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Levin Breaks Ranks to Oppose Early Decision

Six years ago, Yale joined the growing number of selective colleges that offered a binding early-decision program to applicants. Now, as the number of early applicants continues to rise and as colleges fill an increasing percentage of their classes from the early decision pool, President Richard Levin believes the practice has gone too far.

In an interview with the New York Times in December, Levin said he believed colleges should agree to abandon early decision. “If we all got rid of it, it would be a good thing,” Levin told the Times. “It pushes the pressure of thinking about college back into the junior year of high school, and the only one who benefits is the admissions office.”

Under a binding early decision plan, students apply early to their first-choice college and find out by mid-December if they have been admitted. If they have, they are obligated to attend that college. The rush to apply early has been fueled by the belief among students and counselors that applying early increases one’s chance of being accepted. A recent Harvard study supports this idea, demonstrating that applying early is comparable to adding 100 points to a student’s SAT score.

Although early decision can benefit applicants who are certain about their college choice—if they are admitted, they don’t have to apply to other schools or wait until April to learn of their fate—early decision has been criticized by many people involved in the admissions process because it forces students to make college decisions earlier and discriminates against those who need to compare financial aid packages. The Harvard study also noted that students from private schools and more privileged public schools are more likely to know about the advantages of applying early than those in less competitive schools.

But early decision helps colleges by getting more of the work of admissions done sooner—Yale fills more than a third of its classes with early-decision candidates—and by improving their “yield” statistic (the percentage of admitted students who matriculate—a factor in college ranking systems).

Levin’s statement brought wide attention to the issue of early decision. Many counselors and admissions officers voiced their support, and the Times editorialized that Levin had “picked a just battle” and that early decision “does far more harm than good.” But some college officials, including Columbia president George Rupp and University of Pennsylvania president Judith Rodin, said they favored early decision. Levin says that Yale will not act unilaterally to end the practice, but that he hopes to persuade other college presidents to take up the issue.


Student Charged in Beinecke Theft

According to police in Connecticut and Wisconsin, a college student managed to steal nearly $2 million worth of rare documents from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library while working there as a summer employee last year. Benjamin W. Johnson, 21, who is a student at the University of Wisconsin, was charged in November with 12 counts of first-degree larceny and 11 counts of criminal mischief after police found more than 50 stolen items in his parents' Hamden, Connecticut, home and his dormitory room. Valuable signatures had been cut out of some of the documents so that they might be sold separately.

Johnson first fell under suspicion when he sold an original signature by George Washington to Philadelphia collector Catherine Barnes for $3,750. Barnes said she was surprised by the condition of the signature, which was far more pristine than those usually in circulation. When Johnson offered to sell her other cut signatures, she contacted authorities in Wisconsin. When approached by police, Johnson led them to a stash of manuscripts, maps, and letters in his dormitory room. Police also found at least one fossil in the Johnson home that they said was missing from the Kline Geology Laboratory, where Johnson had worked in 1996 and 1998.

Johnson, who is free on bond, could face up to 240 years in prison if convicted on all counts. Beinecke officials would not say how Johnson was able to remove the items from the library, but they did say that security has been “enhanced” since the crimes occurred.


Dean Resigns Amid Divinity Dispute

Tension between Yale officials and the Berkeley Divinity School over the School’s future came to a head in December as Berkeley dean R. William Franklin resigned to take a position at the Episcopal Diocese of New York. Three months earlier, President Levin had confronted the Berkeley board of trustees with the results of a University audit that alleged the School was not conforming to University financial policies.

The audit report, which was obtained by the Hartford Courant in December, alleged that Franklin had received perks from Berkeley that were not authorized by the University. But Berkeley board chairman Christian Sonne says that the board “concluded that none of the issues identified by the auditors involved was a cause for punitive action.” The Right Rev. Paul Moore '41, the retired Episcopal bishop of New York and a former senior fellow of the Yale Corporation, wrote in a letter to the New York Times that Franklin is “a man of great integrity and one of the finest leaders of the Episcopal Church.”

Sonne said Berkeley has commissioned an independent audit by the firm of Deloitte & Touche to insure that its practices will conform to Yale’s in the future. Meanwhile, Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal said in late December that his office would investigate the School’s finances to determine if any charitable donations were misused.

