The Fabulous 00s: Y vs P

From Jennifer Shahade’s interview of Robert Hess, we learn:

“JS: Where do you want to go to college?
RH:I will apply early action to Yale.

JS: Why Yale?
RH:My sister goes there and my dad went there. I liked it when I visited.”

Hmm. This sounds like a blunder, or to be less strong, a “?!” move in chess terms.  I have great respect for Yale graduate programs, but Robert is going to be a freshman undergrad. Let’s step back and consider some items.

Why is Princeton rated higher than Yale undergraduate? Because we have smaller sections and we don’t allow graduate students to teach them! As a former graduate student, I can attest they can be a total nightmare (i.e. a ripoff considering the gigantic tuition at both places).  The last time I checked US News and World Report, Princeton had held onto its #1 ranking.  I think Stanford is usually right behind, Yale is somewhere…. else.  Update:  USN&WR ’09 now has Harvard (ewww!) #1, Princeton #2, Yale #3, MIT (What? They don’t read!) #4, Stanford #5.  I’m ewwwing Harvard because I think they are the biggest offender in the top 5 in terms of large, mediocre, sections.  It’s a whole different ballgame in graduate school, of course.

I know that often it’s the parents footing the bill, but still:  consider you’re a giant lecture hall in Section 13 of Econ 101 with 100 other gaping freshman and at the podium, you don’t have a professor, you have some grad-student-with-attitude.  These large and intensely mediocre sessions, to my mind, are just a ripoff.  In chess, it’s as if you paid $35,000 per year to hear Kasparov talk about the Gruenfeld and instead you got Pandolfini or Heisman.

Where do you freeze to death most easily?  Science Hill, Yale, winter months, with the whipping cross winds that blow through that ghastly construction.

Which institution features a moronic secret society “Skull and Bones” whose main achievement seems to be grave robbing?  Sssh, it’s a secret.

Where can you hear gunshoots routinely shattering the still of the night?  New Haven, CT.  Where can you hear the desperate cries of the bourgeois pierce the night when they didn’t get enough cinnamon on their cappucino?  Princeton, NJ.

Which one is closer to Foxwoods? OK, advantage Yale.  But Princeton is close to Atlantic City, there should be a competing chess tournament there!

Where did Einstein work?  Princeton.  OK in the Institute for Advanced Study, which is like a field trip to a featureless meadow.

Cheap liquor stores:  huge advantage to New Haven.

Pretentious “eating clubs” (not a Greek fraternity, in  most cases more snooty and absurd except for my hippie enclave “Terrace Club”) – monopoly, Princeton.

We should ask Ken Rogoff what he thinks.  He went to Yale undergrad but then taught at Princeton for a while.  Wait… he was the economic adviser of John McCain, he might need some psych evals after that experience!    Note to Rogoff, it is economically a bad idea – no, let me restate that- hara-kiri –  to “stay in Iraq a 100 years” unless we want to nationalize their oil, which we did try albeit too transparently, we got caught – with Bremer.  This is precisely the moment where the economic adviser could have “stepped up” (Sports Metaphor) and steered ol’ McCain in a more palatable direction.  But noooooo.

I’ll be the first to support the notion that alumni relatives, making the applicant a ‘legacy admit’, often make the decision a simple one.  Yet, in this case, I’m afraid the Princeton Tiger is mauling the Yale Bulldog in the undergraduate arena.  They have the right idea:  move the grad student to “Precepts”, an optional study section.   Smart!   Now, granted, some professors are duds.  One Princeton math professor threw down his chalk and sputtered in broken English  “I here to teach you… not to answer you question!”   Humorous in retrospect, but perhaps a miniature rip-off to the student.  Still, tuition at that time was $6,400 per year (!).  Now, we have the right to expect decent teaching in ALL our courses!  Or I would think.  Maybe every new crop of freshmen is so clueless that they think the big, mediocre, section is just a kind of ‘hazing’.

Enough of this bummer talk

Yale and Harvard undergrad is such an assembly line bummer topic.  Let’s move on to an “upper”, the 2009 Canadian Open!

93. vrekhson (03:28 26-Apr-09 EDT): Dear IM Ginzburg my name is Vlad Rekhson and I am one of the organizers of the 2009 Canadian Open Championship in Edmonton, Alberta between July 11-19.  This year the event will feature players like: GMs Shirov, Adams and more…  You may find more information  on and you may contact me at:
94. vrekhson (03:29 26-Apr-09 EDT):

And the Most Popular Search Terms to Reach My Site…

anne v 8
cochrane gambit 2
matthew messinger chess 2
paul morphy 2
minneapolis chess castle 2
michael rohde chess 2
chess chow 1
elizabeth vicary 1
cool house 1
yale chess team 1978 rohde 1

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

6 Responses to “The Fabulous 00s: Y vs P”

  1. Scourge Says:

    You are right on many counts there, but by far the most thought provoking is the idea of a major chess tournament in Atlantic City. Perhaps this could be a future location for the USATE. Of course some parents may not approve…

    The US Amateur Team East has been in Atlantic City (pre-gambling!). What a ghost town!

  2. coelacanth Says:

    Which one–Yale or Princeton–has spawned more hedge fund managers and other assorted undesirables?

    Hedge fund was, and still is, the ne plus ultra employment possibility for the senior Econ, History, Philosophy, or undecided major. 😀

  3. Dana Mackenzie Says:

    If you want good teaching, go to a small liberal arts college, like Williams or Swarthmore. People who go to Ivy League schools go there for reasons other than the quality of the teaching (IMHO).
    – Dana (Swarthmore undergrad alum, Princeton grad student alum)

    Probably not. Putting aside the Swarthmores of the world for a moment, and considering H-Y-P as the “triple headed allure of excellence in liberal arts, basic science, and engineering”, let’s think about the motivation of the incoming class. To be scientific, we could do a poll, and I don’t think this useful poll has ever been done. I would hazard a guess that 95% of the incoming freshmen polled (can include the parents in this poll) would state that they are expecting the highest quality of teaching in the land. The problem, again, is the universities have a cash cow in terms of all these admits and put them into large, mediocre sections. At Yale and Harvard, the professors are mollycoddled (i.e. don’t have to work hard at teaching) and grad students are pressed into service – a giant ripoff. I am starting to envision a solution in terms of computer-based (on your own speed) training to gain competence in, e.g. Econ 101 and do away with these absurd echo-chamber sections altogether.

  4. fluffybunnyfeet Says:

    As far as ‘legacies’ go, you really can’t improve on the musings of these two great philosophers:

    Hoover: Kent is a legacy, Otter. His brother was a ’59, Fred Dorfman.
    Flounder: He said legacies usually get asked to pledge automatically.
    Otter: Oh, well, usually. Unless the pledge in question turns out to be a real closet-case.
    Otter, Boon: Like Fred.

  5. coelacanth Says:

    Sure, the poor misguided young’uns say they expect the highest quality teaching. But what they want is that easy Ivy access to high-paying but socially useless jobs.

  6. Richard Reich Says:

    Ah, Yale envy strikes again! Does it really matter if Econ 101 is taught in a large section? When I went to Yale, most courses starting in sophomore year were in small groups. But some of the best courses were large lecture courses taught by senior faculty.

    The problem is when graduate students (teachers in training) take the helm in a large auditorium. Couple that with acoustic problems and you start to get the idea the students aren’t getting what they paid for. In a higher institution that has some of the students in these substandard conditions, it might be easiest to give them discount vouchers to reduce the tuition bill on a per-incident basis. I think Harvard is the biggest offender here. We should ask Bill Bradley what he thinks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: