HOW TO GET ON AT YALE,
"Inside Eli, or How to Get On at Yale," a useful little pamphlet, was published anonymously by some members of the Class of 1956 and 1955 who -- having recently graduated -- felt it was a shame that future undergraduates should be deprived of their collective wisdom about how Yale really worked. The booklet, designed to correct that defect, was printed and distributed to incoming freshmen -- the infant Class of 1960 -- in the fall of 1956, and indeed that class subsequently proved wonderfully wise in navigating the University's otherwise uncharted waters. Whitney Griswold was so provoked by "Inside Eli" that he issued a decree banning all anonymous publications at Yale forevermore. Despite this presidential censorship, Calvin Trillin, '57, used "Inside Eli" as background information for setting the stage for Yale in the 'fifties in his book "Remembering Denny," which was discussed in a seminar at our 45th Reunion. Almost impossible to get, a copy of "Inside Eli" -- one of the few that escaped the bonfire outside Woodbridge Hall -- mysteriously materialized on the desk of the editors of "Comment '56," who, 45 years on, still found it too hot to handle and herewith publish an expurgated version. Even in bowdlerized form, there is something in it to insult almost everybody. After seeing at our 45th reunion so many well-rounded classmates worn smooth by the vicissitudes of life, it is hard to imagine that once we had such sharp edges. Still, "Inside Eli" is an important Class of 1956 (and 1955) document, and the editors, who love harmony more than anything else, pass it along in the belief that there is nothing that draws a class more closely together than a sense of shared, self-righteous outrage.
To the Freshman:
During the past few weeks you have been flooded with official advice. None of this should be taken seriously. The Freshman Office has a notorious lack of humour and casts over itself an aura of sullen grimness which frightens only the inexperienced.
The basic trouble is that the Freshman Office doesn't know why you're here. It talks about 'education' and other such vagaries. Intellectual interests are all very fine, but after all one mustn't allow them to get out of hand. What you really want to know is how to get on in the great Yale Game.
This we can tell you. Our little booklet is not some pamphlet published by enterprising but insignificant undergraduates. We the editors have collectively been in almost all the things we discuss. Name any organization at Yale you like. One of us has been on it. Some we merely belonged to. Some we ran. A few we started and one or two we terminated.
We, the authors, have by now left Yale. We have all done so with much regret. We have written our little book with an attitude of fond nostalgia. It has been fun for us and we hope you will be wise enough to find it useful.
To the Upperclassman Who Has Gotten On:
The cultured have always been known for their reticence. In their eyes we have committed an unpardonable gaucherie. We have let out the secret., Now you, the princes of Moguldom, know:
There are people who are LAUGHING AT YOU.
And the worst of it is you cannot tell who they are.
It may be that unimportant person who lives down the hall. It might even be your roommate. But though you cannot tell, you now know they are there. They do not think you important. They find you amusing. And now we have told you and the terrible secret is out.
Our only hope is that this new knowledge will not keep you from being as entertaining in the future as you have been in the past.
CHAPTER I. THE FRATERNITIES
Generally speaking, Yale fraternities are not overly worthwhile. Since no one can live in them and anyone can visit them, one belongs only for the sake of social prestige. Among some of the very shoe, it is not shoe to be a 'brother.’ However, most play it safe by joining a house as sophomores, ignoring it as juniors, and denouncing it as seniors.
The fraternity rushing system is incredibly silly and rather vulgar. It does much to keep the fraternities from developing into real centers of aristocratic elegance.
Rating individual fraternities is a difficult task since they all have such a mass of members. However, each thinks it has a certain tone which it tries to live up to.
THE FENCE CLUB is the most pretentiously snobbish organization at Yale. This could be interesting, but actually is not since the house is too self-conscious to be very enjoyable and the members are too [bland] to be entertaining.
ZETA PSI tries to be equally shoe but since it has many people from the News it is more interesting. Sometimes it even has a faint aura of aristocratic intellectualism which is not unpleasing.
CHI PSI is the home of the very rich who take their dissipation seriously.
