Yale is one of the eight members of the Ivy League. The rivalry between Yale and Harvard is long and storied, by far the oldest in the Ivy League; from academics to rowing to college football, their historic competition is similar to that of Oxford and Cambridge.
Yale's emphasis on undergraduate teaching is unusual among its peer research universities, and its undergraduates live in a unique residential college system. Yale College has produced more Rhodes Scholars than any undergraduate institution save Harvard. Yale's graduate schools include strong drama and arts programs and the most selective law school in the United States. The University has over 3,000 faculty members, with Sterling Professors considered the highest rank.
Yale traces its beginnings to "An Act for Liberty to Erect a Collegiate School" passed by the General Court of the Colony of Connecticut and dated October 9, 1701. Soon thereafter, a group of ten Congregationalist ministers, all of whom were Harvard alumni, met in Branford, Connecticut, to pool their books to form the school's first library. . The group is now known as The Founders.
In the meanwhile, a rift was forming at Harvard between its sixth president Increase Mather (Harvard A.B., 1656) and the rest of the Harvard clergy, which Mather viewed as increasingly liberal, ecclesiastically lax, and overly broad in Church polity. The relationship worsened after Mather resigned, and the administration repeatedly rejected his son and ideological colleague, Cotton Mather (Harvard A.B., 1678), for the position of the Harvard presidency. The feud caused the Mathers to champion the success of the Collegiate School in the hopes that it would maintain the Puritan religious orthodoxy in a way that Harvard had not .
In 1718, at the behest of either Rector Andrew or Governor Gurdon Saltonstall, Cotton Mather contacted a successful businessman in England named Elihu Yale to ask him for financial help in constructing a new building for the college. Yale responded with a generous gift of nine bales of goods, which were then sold for a net profit of over £560—a substantial sum of money at the time. Yale also donated 417 books and a portrait of King George I. Cotton Mather suggested that the building adopt the name Yale in gratitude, and eventually the entire institution became Yale College. Elihu Yale never saw the school that bore his name; he died three years later in 1721.
Yale College expanded gradually, establishing the Yale Medical School (1810), Yale Divinity School (1822), Yale Law School (1843), Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (1847), the Sheffield Scientific School (1861), and the Yale School of Fine Arts (1869). In 1887, as the college continued to grow under the presidency of Timothy Dwight V, Yale College was renamed to Yale University. The university would later add the Yale School of Music (1894) and Yale School of Public Health (1915), and reorganize its relationship with the Sheffield Scientific School.
Because of its age and prestige, Yale has been responsible for many intellectual trends. Most famously, these have come out of Yale's English and literature departments, starting with New Criticism. Of the New Critics, Robert Penn Warren, W.K. Wimsatt, and Cleanth Brooks were all Yale faculty. Later, after the passing of the New Critical fad, the Yale literature department became a center of American deconstructionism, with a department centered around Paul de Man. This has become known as the "Yale School." Yale's history department has also originated important intellectual trends. Historian C. Vann Woodward is credited for begining in the 1960s an important stream of southern historians; likewise, David Montgomery , a labor historian, advised many of the current generation of labor historians in the country. Most noticeably, a tremendous number of currently active Latin American historians were trained at Yale in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s by Emìlia Viotta da Costa ; younger Latin Americanists tend to be "intellectual cousins" in that their advisors were advised by the same people at Yale. Because so many of the country's law professors were trained at Yale Law School, there is a similar effect in legal education.
Undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools
Yale College, which accepts fewer than 10 percent of its applicants, is one of the most selective colleges in the United States. Yale is also noted for its law school, medical school, graduate school, and school of music. The Yale Divinity School was founded in the early 19th century by Congregationalists who felt that the Harvard Divinity School had become too liberal. The Yale Law School is the most selective in the United States, and has graduated U.S. presidents and Supreme Court justices.
Yale supports 35 varsity athletic teams that compete in the Ivy League Conference and the Eastern College Athletic Conference, and Yale is an NCAA Division I member. American football was largely created at Yale by player and coach Walter Camp, who evolved the rules of the game away from rugby and soccer in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Yale has numerous athletic facilities, including the Payne Whitney Gymnasium , which is one of the largest and most elaborate indoor athletic complexes in the world. The school mascot is "Handsome Dan", the famous Yale bulldog, and the Yale fight song (written by Cole Porter) contains the refrain, "Bulldog, bulldog, bow wow wow".
Yale intramural sports are a vibrant aspect of student life. Students compete for their respective residential colleges, which fosters a friendly rivalry. The year is divided into Fall, Winter, and Spring seasons, each of which include approximately ten different sports each. About half the sports are coed. At the end of the year, the residential college with the most points (not all sports count equally) wins the Tyng Cup.
Yale is also well known as the home of several Secret Societies which select members of the student body for membership, which lasts lifelong and is sometimes rumored to confer various lifelong benefits to the member.
Heads of Collegiate School, Yale College, and Yale University
A small portion of graduate students representing mostly humanities concentrations at Yale and Columbia universities went on strike in for five days in 2005 in order to gain the right to form a union, even though the National Labor Relations Board denied them of protections under the Taft-Hartley Act. University officials have stated that the strike has had "minimal impact" on the operations of the school. Counterprotests by groups such as the Committee for Freedom have gained media coverage as well.
