students who applied to Harvard between 2009 and 2015. Just last month, Students for Fair Admissions argued for making the data public, adding that the admissions files alone were enough to prove Harvard’s unconstitutional discrimination against AsianAmerican applicants. As of now, the case is set to go on trial in January 2019. In addition, the Department of Justice last fall began to investigate a 2015 federal complaint filed by 64 Asian-American organizations that accused Harvard of discriminatory admissions practices. The decision to investigate the allegations marked one of the Trump administration’s first attempts at revisiting the topic of affirmative action, which was greeted enthusiastically by groups that put forth the complaint, such as the Asian American Coalition for Education. In April, the Department of Justice joined Blum’s Students for Fair Admissions in calling for Harvard to publicly release its admissions data. The combination of the two legal challenges with a sympathetic administration in Washington could bring about significant changes to current admissions practices, raising the question of both the contenders’ intentions and the nuances of affirmative action that could complicate the big picture that is being presented.


n the eyes of Blum and his supporters, the detriments of race-based affirmative action are obvious. “Our lawsuit seeks to end the consideration of race and ethnicity in Harvard’s admissions policies,” Blum wrote in an email to the News. “It is our belief that our case against Harvard is so compelling that the court will conclude that Harvard is using unlawful quotas to limit the number of Asians it will admit and racially balancing everyone else.” Blum compared Harvard’s current “‘holistic’ admissions policies” to

feature those implemented in the 1920s, which imposed a strict quota on the number of Jews admitted to Harvard every year. According to him, Asian-Americans are essentially the new Jews of college admissions. Yukong Zhao, president of the Asian American Coalition for Education, said his organization fully supports Students for Fair Admissions and that Blum is doing “the right thing for the AsianAmerican community.” Zhao added that he feels encouraged by the Department of Justice’s decision to investigate the federal complaint concurrently as Blum’s case nears trial. “Based on our evidence, we believe that Harvard, Yale and many other selective colleges totally ignore relevant Supreme Court rulings since 1978,” he said, referring to the ban on racial quotas. “We want our children to be judged by their merit and character instead of the color of their skin. We disagree with race-based college admissions and we want admissions officers and colleges to stop this kind of unlawful discrimination against Asian-American children.” A year after Zhao and others first filed the complaint against Harvard, he told me that this son was unfairly rejected by several universities, including three Ivy League schools. His son was a National Merit Scholarship finalist as well as the president of his high school debate team, Science Olympiad club and other groups. “He has a lot of credentials, but he was rejected by Columbia, Cornell and others, and I think it’s totally unfair,” Zhao said. He added that his position against affirmative action only became stronger given his personal experiences as a parent. Proponents of abolishing affirmative action often point to the University of California system as an example of what race-free admissions would look like. Since the state of California passed the proposition to remove race as a consideration in 1996, the percentage of AsianAmericans admitted by University of California schools has increased significantly. Blum’s lawsuit cites the fact that the University of California, Los Ange-

les, was 34.8 percent Asian in 2013, when Harvard and Yale had Asian-American enrollment numbers between 14 and 18 percent that same year. However, it is important to note that California is the state with the highest percentage of Asians in the entire country, and the population there is also growing rapidly. Some Asian-Americans are skeptical of Blum and his organization and expressed their concern about being used as pawns in a scheme to end affirmative action for all minorities. Affirmative action is much more nuanced than facts and figures, they say. In this debate, Asian-Americans are placed in the paradoxical position of being singled out as a group that suffers from its policies and remaining as members of racial minorities at the same time. “I think that it is a fine line to walk,” said Joyce Ho ’20, who is Chinese-American. “We are blocked in with other minorities when convenient and treated differently otherwise.” For one, the model minority myth exacerbates tensions between minority groups in America. For another, it obscures the fact that Asian-Americans remain underrepresented in top administrative positions in government, business, the media and other sectors. Additionally, the model minority myth and the monolithic identity that it confers on Asians elide the diversity within the Asian-American population. During the admissions process, applicants are asked to check a box that corresponds to the race they identify as, but they are not given the opportunity to specify their ethnicity. A movement to disaggregate the Asian population by subgroup is gaining momentum. Allowing people to identify with their subgroup would provide more evidence of which ethnicities remain underrepresented on university campuses and highlight, for example, the differences between East Asians and Southeast Asians. “Practices that treat Asian-Americans as a homogeneous group for the purposes of college admissions would disproportionately disadvantage first-generation,

low-income or otherwise disadvantaged Asian-Americans,” said Kento Tanaka ’20, who identifies as Japanese American. But not everyone agrees. Efforts to disaggregate Asian America by ethnic subgroups have been met with strong backlash, particularly from East Asian individuals and groups. They demonstrate that even within Asian-American communities, there is no consensus on whether, who and how affirmative action practices help and hurt.