BETA is awfully healthy. People drink beer, sing songs, and slap each other on the back. The national organization has several good songs.
PHI GAM is not very distinguished — most of the members being weenies. They do seem to like each other, however.
CHI PHI is the same, only more so
DKE is what it always is. They take in weenies, but they measure their biceps.
SAINT ANTHONY really does not belong in the same category as these others. It is a final society and its members do not join a senior society. Its members seem to take it terribly seriously, but a few of them are rather interesting.
THE ELIZABETHAN CLUB is a private club which owns a building and over a million dollars worth of rare books. Every afternoon, tea is served to undergraduate and faculty members. The stronghold of the literati, both washed and unwashed. Most really shoe people belong; but all who belong are not shoe. Having finally purged the bohemians, the Club is now infested with a pack of tedious weenies. Still it is a splendid thing. Elections are discreet, private, and sensible.
CHAPTER II. THE SOCIETIES
There is no point in not saying that in the eyes of most of the Yale community, election to a senior society confirms the successful undergraduate career. Various agencies for the improvement of undergraduate morale, such as the News, often deny that this is so, but when Tap Day comes, and the Chairman and half his board are found on the roster of the elect, no one is surprised.
Practically all the outlandish rumours you hear about senior societies are just possibly true: perhaps Wolf’s Head does have a swimming pool, and maybe there is nude wrestling at Bones, and maybe Manuscript does have four day banquets. However, you can be sure of the following information:
All societies are essentially a group of fifteen seniors brought together for several hours a week. Each society has a different program. Some are particularly concerned with autobiography, self-analysis, self improvement, and other forms of psychic plumbing. Others place greater emphasis on the less earnest joys of fraternal conviviality, while some are interested in intellectual stimulation.
The societies elect fifteen new members from the Junior Class once a year, on Tap Day (the first Thursday in May). Practically all societies "pre–tap" many of their members — i.e. people who are going to be tapped know it. 'Pre-tapping’ may vary from an inexplicable invitation to cocktails to a full scale brainwashing by earnest alumni. Pre-tapping is necessary because many are tapped by more than one society and so most groups try to sew up the men they want.
The result is an absurdly hectic period beginning around April Fool's Day. For a month, Yale takes on the atmosphere of a Renaissance Italian city getting ready for a change of government. The great day finally comes and at 8 P.M. perspiring figures in black begin racing about the campus delivering their momentous tidings. By 8:30 the performance is generally (though not always) over. Societies have long lists of juniors, ranking men in order of preference. As one man refuses, they move on to the next. In other words, you may be approached on Tap Night, even though you have not been pre-tapped. There is no disgrace in this. In fact it is somewhat of an honor, since only dull and obvious types are generally among the first fifteen.
If you are pre-tapped, look before you leap. Some societies require, and others encourage, a "commitment", i.e., a solemn promise to join that society and no other. Such promises are a matter of personal honor and can be very troublesome to those to whom personal honor is of some importance. It is much better to remain free, if you possibly can, until you are aware of all the possibilities, especially since some societies pre-tap very late.
Actually, if you want to know what a society is like, see who is in it and then imagine yourself spending, ten or fifteen hours a week with the same kind of people. A society can be a magnificent experience or it can be excruciatingly dull and annoying, depending upon whether you have made the right choice.
Above all, don't get excited. Gamesmanship is a great weapon.
SKULL AND BONES is like Harkness Tower. Though it is absurd, we love it. It is the oldest society (founded 1832). Around it is an aura of mysterious grandeur and the pomposity of its members — especially the older ones — has been a source of delight to the Yale community for many generations. In days gone by, Bones was the refuge of the ' big men' in the Class — the chairmen, the presidents, and the captains. In recent years it has adopted the inexplicable policy of choosing an ill-assorted collection of nonentities (with individual exceptions of course). The stamp of greatness seems lost. In certain quarters it is no longer shoe to belong to Skull and Bones, especially if your father was a member. One regards old Bones with the same fond nostalgia one has for like examples of decayed grandeur, such as the Venetian Republic or the Hapsburg Empire.
