Harvard Student Tells World That Harvard Does, In Fact, Suck

Every once in a while, some poor sadsack will break his way out of the Harvard dungeon, and try to tell the world that Cambridge is actually a freaky Stepford hellhole where people wear crimson sweatshirts because they hide the blood. Usually this does nothing more than give Yale a superiority hard-on. But this time the sadsack is a Harvard junior named Alexander Heffner, and this time he’s writing for US. News and World Report.

Heffner’s piece, which has been making the rounds on the Internet, says what most of us already know about going to Harvard: don’t. His biggest complaints concern the faculty/student ratio in most classes, and the fact that people would rather gather in little groups and flash their Final Club rings à la Type-A Captain Planet than talk to you in the dining hall. Heffner writes:

Click here to find out more!For nearly the past three years, I have been a student at Harvard, a university whose formula for undergraduate prestige has created an international reputation far beyond that of even its closest competitors. But as any undergraduate who actually attends the school knows, the Harvard education is overrated. Harvard’s traditional emblem of Veritas, in practice, is a one-dimensional search for truth that weds students more to cold facts than to their teachers or classmates.

….For three centuries, Harvard has led a masterful public relations campaign to claim the mantle of what is best in American education, even if that means less community, less intimate interaction with professors and classmates, less “we” and more “me.” In reality, more often than not, faculty here are inaccessible, students are unengaged interpersonally, and two way education is an anathema.

Down with cold facts! IvyGate hates those. Heffner isn’t the first to express ambivalence about his chosen education, or remark publicly on his unhappiness. Complaining about Harvard seems to be a requirement of attending Harvard, in the same way that owning a Ferrari gives you license to bitch about the price of premium gas. But Heffner, to be clear, isn’t looking for sympathy. He’s trying to warn the girls over at Harvard, Please that they should tranquilize themselves while they’ve still got the chance:

Don’t make the same mistake. If you receive a notice of acceptance from the Harvard admissions office next month, enjoy the moment, but consider how disappointed you may be three years from now. If you aren’t accepted, or if you never applied, consider yourself fortunate: you will receive a better education in the bargain.

Just in case you’re starting to think that Heffner is some kind of grassroots hillbilly with a full scholarship and a heart of gold who woke up one day to find his nose to the Harvard grindstone, we should probably also tell you that the kid went to Andover. And if his raves about its intimacy are any judge, apparently courses at Andover consist of sleepover powwows on the area rug and fresh-baked cookies from somebody’s grandma:

I remember being impressed by the student-teacher ratio—small classes, sometimes just four or five people—and by learning so much about and from each other. I often feel obliged to tell people, even if they don’t ask, that it was Andover (not Harvard) that taught to me to think and write critically.

We don’t want to disparage Heffner too much, because he has a point about those huge lecture courses–it’s hard to do anything but play Sporcle and sporadically drool. But that’s the beauty of an Ivy League education, no? Skip the kumbaya and go straight for the bonus! We’re betting Heffner will last another week before Harvard calls in its PR SWAT team–or before he’s sacrificed and eaten by a group of rabid McKinsey interns.

Braving the Dailies: WhyDN Tumblr

Yale Daily News can’t catch a break. Since James Franco’s photo attack, a new tumblr has emerged featuring snark-laden photo memes of the YDN staff. Ladies and gentlemen: WhyDN.

Thing is, we can’t tell whether it’s mocking or celebrating them. Nor do we know if YDN actually has a hand in the site. However, we can confirm that the site features the likes of EIC Vivian Yee, columnist  online editor Esther Zuckerman, and News Editor Lauren Rosenthal. We’re also not sure how they got the pictures. (Some of the photos are on Facebok which suggests it might be really creepy Facebook stalking??)

The first post was March 14th, and, since then, the site has proven an interesting venture into the wilderness that is the campus newspaper. I mean what actually happens during those production nights when they’re all locked in there? What the hell is a Turkey Shoot?  And please explain what “cq” means.

What you get from the site is what you’d expect based on stories you’ve heard from friends at Ivy dailies. And, if it turns out that you don’t have any such friends (likely, given their cultish, insular tendencies) surely you can glean something from that person who constantly nags you for quotes. (Seriously, just let me go on pretending to ignore you.) Anyway, the point is that student journalists are one big collection of stereotypes — all of which are present on this tumblr.

Observe: the obsession with cats, the total disregard for classwork, complete overuse of journalism jargon, cult-like club incest (specially coined as Spec-cest at Columbia), and caffeine-fueled veins. (Not to mention the latent alcoholism that is the birth right of all journalists.)

Message to the creators of the site: As a daily nerd myself, pretty please expand this to other Ivy papers. We offer our RagTime for inspiration! YDN can’t be the only ones that cool — no matter what James Franco thinks.

UPDATE: First off, the tumblr now lamely requires a password.  In addition, we have received confirmation from EIC Vivian Yee of the YDN that the author is a member of the YDN staff. She also said, “As for whether it’s mocking or celebrating us — can’t it do both? Personally, I think it’s brilliant.” IG whole-heartedly agrees.

Don’t completely despair… some of the links still work, and we have all the memes we had saved from the site available after the jump.

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RagTime: Redonkulous Edition

UPenn Likely Letter Website: It’s Real, Damnit!

Over 200 lucky high school seniors recently received an email from the University of Pennsylvania admissions office suggesting that they check out “pennlikely.com,” where they would find more information about their coveted status as a likely letter recipient. (For those of you who do not spend your time reading college blogs: likely letter = you’re in.) Upon reaching the site, the students were faced with a video entitled “A special message for you [and the other 200-odd candidates who also received our email]…”

And it goes a little something like this:

Yes, Dean Furda, I was wondering why you were in the office after hours. I’m also wondering how you keep that strangely colored snow jacket so dry in the raging blizzard and whether you might have moved the statue of Ben Franklin so it doesn’t look like you have a second head. And yes, I would like to meet up for coffee.

Oh, that wasn’t a personal ad?

Sorry, jumped to conclusions. It’s just that I received a seemingly similar email last week with an invitation to check out ivydate.com (seriously!) based on my “exceptional personal, professional, academic, and leadership qualities,” so you can see how things would get confusing.

It seems, though, that some of the high school seniors exceptional enough to receive this email were similarly perplexed by the generic nature of the message, which preceded the physical copy of the likely letter mailed to the students. In fact, “Dean Furda” actually addressed these concerns on College Confidential, a website created to alleviate the burden created by particularly vocal neurotic parents on university tour guides. “I’m posting here for the first time,” wrote the digital dean, “to let you know the likely communication sent tonight is for real.” Word. Still, why is the very private likely letter on a public website? What would happen if I followed the postscript instructions on the website

P.S.
Send me an email at previews@admissions.upenn.edu to tell me one of the things that you can’t wait to try at Penn (that maybe you didn’t want to mention in your essay). I’ll share some of these during Penn Preview Days.

and sent you an email? For example, I’m really excited to try day drinking at your spring concert, Spring Fling, which I plan on attending when I come visit my Wharton friend in April.

If you never get back to me, I won’t be mad. I’ll just keep watching this video with bitterness that I was not one of the select few “likelies” back when I applied to college. Like the students interviewed later in the video, I was begging the admissions officers, not the other way around. So for all you likely candidates, screw you congrats! And don’t worry, it’s real. For the rest of you, just keep watching until about 1:40 in for something with which you can sympathize:

“I was so excited,” Scott from Wharton says of his admissions notification, “I got in a minor car accident.” Yep, we feel ya.

Brown Students Offended by Ad, Still Happier Than You, Though

We all know Brown is a bastion of political correctness and hippie happiness, a school that has love-ins and guitar circles instead of discussion sections. But the Brown Daily Herald threatened the peace last week by publishing an advertisement from the “David Horrowitz Freedom Center” that featured a list of “Palestinian Lies” along with a background picture of two shadowy figures in the background holding guns and Qurans (pretty sure the image is shopped though).

Horowitz, for those of you fortunate enough to not know, is a conservative “scholar” who equates wearing hipster Arab scarves to support of terrorism and believes Muslim Student Associations across the country are Saudi financed arms of the Muslim Brotherhood. Yes, he writes the jokes for us.

Showing their belligerent sides, Brown students took to the streets, over-turning cars and setting tires aflame – partly because they found the ad offensive, but largely because being violent hipsters is ironic.

Letters to the Herald called the advertisement “slanderous” and “full force-hatred,” among other things. To which, the BDH responded, in true troll fashion: “Free speechProblem?” (Well, there is a tiny problem; the free speech argument doesn’t hold up when you accept money from the people whose views you don’t endorse.)

 The BDH wasn’t the only Ivy newspaper solicited by Horowitz in the name of “peace.” Cornell and Columbia are both featured on the “Wall of Censors” because the Sun and Spectator found the ad too offensive to publish. Although Spec EIC Sam Roth told IG that they do not comment on individual ads, Dan Smullyan, Spec’s Ad Manager, told IvyGate,

It is the Columbia Daily Spectator’s policy not to publish expressly political advertisements – ones whose sole purpose to promote a particular point of view. We apply that policy across the board, without bias, and do not favor any side in the forum of ideas. If a group is advertising an event, we will publish their ad. But ads that are, in effect, paid editorials, will be judged inappropriate for publication.

The Sun was not available to give a comment to IvyGate, but correspondence posted by Horowitz’s group on their website includes an e-mail from the Sun that states that:

 The Sun reserves the right not to run any advertisement that might be deemed controversial.

In its response, the BDH contended that the Wall of Lies wasn’t hate speech.

Who do you agree with? Tell us in the comments.

UPDATE: A source says that this ad ran in the Yale Daily News today.

RagTime: Shock and Awe Edition

Cornell’s SAE Has History of Alcohol-Fueled Brother “Kidnappings”

As we reported on Friday, the circumstances that led to the death of Cornell sophomore and SAE brother George Desdunes on Feb. 25 are still somewhat mysterious. The university confirmed in a press release that George was “provided alcohol while in the care of certain members and associate members” of his fraternity, and that the resulting intoxication contributed to his eventual death. Still, much about the account struck us as frustratingly (and deliberately) vague.

