Monday, September 14, 2015

Welcome to Yale

The "Welcome to Yale" banner is still the first prominent sign new students see when they arrive at Old Campus. (A. Tiffen photo, Yale photo)
Traditions endure at Yale, carrying on year after year.  One tradition, often forgotten by many alumni until Yale reopens its portals late August to welcome the newest batch of Yalies, is the "Welcome to Yale" banner that drapes over Phelps Gate.  The banner (See photos above) has hardly changed in font and style over the past 40 years.

The tradition of the freshman drop-off at Phelps Gate has changed modestly over the decades.  The blue-and-white banner and the ceremonial drop-off are usually the first bits of evidence for new students, most of whom have ventured a long way to get to New Haven, that they've arrived and that they belong to Yale.  

Times have changed somewhat. In years gone by, new students and their parents/guardians arrived quietly and toted large trunks, stacks of books, and big stereo systems, returning back and forth in a routine that took half a day.  Today, the freshman class is greeted with heraldry, fanfare, song, noise-makers, and ample assistance from upper-class students, who eagerly help the latest and greatest class with their laptops, pillows, futons and mini-refrigerators.

A freshman today strolls under the portal at Phelps, while a half-dozen upper-class helpers from Pierson or Stiles unload all belongings and take them to the top of Lawrance or Bingham halls in a matter of minutes.  And the arrival is often capped by a handshake or selfie photo session with Yale president Peter Salovey '86 Ph.d., who makes the rounds all about Old Campus. 

Class sizes still number almost the same--hovering about 1,350 over the decades, hardly changing from the Class of the late 1970's until now.  Students still hail from 45 or more states (49 states this year), although there is far greater representation from around the globe (60 countries in the current freshman class).  

This year's Class of '19 steps onto campus with an abundance of issues to debate, address, and ponder over ice cream at Durfee's or over cafe latte in the Bass Library, especially as the University decides what prominent names to assign to the newest residential colleges and how to manage the discussion over whether Calhoun College should be renamed.  In some ways, another Yale tradition continues-- the tradition of heated, passionate conversation about the pressing issues of the day. 

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