The Princeton Tiger Tweets, Sucks

Rawr.

Good morning, everyone! In case you missed it: Last night, the Times of Trenton reported that shots were fired around 8 p.m. last night inside Princeton’s Nassau Hall. Two-and-a-half hours later, after an extensive building search by police, the all clear was issued; all, as they say, was well.

Now, you’d expect that any reports of a shooting—however insubstantial—would be taken seriously. The Princeton police force certainly wasn’t playing around when they responded to the 911 distress call. On a campus of thousands, though, there’s always one person (or, in this case, group of people) who makes light of potential tragedy in the hopes that nothing too tragic has happened; at Princeton, they’re The Princeton Tiger, the nation’s “third oldest college humor magazine”. From their Twitter:

 

Because school shootings are funny

Hilarious, right? (That joke probably would have been funnier if someone was actually shot, though.) Of course, this isn’t the first time the Tiger has been caught with its pants down. Earlier this year, during a bomb threat targeting “multiple campus buildings” at Princeton, the Tiger was ON IT.

 

7 minutes in heaven instead, anyone?

Wonderful. I know where I’m getting my smart takes on breaking news at Princeton!

Update: We’ve just received word that this tweet was sent during the early stages of the reports of gunshots. An anonymous tipster said the tweet was sent when people were panicking, locking doors and checking Twitter for real information about what was going on. Seriously, guys, the fuck? —Ed.

Wacko Bird: The Ted Cruz Story

If Ted Cruz is a wacko bird, does that make McCain an angry pig…?

If, forced at gunpoint, I had to choose the two most important fixtures of America’s political life, I’d pick the Ivy League and a pathological tendency to mythmaking. In the last 25 years, we haven’t had a single presidential candidate who’s avoided the Ivies entirely; with regard to creation myths, it’s fairly clear that the American public loves a good story. (See: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Mitch Daniel’s “drug mishap”, etc.)

The latest contender—and apparent pretender to the Oval Office—is Ted Cruz, our certifiably insane Republican senator from Texas. Unfortunately for everyone, his particular brand of crazy is neither lovable nor benign: the man has an agenda that appears to include paralyzing his own party, killing Americans under the guise of protecting Second Amendment rights/repealing the Affordable Care Act, and robbing the government of its ability to function via filibuster or vote. And don’t worry, he’ll tell you all about it.

Today, GQ published a detailed portrait of Mr. Cruz that highlights his ability to self-mythologize (“He seems content accomplishing nothing because, in Cruz’s view of the federal government, nothing is the accomplishment.”), antagonize his fellows (“John McCain…”[…]fucking hates Cruz,” one adviser of the Arizona senator told me.”), and terminal narcissism (“Every one of these guys thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room,” one senior Democratic aide told me. “But Cruz is utterly incapable of cloaking it in any kind of collegiality. He’s just so brazen.”). It’s the kind of thing you have to read to really believe.

I could go on, but, given IvyGate’s focus on news related to the Ancient Eight, I’d like to direct your attention to a quote that you’d be forgiven for overlooking (due to the other utterly ridiculous things in the profile):

The elite academic circles that Cruz was now traveling in began to rub off. As a law student at Harvard, he refused to study with anyone who hadn’t been an undergrad at Harvard, Princeton, or Yale. Says Damon Watson, one of Cruz’s law-school roommates: “He said he didn’t want anybody from ‘minor Ivies’ like Penn or Brown.”

Here, I’d like to relay two facts: first, he’s a Tea Party darling (you know, the people known for their hate of elitists); second, he’s positioned himself as a serious challenger for the 2016 GOP primary race. So, not only is he a hypocrite, but we’ll definitely be seeing him again. “Lesser ivies”—take note.

This just in: Cornell students are hilarious!

“Hilarity ensues!”

Actually, they aren’t.

The latest iteration of foolishness: CU Nooz, a heavy-handed (read: hideously unfunny) satire of Cornell’s wholly-legitimate student news corps.

Quoth their about page:

Seeing a void on campus for tried and true journalism, the founders of CU Nooz set out to create a forum through which only the highest quality reporting could be distributed to the Cornell community. The Cornell Chronicle, Daily Sun and other similar publications are all fine and dandy but the Cornell Community craves news published with the utmost regard for veracity and originality. We may not be “professional”, “accurate” or “recognized by Cornell University” but CUNOOZ is here to inform, educate and enlighten you. We’re not here to make you laugh. Don’t you dare fucking laugh.

Don’t worry, we’re not.

Institutional Ethics: Who Doesn’t Love a Good Story?

If, eight years ago, you’d have told me about the events of Nov. 6th—and the progress that we’d make in the intervening years—I wouldn’t have believed you; it was the triumph of a long narrative that began with the coming-of-age of the Civil Rights movement in America. Nov. 6 marked the beginning of the end of this Bildungsroman for our protagonist, Mr. Obama. More importantly, though, it cemented his legacy in the firmament of Black America.