Although most of the Yale buildings have a Gothic architecture similar to that of Cambridge or Oxford universities and appear ancient, in fact they were built in the 1930s, a fact which becomes apparent when the gargoyles on the roofs of the buildings are more closely examined; they portray such distinctly contemporary college denizens as a writer, an athlete, a tea-drinking socialite, and a student. Similarly, the decorative friezes on the buildings depict such distinctly contemporary scenes as policemen chasing a robber and arresting a prostitute, or a student relaxing with a mug of beer and a cigarette. The architect, James Gamble Rogers, added to the appearance of great age of these buildings by splashing the walls with acid, deliberately breaking their leaded glass windows and repairing them in the style of the Middle Ages, and creating niches for decorative statuary but leaving them empty to simulate loss or theft over the ages. In fact, the buildings do not merely simulate Middle Ages architecture, but are actually constructed of solid stone blocks in the authentic manner. Harkness Tower, at 216 feet, was, when built, the tallest free-standing stone structure in the world; it has since been reinforced, however, as a precaution.
The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, is the largest building in the world reserved exclusively for the preservation of rare books and manuscripts. It is located near the center of the University in Hewitt Quadrangle , which is now more commonly referred to as "Beinecke Plaza ". A six-story above-ground tower of book stacks is surrounded by a windowless rectangular building with walls made of translucent Vermont marble, which transmit subdued lighting to the interior and provide protection from direct light, while glowing from within after dark. The sculptures in the sunken courtyard by Isamu Noguchi are said to represent time (the pyramid), the sun (the circle), and chance (the cube).
Yale has a system of 12 residential colleges, instituted in the early 1930s through a grant by Yale graduate Edward S. Harkness, who admired the college system at Oxford and Cambridge. Undergraduate students are accepted by the university as a whole, and assigned to residential colleges at random. (A special dispensation, though, is made for "legacy" students or students with siblings currently enrolled in Yale College; they may request to be placed in the same college or to be placed in a different college.) Each college has a carefully constructed support structure for students, including a Dean, Master, affiliated faculty, and resident Fellows. Each college also features distinctive architecture, secluded courtyards, and rich facilities ranging from libraries to squash courts to darkrooms. While each college at Yale offers its own seminars, social events, and Master's Teas with luminaries from the outside world, Yale students also take part in academic and social programs across the university, and all of Yale's 2,000 courses are open to undergraduates from any college.
Residential colleges are named for important figures or places in university history or notable alumni; they are deliberately not named for benefactors.
Ezra Stiles College - named for the Rev. Ezra Stiles, a president of Yale. Generally called "Stiles," despite an early-1990s crusade by then-master Traugott Lawler to preserve the use of the full name in everyday speech. Its buildings were designed by Eero Saarinen.
Jonathan Edwards College - named for theologian, Yale alumnus, and Princeton co-founder Jonathan Edwards. Generally called "J.E.". The oldest of the residential colleges, J.E. is the only college with an independent endowment, the Jonathan Edwards Trust.
In 1990, Yale launched a series of massive overhauls to the older residential buildings, whose decades of existence had seen only routine maintenance and incremental improvements to plumbing, heating, and electrical and network wiring. Calhoun College was the first to see renovation. Various unwieldy schemes were used to house displaced students during the yearlong projects, but complaints finally moved Yale to build a new residence hall between the gym and the power plant. It is commonly called "Swing Space" by the students; its official name "Boyd Hall" is unused.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Yale created plans to create a thirteenth college, whose concrete facade would have broken with the campus' more prevalent Gothic and Georgian architecture. The plans were scrapped, primarily for financial reasons, and the proposed site has been filled with apartment buildings.
Yale has had many financial supporters, but some stand out by the magnitude of their contributions. Among those who have made large donations commemorated at the university are:
On May 21, 2003, an explosive device went off at the Yale Law School, damaging two classrooms.
Other high profile crimes
In 1974, Yale junior Gary Stein was killed in a robbery. Melvin Jones was convicted in the case and spent fifteen years in prison.
In 1977, Yale graduate Richard Herrin beat his girlfriend, Yale student Bonnie Garland , to death with a hammer as she was sleeping in her parent's home. Herrin was eventually convicted of manslaughter, rather than first degree murder. Critics charge that this was the result of the Yale community and the Catholic church uniting to portray Herrin as the victim of his upbringing in a minority neighborhood in Los Angeles. The case is described in the book "The Yale Murders ", by Peter Meyer .
In 1991, Yale sophomore Christian Prince was fatally shot on the steps of St. Mary's Church on Hillhouse Avenue in the Yale campus. The murder was followed by a short but significant decline in applications to Yale.
In 1998, a political science and international relations student named Suzanne Jovin was stabbed to death in the East Rock neighborhood where many Yale students and faculty live; although the New Haven Police Department and the New Haven Register appeared to have adopted the conclusion that Jovin's thesis adviser was the murderer, an assumption which was in turn adopted by prestigious national and international media, and Yale did not renew his contract (claiming, however, that that had nothing to do with the case), nevertheless, no evidence for his guilt, for any motive on his part, or for any connection between the two other than the normal academic relationship was ever found. Notable criminologists such as Dr. Henry Lee have opined that the case is probably too botched at this point to ever be solved. Critics of the New Haven power structure suggest that Yale, the Police Department, and the Register all had a bias to prefer that there be some "reason" for the crime, rather than it be yet another murder of a random victim that would reinforce the image of New Haven as a dangerously violent city, again causing a decline in applications to Yale and in business and residential growth in the city.