hile the spotlight is currently on Harvard, it also casts some light on Yale. In fact, the Asian American Coalition for Education filed a separate federal complaint with the Department of Justice and the Department of Education against Yale, Brown University and Dartmouth College. The complaint against Harvard is the only one that has been picked up. Still, localizing the debate here at Yale helps explain the complex and often uncomfortable ways in which racial and ethnic identities played a role for those who were admitted. Eight current and former AsianAmerican students at Yale interviewed for this article believe that affirmative action should be maintained in university admissions. As the “lucky ones” who were accepted by Yale, however, many continue to have a complicated view of whether their race actually helped or hurt their applications. Some even acknowledged their belief that their acceptance was due in part to the fact that they were different from other Asians in their communities. Somehow, they said, they managed to stand out from the crowd. Last December, Aaron Mak ’17 published a piece in Slate that detailed his decision to hide his Chinese heritage when he was applying to Yale and other selective colleges with affirmative action programs. Throughout high school, Mak was careful to avoid extracurriculars that were stereotypically “Asian,” such as cultural clubs, pre-professional associations and robotics. He quit piano and dropped Mandarin, picking up play writing and Yale Daily News Magazine | 29

feature film reviews instead (both of which he actually enjoyed). In his Yale personal essay, he opted not to write about his family’s immigrant experience, even though he candidly discussed the influence of his Chinese grandfather in his essays for University of California schools. Most interestingly, Mak did not check the box indicating his race on his applications, hoping that admissions officers would mistake his surname for the Gaelic “Mack.” Now, more than five years later, when asked if he would make the same decision, Mak said he would like to think not, but he admitted that he also understands why high school students like him might make similar choices. “I still support affirmative action even though I think there are things to improve about it,” he told me, adding that writing about his personal story was a constructive and cathartic way for him to grapple with the issue. “I don’t agree with the end goal of trying to abolish [affirmative action], but by examining my own experience and comparing it to what [advocates against affirmative action] are saying, I understand their position a lot more and why Asian students might be persuaded by their logic.” Tanaka said his Asian-American identity worked both ways in college admissions. His applications drew directly from his experiences being Asian in America, but he also worried that admissions officers might box him into stereotypes about “boring Asian males,” such as the fact that he played piano and violin and was interested in STEM. He added that it is a problem if Asians’ acceptances to Yale are contingent on their ability to act in “un-Asian” ways. “For example, if white people are not rejected from Yale for being interested in a cappella and classics, then Asian people should not be rejected for being interested in orchestra and computer science,” he said. 30 | May 2018

Ho said that her immigrant background made up a large part of her applications, and she believes that her Chinese-American identity helped her in the admissions process. Still, she said she was concerned about not appearing too cliche or “too reminiscent of ‘The Joy Luck Club.’” Rita Wang ’19 echoed the idea of striking a balance. “I think I got in because I wanted to do something different from only making money, but I do think I got in because I was different from other Asian-Americans from my town, which is an interesting dynamic,” she said. Opponents of race-based affirmative action say that, if it were abolished, it could be replaced by something else to help disadvantaged groups in American society. The most commonly proposed substitute is an admissions program that would give preference to students from low-income families. Swan Lee, secretary for the Asian American Coalition for Education, said it is convenient to stereotype Asian-American students and believe that all of them come from privileged backgrounds with access to educational resources, such as after-school tutoring. But Lee described witnessing the son of a low-income Chinese family in Boston, where she currently lives, be passed over by “all decent colleges.” He ended up attending community college — and when that became too much for the family to afford, he joined his father to become a waiter at a local Chinese restaurant. “We believe that the education gap has nothing to do with race — it has to do more with socioeconomic status,” Zhao said. “We really need to focus on the fundamental issue of how to improve K-12 education. Even with affirmative action, education attainment among blacks and Hispanics has not improved. You can’t just put a bandage on this issue during college admissions.” All Yale students interviewed agree about the importance of socioeconomic

diversity. At the same time, most think race should not be eliminated as a factor. Mak explained that structural racism negatively impacts applicants of color in a way that is not entirely based on socioeconomic disadvantages. After all, race plays an important role in determining students’ upbringing before they even reach college. “For two people who grew up on the same socioeconomic level, race can be an additional factor for mobility,” Ryan Liu ’18 said. In putting together a diverse student body at a place like Yale, he added, admissions officers should consider all factors, including socioeconomic status. So is it possible to maintain racebased affirmative action while also making improvements to the current admissions process, which seems to hold Asian-Americans to a higher — or at least different — standard? Chen, Blum, Zhao and Lee would say no, but Yale students interviewed remain cautiously optimistic. Mak said he would look beyond race to address athletic recruitment, legacy admissions and other practices that tend to favor white, upper-middleclass students over Asians. Ho believes that disaggregating the Asian-American population and breaking down the monolithic front are important steps to take. Diversity should be thought of along multiple axes and in a “multiplanar way,” she said. Wang speculated that Yale could one day become an institution that is not predominantly white. Still, according to Peter Huang ’18, institutions like Harvard and Yale should not forget that they have a responsibility to address past and current systems of prejudice against marginalized groups. Race-based af firmative action is one such way of living up to that responsibility, although it is not the only one. “But then again, I did get admitted into Yale,” Huang said. “I may be thinking differently if I had been rejected.”




