On Dec 3, 2022, very early in the morning, I took a car from my cozy hotel in Boston, to the open commons in front of Yale’s Old Campus. I alit from the car in nearly freezing weather.
Nothing was open. The early day was overcast. I had had no breakfast, and I needed coffee. The night before had been a late one for me, as I had made an evening business presentation. So I was cranky, hungry, cold and tired. I had nowhere to change or to brush my hair, so I did the best I could in the ladies’ restroom of the New Haven Public Library.
I mention the discomfort of the morning because it seemed to be emblematic of the icy shoulder which my alma mater presented to me.
I – we — were there to protest the “mandate” by the university of bivalent “boosters” into the bodies of the students; this was required of them before they could – and in order that they might — return to campus after Winter break.
Astonishingly, the faculty and staff — meaning, surely, the administrators too — were not thus “mandated.” (Harvard too has a similar “mandate” affecting students but not faculty).
We who were there to protest were outcasts, reprobates. Yet all we were doing there was pleading for the safety of the young men and women in the campus just beyond us.
There were about three dozen people at the rally and then at the march; a small, committed, straggling group. Parents of the university students were absent; students themselves were glaringly absent; administrators, faculty — appeared to be entirely absent. A few dedicated health freedom activists, organized by TeamRealityCT, and the speakers ourselves — stood vulnerably in a corner of the commons, shouting terrifying facts and urgent warnings into a crackly mic, into a heedless wind, expecting to be arrested.
As I awaited my turn at the mic, memories flooded in. They had been such happy ones, to start with. There was the Old Campus, just behind us; where I had been a joyful 17-year-old, racing across green lawns, meeting new friends. I recalled how my heart had soared at the beauty of the crenellated walls and the Romanesque arches. A California girl, I had never seen such buildings before in real life.
I recalled jumping into pickup games of frisbee; or marveling at the turning of deciduous autumn leaves — a spectacle which I, who had grown up among evergreens, had never seen before. I’d been captivated at the sight of my first snowfall; at the delicate flakes drifting magically down, in the light of a street lamp, outside the glowing stained glass windows of Battell Chapel.
I had flashbacks of drinking in the heady atmosphere, as a Freshman, as a Sophomore, of a whole new culture: I had been astonished, as a raw child of the wild West Coast, as the daughter of a beat poet and a hippie anthropologist, at all the age-old rituals and precious mannerisms of the Ivy League East. Learning about Mory’s; about singing groups; about tailgate parties; about Secret Societies; about seersucker jackets and boating shoes; about preppies, and Andover and Exeter, and Locust Valley Lockjaw — a way of speaking that the kids of the ancestral fortunes used at that time — a bored drawl; about Legacies and Jocks; about how to make polite conversation with parents at the Dean’s garden parties. I remember realizing that the allure of an Ivy league education was not just what you learned — you could learn as well in any number of decent state schools — but rather it was that ticket to privilege, that Alice in Wonderland type access, that door to the sunlit garden; how it revealed to you — a metaworld, invisible to the less lucky; the cultivated network that would nurture and soothe you for your entire life; that world of sailboats and dinner jackets (not “tuxedos”, I learned) and of turning to your right for the first course and to your left for the second. Far more than all that, though, I was high on being surrounded by what I saw as smart people; in an entire community that cared about being smart.
I was ecstatic at sitting in classrooms where the greatest minds of my day taught us about our intellectual heritage — Greek and Latin literary classics, Milton’s Paradise Lost, the Romantic poets. I remembered learning about Galen — the father of Western medicine. About the Hippocratic oath. About the Geneva Conventions. About any member of human rights movements. About the Constitution.
The language of Yale University — whose motto was “Lux et Veritas” — was the language of an institution devoted to sustaining and passing on the greatest values of the greatest civilization on earth. Once, I had sat there as a student in Battell Chapel, and listened to then-President Bart Giamatti welcome us; he’d described what a liberal arts education was: its values of open inquiry and of freedom of speech. I’d watched the light pour through the arched windows and had felt, sitting among equally rapt students, the solemn thrill of the task we thus undertook: to protect and cherish civilization.
And I — I had believed it. I was euphoric and proud to have been part of that tradition.
So how stark was the irony, that I was now there to try to stop a barbarous betrayal of the student body, by the very institution that claimed to speak up on behalf of civilization itself. How ironic that I was here to try to stop a crude act of foolishness, and of illogic and of sheer stupidity.
I was at the rally because I’d been informed by activist Joni McGary — not by the university’s communications with its alumni, not by CNN or by The New York Times — that Yale was, incredibly, “mandating” the “bivalent booster” – the one tested on eight mice – on its entire student population.
This demand was in spite of their having been twice mRNA vaccinated. It was in spite of their having been already “boosted”. It was in spite of any prior COVID-19 infection, or despite religious objections, physical problems, fears or resistance.
My soul revolted.
I stood in the bitter cold on a low makeshift wooden dais, speaking without notes, issuing what became a roar from the depth of a mother’s heart, my own heart, about the danger to the young adults in the institution behind me, that was being posed by — by the very institution itself.