Among the Ivy League schools, Yalies (like myself) take a lot of crap about going to school in New Haven. This is largely predicated on the New Haven of the past (late 80s, early 90s), which was a significantly more dangerous place.
But it really is a school in the middle of a city. The immediately surrounding areas have been cleaned up significantly (largely through the efforts of the University), but serious poverty is still only a few blocks away—and homelessness and crime often trickle their way onto campus.
It's a joke to other Ivy Leaguers that I lived off-campus my junior year and was about a block away from a shoot-out between cops and robbers. Tanstaafl, who went to high school in New Haven, was once notoriously asked "Did you spend the whole time ducking bullets?" when he arrived on the West Coast campus of his alma mater. But maybe that does Yalies some good?
From the Harvard Crimson comes a harrowing tale of fear and woe:
A few weeks ago, I witnessed a bizarre scene. As I crossed the Yard on my way to Lamont Library, I saw a dog stalking a squirrel while its owner stood close by. The dog crept forward stealthily, guided by an instinct that years of leashes and dog food could never completely suppress. Meanwhile, a crowd of bystanders gathered, titillated, perhaps, by the prospect of bloodshed, but at the same time confident that the dog would not succeed. Minutes passed. And then, with a rapidity and ferocity that shocked the onlookers, the dog pounced, caught the squirrel by its bushy tail, and proceeded to tear the helpless rodent to pieces. We gasped, not as much from horror as from disbelief. This was not supposed to happen.Heck, I'm pretty sure some Yalies hunt squirrels, not just their dogs—but that's besides the point.
Neither were the two armed robberies that recently took place on Harvard’s premises.
Much like dead squirrels, the idea of Harvard students being threatened with knives and umbrellas in the shadow of Widener Library is quite unsettling.
Crime is not a constant on the Yale campus, but it is a reality. Yalies do not live in fear of it, but they act appropriately. For example, girls do not walk home alone late at night; they know better.
I don't have any evidence to suggest that Yale alumns approach the world more realistically than, say, Harvard students—but I do think that it's important to remember that not all education comes from classroom experience. Living with crime is part of the real world, and all too many college students are insulated from this reality.
How sad is it that Mr. Herz-Roiphe is so shocked that dogs eat squirrels and that thieves will target seemingly rich college students?
(We'll ignore the hilarity that an umbrella is considered by Harvard students to be a weapon used in armed robbery.)