oi Saito has three names. The first: Aoi. This is the name she asked me to call her by when we met on a cold April morning outside Sterling Memorial Library. She stood out with her shimmery magenta eyeshadow, pale skin and dancer’s perfect posture. In Japanese, “Aoi” is a near homonym of the word for blue. Sometimes, when Westerners cannot pronounce her name, she asks them to call her Blue. The second: Saito-sensei, which is what her students call her. When Yalies file in for their morning Japanese class, they greet her with “Good morning, Saito-sensei!” The third: Ichimiyo, her geisha name. She took the first part, “ichi,” from her geisha sister, her mentor. The last two parts — “miyo” — were given by a fortune teller at a Kyoto shrine. Saito was a geisha in Gion, Japan. Gion is renowned for the geisha who live and

work there, performing for and entertaining customers in the many teahouses scattered throughout the town. To be a geisha or apprentice geisha, known as a maiko, is more than an occupation; it is a way of life. Only 15 when she arrived in Gion, Saito trained to be a maiko, a role typically filled by younger girls. She lived in a geisha house with other maiko. The oka-san, the proprietress of the lodging house, took care of their daily needs. Saito studied traditional Japanese arts. She practiced calligraphy. She played the flute. Each day, she went to various teahouses in Gion to serve and entertain customers, dancing to the classic song of Gion, the “Gion Kouta.” She was not supposed to smile or show her personality; the song was not about her. She was stepping into the persona of the maiko in the song. In the hills of Higashiyama, under a clouded moon, the singer pines for the maiko — her long-sleeved kimono, her

vivid red lips, her face painted white. For generations, maiko have danced to this very song with exactly the same routine. Every April, Saito would perform the traditional dance with dozens of other girls at the renowned Miyako Dori spring festival. Dressed in identical blue kimonos, flourishing beautiful fans, the geisha move in perfect unison. “This is a very Japanese thing,” she said. “We create one thing. It is not about the individual. It is not about me.” Maiko were expected to speak elegantly and slowly, to obey everything the okasan said. Above all, they had to be graceful and demure. Saito struggled especially with learning the Western dialect, which differs from the Eastern dialect she grew up speaking in her native Yokohama. On one occasion when she was entertaining in a teahouse, the customers offered her some alcohol. She was underage and not supposed to drink. But she didn’t care. Tipsy, Yale Daily News Magazine | 31

insight she slipped into her natural accent, shedding the Western Kyoto dialect she usually put on to please the oka-san. Later, the teahouse owner admonished her. “Your speech, it’s very harsh,” she told Saito. “Why do we have to be dolls all the time?” she asked. Geisha society is highly stratified. What the oka-san says is law. “The first thing I learned was that if the head of the agency or a senior geisha told you white is black, you have to believe that white is black,” she told me. But Saito did not want to mindlessly obey. She would speak up if she thought her seniors were wrong. “Because of my personality and how I look, I was not popular at all,” Saito told me.


t age 15, Saito’s parents were going through a divorce and there was a lot of fighting in the house. “I was just tired of listening to them,” she said. Saito decided not to go to high school; instead, she wanted to start working as a geisha in Kyoto, even though she had never been to a teahouse or seen a geisha at work in real life. “Since I was a child, I have always dreamed of living in the traditional Japanese way. I liked samurais and Japanese history,” she said. Saito’s first year of training was difficult. Girls in training, known as shikomi-san, have to do chores and learn the customs of the town, including the local dialect. The oka-san was in charge of booking jobs for the geisha at local teahouses. She was strict and emphasised discipline in the house. Because Saito was outspoken, the oka-san did not like her. As a result, Saito struggled to find teahouses to perform and serve at. The oka-san would sometimes reassign jobs that Saito found for herself to a younger, prettier and more obedient counterpart. During Saito’s second year in Gion, the oka-san passed away, and her daughter took over. Her daughter was harsher and more unsympathetic to the maiko than her mother because she had never gone through maiko training. In addition to the required maiko training, she assigned Saito to do most of the housework while the younger maiko rested. 32 | May 2018

