The Tao of Stephen

The bottles were unmarked, which was strange. They sat on
a card table at one corner of the New Haven Green. Some cost
two dollars, some five, and others ten, and all were full of
liquids of varying color. The table was cluttered, gray, and
worn. Surrounding it were people, bus stops, traffic, and noise.
I gawked at the scene, dumbfounded in the middle of the city.
The vendor at the table noticed me, sensed my puzzlement as I
stood there. Like a good salesman, he approached, all energy.
He called himself Stephen. He was jazz cool, almost mellow, with
a smoky radiance and dread-locked hair. He grinned his introduction,
and asked me if I had any questions. I had one: "What are
these?"
Stephen told me that his bottles were full of "domestic
oil," trying to rouse my patriotic spirit. My heart saluted,
but my gaze froze stoic. I didn’t want him to smell my weakness-I
buy American. He spoke of the tradition surrounding oil, of its
age: "Oil is as old as man." He paused for effect,
then went on: "Naw, it’s even older. Oil is as old as the
dinosaurs." His statement was bold, but I wasn’t impressed.
I soon would be, though. Stephen was just getting warmed up.
His sales pitch was forceful, a winged barrage of fact and apparent
fiction. By the end of it, I would be exhausted. He began with
a geography lesson, explaining that "most oil comes from
Europe-countries like France, Africa and Saudi Arabia."
He followed with a passionate one-liner: "My products are
from right here." He had suppliers in New York who got him
the "stuff" he needed to make his oils. This frightened
me. I really didn’t want to douse my naked body in anything from
the big city. So I asked a simple question: "What’s in your
oils?"
He told me that his oils come from both plants and animals. When
I pressed him to clarify, he obliged: "See, some of my oils
come from rotting wood extracts. Some come from animals like
. . . like . . . whales." When he finished he frowned and
reluctantly corrected himself: "Well, not whales. Their
oil is used for burning. I guess I can’t really think of any
animals I use."
I tried to ease his obvious discomfort with another question:
"How do you get your oils?" I knew that Stephen had
"suppliers" in the city, but then again so do hospitals
and addicts. I wanted more information. But Stephen had clearly
pegged me as a dangerous outsider. He responded cryptically:
"My suppliers usually just ups the stuff to me." Silence
followed.
Our conversation resumed after an uncomfortable minute of quiet.
It was time to do business, and Stephen was ready for battle.
I began by asking him what his most popular oil was. He hurled
a quick response, no hesitation: "My best scent ever was
‘Back That Ass Up’-you know, like that popular song. Yeah, that
one sold like hotcakes."
With this remark Stephen launched into a rapid-fire explanation
of his marketing strategy. His insides were exposed for the first
time. "I don’t have a logo or anything. But what I do is
mix the oils and then give them unique names." He stopped
abruptly. My jaw dropped open. What was this? He had spoken freely
and obviously thought he had gone too far. I was too curious;
I was the competition, a potential oil kingpin who would seize
the market with all my Iowa cunning. We had been making progress,
and now it had all just fallen apart. It was my cue to leave.
I tried to seem indifferent as I departed, allowing just a hint
of interest to taint my goodbye. I waved and walked. Stephen
just stood there.
I wasn’t going to go back, but I had to. Stephen and I were connected.
We were star-crossed lovers without the love, man and merchant.
I missed him; he missed me. I was torn. I returned to the street
corner three days later, clutching a fistful of dollar bills.
Stephen was waiting. I wasted no time: "I want some oil.
Something raw, something classy." He sized me up as if to
decide what oil would best complement my Iowa scent. He declared
that I needed something "earthy" and handed me several
bottles, among them a container of "Amber" and a vial
of "Big Pappa." I chose "Ferdous." Stephen
told me that the word meant "highest heaven" or "paradise"
in Arabic. It smelled like fruit and after-shave; its potential
was infinite.
We made the exchange, money for oil, and I walked away, hopeful.
In my hand I clutched paradise in a vial. The buy was a religious
experience. Stephen was a little richer and I reeked of potential-odorous,
filmy potential that sloshed in a two-dollar bottle.

The perennial filing frenzy that descends on the fellowship
office at Undergraduate Career Services during the first weeks
of September has finally calmed. Legions of Yalies brandishing
applications and wearied from weeks of humble self-aggrandizement
have given up their annual siege of 1 Hillhouse Ave. The many
seniors who just couldn’t get that perfect Rhodes recommendation
or whose Fulbright interview flopped are now left to look for
real jobs or to seek funds elsewhere.
Yet the despair of these haggard souls is unwarranted. They need
look no further than the Yale College Dean’s Office website to
find Undergraduate Prizes, a catalogue of Yale’s many endowed
prizes-some offering hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. The
Dean’s Office, the Council of Masters, and the residential colleges
grant prizes for good sportsmanship, good grades, and even some
for good intentions. The John C. Shroeder Award is set aside
for the junior "who, in the opinion of the Committee on
Award, will find his/her place and play a good part in the good
labor of the world."
Other prizes, however, ask for something more. Looking closely,
the Yalie with even the most arcane talent, the most obscure
interests, and the most eccentric character traits can find the
trailhead of his or her own road to riches in Undergraduate Prizes.
Take, for instance, the F. Wilder Bellamy, Jr., Memorial award,
"for the junior or juniors who best exemplify the ‘qualities
for which F. Wilder Bellamy, Jr., is remembered.’" Just
what are these qualities? The Class Book of 1937 yields some
answers. Mr. Bellamy ("Babe" to his college chums)
attended St. Mark’s prep school and entered Yale as a legacy
in 1933. He lived in Davenport, managed two varsity sports teams,
majored in American History, and left planning to become an "investment
broker." For sure, not just anyone can live up to such achievements.
One of seven juniors who took home $2,000 for the Bellamy prize
last year, David Valdez (DC ’01) acknowledged that he and Mr.
Bellamy "share a certain mystique." Asked whether he
plans to become an investment broker, Mr. Valdez (who has no
quirky nickname) replied, "No, no brokerage business for
me. Entertainment. It’s only a little different."
Among the prizes that take more forethought is Library Map Prize,
"awarded by the University Library to the student who makes
the best use of maps in his/her senior essay or its equivalent."
Fred Musto, curator of maps at Sterling Memorial Library, takes
his duties as judge seriously. "I don’t know what sort of
humor you’re going to find in the Map Prize," he warns before
I begin my questioning. The Prize, he goes on to explain, usually
goes to a student whose thesis involves historical geography
or architecture. But it is not awarded every year, so spurious
prize seekers need not apply. "We know that some people
just look at the prize list to see what they’re eligible for,"
Musto scowls.
Another man keeping a watchful eye on the prize he oversees is
Beinecke Library’s Stephen Parks. Mr. Parks’s eyes shine with
nostalgia as he tells me about the award’s namesake Adrian van
Sinderen, "one of the grand old book collectors of his era."
The prize, $500 for sophomores and $750 for seniors, was endowed
by Mr. van Sinderen "to stimulate book collecting among
undergraduates, to encourage book-buying, book-owning, and book-reading
both as a hobby and as a fundamental part of the educational
process." Mr. Parks explains that the committee of judges
looks not simply for rarity, but rather for the "intelligently
chosen nucleus" of a personal library. Winning collections
have included editions of the Wizard of Oz and books on beekeeping.
"Of course, there’s always somebody who tries to win by
submitting his course books," Mr. Parks commented derisively.
The residential college prizes honor perhaps the most carefree
set of achievements. The Berkeley College Fellows Prize, for
instance, is set aside for "that member who has brought
the most light and air to the College." Some students feel,
however, that certain prizes demand the impossible. The Lawton
Calhoun Cup is awarded annually in Pierson College "to that
member of the college who, in the opinion of the Master, has
done the most to make Pierson a happy place." Says Pierson
neighbor Jack Snyder (DC ’03), "Bring happiness to Pierson?
A Sisyphean challenge, indeed."
Don’t feel up to the task? Perhaps, in the end, a real job doesn’t
look so bad.