Once a freestanding Episcopal seminary, Berkeley became formally affiliated with the nondenominational Yale Divinity School in 1971. Since then, it has had neither its own faculty nor its own students, although it has a separate board of trustees and its own endowment. Berkeley, which is still an accredited Episcopal seminary, offers a Diploma in Anglican Studies to Episcopal students in the Divinity School.

Franklin oversaw a capital campaign that raised $3 million to remodel two pavilions in the Sterling Divinity Quadrangle as a Berkeley chapel and administrative offices. In November, the University said it wanted to change the 16-year-old affiliation agreement between the institutions, giving Yale sole authority to appoint Berkeley’s dean. If Berkeley’s board does not agree to the new condition, it could choose to end its formal affiliation with YDS and become an unofficial extracurricular center for Episcopal students. And in December, President Levin told the Berkeley board that the University was canceling the plan for Berkeley to move into the Divinity Quadrangle.

In further fallout from the audit, YDS facilities manager Krishna Ramsundar was arrested in January on charges that he kept $16,000 in rent payments from students.


College May Offer Minors (Sort of)

Two years ago, when Yale was evaluated for reaccreditation, the team of visitors from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges noted with some concern the proliferation of majors in Yale College. They suggested that a system allowing students to choose a second subject as a minor might be of greater use to the student body. Now, the College faculty is following up by considering a proposal to create a “correlated program” that would allow students to study a subject related to their major without the burden of a double major.

The idea would not allow students to minor in any subject, as is possible at some colleges. The correlated programs would be offered only in certain new interdisciplinary fields, and only to students who were majoring in a related subject. In the first such proposal under consideration, students majoring in certain subjects could participate in a correlated program in urban studies. The selective program would have its own advisers, seminars, and a supervisory committee. If it is approved, the program could be in place by the fall. Future proposals for other correlated programs will be reviewed—as was this one—by the College’s Committee on Majors.

Urban studies has seen increasing student interest in recent years. A faculty committee on the subject was formed in 1999, and a catalog of courses related to cities and urbanism is published annually. Professor of political science Cynthia Farrar, who heads the faculty committee, says that urban studies is a good candidate for correlated-program status. “We were pretty clear that we don’t want to be a major,” says Farrar, “because urban studies is not really an academic discipline, and we think that majoring in a discipline is a good thing.”


Admissions Info Moving to Web

Perhaps no demographic group is more at home on the Internet than college-bound students, which means that more and more, the battle among colleges for the hearts and minds of high school seniors is being fought online. Yale fired two new salvos in December: an Internet-based system to report admissions decisions and the first phase of an online “tour” of Yale.

This year’s early-decision applicants were the first to find out online whether they were admitted, deferred, or rejected, using a password that had been e-mailed to them in advance of December 15, when the decisions were posted online (and when the more traditional thick and thin envelopes were mailed). Those who were admitted were sent to a Web page custom-built with links to match their interests and e-mail contacts for students from their areas. Within two days, 1,800 of 2,100 early-decision candidates had viewed their personalized pages.

The online tour (www.yale.edu/about/tour.html), launched at the same time as the online reporting system, allows prospective students to check out the inner workings of a residential college, experience the changing seasons in New Haven, and look at 360-degree panoramas of selected campus spots.

“Most other online campus tours literally lead you from building to building,” says University Printer John Gambell, who supervised the design of the site by the New York graphic design firm 2x4. “Our paradigm was more magazine than tour, coming out of the observation that our audience is tuned into magazines oriented toward their interests.”

The first phase focuses on Yale as a place. Gambell says that future additions will include information on freshman year, academics, and College activities.


Marriage Styles Affect Life Span

While scientists have shown that married people tend to live longer, healthier, and happier lives than men and women outside of matrimony, a trio of Yale investigators recently demonstrated that when it comes to helping ensure the well-being of husbands and wives, not all unions are created equal.

“There’s clearly a protective style of marriage,” says Roni Beth Tower '80PhD, a researcher at the School of Epidemiology and Public Health (EPH), “and it’s not a politically correct style.”