“I would wake up, go to school, go back the house, cook meals, take care of the house,” Saito said. “At the time, I was thinking, I don’t know what I am doing anymore.” The oka-san once scolded Saito for half an hour for calling underwear “pants” instead of “panties.” Another time, the okasan asked Saito to record her favourite television show for her on Channel 4. When the oka-san realized the show aired on Channel 8 instead of Channel 4, she was furious with Saito. But the scoldings were not always about trivial matters. The oka-san would often criticize Saito’s behaviour and appearance. “Now, I think maybe what she meant was that my attitude was ugly. But I was told, ‘You’re ugly, you’re ugly.’ And that’s what you’ll believe,” she told me. “I still don’t have any confidence in my appearance.” She was miserable. When she told a friend about the situation in confidence, the oka-san got wind of her complaints and confronted her. “If you complain that much, leave,” the oka-san said. But Saito refused to leave. She blamed herself, thinking she had to be more patient to make the oka-san like her. “Based on their terms, leaving the town was a failure,” she said. She had also signed a five-year contract, required of all maiko, with the geisha agency. In exchange for receiving accommodation, food and geisha training, Saito agreed to work for the geisha agency for five years. If she left before completing the five years of work, she would have to pay the remainder of the money out of her pocket to the oka-san. Furthermore, she had nowhere to go; her parents had started new families. During that grueling first year, while training to be a maiko, Saito had fallen down the stairs in the geisha house and dislocated her knee. She recovered, but three years later, the injury was further aggravated. Her doctor said she would not be able to dance professionally again. At 18, having been a maiko for three years, she had to leave the profession. She hadn’t previously realized that leaving was an option. Despite feeling some relief, Saito was still determined to pursue her ambitions as a geisha. She wanted to train to play

the shamisen, a kind of Japanese guitar. By being a shamisen player, she could still perform as a geisha, as shamisen music often accompanies geisha performances. But her mother pleaded with her to return to school to get a high school and university degree. So she obliged. She passed the academic qualification examination that is equivalent to a high school diploma in Japan. Then, she went to Kanagawa University. After graduating, she decided to come to America to study in a graduate program in applied linguistics at Texas Tech University. In 2013, she began teaching Japanese at Yale University. “I always tell my students, when I finished college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But without choosing this career, I’m here,” she said.


ast year, Saito finally went back to Gion for the first time since she left at 18. “I felt like I couldn’t go back until I was an independent adult,” she said. “But I think now I achieved at some point [independence]. So I think I am not ashamed to see them again.” She saw the owner of the teahouse Tondaya where she used to serve and perform. She saw the hairdressers who styled her hair before each performance and listened to her complaints. She saw her oka-san, to whom she feels grateful, in retrospect, for raising her during her formative years. When she first saw them again, she cried. It was like a homecoming. Now, Saito goes to New York every weekend to learn the kabuki style of Japanese dance. It will be at least eight years before she gets a licence and earns a new geisha name from this school. Because being a geisha involves such commitment, Saito does not consider geisha dance to be just a performance. “Geisha are not characters,” Saito said. “They are called by their stage name in the town; they have that personality. You are creating Japanese culture, you are preserving it, just in everyday dance. Maybe you don’t have much of your own personality in it, but you are keeping the tradition.”



In the Timothy Dwight courtyard, students were kicking around soccer balls and eating pizza. An undergraduate was teaching one of the children of the college’s affiliates how to cartwheel on TD’s grass. Another child ran around pointing a toy bow and arrow at relaxing college students, who raised their hands in feigned terror. “Enjoy it while you have it. We all know it changes,” former Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway said on the phone. While on the line, he also spoke of his experiences with Greek life as a university administrator, first at Yale and now as provost of


Northwestern University. “Northwestern, compared to Yale, has a very large Greek life and a highly organized Greek life structure.” In 2016, Holloway told the News that Yale “wrestle[s]” with how to punish groups like fraternities and that the administration “can only do so much to stop behavior.” At the time, Yale punished both Delta Kappa Epsilon and LEO — then still affiliated with the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity — for disciplinary infractions by suspending their ability to use Yale as a platform, both physically and digitally, for their fra-

ternity. Holloway said that removing a fraternity’s ability to use a Yale domain name sent a strong message. Two years later, Holloway was less sure about the efficacy: “No one has figured this thing out really,” Holloway said with a sigh over the phone. “There’s the Harvard nuclear option. The look-the-otherway option, which just makes me nervous because if you totally disengage I just think bad things are going to happen. That’s inevitable, so I just wanted to bring the students closer in to the University.” Schools across the Ivy League — and in Yale Daily News Magazine | 33

cover particular at the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University and Harvard University — have reached a crossroads in handling off-campus social life. Cornell is cracking down on hazing. Penn is recovering from a tense fall semester during which many students felt as though no party was safe from being shut down by police. At Harvard, some students are beginning to wish that their institution would take more cues from Yale’s community-based model rather than shutting down or rejecting core aspects of the social scene. Representatives from Harvard and Cornell declined to comment on this story, and representatives from Penn did not respond to request for comment. Yale’s approach, however, has its own critics. As Holloway pointed out, Yale’s sanctions banning fraternities like DKE and LEO from using Yale platforms have been ineffective. “Yeah, we used the Yale platform ban, and it’s frustrating as heck when you’re trying to actually do the right thing, and the

people who are supposedly in punishment are just, you know, going about business as usual,” Holloway said. “It’s like, how do you grab hold of jello?” “NOT A TOP-DOWN KIND OF PLACE” While other universities like Harvard have ignited lively debates over how to best manage social clubs through broad sanctions and administrative initiatives, Yale, by its own admission, prefers to deliberate longer before approaching hot-button student-life issues. “Yale is not a top-down kind of place,” Associate Vice President of Student Life Burgwell Howard said. “We are always trying to find where’s that sweet spot to listen to the concerns that come from various parts of the community.” In 2010, student outrage over an incident in which DKE pledges chanted “No means yes! Yes means anal!” in front of the Women’s Center led then-Dean of Yale College Mary Miller to open a sixmonth-long investigation before ulti-