Alma Matters
by Anthony Weiss

Ralph Nader complained that this year’s election is nothing but
a "Harvard-Yale game." Sure enough, if all are faithful
to their alma maters, the four major-party presidential and vice-presidential
candidates will visit Cambridge this November. Of course, Dick
Cheney might skip the proceedings, as he dropped out of Yale
to graduate from the University of Wyoming. But George W. Bush
should certainly be there, possibly even at his father’s side.
Al Gore and Joe Lieberman will have to part ways, as Gore and
his three daughters cheer the Cantabs, while Joe, a New Haven
resident and Yale alum, will say a bracha over the Bulldogs.
Of course, Ralph won’t be there-he got stuck at Princeton for
his bright college years.
Surprisingly, compared with other elections over the past 50-odd
years, the Ivy heritage of this year’s crop is unusual. Some
recent candidates attended name-brand schools, such as Harvard,
Yale, and Princeton. But many more graduated from schools that
most don’t associate with the power elite: the University of
Minnesota, Eureka College, and Whittier College, for example.
In the past century, Harvard College has produced two presidents,
but Gore should be wary of following in their footsteps: John
F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt both died in office. W.
would carry on the family tradition, as his father was one of
only two candidates in history to go from the Old Campus to the
White House. (The other was William Howard Taft, better known
for his corpulence than his achievement in office). Princeton’s
sole candidate, Adlai Stevenson, lost twice. Military academies
have produced two winners (Dwight Eisenhower, a West Point man,
and Jimmy Carter, an Annapolis graduate), while the University
of Michigan (Gerald Ford and Thomas Dewey) and the University
of Minnesota (Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale) produced two
election losers apiece.
Among candidates from lesser-known schools, Lyndon Johnson brought
home the bacon for Southwest Texas Teachers College, while Ronald
Reagan did Eureka College proud for two straight terms. Richard
Nixon wanted to go to Yale, but couldn’t afford the travel expenses
and instead went to Whittier College. He won two elections anyway.
Perhaps the most impressive is Harry Truman, who never graduated
from Spalding Business College, but nevertheless enrolled in
the University of Kansas Law School at the age of 38.
So while this year may be a "Harvard-Yale game," it’s
the first one in recent memory. The two schools do produce many
of the nation’s leaders in business, as well as most levels of
politics, but the presidency is a different animal. Few presidents
have actively marketed themselves as intellectuals. The man-of-the-people
image is a far more popular role, perhaps most masterfully played
by Ronald Reagan. The last major candidate to present himself
as a true thinker was Stevenson, who was crushed in consecutive
elections by the simpler, more grandfatherly Eisenhower. (It
also didn’t hurt that Ike won the war.)
However, Nader’s phrase implicates something more than mere education:
elitism. Coming from a Princeton graduate, this may be slightly
hypocritical, but the issue is worth examining nonetheless. Elitism,
too, however, cuts against the trend of recent history. FDR was
the last of the patrician politicians, and he was followed by
Harry Truman, a gritty populist. JFK could be considered as an
exception, but the Kennedys are a breed apart, eluding normal
categories. True, George Bush exuded a whiff of elitism, but
he rode on the coattails of the very folksy Reagan, and was soon
defeated by the down-home Bill Clinton. No other president in
the past 50 years has represented any class higher than the comfortable
middle class. Some, like Nixon, were downright poor.
The take-home message for Yalies who aspire to the highest office
in the land? Transfer to Bemidji State and learn to play the
sax.

I’m in an abandoned building full of anarchist squatters,
talking philosophy with Serotonin and Siv. Actually,
Siv is doing most of the talking. He’s an English philosophy
student, and we met him wandering in the cold Prague
night, looking for a place to sleep. Serotonin and
I were catching a night tram over to the squat when
bright-eyed Siv stepped from the shadows carrying a
bedroll.
Siv is 23, from Portsmouth, and he’s giving me his
Hegelian explanation for why he came to demonstrate against
the imf. "History is a progression," he says.
"There’s a direction to events, and a certain
truth, or oneness, or unity, you know, underlying it
all." Siv is lying on his sleeping bag, head propped
on a hand. His sheep’s-wool shock of brown hair sticks
out philosophically. "And this imf conference, this
meeting, it’s part of a progression that I think I’ve
been seeing unfolding for awhile now." Siv is on
the floor by Serotonin. I get the couch because I’m willing
to deal with spiders.
Our room is less vile than the rest because it’s a
workspace. These anarchists produce a newspaper, and
its refuse-paper scraps, books, leftist magazines and
empty beer bottles-clogs the place. We had to squeeze
by the rusty printing press just to get in the door.

Hard-core music pounds below us. The odors of beer and vomit
waft up through dirt-crusted floorboards. They mix with
the smell of printer’s ink and Siv’s overpowering feet.
He is off from school, working on organic farms across
Europe, and he doesn’t shower much. I rub my nose, wishing
my head cold were worse, and keep listening.
"You know, there were the demonstrations in Seattle,
ones in Washington, actions in the UK. Things are
happening, I think," he says. "Things are
changing. I want to be here to be part of it. If
I can find a reason to give for why I’m here, I think
that’s it."
He doesn’t ask me why I’m here and I don’t bring it
up. I wrote for Prague’s only English weekly last summer
and struck a deal with them for the fall: They pay
airfare, and I cover the annual imf and World Bank meetings
unpaid. My qualifications are scant. A week ago I was
only vaguely aware that the imf or World Bank existed,
and my present "expertise" derives from a pile
of articles I nervously absorbed on the plane.
But the paper needs scoops, and I’m poor. This means
I sleep with protesters. As the youngest staff writer,
I simply have to "find out from those kids why
they think they’re here." So I don a black hooded
sweatshirt and try to smell the zeitgeist.
Rubbing my nose again, I ask Siv if these demonstrations
share an underlying direction, if these events have
a goal. What world-historical endpoint are we seeking?
He is quiet for some time. "Empathy," he says
finally. "People having more of an understanding
of the feelings and lives of others. If those guys
in the imf hear us, maybe it will help them see that
what they do has an effect on the lives of millions
of other people. Maybe it will make them be more careful.
Feel some empathy for the people they are hurting,
you know?"
Siv turns to Serotonin and asks, "Do you know this
word, ’empathy’?" Serotonin is 20, from Dresden,
and his English-while better than our German-is patchy.
Bent over a joint that won’t come together, he hasn’t heard
a word Siv has said. His real name is Sven, but I’ve
called him Serotonin ever since we met at a rave last
summer where, with shaky-ecstatic hands, he scrawled his
address on a napkin for me-serotonin@ somethingindecipherable.com.
He cooks in Dresden, earning just enough to rent a
flat, travel, and rave. After we parted last summer,
Serotonin rave-hopped until he ran through his money.
He told me once that, if it were up to him, he would
be a techno-gypsy.
Siv asks him again about empathy. Serotonin shrugs
and passes the joint. Siv smokes and then tries to
define the word. It takes awhile. I ask Serotonin why
he came to demonstrate. "I heard about Seattle,"
he says. "I saw on tv the rioting and I want
to see if this will turn out the same." His rave-wear
sags off his slouchy, string-bean frame as he sits on
the floor. "You weren’t in Seattle, were you?"
Serotonin is the fiftieth person to ask me that since
my arrival. No, I wasn’t there, I say. It’s too bad
you missed such a great time, he tells me. "I
hope here it will rage like it did in Seattle,"
he says, blue eyes flashing above a grin.
Two days later, it raged. Thousands of masked anarchists-our
hosts among them, I imagine-showered police with sticks, petrol
bombs, and cobblestones torn from the streets. The riotlines
shot back tear gas, stun grenades, and water cannons. Cops,
youth, fire, blood, and tears flooded the streets near
the imf and World Bank’s conference center. The protests
were the most violent an imf meeting has ever seen,
and they had the newswires squawking. "5,000 protesters
unleashed a fresh round of fury against economic globalization!"
"6,000 enemies of capitalism marched on the IMF and
World Bank summit Tuesday!"
And the like. The press numbered the crowd, gave it one
name, and one intention. From what I saw, the labels were
ill-suited and the intentions lacking.
I saw my squat-mates just before the riots. Siv was extremely
worked up. But not about cops, globalization, or even Hegel.
"My trip at the moment," he said, "is that
I have got to have a piss. Can you point me to the
loo?" Later, Siv joined a peaceful march of samba
musicians, decked out in pink, who marched to the Congress
Center simply making noise. Serotonin ducked the violence
as well. Using his video camera as a prop, he obtained
an independent media press badge to help dodge arrest.
He watched the bash of the year from the sidelines
and, with any luck, got it all on tape.
Neither I nor my two comrades can say much about globalization,
the imf, or the World Bank. We were simply country-hopping
bums, looking for a place to sleep and an event to
join. We were not thugs, and we came to Prague in
good faith. I came for a story. Serotonin for a party.
Siv, for a piece of world history. I believe we found
all three.

 

Eric German is a senior in Branford College

The last page of the playoff edition of the New Haven Ravens
program tells the story of Rally and Ribbi’s wedding. Apparently,
the two mascots became Mr. and Mrs. Raven on August 6 at Yale
Field. Guests at the wedding included the Mariner Moose, who
flew in from Seattle, and local mascot Handsome Dan, the Yale
Bulldog. Immediately following the wedding, a baseball game was
played.
Baseball doesn’t seem to be a top priority for Ravens fans. It’s
certainly on the list-maybe above the sumo matches that occasionally
occur between innings, probably below the fireworks that follow
some games, and definitely below cotton candy and beer. Way below
beer.
This doesn’t make it easy for the Ravens marketing team. When
a Major League team makes the playoffs, selling tickets is not
a problem. For the Ravens, the opposite is true. Playoff games
are not on the schedules printed at the beginning of the season,
so people don’t plan on coming to them. The playoffs also happen
during the school year, when parents are not as likely to bring
their children. So the Ravens resort to gimmicks like fireworks,
giveaways, and having twice as many mascots as your average baseball
team.
On September 14, the Ravens hosted game three of the Eastern
League championship series. They had split the first two games
with the Reading Phillies, so the title was well within reach.
Game three also happened to be college night-for three bucks,
a few friends and I got seats at the picnic tables behind the
right field fence, free food, and two-dollar drafts. "Free"
tee-shirts, too-if you tipped the bartender. Because we were
basically the only ones out there, we got a lot of attention:
from other fans, from Ravens employees, from the players, and
from the mascots. The mascots’ attention was something we probably
could have done without-let’s just say that Rally wasn’t being
too faithful to his new bride or all that respectful of my friends’
personal space.
At first, everybody else in the crowd seemed to be enthusiastic
about the game, but that was probably just because beers were
half-off when the Ravens were up. We kept cheering well after
the Ravens took the lead, but that was probably just because
we were drunk. By cheering for the Ravens I mean, of course,
harassing the opposition. In particular, we belittled the Phillies
right fielder’s ability, his home town, and members of his family
whom we had never met. And with such a small crowd, he heard
every word we said. I know, because he laughed at us. The Ravens
players heard us, too, because their right fielder tossed me
a baseball, and the pitchers in the bullpen joined us when we
started the wave.
That one tossed baseball began the greatest friendship with a
professional athlete that I’ve ever had. I didn’t know it at
the time, but one short day later, I’d be at a bar putting back
drinks with Keith Gordon, ex-Major Leaguer. Our enthusiasm had
paid off: Two sales executives who were working the game came
over to thank us for coming out, and we ended up with free tickets
to the next night’s game.
The Ravens had won, and we were back for the series final-this
time behind the home dugout. That night, the Ravens became Eastern
League champions, clinching the "World Series of aa baseball
on the East Coast of the United States of America." I found
myself chanting "We’re Number One!" along with the
fans and players, celebrating my two-day-old loyalty. We felt
like we were part of the team, especially after our friends from
the night before stopped by to talk to us, and even more so when
they invited us to tk’s to celebrate with the Ravens players
and staff.
It was there that I ran into Keith Gordon, the Ravens player
who had thrown me that baseball. And that’s how he ended up buying
me drinks. There was really no way to turn him down. I tried
all the excuses I could come up with. I told him I had already
had a couple beers. He grabbed the waitress and told her to get
me a Sam Adams. I reminded him that I was there as a journalist.
He yelled across the bar and told the waitress to make it two.
With a glass of beer in each hand, I pointed out that I weighed
much less than the average professional athlete. He bought me
another beer.
Gordon’s Major League stats aren’t exactly impressive. In three
games with the Cincinnati Reds in 1993, he had one hit in six
at-bats. He struck out twice. He told me he got called up by
the Orioles for a week but I guess he never batted in Baltimore.
In his eleven years in professional baseball, he didn’t last
a month in the Majors. He might never make it back. But he didn’t
seem upset by that. He almost quit before the season and may
not play next year.
Even if Gordon does return to baseball, he won’t be coming back
to New Haven. For the last few seasons, the Ravens have been
a farm team for Seattle, and now the Mariners are pulling out
of the deal, taking the players with them. It’s not a surprise.
New Haven doesn’t appreciate the team-attendance records are
the lowest in the league. Next year, the Ravens will still be
here, but a new flock of players will play for the St. Louis
Cardinals farm system. Chances are, Mark McGwire won’t be among
them. And maybe most of the Ravens won’t make the big leagues.
But when has Mark McGwire ever bought me a beer?

 

 

Michael Gerber, a senior in Ezra Stiles
College, is a contributing editor for
TNJ.

In the title of Michelin’s new Green Guide to Yale University
and New Haven
, the city and the institution of higher education
huddle together, like college sweethearts in a twin bed, separated
by a mere conjunction. After 300 years of often strained coexistence,
Yale and New Haven, it seems, have finally joined together in
a blessed union that is a worthy subject for one of the world’s
most respected travel publishers. The blandishments surrounding
the new Guide’s birth confirm this impression: At a press conference
celebrating the Guide’s completion, both Yale University President
Richard Levin and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, Jr., emphasized
the harmonious rapport between Old Blue and the Elm City. For
blushing bride DeStefano, the Guide "underscores the beneficial
relationship between the city and Yale." Levin, the proud
groom, echoes these sentiments: "I can think of no better
way to honor our partnership." Naturally, I approached
Michelin’s Guide expecting a cheerful depiction of its two subjects
and the union that ended years of strife, some sort of Mid-Connecticut
Night’s Dream.
However, the saga is anything but romantic or comic, more akin
to that of Aeneas and Dido or Catherine and Heathcliff than Hermia
and Lysander. The story revealed is more like a bad high school
play in which the school’s diva grabs the spotlight and forces
the more timid actors into the unlit corners of the stage. Rather
than celebrating a peaceful and prosperous relationship, the
Guide seems to parody the Yale-centrism that many see as the
perpetual stumbling block in Yale-New Haven relations with its
onslaught of Yale matter and its dearth of New Haven content.
After wading through a Cervantes-length account of the University,
one almost comes to believe that Michelin intentionally ignored
its Sancho Panza in favor of rosy tales of its Don Quixote.
One need not even open the Guide to get a sense of its true focus.
Although the words "Yale University and New Haven"
are emblazoned across the center of the cover, all the other
graphics feature only Yale. Directly under the title is a picture
of a corner of the Branford courtyard, the vista most over-used
by Yale’s publicity machine. Beneath this photo, Handsome Dan
sits on the Yale Fence, a Georgian window peeks out from behind
its cover of ivy, and the now-ubiquitous tercentennial logo shines
forth in pure white text. Together, the trinity proves the equity
proclaimed by the Guide’s title to be as illusory as the University’s
policy on alcohol consumption. The only reminder of the non-Yale
Elm City is indirect at best: small, vertical text reading "with
hotels and restaurants." This, despite the Guide’s own acknowledgement
that New Haven’s trademark green and three churches are "the
most beautiful and most photographed view in New Haven."
In a Guide that ostensibly depicts New Haven, the relegation
of its most beautiful sight to a murky watercolor at the bottom
of two later pages seems too contradictory to be accidental.

The first eight pages, a visual tour preceding the text, reinforce
this impression with a blitz of Yale-related images that overwhelm
the occasional mention of New Haven, present only when absolutely
necessary on the title page, the table of contents, and the first
map. The successive visuals seem to be drawn from the Admissions
Viewbook. Included are the Yale Seal in its full-color, Latin
and Hebrew glory; a watercolor of Harkness Memorial Tower and
the Memorial Gateway (minus construction workers and dumpsters);
a student poring over her work under autumn leaves; and a map
that features all of Yale but lacks such New Haven destinations
as Wooster Square, East Rock, and Long Wharf.
When the introduction proper begins, New Haven reenters the picture.
Because it predates the University by some 63 years, the city
necessarily occupies the first half of the first page of the
introduction’s history section. However, with the arrival of
Yale in the middle of the page, New Haven almost disappears.
Throughout the section, Michelin glosses over grand events in
New Haven history in favor of petty particulars concerning Yale.
Two of the most important events in New Haven’s history, the
Amistad affair and the concealment of the regicides at West Rock,
receive nearly the same amount of space as the opening of Yale’s
Henry R. Luce Hall.
After a short list of hotels, restaurants, and night spots, Yale
receives 42 pages of the Guide, with headings that cover such
crucial topics as "Yale Today," "Traditions,"
"Student Life," "Legacy," "Three Centuries
of Growth," and "Evolution of the Campus." This
section includes two walking tours of the campus, describing
in detail everything from the phallic wonder of Harkness Tower
to the grandiose mansions on Hillhouse Avenue to the unforgettable
tablet in Berkeley’s wall commemorating the site of Yale’s first
telephone exchange. It also includes four-page Guides to both
the British Art Museum and the University Art Gallery, not only
describing in detail the different sections of each museum floor,
but also providing lessons in art history for the uninitiated
reader.
If one disregards the occasional Yale office in the New Haven
Savings Bank building, pages 64 and 65 showcase the Guide’s first
Yale-less photo. These are followed by the ten pages that constitute
New Haven’s portion of the Guide. Although New Haven is, surprisingly
enough, much larger than Yale, the Guide provides only one extensive
walking tour of the city and a paragraph-long Wooster Square
tour. The main walking tour seems to embody the work’s main flaw:
At no point can the tourist turn in a complete circle without
seeing Yale University. The tour is more an inculcation of the
Yale administration worldview than a way to become acquainted
with New Haven.
Unlike the detailed four pages that the Yale University Art
Gallery receives or the one page devoted to the Collection of
Musical Instruments, only one paragraph deals with the New Haven
Colony Historical Society. Like Kline Biology Tower rising over
the city from the top of Science Hill, Yale’s portion of the
Guide drastically overshadows New Haven’s.
The Yale-centrism of the Guide is most likely a result of its
progenitors, the folks at the Yale Tercentennial Office. A Guide
by a world-renowned publisher that skips over as much of New
Haven as possible seems to be the perfect accompaniment to a
celebration that will be broadcast throughout the world so that
alumni need not return to New Haven. However, the Guide is nowhere
near as subtle nor as cunning as the University’s standard modus
operandi; the obtrusiveness of the Guide’s slant leads one to
search for answers outside the frequently shadowy operations
of the University. In fact, the impression that remains with
the reader after finishing the Guide -that something is missing,
that some crucial part has been withheld-is so strong that this
failure seems intentional. Could the lack of New Haven content
be a deliberate ploy on Michelin’s part to critique and subvert
the University’s magnificent tercentennial celebration with a
chilling portrait of unrelenting Yale-centrism? In accepting
Yale’s proposal and publishing this opus extolling the wonders
of Old Blue, was Michelin able to bite the very hand that fed
it the idea without arousing any notice? Could Michelin, like
Shakespeare, Molière, or other subtly subversive scribes,
have managed to indict the institution that it claims to praise?
By packaging a version of The Yale (albeit somewhat more Yale-centric)
under a title that includes both Yale and New Haven, the Guide
parodies the very concept it embodies. Still, the question of
authorial intent remains. Did Michelin merely do an inadequate
job, or did the company succeed in criticizing its own benefactors?
If Michelin chooses to turn the university-town theme into a
series, future Guides may provide an answer: a Princeton Guide
focusing entirely on the golf courses, yacht clubs, and bmw dealers
near campus; a Brown Guide without any sort of logical structure
that allows the reader to choose his or her own path through
the text; a Harvard Guide that leaves the reader miserable but
sure that somehow, someday, the reading experience will prove
invaluable. Any one of these works would prove that Michelin
intended much more than praise in its Guide to Yale and New Haven.

 

Patrick Casey Pitts, a sophomore in Berkeley
College, is on the staff of
TNJ.

Dazenia Henry’s son was awakened in the middle of a cold December
night last year, shackled, hog-tied, and put on a bus heading
south. Twenty-two hours later, he arrived at Wallens Ridge State
Prison, a super-maximum ("supermax") security facility
in Virginia, and was placed in a cell where he would spend 23
hours of each day for the next six months. Neither Marcus Henry,
a 23-year-old New Haven man who is serving the sixth year of
a 45-year prison sentence, nor his family was warned that he
would be moved out of state. Only when one of Marcus’s friends
called Ms. Henry did she learn that her son was in Virginia.
"I liken it to slavery," she told me. "They sold
our families 200 years ago, and they’re doing it again now, selling
black men to the lowest bidder. They used to sell to the highest
bidder; now it’s the lowest."
I made plans to meet Ms. Henry at her home one day in late September.
Walking along Tilton Street in New Haven’s Dixwell neighborhood,
I passed children riding bikes and neighbors sitting on their
porches, enjoying the weather and each other’s company. Ms. Henry
had not yet returned from work when I arrived, so I waited on
the cement steps in front of her home, a grey and maroon Victorian
split into six apartments. Soon, a cream-colored car pulled up,
and Ms. Henry, a plump 42-year-old black woman, got out and approached
me. Her face wore a smile and no makeup, and a loose plaid shirt
covered the top of her blue spandex pants. Her home was a mess,
she told me apologetically. Did I mind if we went for coffee
or sat outside? She joined me on the top ledge of the steps and
told me the story of her son’s transfer to Virginia.
Marcus Henry was one of 484 Connecticut inmates sent to Wallens
Ridge last year. The Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC)
has described the transfer, which took place in three installments,
as "an immediate response to prison overcrowding in the
state of Connecticut." The proposal to send prisoners out
of state, however, was made before overcrowding was a pressing
concern. In 1995, the Connecticut Legislature unanimously passed
Public Act Number 95-229, which authorized the "commissioner
of correction . . . to improve the operation of the state’s correctional
facilities by entering into contracts with any governmental or
private vendor for supervision of not more than five hundred
inmates outside the state." The Act sat silently on the
books until last fall, when the prison population swelled to
dangerous levels. In October 1999, Connecticut signed a one-year
contract with the state of Virginia to house up to 500 of its
inmates, and the transfer began.
Governor John G. Rowland and DOC Commissioner John J. Armstrong
assured the public that only the "worst of the worst"
criminals-those with the highest security levels, longest sentences,
and disciplinary problems-were being sent, a fitting group for
a supermax prison. But a brief look at the list of transferred
inmates belies the use of these criteria. Many have sentences
of between one and three years, and over 40 are serving time
for non-violent drug offenses. It’s difficult to call even Marcus
Henry, who is serving 45 years, the "worst of the worst."
When Marcus was 17, he and some friends got high and went to
an after-hours club to steal drug money, his mother told me.
During the robbery, a man inside the club shot at them, and they
fired back, killing him. Marcus was charged with felony murder
and robbery, and his court-appointed attorney encouraged him
to accept a plea bargain, a typical recommendation of over-burdened
public defenders. Marcus pled guilty to manslaughter and two
counts of robbery. "I love my child dearly," Ms. Henry
told me. "The last place I expected him to end up was in
jail. He’s not the monster the Department of Correction is making
him out to be."
Marcus is no longer incarcerated at Wallens Ridge. This past
July, he and 156 other transferred Connecticut inmates were moved
to Greensville Correctional Center in Jaratt, Virginia. Greensville
is intended to house prisoners with mid-level security classifications,
and it offers educational, religious, and rehabilitative programs,
which Wallens Ridge does not. Ostensibly, inmates were transferred
as a reward for good behavior, but their transfer raises an important
question: If these inmates can be safely housed in a mid-level
security prison, why were they ever locked up in a harsh supermax?
The answer has a lot to do with the booming $40 billion-a-year
corrections business, which many opponents brand the "prison-industrial
complex." These critics argue that prisons are being built,
regardless of need, because prison-building serves bureaucratic,
political, and economic interests in post-Cold War America. Most
complaints about the prison-industrial complex have been launched
at the privatization of prisons, but private companies are not
the only ones turning a profit. State governments are also players
in the industry-customers and "vendors," as Connecticut’s
1995 Act labels them. Connecticut sees its $11 million-a-year
contract with Virginia as a money-saver, because it pays $64
a day for each prisoner instead of the $92 it would spend to
house these "high security risks" in Connecticut. When
I asked Ms. Henry why she believes Marcus was sent to Virginia,
she answered with surprising readiness: "It’s less expensive
for them to farm our children out."
If the contract is a money-saver for Connecticut, it’s a money-maker
for Virginia, a proud entrepreneur in today’s corrections business.
Some six years ago, Republican George Allen’s get-tough-on-crime
rhetoric won him Virginia’s gubernatorial election. Although
crime had been on the decline in the state since 1993, Governor
Allen introduced harsher sentencing laws and massive prison construction.
Prison spending grew twice as fast as spending on higher education,
totaling over $1 billion in less than a decade. Today, Virginia
incarcerates roughly 30,000 of its citizens, and nearly 40 percent
of this prison population is classified as maximum-security,
the second-highest percentage in the United States. Nonetheless,
Allen’s prison-building spree over-projected the number of beds
the state would need by about 4,500. At an average construction
cost of $50,000 per bed, that meant Virginia had wasted $225
million. So, beginning in 1998, the Old Dominion State opened
its doors and began importing human beings to fill its empty
beds and replenish the state treasury. Today, Virginia has contracted
not only with Connecticut, but also Michigan, Vermont, Delaware,
New Mexico, Iowa, and the District of Columbia, and has filled
approximately 3,500 of those wasted beds with out-of-state inmates.
The prison industry has stuffed not only Virginia’s coffers,
but the pockets of several towns and their residents. Prisons
mean jobs for depressed regions. They offer year-round employment
and are recession-proof, even recession-friendly, because prison
populations tend to grow during hard times. A few years ago,
Big Stone Gap, va, was urgently in need of a new industry. Nestled
in the heart of Appalachia, the town is home to fewer than 4,800
people. Its web-page offers the mayor’s greeting, information
about the town government and churches, and area football schedules.
But the site doesn’t mention the layoffs at Westmoreland Coal
Company in the early 1990s or the devastation these layoffs caused.
Once dependent on the dying coal-mining industry, the people
of Big Stone Gap were desperate for jobs, and a prison offered
them just that. In April 1999, Wallens Ridge-Virginia’s second
supermax prison-was completed. The razor-wire-enclosed complex,
which sits atop a 2,900 foot rocky ridge noted by locals for
its rattlesnakes, gave the people of Big Stone Gap steady jobs
with benefits and high salaries.
The new industry also gave people inexperienced as guards badges,
guns, and authority over more than 1,000 prisoners, half of whom
were not from Virginia. Critics, including politicians, prison
issues groups, and the NAACP, have called the mix of these guards
and prisoners a disaster waiting to happen. Nearly all of the
guards are white, while roughly 80 percent of the prisoners transferred
from Connecticut are black or Latino. Prisoners claim they have
been taunted with racial slurs, and Confederate flags and memorabilia
decorate guards’ cars and the warden’s office. But racism is
only part of the reason inmates have had difficulty adapting
to Virginia’s prison system. Wallens Ridge does not provide any
educational, religious, or rehabilitative programs, on which
the Connecticut prison system prides itself. Inmates who were
only classes away from receiving geds were whisked off to Virginia
and lost their chance at the degree. Reading materials, including
Bibles, are frequently confiscated, and inmates are locked in
solitary confinement for all but one hour a day-and that only
if they behave well. Wallens Ridge also violates privacy and
attorney-client privilege, monitoring and taping phone conversations
between inmates and their attorneys. Prisoners at Wallens Ridge
tell disturbing stories about their conditions. Almost all allege
improper hygiene and medical attention. Some say that female
guards watch them shower and that guards have pretended to sodomize
inmates with metal pipes. Others talk of being tied to beds,
spread-eagled and naked, for up to 72 hours.
According to prisoners, however, even these abuses pale in comparison
to the guards’ use of guns with rubber bullets and electric shocks,
which are illegal in many states. Connecticut Prison Watch reports
that, during Wallens Ridge’s first year of operation, guards
fired 80 rubber bullets and used stun guns 112 times, allegedly
shocking inmates for such minor infractions as refusing to return
a paper cup and verbal insolence. The shocks are far from harmless.
Lawrence James Frazier, a Bridgeport man serving a sentence for
rape, died on July 4 after guards shocked him repeatedly with
a stun gun and he lapsed into a coma. When Amnesty International
asked to investigate conditions at Wallens Ridge following his
death, Virginia prison officials barred the international human
rights group from visiting the facility. Frazier’s death was
not the first at Wallens Ridge. Two months earlier, David Tracy,
a 20-year-old Bridgeport resident sentenced to 30 months on a
cocaine charge, died at Wallens Ridge four months before his
release. His death was ruled a suicide, but his family and Connecticut
newspapers have alleged that he was killed.
One abuse undeniably suffered by all of the transferred inmates
is the distance they have been taken from their families. Big
Stone Gap is roughly 720 miles from New Haven, which makes visiting
difficult or impossible for prisoners’ families. Ms. Henry has
only been able to visit Marcus once since he was moved to Virginia,
and the trip cost her about $200. The cost of phone calls is
another burden. Phone companies know a profit-maker when they
see it, and prisoners are perfect customers: Phone calls are
one of their few links to family and friends, and they must make
most of their calls collect using whatever carrier the prison
chooses. So, entering into mutually-profitable contracts with
docs across the nation, phone companies charge inmates up to
six times the normal rate for a call. Ms. Henry and Marcus spoke
daily when he was incarcerated in Connecticut, but since he was
moved to Virginia, they have only been able to speak once every
two weeks. Still, Ms. Henry has been spending thousands of dollars
to maintain this minimal contact.
The transfer of inmates from Connecticut to Virginia has generated
vocal opposition, not only from inmates’ families and prison
issues groups, but also from the Prison Guards’ Union, which
fears losing jobs. But despite concerns on all sides, there are
no plans to bring inmates home; according to the doc, there’s
just no space in Connecticut. The state recently renewed its
contract with Virginia for another year, as government officials
claimed their hands were tied. Earlier this year, public opposition
quashed plans to convert New Haven’s Goffe Street Armory into
a new jail. At the same time, the public clamored to have the
prisoners returned from Virginia. But, said officials, you can’t
have it both ways: If you don’t want a prison in your backyard,
then you have to accept prisoners being sent out of state.
For the most part, state legislators’ opinions about the transfer
of prisoners to Virginia correspond to their feelings about the
prison industry in general. Those who advocate a get-tough-on-crime
stance argue that prisoners should have considered consequences
before they broke the law, while those who challenge the prison
system oppose the transfer. State Representative William Dyson,
however, understands the issue differently. He supports sending
prisoners to Virginia out of necessity, but he finds fault with
the entire prison system. To him, the transfer is the lesser
of two evils. "First and foremost to me is that we don’t
build more prisons," he says. "Building prisons doesn’t
work. No matter how many beds we create, we fill them up."
Dyson also points out that Connecticut has spent twice as much
on corrections as on higher education since 1991. "What’s
in better shape, our schools or our prisons?" he asks me
rhetorically. "And we deem ourselves a civilized society.
We sacrifice our young to demonstrate that we’re tough on crime."
According to Dyson, sending prisoners to Virginia allows state
funds to be given to education that would otherwise be swallowed
up by prison construction.
But as Dyson acknowledges, framing the debate as only two-sided
glosses over an important question: Why has Connecticut’s prison
population surged to a dangerous level of overcrowding? Between
1960 and 1980, the state’s prison population was relatively stable,
hovering around 4,000. Today, it is approximately 18,000, and
projections for the year 2005 are as high as 22,000. Curiously,
violent crime in Connecticut decreased by roughly 20 percent
in the past decade, but the inmate population keeps growing.

The paradox is easily explained. Prisons are flooded largely
due to the War on Drugs. Today, over two-thirds of Connecticut’s
inmates are serving time for non-violent, mostly drug-related,
offenses; more than 1,000 are incarcerated solely for drug possession.
Also contributing to the soaring prison population are the mentally
ill, who found themselves forced out of closing mental hospitals
in the 1980s and 1990s only to be re-institutionalized-this time
in jail. Estimates of the number of mentally ill inmates range
from five to 14 percent of the prison population. Connecticut’s
Prison and Jail Overcrowding Commission also attributes the growth
to the "admission of 14 and 15 year olds due to [a] shift
in the Juvenile Justice System."
As more and more drug offenders are thrown in prison, Connecticut’s
drug rehabilitation facilities become increasingly insufficient.
Today, there are only 262 beds available in residential treatment
centers and over 12,000 inmates eligible for those beds. So instead
of being rehabilitated, drug offenders are sent to prison and
discharged without treatment. This makes communities less safe,
argues Sally Joughin, who co-founded People Against Injustice
in 1996 to respond to rampant abuses of the criminal justice
system. The group, which Dalzenia Henry joined after her son
was moved, has organized around a variety of issues including,
most recently, the transfer of prisoners to Virginia. Joughin
believes that instead of transferring prisoners out of state,
Connecticut should focus on finding better solutions at home.
Much of her emphasis is on Alternative to Incarceration Programs
(AIPS). If non-violent drug offenders and the mentally ill were
sent to rehabilitation centers rather than prisons, she told
me, there would be no need to send prisoners out of state, and
everyone would be better off. "Prison should be a system
of correction, not only punishment," she said. "Or
they should at least stop calling it the Department of Correction."
It comes as a surprise to many that aips, like drug rehabilitation
centers and mental hospitals, are cheaper than prisons. Substance
abuse programs, for example, run about $5,000 per person per
year, while it costs over $25,000 to keep a person in prison.
According to recent polls, the people of Connecticut support
treatment programs, at least in theory. Why, then, isn’t the
state filled with AIPS rather than prisons? The answer is money
and politics. Legislators don’t want to be labeled "soft
on crime" for supporting treatment rather than incarceration,
especially in an election year. Furthermore, just as no one wants
to live next door to a prison, no one wants to live next to a
treatment center, and there are more factors stacked against
aips. Connecticut pays towns to host prisons, which do not pay
property taxes. For prisons, this PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes)
is 100 percent of the assessed property value, but the state
pays less for facilities like treatment centers. Towns can also
negotiate for certain benefits when they agree to build a prison.
For example, Cheshire, which is home to five of Connecticut’s
prisons, has its sewer system managed and paid for by the state.
"The town can make out like a bandit," Dyson told me.
Four more Connecticut towns are now poised to rake in profits.
In September, East Lyme, Montville, Somers, and Suffield submitted
applications to the state for yet another planned prison expansion.
One East Lyme selectman said that enlarging the town’s prison
would be like bringing in ten new businesses.
The inmate population is expected to swell by 4,000 over the
next five years, and Connecticut has no plans to check this growth
by funding rehabilitative programs. Twenty-five million dollars
of this year’s budget are already earmarked for incarceration.
As long as prison building remains both politically expedient
and a source of profit for localities, few of those in power
will have a reason to take the long view-and we will all pay
the price.

 

Jessica Bulman, a junior in Berkeley College,
is a managing editor for
TNJ.

On Monday, October 28, 1963, Yale Daily News Chairman Joe Lieberman went on the record in support of the drive to register black voters in Mississippi. Along with 100 other volunteers from Yale and Stanford, Lieberman was heading south to help voter registration efforts and the gubernatorial campaign of black candidate Aaron Henry. He had the symbolic import of his mission in mind. The Chairman was going to show black Mississippians, as he wrote, “that there are white men who care about their plight . . . whose insides burn with anxiety and guilt when they consider the way in which other white men have sought to rob the black man of his humanity.”

