Yale, New Haven, Conneticut

 New Haven is home to Yale. We went to New Haven to see a friend of mine and her husband, Yale was just a bonus.

We took the campus tour that is really meant for concerned parents. We had an enthusiastic undergrad guide who really made Yale sound like a fabulous place to study. I started wishing I could qualify, and this time round I’d only take stuff I found fascinating (which is what I did after 1st year anyway so I can’t complain).

The grounds are lovely but there was also something disconcerting about Yale, although it’s hard to put my finger on exactly what. For me the artificially aged architecture, such as on the façade of the library – designed with empty statuette spaces to make it look as if the building has been looted (!!) –  is unsettling although on the whole I can cope with this. Some of the modern detailing lends a kind of tacky mismatch of classical references which feels a little Da Vinci Code but I guess I can live with this also. I think it is perhaps the marked split between teaching and research here which feels like an expensive and false luxury for those can afford to ignore the fact that learning is a product of people dedicating their lives to this stuff.

Before I allow myself to launch into a bit of a diatribe here, full disclosure: I have undergraduate degrees in Arts and in Science and worked for a few years in research before moving to work for a science publisher for three years. Currently of course I have no job…

This might seem a little rich coming from someone who herself left research for the lures of the corporate world but I feel justified in this: if you want an education at this level, you need to know how this knowledge is won. Frankly, here at Yale, the picture isn’t pretty: dog-eat-dog career building, politics, personalities and cut-throat inter-institute competition seems to trump reasoned empiricism at every level.

And yes, I know it’s not just Yale, and yes, I understand there’s reputation to be upheld, but at what cost? Is scientific fraud and over-worked “young” scientists whose only certainty is they can be certain there aren’t enough tenure positions for all of them an acceptable price to pay? What about the local crime and violence in New Haven: can this be considered separate from the patent inequality of which specific types of Americans are represented in the hallowed halls and which groups can most frequently be sighted dropping off deliveries and mowing the hallowed lawns? And, no, it’s not new news that science isn’t perfect and academia is a seething pit of competing egos, but maybe it’s time to rethink the game here a bit – because the resources being squandered on individual agendas in places like these must be massive.

Ah, venting, exactly what the blog was invented for, n’est-ce pas?

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