mately sanctioning DKE by prohibiting it from engaging in on-campus activities. The incident also led the U.S. Department of Education to investigate Yale for not properly adhering to Title IX guidelines. Many expected that the events of that fall would bring an end to Yale’s laissezfaire attitude toward fraternities. Less than a year later, Executive Director of DKE Doug Lanpher lamented in an email to a DKE alumnus that “the days of Yale allowing the fraternities to operate independently seem to be over.” Miller and Yale took new measures to regulate fraternities, such as a prohibiting rush activities for students in their first semester at Yale. But even then — echoing Holloway’s words that punishment did not interfere with “business as usual” for DKE — Lanpher wrote in an email to DKE Yale alumnus that “our 5-year suspension had minimal effect on our ability to operate successfully.” In addition, despite Miller’s requirement that DKE would only return to campus

cover under the condition that it “pursue registration as an undergraduate organization,” DKE is still an unrecognized, off-campus organization. In May 2016, DKE’s ban from campus activities was lifted. When SAE, now known as LEO, was banned from on-campus activities for violating the University’s policy on sexual misconduct in 2015, regular fraternity activities were similarly unaffected. Former President of LEO Jesse Mander ’18 told the News that “because we’re off campus already, and a lot of fraternities are off campus, [the ban] didn’t affect us that much.” In that same year, the Yale College Council claimed that Yale’s punishments of fraternities were “more or less toothless.” Yale has traditionally, according to some administrators in the Yale College Dean’s Office, preferred dealing with individuals in matters of disciplinary action rather than targeting an entire group. For example, after news broke that the former president of DKE had been suspended for sexual misconduct and another senior in the fraternity allegedly raped a female Yale student, University President Peter Salovey said that “when an individual violates Yale’s standards in a way that cannot be tied fairly to the student’s organization, the sanction falls on the individual, not the organization.” That thinking may soon change. Yale College Dean Marvin Chun recently announced the creation of the Yale College Committee on Social Life and Community Values. The committee is tasked with determining the state of Yale’s social scene and making recommendations to Chun on how to handle social groups while other schools in the Ivy League grapple with similar issues. “We have students who say we should be like Harvard, and we have many students who say we should not be like Harvard,” Chun told the News. “I have not formed an opinion strongly. I’m in listening mode.” PENN’S CRACKDOWN For other schools, just two incidents of alleged sexual assault in a fraternity like

those at DKE would have been enough to justify an investigation. “If we were to have three to four allegations — probably just two — come from the same fraternity in six-month span, that would be viewed as an institutional problem with that fraternity,” said Reggie Murphy II, the president of University of Pennsylvania’s Interfraternity Council. “Individually of course the accused would be punished specially but the fraternity as well — 10,000 percent.” At the University of Pennsylvania, the student-run Interfraternity Council manages all fraternities that are part of the National Interfraternity Conference — such as Sigma Phi Epsilon and DKE — whereas the multicultural Greek council manages multicultural Greek organizations. Murphy said that Interfraternity Councils exist at many schools because they allow students to hold their peers accountable through student-run judicial boards and easier access to administrative support. He added that Yale leaving fraternities free to run their own affairs as off-campus organizations is “pretty dangerous.” But even so, bringing fraternities to task for their actions at Yale presents challenges that do not exist at Penn. Unlike Yale, Penn owns nearly every fraternity house on campus and, as a result, can use the property as leverage. Murphy explained that when Penn threatens to take away a fraternity’s house, students usually listen. “I never really realized how important it is that Penn has a stake in the ownership of our houses,” said Murphy, “A fraternity is just a club if you don’t have a house, and I don’t think anyone would join then.” Miller tried to gain influence over DKE by requiring that the fraternity become an official student group. In his 2012 email to an alumnus, Lanpher complained that Yale wants to “pull us into their sphere of influence” with new regulations. Eight years later, DKE remains off campus and unregistered. Although Penn has more control over its on-campus fraternities, some that are located off campus still give the adminis-