Writing in the first person singular, Lieberman detailed and defended the reasons for his upcoming departure to the poorest state in the nation. He explained his system of beliefs, how life is a call for “love among men,” and why the present situation demanded the commitment of all men sworn to ending injustice. His style was neither overwrought nor overly self-conscious. It bespoke the conviction and self-assurance of a much older man: “I am going to Mississippi because there is much work to be done there and few men are doing it. I look to the facts of the history of this state’s treatment of its Negro citizens and I see very little but hatred and painful dehumanization. . . . It all becomes a personal matter to me. I am challenged personally.”

To be sure, “Why I Go to Mississippi” is not entirely free from moralizing or self-righteousness. At one point, Lieberman paraphrases Ecclesiastes and quotes the Talmudic fathers en route to proclaiming, “This country is one or it is nothing.” But in all, the “Senator” (as he was already being called) showed some real statesmanship. In the space of 1300 words, Joe Lieberman searched himself and his own motives, the criticisms of his opponents, and the call to action to which his heart had led him.

But impressive as it was, the thunder of the Senator’s column was stolen by a short, unassuming piece in the adjacent column. In “Communications,” the Editorial Page’s daily space for letters, Lieberman printed a brief poem by “D. Milch, 1966.” It was untitled and addressed simply to the Chairman of the News. It began: So you’re gonna help the poor nigger–Well, here’s News, white boy,  This nigger don’t want your white man’s help.”

And Milch was just getting started. Amazingly, the first three lines are almost polite compared to the 20 that follow. Over the course of three increasingly angry stanzas, the sophomore goes on to call Lieberman “white boy” five times; to claim “You ain’t gonna get a cause out of my skin”; to explain “You still got to count to ten million by ones”; and to demand, “Look me in the eye an’ call me brother,” all before ending with a disarming plea:

Just tell me we all got to die together,
So that there’s just two guys cryin’.

That’s all I want, white boy:
A chance to cry with you, together.

“Why I Go to Mississippi” might well be the first of Joe Lieberman’s many spotlit, News-grabbing declamations over the years–and not only because of its tone of impassioned moralism or its spirited call to public service. Even more telling is his decision, as Chairman of the News, to share the page with an angry detractor. The words were written in 1963, almost a decade before Lieberman ever took political office, but the piece and its rebuttal showcase the complexity of a candidate whose life so far has been largely cast in terms of simple right and wrong.

Most News accounts get it wrong: Joseph Isador Lieberman is above all a man of many paradoxes. His speeches are long-winded and heavy with facts and figures. Confront him with an issue, however, and he will respond with poise and passion. His presence on camera is unimpressive, his personality mild; but when he speaks, people stop and pay attention. His voting record shows his willingness to spend millions on programs that help the poor, and billions on programs that help the powerful. He cites tikkun olam, the Jewish dictum meaning “heal the world,” as one of his most deeply-held beliefs, yet he has also voted for every U.S. military action from Panama and Grenada to the Persian Gulf (the last on a Saturday–the Sabbath–no less). He is known as “the conscience of the Senate” as well as something of a moralizer. He is a reserved, quiet person–a hard-working family man who still calls his mother at least once a day–but, at the same time, a tough and often ruthless politician who knocks off seemingly unbeatable opponents before heading on to larger glories.

The roots of the complexity that defines Lieberman took hold long before Yale. Lieberman spent the first 18 years of his life in a working-class neighborhood in Stamford, CT, living in a house bordered by a junkyard on one side and a tenement on the other. Much has been made of his modest roots and Orthodox Jewish upbringing. Lieberman himself praises his family and hometown for their role in his early political development–that is, his development into an American who cared “about the future of our democracy,” as he writes in his recent memoir, In Praise of Public Life. Henry Lieberman was a liquor-store owner who also held a part-time job in a bakery, working 14-hour days to support his wife Marcia and their three children. The Liebermans kept an Orthodox home, and their only son’s young life was steeped in religiosity, a fact that has provided fodder for both his own political rhetoric and extensive media coverage. Lieberman writes that his political interests come from that “same surprising portal of faith because it has much to do with the way I navigate through each day, personally and professionally.”

Long before he even applied to college, Joe Lieberman showed a penchant for the inner workings of politics. He staged his first political campaign while a freshman at Stamford High School, using 1950s rock songs in his speech and winning the race for class president by a landslide. He went on to hold the position for three of his four high school years, and was crowned prom king, a victory that he was unable to celebrate because the crowning was on a Saturday. In his valedictory speech, he spoke on civil rights and called on his classmates to join him in the fight against racism.

Like so many events in his political career, Lieberman’s arrival at Yale in 1960 was exquisitely timed. In the first half of the 1960s, Yale was changing from the finishing school of the aristocracy that former chaplain William Sloane Coffin describes as “the bland leading the bland” to a hotbed of liberal activism and dissent. (By 1967, Yale had the largest number of students who had turned their draft cards over to the Justice Department to protest the Vietnam War.) In 1960, when Joe Lieberman’s freshman class entered Yale, it drew over 60 percent of its students from East Coast prep schools. At the start of his senior year, for the first time in Yale’s history, more than half of incoming freshmen came from public schools, and minority representation was slowly growing.

Along with this shift in demographics, the University’s leadership was changing. After A. Whitney Griswold died in 1962, Kingman Brewster took over as President and began an ambitious effort to break down the blue-blood establishment and recast Yale as a meritocracy. Reverend Coffin was one of the nation’s most vocal and visible civil rights activists and later spearheaded the anti-war movement. The first traces of social upheaval and liberal activism were appearing in every facet of University life. “Everyone felt things changing,” recalls Jethro Lieberman, a friend (but no relation) of the Senator’s who worked with him on the News and was tapped into the same secret society, Elihu. “We were really the Kennedy generation–the sense that we had to move forward was in the air.” And the young Joe Lieberman was very much at the vanguard of this charge.

In the days before student government and the bevy of undergraduate publications that now overwhelm the campus, the News was the undeniable center of political power at Yale. (Among Lieberman’s associates on the News were former presidential adviser and U.S. News & World Report editor David Gergen, famed activist lawyer Stephen Bingham, and Bob Kaiser and Paul Steiger, managing editors of The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, respectively.) Despite his interest and political ambition, Lieberman did not join the News staff until his sophomore year. Once he had, though, his rise to the top position was meteoric. In November of 1962, during the fall of his junior year, Lieberman was elected Chairman, the equivalent of today’s Editor-in-Chief, a position normally reserved for those who had worked on the paper since the first days of freshman year. “He joined the News late, which is interesting, but we never doubted he would be Chairman,” explains Jethro, Managing Editor under the more prominent Lieberman. “He was an extremely adept politician in the best sense of the word–a person capable of putting together coalitions of which he was the leader.”

Once Chairman, Lieberman moved seamlessly between the roles of politician and moral crusader. Under him, the News reflected the growing liberalism and social consciousness of a campus still dominated by prep schoolers. According to Coffin, “[The News] was picking up an ethical theme and the main issue was civil rights.” The Chairman’s most visible role was writing editorials. Lieberman’s prominent position and gregarious personality brought him into the public light and made his one of the most powerful voices on campus. His frequent editorials dripped with liberal idealism and moral certainty. “Being Chairman was important, and we thought it was a time when you could make a difference,” recounts Harvey Berenson, Business Manager of the News during Lieberman’s tenure. “With Kennedy, people believed you could do good works and save the world. It wasn’t as cynical as it is now.”

Indeed, the young President’s hope and charisma–not to mention that he was the first non-Protestant President–had no small effect on Joe Lieberman. Inspired by the infectious sense of change in the air, Lieberman went to Washington briefly during the Kennedy administration, spending the summer after his junior year as an intern in the office of liberal Connecticut Senator Abraham Ribicoff (the first Jew elected to the Senate). His editorial the week after Kennedy’s assassination, entitled “A Void,” was the earnest and heart-broken lament of a young idealist: “He renewed our faith; he extended our vision of what was possible. . . . He embodied our dreams and now–with no forewarning–he is gone.”

Lieberman did not only write about civil rights issues. He was the first Yale student to write in favor of co-education, defended Alabama Governor George Wallace’s right to speak on campus (which was nonetheless denied), and ran editorials criticizing secret societies and the Old Yale elitism that they represented. (Though Lieberman would later join a society, Elihu, there are rumors that he turned down membership in the most exclusive of them all: Skull and Bones.) Throughout, Lieberman managed to avoid coming across as an overly pedantic scold. In fact, his final editorial did not wax eloquent on injustice or invoke Talmud. In it, he questioned whether he and his associates hadn’t taken themselves too seriously.

One classmate, Angus Macbeth, calls Lieberman “sardonically humorous,” pointing to his membership in the Pundits, a notoriously irreverent senior prankster society. And though he planted himself firmly within the mainstream, avoiding the showy label of “radical,” his pieces were often gutsy. In October of 1963, he wrote and published on the front page “An Open Letter to Yale Alumni,” criticizing them for their complacency on civil rights and calling on them “to use their influence in the power structure, the business complex–to bring about constructive and responsible change.”