These types of narrative are compelling—who doesn’t love a good story?—and one of our strengths as a country, I think, lies in our collective ability to mythologize just about anything1 (even our own transformation from colony to country).

Our other great strength, of course, is our unprecedented ability (and compulsive need) to jarringly reify our heroes: for every Barack Obama, there’s a David Petraeus; for every Dakota Fanning, there’s a Lindsay Lohan; for every Cam Newton, there’s a corresponding Patrick Witt.

Sport tends to lend itself to especially well to lore, which is the reason I bring up the latter pair of public figures. On the one hand, Cam Newton rose to national prominence with the Auburn Tigers for his quarterbacking ability, and has managed to stay in the good graces of the American public as a professional player for the Carolina Panthers. Pat Witt, on the other hand, has acted a slightly different role: his star winked into existence when he transferred from the Nebraska Cornhuskers to the Yale Bulldogs’ starting roster—the spotlight turned on him, though, as allegations of sexual assault surfaced. He hasn’t been heard from since. So where does that leave his legacy? It’s in question, at the very least.

College athletes in the Ivy League face a peculiar dilemma: they’re athletes, yes, but they’re also part of institutions that are mostly concerned with less physical pursuits. Thus the question: should the Ivies invest in those narratives?  Read the rest of this entry »

Institutional Ethics: Dartmouth’s (Not-So-Secret) Hazing Problem

A few nights ago, as I was waiting out the worst of Hurricane Sandy’s temper in the relative safety of my dorm room, I thought about my family—specifically my younger brother, who’s currently living and working in the Big Apple.

As I ruminated on the chances of his survival in his Midtown apartment (my fears weren’t allayed at all by Twitter’s grim prognostications), I had two important realizations: First, that he had—thankfully—made a pilgrimage to Dartmouth (where he’s a student) for Homecoming weekend; second, that he had probably weathered storms much worse than Sandy when he was hazed as a fraternity pledge.

Dartmouth is notorious among the Ivies for its pervasive Greek-letter culture. According to U.S. News & World Report, approximately 60% of the undergraduate population is affiliated with one of 26 fraternities or sororities. (Not-so-surprisingly, the fratty majority of the student body has a specific term for the unaffiliated that reflects the contempt they feel: GDI.)

As one might expect from a school with such a pervasive fraternity system, hazing is part of life at Dartmouth to an insane degree—it’s institutional, it’s expected, and absolutely everybody does it. It’s also been in the news: Andrew Lohse is currently America’s most famous frat brother for the dramatic reveal of his fraternity’s hazing and his own role in perpetuating it.

Hazing, as defined by the National Collaborative for Hazing Research and Prevention, is

“any activity expected of someone joining or participating in a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses, or endangers them regardless of a person’s willingness to participate.”

I’ve asked my brother on occasion what he thinks of frat life in general—I, for my own part, chose to remain unaffiliated and curious—and the answers I get from him are uniformly positive. It seems to me that the fraternity life suits him (it has certainly increased his already-impressive ability to chug), and that he’s done well for himself in the organization.

That said: he’s never spoken to me about his experience of being hazed, even when I’ve pressed him for details.

And therein, I think, lies the real ethical issue. There’s not much doubt that fraternity life can enrich its members, but the process involved in gaining admission is particularly despicable. (Not to mention the contempt that its exclusivity engenders.) Should the fraternity system be maintained if it necessarily involves—and even congratulates—harming undergraduates?

To put it simply: it’s complicated.  Read the rest of this entry »

Institutional Ethics: ROTC, Yale, and the T in LGBT

I’ve always thought that being Vice President of the U.S. is the best job in America; there’s a six-figure salary, great healthcare benefits, and an excellent pension plan (and only three constitutional duties, to boot)—what’s not to love?

One of the more important tasks a prospective VP has to complete is to argue with his rival in an internationally televised debate (though, in general, the outcome rarely has much of an effect on the presidential race itself). This year’s spectacle, however, felt different—the two men both appeared more presidential than their running mates. Whatever your political orientation, I’m sure that we can agree that the proceedings threw the opposing parties into stark relief, and also that the incompatibilities in ideology were clearly articulated.

Which, in a roundabout way, brings me to my point: Military law as embodied by the return of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) to Yale—which discriminates against transgendered individuals—is similarly incompatible with Yale’s stated nondiscrimination policies.

ROTC has had a long and storied history at Yale. The first units were established in 1926, just a few years after the end of World War I. ROTC left the university in 1972, amid the radicalism and anti-military sentiments of the Vietnam War era. It had remained banned in more recent years in opposition to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), the policy that prohibited gays from serving openly; however, when President Barack Obama repealed that law, the Yale Corporation saw fit to officially allow ROTC units back on campus.