In a study that will be published next month in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, Tower, along with EPH professor Stanislav Kasl and statistician Amy Derefsky, examined the impact of four different types of what they termed “marital closeness” on the likelihood that members of 305 couples would die within six years. Each person in the study was over the age of 65 and had been surveyed earlier as part of the landmark Yale Health and Aging Project of nearly 3,000 elderly residents of New Haven.

The researchers established closeness by examining the answers to two survey questions that asked each couple member to name the person he or she would turn to as confidant or for emotional support. Contrary to contemporary notions about marital bliss, men and women fared better in marriages in which the wife named her husband but the husband didn’t name his wife. According to the study, this style of marriage had a major impact on longevity (the researchers found that the effect was strongest among wives who had children). In marriages with other naming combinations, husbands were 3.3 to 4.7 times more likely to be dead in six years.

Tower emphasized that while the men in the most protective marriage style were not “sensitive, New Age-type guys,” they were hardly emotionally distant. They were good listeners and dependable providers.

“Men and women experience closeness differently,” says Tower. “She’s able to lean on him, and being needed seems to keep husbands alive. It’s a very romantic view of love, and it tells us to respect the fundamental differences between the sexes. Attempting to make men behave more like women is a terrible mistake—the data suggest that it can also be a life-shortening mistake.”


A Solemn Tour of Ground Zero

Calhoun College master William Sledge says that the events of September 11 had a palpable effect on his students—some became more withdrawn, while others seemed to be involved in more confrontations. When Sledge, a professor of psychiatry, shared these observations with Ben Zitron '59, Zitron came up with an idea he thought might help. On December 13, some 50 Calhoun students and several members of the Class of 1959 boarded two buses to New York to see for themselves the devastation at the World Trade Center site.

For four years, the Class of 1959 and Calhoun have had what Sledge calls “the most amazing relationship.” The Class has adopted Calhoun, providing assistance ranging from financial contributions to career advice. Zitron asked his class to fund a trip to Ground Zero and arranged for the group to have special access to the site. “I thought the students might benefit from seeing the purpose and dedication of the people who are slogging away at Ground Zero,” says Zitron. “Maybe they’ll find some relation to their own lives.”

The visitors were escorted to the newly built viewing platform by Paul Iannizzotto, a firefighter who was at the Trade Center when the buildings collapsed. He spoke of the work at the scene from both a professional and personal standpoint. “I’m on site every day; I still don’t get used to it,” said Iannizzotto.


A Rush to the CIA? Not Exactly

In the weeks after September 11, it was noted with satisfaction in some quarters that the Central Intelligence Agency was popular again on college campuses—particularly Yale’s. Newspapers and magazines offered reports of Elis crowding around the CIA table at job fairs and suggested that seniors were turning away from jobs in the business world and setting their sights on public service.

The only trouble is, it’s not happening, notes Philip Jones, director of the office of Undergraduate Career Services. “We’re not seeing large numbers of students who say they’ve changed their minds and are considering public service,” says Jones. “The CIA did well at our nonprofit career fair, but they always do well.”

Jones says that the recent economic downturn has changed the plans of some graduating seniors, but the number interested in the public sector—about 30 percent of the class—has remained the same. What has changed, Jones says, is the number going into the business world, especially since corporate recruiting visits are down by 25 percent. “When there is a downturn, students who might have gone into the corporate sector will go to law school instead,” he says, adding that the number of students taking the LSAT is up 20 percent.

So why the media buzz about Yale and the CIA? Jones doesn’t know, but he said he had gotten a number of calls about it. “I tell them it’s a non-story,” he says. “To say that no one has changed their plans would be foolish. But we’re not seeing anything like a mass movement.”


Sporting Life
Rough Riders

Forget ice hockey. Imagine going three-on-three in an indoor arena where checking is allowed—on horseback. That is intercollegiate polo, the indoor cousin of the sport of kings and a game that is said to rank with auto racing among the most dangerous sports. The game has been played at Yale since 1920, when the ROTC used it to train cavalry officers. Since then, Yale has won more championships than any other college. As in football, the days of Yale’s dominance of the sport are long gone—polo has not been a varsity sport here since the 1970s—but both men and women still come out to play.

“Yale had the first woman playing intercollegiate polo,” says team member Alexandra Redding '02. “Daniel Wallace, who was coach in 1972, put graduate student Debbie Lee '72MArch into a men’s game against Harvard. The next year, Yale formed the first women’s team, and they won the first women’s championship in 1976.” Redding has been documenting the history of Yale polo in hopes of making the University community aware of its long tradition here.