That same month, Allard Lowenstein visited Yale on behalf of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to recruit volunteers for the Freedom Vote Project. The basic idea was to have fieldworkers direct a mock gubernatorial election among Mississippi’s black population. Blacks would be asked to vote–not in the regular election, to which their access was restricted by Jim Crow, but in a parallel “Freedom Vote” designed to minimize the potential for violence, and thereby ensure maximum voter turnout. Joe Lieberman was an obvious choice for the trip. Coffin remembers, “He had fine ethical instincts and he was concerned about civil rights. . . . I urged him to go and wanted very much for him to go.”

Thirty Yalies, Lieberman among them, responded to Lowenstein’s call and began heading south at the end of October, staying through the November 4 conclusion of the campaign, at which point some 80,000 votes had been cast. The presence of white college students sometimes served to draw attention away from the conditions that had brought them there in the first place. The New York Times sent reporters to cover the campaign, but headlined the stories with news that Yale students were working “for a Negro gubernatorial candidate in Mississippi.” During the Freedom Rally in Jackson, which concluded the campaign, TV men from NBC spent most of their time shooting film of Yalies and hardly seemed aware of locals and full-time SNCC workers. SNCC was, for the most part, fine with this: As one staffer put it, “It was clear that the press would respond to the beating of a Yale student as it simply would not do to the beating of a local Negro.”

So was it all do-goodism? While Lieberman was off in Mississippi, reports from the front-line dominated the front page of his newspaper. Besides “Why I go to Mississippi,” a description of the campaign by Stephen Bingham entitled “Mississippi and You” appeared in the editorial section shortly after the volunteers returned to New Haven. The News’ coverage reflected the deeply moralistic idealism of the day and was also rather self-congratulatory. Bingham wrote that “Yale University has a truly extraordinary record of giving of itself,” while an editorial note called the response of Yalies “a most significant indication of the awakening of Yale,” and wished the volunteers “Godspeed in their journey and service.”

Upon returning to Yale in November of 1963, Lieberman began a political education of a very different sort. He had been named a Scholar of the House, a now-retired honor that relieved him of all obligation to attend classes for the entirety of senior year and required only a thesis before graduation. So Lieberman went to school elsewhere, at a New Haven institution renowned in its day almost as much as Old Blue–the office of Connecticut Democratic Party Chairman John Bailey.

Bailey was to politics what Vince Lombardi was to football: For him, the point of the game was to win, sometimes at any cost. Bailey was an old-school “boss” in every sense of the word. In In Praise of Public Life, Lieberman wrote that Bailey’s machinations reminded him of Willie Stark, the autocratic governor from Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men: “I can make the mare go,” Stark tells a reporter in the novel. Bailey brought to power a considerable number of figures both in Connecticut and on the national level–including his friend John F. Kennedy, whom he successfully maneuvered into the Democratic nomination in 1960–and was instrumental in keeping Democrats in control of state government for most of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Bailey twisted arms and cursed and threatened and played dirty when dirty was needed.

Theodore White, in his 1960 book The Making of the President, wrote that “Bailey had in his fourteen years in office in Connecticut built the tightest New England political machine which he operated with merciless efficiency.” Bailey’s tactics would make a surprisingly deep impression on Lieberman, the professed champion of good works and tikkun olam. The master of back-room, hard-knuckled politics, as Lieberman once wrote, “was not totally evil, but then again he was not a philosopher king either.”

Lieberman’s apprenticeship with Bailey was more than a bit at odds with the spirit of Mississippi, but invaluable nevertheless. Bailey was later labeled “the young Joe Lieberman’s political rabbi.” After Lieberman chose to make Bailey the subject of his senior thesis, he submerged himself in histories of Connecticut politics and shadowed the man himself day and night. “It was a fascination,” recalls Jethro Lieberman. He conducted countless interviews, tagged along to legislative meetings, even sat in on important brokering sessions between local ward bosses and constituents.

In doing so, of course, he had more than mere commencement prizes in mind: “I could see that there was no better way to learn about the history and intricacies of Connecticut’s government than to tudy John Bailey,” he wrote in In Praise of Public Life. “The hours I spent interviewing him were priceless, my own private course in political science.” Lieberman repaid his debt handsomely, portraying Bailey in his thesis as a brilliant, cunning, and magnanimous leader who understood both that the political game was changing and how to win it. The admiring thesis–part biography, part machine political philosophy–was published as The Power Broker by Houghton Mifflin in 1966, while Lieberman was still in law school. (It remains the authoritative biography on Bailey to this day.) After graduation, Lieberman spent the summer of 1964 working for Bailey in Washington during his tenure as chairman of the National Democratic Party.

But in pledging himself to Bailey, Lieberman may have taken the first steps on a path that, as many of his critics claim today, seems to run counter to the course he had set for himself–both in his work with Senator Abraham Ribicoff the summer before his senior year and with the News as an idealistic crusader. To his early faith in the good, Lieberman added a new faith in the joys of victory. As Boss Bailey himself was fond of saying, “You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.”

Lieberman learned all this and never forgot it. If he sensed a contradiction in exhorting his classmates to heal the world while admiring and eventually incorporating the ethic of John Bailey, he seems not to have agonized over it too much. It was only by sheer chance that the Connecticut political machine came into the Senator’s life so quickly on the heels of Mississippi. But here emerged the two sides of Joe Lieberman’s political life–the desire to do right and the desire to win.

Shortly after graduating from Yale Law School in 1967, the pupil was ready to apply the lesson. In 1970, Lieberman was 27 and practicing law in the area when New Haven’s State Senator Ed Marcus announced his candidacy for the Democratic party’s US Senate nomination. Lieberman saw his opportunity and entered his bid to replace Marcus as State Senator. After Marcus failed to win the nomination, a State Senate race futile in the eyes of party insiders, between the recent graduate and the seasoned Senator, was on. But it was Marcus who would end up surprised.

Employing Bailey’s first rule of political success–organization,organization, organization–Lieberman enlisted a cadre of young volunteers, among them Bill Clinton, then a law student at Yale. Lieberman mounted a relentless door-to-door campaign and secured the vote of a vital constituency–Yale students who were allowed to vote in local elections for the first time that year. On Election Day, he shocked the Marcus campaign by rounding up senior citizens from a nearby retirement home and bringing them to vote in vans and station wagons. Lieberman went on to win the primary by 240 votes and, after that, the general election, remaining New Haven’s State Senator for ten years and majority leader for the last six.

In 1980, Lieberman ditched the State Senate and ran for the US House of Representatives, but lost to a Republican opponent after watching a 17-point lead dwindle down to nothing in the final weeks of the campaign. Two years later, he returned to the scene a new man. With a political acumen that would have made Boss Bailey proud, he positioned himself as a man of the center, a maverick of the mainstream unafraid to buck party lines for what was right (or what would win), and emerged victorious as the new Connecticut Attorney General. While in office, he revived what had once been little more than a political sinecure into a showcase for high-profile prosecutions and investigations, gaining a reputation as a tireless public advocate.

From the Attorney General’s office there was but one obvious destination to seek out next: Washington, the seat of power to which he had been denied access eight years earlier. Lieberman targeted Senator Lowell Weicker. And though Weicker was a Republican, Lieberman ran to his right, alleging that the Senator was out of touch with his constituency and using his office for financial gain. Still, he trailed for most of the race–that is, until he ran a now-legendary cartoon ad likening Weicker to a sleeping bear.

The cartoon opens with a trail of “Zzzzzs” drifting from the entrance of a bear cave, and an oversized bear cozily sleeping through the roll call vote. “On things that matter to him personally, he will always growl,” says the narrator, “but sometimes when it matters, he is sleeping.” Lieberman won the election, but only by 10,000 votes.

There may be no industry in which one’s heart and one’s ambitions so frequently collide as they do in politics. Joe Lieberman, perhaps more than any other politician of his time, has tiptoed without visible effort along the fine line between selflessness and self-advancement. He has won four primaries and nine elections–five in a row for the State Senate starting in 1970, two for State Attorney General in 1982 and 1986, and finally two more for the US Senate in 1988 and 1994–and lost only once. He has knocked off seemingly invincible opponents and–with the exception of only one or two small controversies–emerged from the fray with no visible mud on his suit and the Democratic nomination for Vice President to show for it.

Many characters from Joe Lieberman’s early days as an idealist and moral spokesman express quiet reservations about developments in his political life, such as his decision to run for Vice President and Senator concurrently rather than give up his seat to another Democrat. “The one thing I regret today is that Joe is not a conservative Jew and an orthodox Democrat–they are a dying breed,” said Coffin. Still, the Joe Lieberman of today, shrewd politician and “moral voice of the Senate,” is to them not radically changed from the young idealist who published “Why I Go to Mississippi” in October of 1963. Joe Lieberman’s days at Yale and the brilliant career to which they gave way bring into light a knot of complications. It was here that “the Senator” learned how public goals tangle with private intentions–and exactly how to exploit this complexity.

Ronen Givony, a senior in Branford College, is an associate editor for TNJ.

Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, a sophomore in Berkeley College, is research director for TNJ.