It now appears, however, that the administration forgot to read the fine print: though DADT did allow gays to serve openly in the military, it didn’t affect the existing policy that bans transgender individuals from service. Read the rest of this entry »

Institutional Ethics: Scorpions X, the Not-Quite-Caped Crusaders

Cornell’s got a new crop of superheroes this year—except they’re more Watchmen than Superman, and less Batman than these guys. They call themselves Scorpions X (which is, in all honesty, a pretty sweet name), and they fight injustice via subversive and inflammatory social commentary: flyers, videos, a fake newspaper, etc. They’ve also got the Daily Sun’s panties in a twist. Who are they?

Well, nobody knows.

And apparently that’s a problem for some people—mostly the Cornell administration. They’ve even threatened to prosecute the good Scorpions for allegedly impersonating President David Skorton in a sarcastic school-wide email sent on Sept. 22nd. “We would like members of the Cornell community to be aware that we will continue to take strong measures against sexual and racist and homophobic assaults,” it read. “But we wish to make it very clear that blaming anyone in general for the actions of specific individuals is not the best way to alter the atmosphere of tolerance which fosters such assaults.”

Ouch. Would you like some ice for that burn, Dr. Skorton?

Judging by his spokesperson’s response—who said the email was “outrageous” and apparently “criminal behavior”—he probably needs it.

I find it incredibly ironic that the administration wants the students behind Scorpions X to step forward, but is simultaneously trying to prosecute them for exercising their First Amendment rights. (Aside: if you can’t take a little defamation, you probably don’t deserve to be president of anything.) It’s clear that these students are reacting to what they see as a pervasive climate of discrimination and hostility—problems that they feel that the university hasn’t adequately addressed. Read the rest of this entry »

Institutional Ethics: That Mostly Irrelevant U.S. News Thing

Summer’s slow death is a bittersweet time: we’re getting older, and the bellwethers of fall are here yet again—temperatures are dropping, slowly but ever so surely; the leaves haven’t yet changed, but there’s an acute sense of autumn’s potentiality in every branch; and U.S. News & World Report has published its tragically flawed list of “best colleges” once more.

Since 1983, the mostly-defunct print magazine has been forcing schools to comply with its idiotic ranking system ranking what it sees as the best colleges in the United States. Though I’m reasonably sure that its rankings were initially envisioned as a way to help harried students and parents navigate the murky waters of higher ed, the whole endeavor has slowly degenerated—nowadays, it’s almost as if U.S. News dictates the priorities of our nation’s educational complex as a whole. (They’ve got lists for everything: Best high schools, best graduate schools, best hospitals, best children’s hospitals, best health plans, best mutual funds, best places to retire, etcad infinitum. Everyone loves a list!)

The bottom line? If your school doesn’t make it onto the list or drops too many places, be prepared to lose applicants, donations, and interest—a price that many schools can’t afford to pay. It’s a terrifyingly Procrustean bargain.

…Which is why it shouldn’t surprise you that even elite institutions are feeling the pinch. This January, the New York Times reported that Claremont McKenna—one of the top liberal arts colleges in the nation—had been cheating the USN&WR rankings by inflating SAT scores since 2005. How has this affected their ranking this year, you ask? They’re 10th—a single spot lower than before.

I think that it’s insane that senior officials at one of the best institutions in the nation feel as though they’ve got to cheat to get ahead; it’s even crazier that their deception didn’t really affect their ranking at all. Even college admissions counselors—that is, those saints  people whose job it is to know more about universities than anyone else—are skeptical of the usefulness of USN&WR’s ratings.

So why do we have an annual bout of hysteria over The List? Read the rest of this entry »

Institutional Ethics: Harvard’s Plagiarism Problem

Institutional Ethics is a new column about the fun, fun world (really) of ethics in the Ivy League. Please forgive the ClipArt. —Eds.

When news of the Harvard plagiarism business first broke, I couldn’t help but chuckle—because honestly, how could they be so stupid? (Aside: As a Yalie, I’ll admit that it was nice for another Ivy—read: Harvard—to be in the news for less-than-honorable reasons.)

A bit more digging, however, shows that the case isn’t quite as open and shut as 125 Harvard undergraduates circle-jerking for exam answers. (Okay, I’m done with the Harvard bashing.) As the New York Times reported on August 31, the cheating may have been due to “innocent—or at least tolerated—collaboration among students”. Is collaboration on a final cheating? Well, yes.

When the Harvard Crimson revealed the scandal, they included a telling photograph of the exam instructions, exposing a heavy use of the phrase et cetera—which, as my friend and fellow Yalie Zara Kessler pointed out, is essentially code for “I’m out of specific things to say, so here’s a vague-ish Latin phrase that’s very open to interpretation.”

But that Times quote belies a particularly sticky reality: if working together on take-home exams has been implicitly tolerated in the past, who’s really at fault here—the institution or her students?  Read the rest of this entry »