WOLF'S HEAD is the home of all those jocks who are still capable of going in training. They are generally a rowdy, but pleasant crew. If you like that sort of thing it can be fun.
If you're a 'good guy' and have received most of your education from a fraternity bar, BOOK AND SNAKE will be the biggest jewel in your crown. Not a place for those with weak livers...
BERZELIUS and ELIHU are both respectable organizations with many distinguished members over recent years. BZ is somewhat addicted to moral earnestness and has a strong low-church smell to it. It has an impressive list of honorary members — a few of whom take an active interest. Elihu is somewhat more intellectually oriented and for most members is very pleasant, if not violently exciting.
Both societies conduct an extremely energetic pre-tapping campaign which sometimes gives the impression of over-eagerness.
All things considered, SCROLL AND KEY is probably the leading society in the eyes of the average Yale man. It always has many of the more distinguished class wheels. Its members are generally pleasant, civilized, and intelligent. They are the Yale ideal. If the society is a little like an exclusive yacht-club, still it is a very pleasant one.
MANUSCRIPT, founded in recent years, is the most frankly intel lectual of all societies. It is a formidable collection of snobbishly shoe intellectuals, bright good guys, and an occasional grubby guy who writes good poetry (or at least tries to). Also in on things are some very active faculty members. How these people put up with one another is one of the great mysteries of the Yale scene. Apparently a place for people with strong minds (and even stronger livers).
In addition to the seven recognized societies, there is a varying number of SECRET-SECRET or UNDERGROUND SOCIETIES. These are groups of fifteen whose existence is known supposedly only to themselves. A few of them have been going on for several years and are quite well organized. Others spring into being and disappear with various bands of disappointed people through two or three classes. None of them possesses very extensive physical facilities. The value of membership depends mostly on the other people who happen to be in the group your year.
CHAPTER III. EXTRA-CURRICULAR ORGANIZATIONS
Yale has long been notorious for the amount of time her undergraduates spend in various extracurricular organizations. It is certainly true that there is a large group who have sold their education for a temporary and largely unjustified feeling of personal. significance.
Though the News may seem "big time" to a man from the Little League, it is little more than a fair-to-middling amateur paper. The Yale Scientific is not the National Geographic (thank God), nor is Dwight Hall the Vatican, (also thank God!) Rather than regarding extra-curricular activities as pseudo-professional organizations, it is more accurate to view them as clubs.
These organizations are perhaps the main route to campus recognition. If your career is pursued with a modicum of Gamesmanship, who knows what it may lead to? Perhaps one of those very popular package deals like Manuscript and the Lizzie Club or Keys and a Student Deaconship.
All things considered the Yale Daily News is probably the most rewarding extra-curricular activity. It is also the most difficult to get in on, the heeling competition being a degrading period of pushing, clawing, and scraping. Most prominent quills in the OCD ink-pot have been Henry R. Luce, Britton Hadden, John Hersey, August Hecksher, and Edward Allen Kent. However, a great many [less prominent] people have also made it in the past, and will probably continue to do so in the future. As a college newspaper it ranks near the top, which means it is not very good, but has its bright spots. As a club it is superb, since it is the clearest route to fraternities, societies, and general campus recognition.
The Yale Record in not very funny, but there is no reason why it can't be. It is far easier to do than the News; but it is generally less rewarding, as Old Owl lays only eight eggs a year — and rather soggy ones at that. Usually "Recordzics" (as they affectionately call themselves) are a fairly close-knit bunch, first because nobody else will laugh at their jokes, and second, because it's a long climb to the top o' Hendrie Hall, and they receive few visitors. If you find Yale funny, you are morally obligated to heel.
Both the Banner and WYBC are [low on pizzazz]. But whereas the former is busy, the latter is frenetic. All this excitement puzzles us. At least the OCD editors read the News, but nobody listens to WYBC, as it is physically impossible to give a broadcast and listen to it at the same time. If you can visualize a highly organized staff of over 100 people, each working 20 hours a week with all the requisite equipment and funds to keep one man talking for 12 hours a day, 200 days a year — into what amounts to a tin can — you have WYBC, "Yale's Fastest Growing Organization"'. No one knows how, where, or why. But still it goes on. And year after year more and more people feel more and more important with less and less reason.