It does seem pretty clear that the “members” and “associate members” described in the account were brothers and pledges, respectively. But, we still weren’t certain if the drinking occurred during a pledging event; nor did we know exactly what it meant that he was “provided” the alcohol. Today, however, we have a genuine theory.

Yesterday morning, IvyGate received an email from a someone claiming to be an alumnus of the Cornell chapter of SAE. We were able to verify that this person was in fact in the fraternity, and that he graduated within the past 10 years. He told us that during his time at Cornell, SAE pledging protocol involved a custom whereby new members were “encouraged to occasionally kidnap a brother.” The basic scenario involved three-to-five pledges corralling the chosen brother, then spiriting him away to an isolated location for some form of reverse-hazing.

Said our tipster:

At that point usually the pledges would haze* the brother in some way, mostly by just getting him really drunk (usually, really drunk).  When I read that [Desdunes] was “in care of … associate members” that is what came to mind. Especially around this time: late feb to early march is when pledging has fully gotten under way and before the busier stuff starts so that’s the couple weeks when the “fun” pledging activities went on.  But considering how drunk the kidnapped brother would be when he was returned, it’s not hard to see how it could have gone too far.

(*In a later email, the alumnus said that “hazing” was meant in “at least some jovial sense” that “usually meant that the brother was at least somewhat complicit.”)

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Princeton’s Debaucherous Cannon Club Returns! Well, Maybe

Back in 1973, Princeton’s venerable Cannon Club–not a backwoods haunt for Civil War reenacters, but an eating club for swanky Tigers–sadly shut its doors for good. Or did it? Yes, it did. Or did it? Yes, it did. Or did it? Yes, it motherfucking did, for the love of God.

…OR DID IT?

No, it did not! Aha! After about a bazillion empty threats to reopen over the past few years, the Cannon Club is finally, finally, finally going to resume its status as a glorified mess hall for Princeton keg warriors. The graduate trustee board–ever the eager spokesgroup–has sent an email to Princeton freshmen announcing the return of the club during the 2011-2012 academic year. The club been rebranded the Cannon Dial Elm Club following a consolidation with the nearby Dial Lodge and Elm Club (two other defunct eating clubs). It will be as exclusive as it’s always pretended to be, with an acceptance estimate of roughly 110 students.

And this time, the board is serious when they say it’s back. We know that because they used caps lock a lot, like when they wrote this:

WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO COMPLETE AND SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION THIS SPRING AT YOUR EARLIEST CONVENIENCE. YOU SHOULD NOT WAIT UNTIL NEXT FALL.

Don’t wait! Apply today! Tomorrow the building may be blasted into oblivion by a gigantic spaceship full of alien muskrats. You should probably email your application, because all paper will likely be incinerated. But wait, there’s more!

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RagTime: Developing Stories Edition

Cornell Rescinds University Recognition of SAE After Death of Brother

The Cornell chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon is no more. The University withdrew its recognition of the fraternity today — quite coincidentally the Friday before Spring Break; almost like they were trying to bury the story, huh? — and demanded that all brothers vacate the house by the end of the month, according to the Cornell Sun.  The University had previously put the frat on temporary suspension, pending the results of an internal investigation into the death of SAE brother George Desdunes on February 25. The house will be barred from operation for at least five years.

Desdunes’ death is a subject that’s dominated campus scuttlebutt this past month, though few officially confirmed details have yet come to light. Up until now, we knew that alcohol was involved, and that George’s body was found in the frat house. But, neither the university, nor investigators, nor (especially) SAE were forthcoming with regards to specifics. Now, however, Cornell is releasing a little more information:

The University found that Desdunes was provided alcohol “while in the care of certain members and associate members” of SAE and became incapacitated, [Vice President of Student and Academic Services Susan] Murphy stated.

“Even though the members and associate members recognized the condition Desdunes was in, they failed to call for medical care. He subsequently died,” she said.

We still don’t have any official confirmation about what exactly was going on that night — though rumors are aplenty. Parsing through Cornell’s statement, a few more interesting bits of information pop out. “Members and associate members” presumably means brothers and pledges, respectively; although we don’t know for certain whether there were pledging activities involved. The part about Desdunes being provided alcohol while “in the care” of others is peculiar, to say the least. And the bit about no one calling for help is incredibly sad, though unfortunately not all that remarkable. (For what it’s worth, Cornell’s Interfraternity Council passed a new “medical amnesty” resolution this week, with the hopes of avoiding that sort of inaction in the future.)

The Ithaca Police Department has been investigating the circumstances of the death in consultation with the Tompkins County District Attorney, which seems to indicate that investigators are looking into the possibility of some manner of malfeasance. However, we can’t prove that. The IPD declined to confirm the specifics of the investigation — or even that the investigation is still ongoing — and the Tompkins County DA’s office hasn’t yet responded to our inquiry for more information.

Whatever the case may be, this all still seems very opaque and suspicious. We’ll keep you posted. And if you have any information that can help us confirm what actually happened that night, hit is up at tips@ivygateblog.com.

UPDATE: After the jump, read the University’s entire statement, per Vice President for Student and Academic Services Susan Murphy:

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