On a warm Tuesday night in September, I am sitting in the
living room of an off-campus apartment when two other Yale students
walk in. One is on financial aid; the other does not receive
aid. They have come here, to a friendly apartment, to share a
bowl of marijuana and a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew. As
they pass the pipe and the soda around the living room table,
I ask them if they’ve heard of the July 1998 amendment to the
Higher Education Act (HEA) that suspends the financial aid of
any student convicted of a drug offense. They hadn’t, but they
don’t seem too worried.
If the police were to pass by our well-lit, first-floor window
and look inside, both my friends would be vulnerable to drug
possession charges. For my wealthier friend, these first-time
charges would probably lead at most to a fine and community service.
But as a result of the HEA amendment, my other friend would stand
to lose her means of receiving an education because of one conviction
for drug possession. Few students at Yale know much about this
law, and many of those who do don’t see a reason to object to
it. But a small group is trying to change that.
The 1965 HEA established categories of federal aid like Stafford
Loans and Pell Grants to "open the doors of college to all
students." Every few years, Congress re-authorizes the Act,
fixing interest rates on loans and adding new programs and initiatives
to reflect the latest trends in education. In May 1998, the amendments
to the Act included a provision introduced by Congressman Mark
Souder (R-Ind.) Any student convicted of a drug-related offense
would lose all his or her federal financial aid for at least
one year, perhaps permanently, depending on the severity of the
crime, the number of offenses, and whether the student passed
subsequent drug tests. This provision is retroactive, though
juvenile offenses stricken from one’s record do not count. Beginning
in July 2000, the FAFSA form, which is used to determine students’
eligibility for federal financial aid, included multiple-choice
question 28, asking about an applicant’s drug convictions.
The American Civil Liberties Union soon launched a protest against
the amendment. "Stop the Use of Student Aid as a Tool of
Discrimination!" read the banner at the head of its November
4, 1999, Action Alert. This form letter, to be sent to a senator
or representative, points out the possible discriminatory effects
of the provision, which mandates special penalties for the economically
disadvantaged that do not apply to wealthier people convicted
of identical crimes. The provision has racial implications as
well: Eleven percent of US drug users are African-American, yet
they make up 37 percent of those arrested and 60 percent of those
in state prisons for drug offenses, meaning the law would almost
certainly affect students of color disproportionately. And the
stipulation that convicted students may complete a drug treatment
program to clear their records, the letter says, is a fig leaf
which ignores the woeful shortage of slots in such programs.
The letter urges one’s elected official to support Representative
Barney Frank’s (D-Mass.) H.R. 1053, which would repeal the amendment.
With a year to go before the law would take effect, the usual
cadre of student activists coalesced around the cause last fall.
The nationwide Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, at their
founding conference last October, "decided that this issue
was really something winnable," says Alexandra Cox, a leader
of Yale’s Student Legal Action Movement (SLAM). At the conference,
the group chose to push for a series of student council resolutions
in protest of the provision. The resolution, co-authored by Cox
and passed by the Yale College Council (YCC) in February 2000,
is typical of those passed all over the country at schools big
and small, public and private. It calls on Yale to "actively
encourage" the passage of H.R. 1053 and to supplement any
student’s losses in financial aid. Hampshire College, in Amherst,
ma, has actually established a fund for this purpose. With the
only Ivy student council to sign on, Yale is featured prominently
in a list of colleges and universities whose students support
H.R. 1053 on several drug-reform policy websites, such as raiseyourvoice.com
and drcnet.org, the Drug Reform Coalition’s website.
The Yale administration has yet to respond officially to the
YCC’s call, but not because of a hardline position in the financial
aid office against drug use or the possibility of compensating
students for denied federal funding. "Personally, and I’m
just expressing my own opinion here, I am not at all opposed
to adopting such a procedure [compensating students]," said
Caesar Storlazzi, Associate Director of University Financial
Aid. Storlazzi points out a historical precedent for the University’s
mitigating the effects of a law restricting federal aid. During
the Vietnam War, the Federal Government denied aid to anyone
who failed to register for the draft; in response, the University
compensated conscientious objectors for lost funds. "So
it wouldn’t be the first time we might make this kind of decision
on principle," Storlazzi said.
However, in this case, the principles involved are somewhat less
clear than those surrounding the Vietnam War. After a long debate,
for example, the Dwight Hall Cabinet decided to support only
the first part of the ycc amendment, stopping short of recommending
that Yale give drug offenders extra money.
Now SLAM is working not to build consensus, but simply to raise
awareness of the issue. "We’re modeling ourselves after
Students Against Sweatshops (SAS), which succeeded in bringing
vast attention to something at school," Cox says. However,
their campus organizing efforts have drawn only a handful of
students thus far. While SAS has clearly defined targets, SLAM’s
goals are "more symbolic," says Cox, and its adversaries
are more distant than the Yale administration or even Connecticut
senators and representatives. In the absence of opposition on
campus, they are focusing on education as a part of a national
effort to put pressure on key legislators in other states who
will vote on the pertinent legislation.
Cox’s choice of the word "symbolic" points to larger
reasons that this "really winnable" issue has failed
to catch fire on campus. There is a not-so-hidden sense among
people who are excited about the HEA, on both sides, that it
is really a gateway issue to a larger, and much more volatile,
debate about the War on Drugs. Drug-related offenses now constitute
the only category of crime for which students may be denied federal
financial aid-not assault, not rape, not alcohol-related violations.
So Students for a Sensible Drug Policy and the Drug Reform Coalition
are leading the protests, while activists with more mainstream
agendas are shying away. "I think on campus even some activists
are reluctant to take this on because they don’t think it’s really
legit," Cox says. Jelani Lawson, Director of A Better Way
Foundation, which "educates and advocates on behalf of public-health-oriented
solutions to the War on Drugs," puts the problem bluntly.
"People are reluctant to talk about it because there’s this
hysteria surrounding drugs. There’s this sense that while I might
be able to get away with personal use, any public advocacy will
put my personal use in jeopardy. People are afraid of being targeted
and labeled as users."
The same stigma surrounding drug use that allowed the amendment
to be passed in the first place may prevent those most directly
affected from coming forward to protest. This provision is a
new threat to the educations of the 39 percent of Yale students
who are on financial aid, yet "We’ve been kind of hesitant
to single out students who are on financial aid as spokespeople,"
says Cox, "and even people who we’ve found don’t want to
come forward." On a national scale, the movement appears
to have the same problem. The website for the Coalition for HEA
Reform, a nationwide group devoted to the cause, makes an appeal
for stories from people who have lost their aid under this provision:
"We urgently need to hear from students who have been affected
by this law, especially students who are willing to go public."
However, only one such story, reported by Mother Jones about
a student at Antioch College, is linked to the site.
So far, there are no HEA poster children at Yale. "This
is the first aid year where the Feds actually asked question
28," says Storlazzi. "At Yale, we haven’t had anyone
say yes, so there’s no University policy yet. There is a sense
that it’s not likely to come up." But it strains credulity
to think this is because Yale students are not using drugs. Surveys
show that about half of u.s. high school students try an illegal
drug before graduation, and any Thursday night Bong & Keg
attendee will tell you that this percentage probably increases
during the Yale freshman year. It’s also not because the New
Haven Police aren’t making drug arrests. In 1995, the most recent
year for which statistics were available, there were 2,682 drug-related
arrests in New Haven; 612 of them were for simple marijuana possession.
So why the widespread complacency in the face of this imminent
threat to hundreds of students’ means to getting an education?
To put it simply, Yale students aren’t often arrested for drug
use, or anything else. In 1998, the most recent year for which
statistics are available, the Yale Police made three drug arrests
on or near the campus, none of which involved students.
This holds true even when students fit police stereotypes. "As
a black man in New Haven, I feel cops treat me as a suspect,"
Lawson told me, recounting three separate experiences during
his time at Yale in which he excited sudden, unfounded suspicion
from the NHPD. He adds, "My Yale id basically served as
a get-out-of-jail-free card." Each time, proving his student
status resulted in a hasty apology from the cops.
A renewed willingness on the part of police to arrest Yale students
was demonstrated in the last week of September, when a fraternity
party on High Street led to seven alcohol-related arrests by
New Haven officers in a campaign against street noise.
Yet as long as drug use at Yale remains a relatively private,
quiet activity in living rooms and common rooms, the current
stalemate in the campus War on Drugs is likely to continue, despite
the new legislation’s stated intention. Besides, Storlazzi points
out that simply asking students whether they have been convicted
of a drug offense is the least efficient and accurate way to
find out. "What I find interesting," he says, "is
that the Federal Government is depending here on the honesty
of applicants. Usually they’re so careful about linking other
databases, and it would certainly be easy for them to discover
who was a convicted drug offender." At least for now, the
HEA amendment is more a symbolic statement than a serious deterrent
to a behavior that almost no one publicly defends, but everyone
silently acknowledges.

 

Anya Kamenetz, a junior in Davenport College,
is a managing editor for
TNJ.