The Banner is operated by a small band of busy [bureaucrats]. It is the duty of this little organization to put out several routine publications, notably, the Year Book, the Old Campus, and the Telephone Book — which, though blue, is not shoe (a phrase which sums up the whole outfit.) Unfortunately, rumors that the Banner is about to put out a Yale Social Register have been proved false; this could have been the organization's saving grace…
Something really ought to be done about the Yale Literary Magazine. It is America's oldest monthly, and in recent years it has gone from bad to worse — though it still has an aura of decrepit dignity, possessed by no other campus publication. Diagnoses of its demise range from competition from other organizations, competition of the national magazines, the abandoning of the essay for the short story, and the [relaxed attitude] of its members. All these (especially the last) are true. But interest in good writing at Yale go is not dead — as is evidenced by the enrollment in English 77 (Daily Themes) and the number of fungus-like literary publications which keep cropping up and disappearing. The most tenacious of these is Voices — but why raise new tricolors when the old banner is still fluttering — albeit at half mast? A few good men could make the Lit over… A good stock to buy at current prices.
Every year several people disappear into the Yale Dramatic Association and are never heard of again. A great deal of fun, but incredibly time consuming. Membership includes all kinds of fascinating types. So no matter how revolting you are, there may be a place for you. Dramat productions are gargantuan in size, offering a wealth of experience in all facets of playmongering, and several academic careers are generally sacrificed to their success. For casual acting, there are a number of less high powered groups, such as New Productions. But the Drarnat is worth looking into in any case.
The Political Union has at times been exciting and even brilliant, but it has no staying power. Perhaps above all other organizations, its merit from year to year is dependent on its membership. As soon as the few good people leave, it slumps into a sullen, weenieish mediocrity. Something should be done . . . wonderful, however, if you hit a revival.
We have never been aware of anyone connected with this publication, but we suppose it serves a purpose.
If your only asset is that you are Christian, apply at Dwight Hall. Here you may do well by doing good. You can serve on committees, subcommittees, and cabals to your heart's content; you can help conduct services and canvass for the Charities Drive, and if you do a really good job, you may even be an undergraduate Deacon — though that is doubtful, unless you also belong to certain other organizations. Dwight Hall offers fine opportunities for serving God — if you like that sort of thing. There are many who, in so doing. manage also to serve themselves.
CHAPTER IV. SPORTS
In the Middle Ages, those whose brains were crowded by their muscles were fitted with armour and sent out to slaughter each other. In the modern world, Yale wisely makes provision for these people by allowing them to go into varsity athletics. Sports furnish marvelous opportunities for the gratification of that strong animal desire to get ahead which possesses us all. Here your addled brain may rejoice in the thunderous applause of several thousand drunken fans. And if you really do well, you may get the opportunity to demonstrate your wrestling prowess in some of New Haven's most private gymnasiums.
Here is our opinion of some of the more popular athletic pursuits:
SWIMMING: This is a very satisfying sport as Yale never loses. Only swimmers speak to Kiphuth and Kiphuth speaks only to God.
CREW: A dull, unimaginative sport suitable for the very shoe. Dust off your geneaology, if you have one.
POLO: More expensive than croquet, but less intellectual.
SQUASH: The desirability of squash depends largely upon the air conditioning. The fact that it can be played in the colleges tends to make it more acceptable among those undergraduates who do not care to be seen in the gymnasium.
SOCCER: Any game so absurd as to be played exclusively with the head and feet is to be avoided.
FOOTBALL: This could be your big chance. Imagine all the folks at home hearing your name over the radio! And if you manage to graduate you have an excellent chance of joining the Yale Administration and being put on the governing board of Mory's.
BASKETBALL: No gentleman has ever been known to play basketball
WRESTLING: Lower than this, it in impossible to go.