Redding and other team members are also working to rebuild the team’s network of alumni support, which has fallen off in recent years. That support is crucial, Redding says, in persuading Yale to renovate and expand the polo and equestrian facilities near the Yale Bowl, a goal toward which the polo team is working with the equestrian team. The polo team’s largest source of funding is the celebrated Harriman Cup, an annual see-and-be-seen event in Darien, Connecticut, where Yale and Virginia alumni play for bragging rights.

Despite the visibility of such events, Yale team members reject the popular view of polo as a sport for plutocratic WASPs. “I’m fascinated by how little our team fits the stereotype,” says Catherine Pitt '04, the team’s publicity director. “It’s very eclectic. Not everybody’s white, and not everybody’s male. The people are actually a bit quirky.” Many of them never played polo before coming to Yale. (The children of polo-playing families now tend to favor Cornell or UVA over Yale.)

Few people are even aware of the teams' existence, but to those who play, says Redding, “it’s extremely addictive. I’ve never been an obsessive athlete, but I can’t get enough of this game.”  the end






From the Collections

Nearly 4,000 years before e-mail, Assyrian traders took care of business by writing in cuneiform script on clay tablets like this one on display at the Art Gallery. (In this case, the author ran out of room and had to include the P.S. tablet seen at the bottom of the photo.) When the tablets dried, they were wrapped in clay envelopes and sealed with the writer’s personal seal. The ensemble belongs to the Yale Babylonian Collection.



Campus Clips

Early decision applications to Yale College were up 16 percent this year, despite fears that East Coast schools could suffer a drop in applications in the wake of the events of September 11. The admissions office chose 547 of about 2,100 applicants under the binding plan.

Free speech issues were raised again on the Old Campus in October when freshman counselors removed a banner that read “Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out” from the window of a freshman suite. The students said the sign was a joke in response to antiwar banners. Dean Richard Brodhead later said that “it was not right for any student to take down the banner.”

Students can now roam the campus with their laptops and connect to Yale’s ethernet. After successful pilot projects in Berkeley and Calhoun Colleges, the University has extended wireless ethernet coverage to the entire campus.

World events sent one of the Yale University Press’s titles from relative obscurity to the New York Times bestseller list last fall. Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, by journalist Ahmed Rashid, reached number one on the nonfiction paperback list. Another Press book, John Lukacs’s Five Days in London: May 1940, also saw a sales spike after New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani said he was reading it in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks.

Although Yale does not have an on-campus ROTC program, it does have one of the nation’s top cadets. Senior Robert Berschinski of Peachtree County, Georgia, was chosen as the Air Force ROTC Cadet of the Year in November. Berschinski is one of 11 Yale students who travel to the University of Connecticut in Storrs every week to participate in ROTC training.






Students from New Haven’s Career Regional High School got their first look at a cadaver when their anatomy class met at the School of Medicine. As part of a partnership between the two schools, Career anatomy students visit the Medical School twice a month and work alongside medical students.




Sports Shorts

Seventh-round NFL draft choice Eric Johnson '01 had a breakout rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers, starting at tight end for most of the season and gaining 362 yards on 40 receptions. Johnson is Yale’s all-time leading receiver.

Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams got off to their best starts in ten years. The men (10-6) upset both Penn State and Clemson and won their first two league games. On the women’s team (7-7), freshman Lindsay Page set a Yale record in December by scoring 35 points in a single game.

The men’s hockey team, which tied nationally ranked Colgate and lost by one goal to defending national champion Boston College, was in second place in the ECAC in January. They lost 4-3 to league leader Harvard at the Crimson’s notorious Bright Hockey Center.

Nine former Yale varsity athletes were honored with the inaugural George H.W. Bush '48 Lifetime of Leadership Awards at the athletics department’s Blue Leadership Ball on November 16. The honorees were James S. Rockefeller '24, Joseph Cullman '35, Nicholas Brady '52, John Akers '56, Vernon Loucks '57, the late John Lee '58, Calvin Hill '69, Kwaku Ohene-Frempong, M.D., ’70, and Elizabeth Munson '78.


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