A recent New York Times article on allegations of sexual harassment and rape at Yale by male students raises some serious questions. Why would highly intelligent male undergraduates who beat out countless other applicants make public utterances of an obscene nature to female undergraduates? How many authentic cases of rape have been either unreported or ignored by the administration because of a lack of proof?
But underlying these issues is something profound about the nature of Yale itself. The majority of undergraduates at Yale are now female. The dean of the college is a woman who has pledged that certain male behavior at the college is unacceptable and needs to be punished. But more than punishment is needed.
Rape is a crime, so there need be no dispute as to the proper remedy. Is there something special about Yale at the heart of this problem? I would suggest that there is. Rape is never about sex. It is about power. Yale was once the most masculine of the Ivy League institutions, with stories such as “Stover At Yale” and the “Frank Merriwell” series leading to a mystique of the athlete-scholar that characterized the institution. What appears to be the feminization of Yale has undermined this image and some men on the Yale campus resent it. If some fraternity obliges its pledges to make obscene remarks to female undergraduates as part of its ritual, there is an underlying anger that is at the root of this behavior.
I would submit that there is a sense amongst heterosexual white males at Yale that they are somehow being marginalized. The response to this has, to a certain degree, been infantile. But Yale is not unique in this regard. There have been reports of similar behavior at Harvard and Princeton, particularly at the elite final clubs and eating clubs at these institutions. A legacy of privileged masculine status is gone, undermined by both political correctness and immaturity. Young men have sensibilities that are not being addressed. The inability of young male undergraduates to express their emotions in a civilized way should be cause for concern. When male bonding becomes a basis for puerile and offensive behavior, something terribly wrong is going on.
Because there is a fundamental Puritanism in America, there is a lack of discourse about sexuality and relations
between the sexes. The Puritanism manifests itself in forms of counter-behavior that display sexuality in harmful and destructive ways. A lack of civility at a university as great as Yale reveals the underlying tensions of a society that has lost its way. The country and the world are in great crisis, creating a sense of hysteria that no one is acknowledging. Yale undergraduates need to face the realities that produce inappropriate conduct. For one thing, there needs to be more balance in admissions so that the college is divided equally between men and women. If Yale men are angry, they might do well to rally around a “fifty-fifty” admissions objective. But to display anger in an uncivilized manner is a form of self-humiliation.
When I was at Princeton, it was all male and the social life was distorted. Women were sex objects and very little else. All the normal aspects of human sexuality were compressed into weekends of debauchery and drunkenness. There was very little real joy. Now that all of the best colleges and universities are co-ed, it would appear that not much progress in the relations between the sexes has taken place. There is, most of all, a lack of sophistication, a callowness that is unbecoming. The immaturity that has always been a disturbing factor in American life needs to be addressed at Yale and dealt with in a serious manner. There needs to be dialogue and discourse in an open and frank manner. Without that, the value of a Yale education will be diminished, a tragedy when one considers the plight of the globally disadvantaged who are struggling to achieve a life of dignity while the privileged at Yale waste their education. The great universities of America are the country’s most admirable accomplishment. What a pity that so many take that for granted instead of celebrating it.