tration trouble. Murphy gave the example of when, in September 2016, OZ, an offcampus fraternity that had disaffiliated from its national organization, emailed undergraduates with a lewd poem addressed to “ladies.” In multiple verses, the poem invited “the fun ones” to “your first showing” at an OZ house party with the added request to “please wear something tight.” Several days later, a group of students posted printouts of the poem across Penn’s campus with “THIS IS WHAT RAPE CULTURE LOOKS LIKE” written across the email’s text. The event spurred Penn’s administration to create the Task Force on a Safe and Responsible Campus Community in February 2017 — a group that soon after came up with strict standards for how Penn students should go about properly registering parties. Despite questions of how the guidelines would be enforced against unrecognized student groups, Penn began working closely with local police to shut down any parties not registered with the university, both on campus and off. Soon, the university began shutting down everything from OZ parties to ice cream socials and, in one particular case, a “Mac ’n’ Phis” charity event hosted by the sorority Alpha Phi, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian. Students objected, but administrators had achieved their goal: Student groups began registering parties to avoid being shut down by police. Several off-campus fraternities were among the newly registered groups and, as a result, the university now has more information on and control over their activities. “Last semester was really big for us, we had a task force, and even the on-campus fraternities that where doing right said that it was a little bit too much,” Murphy recalled. “Fifteen brothers couldn’t play pong in their basement without cops coming to shut it down.” Brendan Quinn, a member of the Phi Delta Theta on-campus fraternity, remarked that with the task force, police considered many lower key social events Yale Daily News Magazine | 35

cover — just several people in a room drinking while watching TV, for instance — to be fair game for busting up as unregistered parties. “Can you imagine a squad of police officers in bulletproof vests bursting into a sorority house because a few girls are drinking with friends over?” Quinn asked, jokingly. As it turns out, Murphy claimed, the task force ended up hurting on-campus fraternities more than off-campus fraternities. He explained that off-campus fraternities used to be more vulnerable to police and university intervention. Now that they are recognized off-campus student groups, they can officially register parties with the university but do not have to follow the stricter university guidelines that govern Interfraternity Council members, such as specific living and risk-management requirements. One former president of an on-campus Penn fraternity, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that he would personally prefer Yale’s laissez-faire system of off-campus Greek life to Penn’s as it would relieve his fraternity of a number of strict regulations maintained by Penn. Still, Murphy said, it was clear that the task force got the job done when it came to bringing to heel the last off-campus fraternities holding out against Penn — something made easier by off-campus fraternities’ reliance on party culture. “Since the OZ email, we’ve cut into their social scene,” he explained. “We know where their houses are — they live together, and there are police parked outside on all the days they could have parties, which they thrive on. They have no tradition, no rituals, just parties.” “TWENTY YEARS? MAYBE.” While Greek life at Penn is not under threat of extermination from the administration, its situation at Cornell is more precarious. The death of a Cornell student during an SAE hazing ritual in 2011 has cast a shadow over the school’s fraternity system. The school’s Interfraternity Council has to be sensitive and watch Cornell’s new president Martha Pollack 36 | May 2018

carefully. According to students, Pollack was not a fan of Greek life at her previous job as provost of the University of Michigan, which recently suspended all fraternity social activity on campus. “Cornell’s president hates Greek life,” remarked one Pi Kappa Phi brother who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The fraternity’s president, Vincenzo Guido, chimed in: “People here know what President Pollack did at University of Michigan with Greek life, so they’re wary,” he said. “If one more person at Cornell dies here because of Greek life, we’re done.” But Cornell also offers a glimpse into what Yale’s Greek social scene could begin to resemble if, faced with pressure to improve their behavior, fraternities at Yale create a formalized Interfraternity Council to manage Greek life. Guido estimated that Greek life would last 10 more years at Cornell before it comes to a crashing halt. Cristian Gonzalez, another member of the Pi Kapp fraternity and a member of Cornell Interfraternity Council’s executive board, disagreed. “I don’t think it’s going to go in 10 years. Twenty years? Maybe,” Gonzalez said. “The climate now is the most tense since SAE,” referring to the student death in 2011. However, Gonzalez added that onethird of the members of Cornell’s board of trustees were active in Greek life as undergraduates, which would make it very difficult for Pollack to take major action against fraternities or sororities. For Paul Russell, the president of Cornell’s Interfraternity Council, this means making the current system work as well as possible. He explained that the basic benefit of Cornell’s Greek life system is that, coupled with Cornell’s Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life, the council can use sanctions to discipline fraternities for bad behavior. There are benefits, Russell explained, to being part of the Interfraternity Council, and when fraternities lose those benefits they also lose their place of prominence in the social scene. Cornell’s Interfraternity Council coordinates a list of all Greek life parties with Cornell University Police. Any party not

on the list can be shut down by police immediately. Fraternity rush, which Cornell handles through a centralized recruitment process mandated by the council, also becomes a nightmare for fraternities if they lose their Interfraternity Council privileges, according to Russell. “If you’re looking to join a fraternity, the way you do that is through fraternity recruitment, the broader recruitment week we have,” he explained. “If you’re trying to recruit outside of that, it’s really difficult. … You have to secretly do it all underground.” At that point, Russell said, a fraternity pushed off campus at Cornell is also bound to lose its relationships with sororities as it struggles to throw parties and maintain a new underground pledge class. The Interfraternity Council has a judiciary board run by students that punishes fraternities for bad behavior. Potential penalties include a prohibition on hosting parties. Russell also said that when the case is too big for students too handle, they turn to the administration for help. “If we find out someone is not doing X, Y and Z, we can then tell someone in the administration, that’ll trigger a hearing, and there’ll able to get in trouble for that,” Russell continued. “We try not to be the snitches of the [council] community but, at the same time, [if ] it’s something that is causing legitimate harm, we’re absolutely going to tell.” James Ritchie, president of Phi Gamma Delta at Columbia University and a member of his Inter Greek Council’s judicial board, said that students in the Ivy League might be more willing to cede control to administrators than observers would expect. “The big divide that I’ve seen at Columbia in Greek life — and I’m pretty sure at every other university — is that there is this deep desire to, at points, be like an ‘Animal House’ frat boy but, at points, acknowledge that you are an Ivy League student who went to whatever school and got whatever on your SATs,” Ritchie said. “The nice thing about having systems of power in place, especially in the Ivy League, is that we’re people

cover who, to be honest, probably crave a certain element of control because that’s what we’re used to.” Still, it takes a lot for the council to decide to ban one of its own from oncampus activities, in part because people like Russell and Guido view rogue offcampus fraternities as dangerously liberated. Earlier this year, Cornell’s Zeta Beta Tau fraternity came under fire for holding a contest among pledges to see who could sleep with the most women. Tie-breaking points were awarded based on whose sexual partners weighed the most. Cornell investigated the competition after complaints about the so-called “pig roast” were filed through a confidential process for disclosing hazing on the Cornell website. Cornell’s administration disciplined ZBT relatively mildly, placing the fraternity on probationary recognition for two years. These are ultimately the scenarios that Yale’s new Committee on Social Life and Community Values is considering as it decides how to handle fraternities in all their forms. “THE HEAVY ARTILLERY” At Harvard, all eyes are on the school’s administration, which has decided to punish individuals who join unrecognized single-gender social organizations. “It is challenging,” Yale student life administrator Howa rd said. “Frankly, I applaud the intent behind Har vard ’s efforts. I don’t think that they are on solid legal ground.” Dean Chun assured the News that his office is not in the “mode of blindly following what’s happening” at Harvard

but added that the office “may certainly attend to what they’re doing” and “calibrate” that to what happens on Yale campus. He, like Howard, recognized that Yale likes to take things slower. “We try to spend more time listening to our community,” Chun said. “The decisions we make here are more communitydriven, so it does take a bit more time, but you have more buy-in.” At Harvard — where some students have taken poorly to top-down efforts from President Drew Faust — Yale’s approach might be appreciated. Noah Redlich, a Harvard student, said that he liked being in the newly all-gender Aleph — formerly the all-male Alpha Epsilon Pi — and that he thinks university administrations should intervene in off-campus group matters at a certain point. But only, he added, when the time is right. “It should start with the students,” said Redlich. “When an administration acts in the way that Harvard has, it creates a divide among the students between those who want to

go along with the new rules because they don’t want to be sanctioned and those who want to continue their policies. … If the class reached a consensus first, it would just make a lot more sense.” And one student involved in a final club at Harvard, who asked to remain anonymous because of his club’s rules, noted that relations between single-gender off-campus organizations and the university have deteriorated to a point where students are unsure that ceding any ground will be met with a reward. Harvard also sets an example for how Yale might handle pushing fraternities to include all genders. Lulu Chua-Rubenfeld, a Harvard student who oversaw Sab Club’s transition from all female to all gender, said that the change has decreased the group’s reliance on male clubs for social events and was, overall, an empowering experience for its female leadership. “It was far more seamless than you would assume,” she added. “But we made very careful selections for the first two classes so that our first male

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cover members would be highly respectful of women and value what we were trying to do.” Turning the fraternities at Yale into all-gender organizations is an idea that has been floated by the group Engender for nearly one and a half years now. But this solution is not always what it is cracked up to be. Chua-Rubenfeld mentioned that after one club, the Spee, opened to all genders, students on campus began noticing a disturbing sexual power dynamic between the younger, newly admitted female students and the established male members. Jacqueline Deitch-Stackhouse, the director of Princeton’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources & Education office, told the News that the cohesive and healthy gender atmospheres in the eating clubs today — for the first time, nine of 11 groups now have female presidents — came after years of growing pains. She added that just becoming an allgender space doesn’t make a club the “right space.” A conscious effort from the students matters as well. “In the six years that I’ve been here, my observation has been that the students are more intentional now about creating an environment that is inclusive and respectful, and I think that that is three-quarters of the way home,” she

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added. “There is an appreciation for the information we can share and how we can help them accomplish their goals, that relationship has grown and evolved, we’re now viewed as more of a partner in this process, but that doesn’t come from nowhere.” But beyond the social implications of pushing social clubs toward all-gender status, there are legal concerns as well. As the News reported in early April, final clubs and Greek life organizations are gearing up to sue Harvard, likely by arguing that the university’s policies violate the clubs’ First Amendment right to a single-gender status and a Massachusetts state law that prohibits the use of “threats, intimidation, or coercion” to interfere with this right, according to documents obtained by the News. “There is little in precedent that constrains the situation,” said Richard Epstein, a professor of law at New York University. “I don’t even want to predict anything without some close study, and even then, the choice of judge and the presentation of case could really matter.” Chun and Howard have both told the News that they are not confident Harvard is standing on solid legal ground. At the same time, Yale needs to contend with vocal critics interfering with the University’s reputation if a new policy for social groups is introduced.

Epstein has been a vocal critic of the Harvard sanctions, and he told the News that Harvard administrators used “heavy artillery” to handle a squabble with final clubs that could have been resolved with “sensible quiet conversations.” It is not hard to imagine Yale in similar crosshairs if — after years of “quiet conversations” — the Dean’s Office enacts Greek life policies that introduce controversial changes to the social groups. One Yale administrator has already taken flak for suggesting a change in direction for Yale’s fraternities. After the News quoted an email that Howard sent to fraternities in the fall in which he wrote that it does “no harm to have your rush events open to all eligible members of the Yale community — regardless of gender,” he received a suspicious package in the mail. He told the News that it did not contain any physical threats, just “a lot of hateful language” referencing the News article that included his quote. As for Harvard’s enthusiastic sanctions, the opportunity to cultivate a healthy and civil conversation about final clubs may have long since passed — at least for the staunchest critics. Epstein said Harvard is a case of wrong choices. “Bad leadership leads to bad places,” Epstein said.

bits & pieces

Dear Seniors,

Senior week is here! We made it, and now it’s time to celebrate! Have you been to the Peabody? We are going to see a brontosaurus!!! Have you been to East Rock? Get on some sneakers; we’re going to watch a sunset!! Have you made fulfilling, lifelong friendships? We’ll try our best! The goal is not just to have a good time. It is to have such a good time that you forget about every allnighter you spent in the Grace Hopper College computer cluster. We are going to make friends. We are going to have fun. We are not going to stop. We are going to make it pop. We are going to blow our speakers up. On Sunday, May 13, we’re going to get started with drink specials at Box from 4 p.m. to closing. Happy hour? More like happy EIGHT HOURS. This is the perfect time to rekindle your romance with that girl from your physics class you really liked, but decided to ghost. Don’t worry; she would have ghosted you too! On May 14, we’re going to Anaya Sushi & Ramen. We hope you like Japanese food because we are going to order so much so quickly that the chefs get demoralized and quit, leaving the restaurant no choice but to close down forever. This place is gone. Done-zo. Finished. It will be the first institution to witness the almighty power of the class of 2018. Next, Wall Street! Go Bulldogs! Didn’t have a chance to do a society? We’ve got you covered! On May 15, we’ll be doing accelerated senior societies. It’ll still be 15 people you haven’t met, and you’ll still do bios,

A Message From Your Senior Week Coordinators // BY JACOB SWEET

but you’ll be locked in a closet instead of a tomb. Closets foster closeness, and we have no time to waste. Speaking of fostering closeness, it’s time to meet your life partner! Write down the name of every senior you’ve ever considered hooking up with, and then send the list to the Senior Class Council. We’ll find you someone who is equally afraid of dating in the nonYale universe and who was equally commitment-averse for the first 3.99 years of undergrad. You two would have met sophomore year at your suitemate’s birthday party, but you were too busy crying anxious tears in the Stacks. You’ll meet for real on May 16. On May 17, it’s Dwight Hall’s Day of Service! We’ll give you a tree; all you have you to do is shove it into the ground. This is an OPEN BAR EVENT. Each participating senior gets six drink tickets. After that we’ll be going straight to SHiFT for cycle classes! Get yourself in shape for all those graduation pictures! You want your future kids thinking that you were once hot. This is an OPEN BAR EVENT. Have you forgotten about all the late nights you spent in Starr? Not yet? You will! At 5 p.m., it’s the Yale Farm dinner! Pizza! Vegetables! Friendship! Did I mention OPEN

BAR??? You will leave wondering why you didn’t check out the Yale Farm earlier. But don’t think about that, please! This is not the time for regrets. It is the time to forget you ever had any. Up next: Erotica. You’ve been to Toad’s, but haven’t you always wanted to go while wearing only pasties? No? Well, we are doing it anyway! Doors open at 10:30 p.m. and don’t close until everyone has found someone to spend the rest of their life with. Did someone say OPEN BAR? Yes, I, your Senior Class Council representative, am saying it. If you still remember how lonely you felt in the opening few weeks of your first year, keep drinking. The last event of Senior Week is the Goodbye Gala. Family and friends are encouraged! This will be a good time to introduce your brand-new fiance to your parents. This is also a good time to introduce your family to the OPEN BAR from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. You’re allowed to cry at this event, but please, only tears of joy. Anyone who expresses any regrets will be escorted out of the building. We’re very excited for Senior Week and can’t wait to celebrate together one last time! And remember, it is never too late to donate to the Senior Class Gift.

Yale Daily News Magazine | 39

Profile for Yale Daily News

Yale Daily News Magazine May 2018  

Yale Daily News Magazine May 2018