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College Comment
Dad’s Lament: My Daughter, the Old Blue

My father on Parents Weekend is a phenomenon only another “legacy” could understand. It’s not the stories he tells about his nights in Stiles or his weekend dates with my mother. It’s not his spastic punching of the air at the football game. It’s his remarkable ability to emerge from J. Press clad in navy blazer, bulldog tie, and tweed cap and declare in all seriousness that his daughter is so “Old Blue” it’s just shocking. He will stand on York Street and announce in great distress to the assembled company that his daughter is not only managing editor emerita of the Yale Daily News, but also a member of Mory’s in good standing.

©Yale Class Book ©Karen Abrecht '00

This experience is shared by many of my friends whose fathers attended Yale in the years just before coeducation. Our fathers came to Yale as first-generation Ivy Leaguers with little money and no inbred reverence for the traditions of Old Blue. The link that sons of alumni had to Old Yale—and the images of sexism, elitism, and other repugnant -isms that came with it—stigmatized them in the eyes of students like my father. The Nehru-jacket guys and the blue-blazer guys seem to have run in different crowds.

Now, a generation later, our dads’ own children have become legacies. But being a legacy at Yale is different today. With all the strides Yale has made toward creating a more diverse undergraduate student body, legacy status is seen as just one of many ways to gain an edge in the seemingly random world of college admissions. Because almost all current Yalies know someone from high school who was equally if not more deserving of a spot at Yale, there isn’t much respect for the process. Getting in because you’re a legacy is no worse in the eyes of the student body than getting in because you had a particularly scheming high school guidance counselor. Most important, the word “legacy” is no longer synonymous with “wealthy white male.” In this new context, many of the Old Blue traditions and institutions that my father’s crowd spurned during college are not merely acceptable again, they’re cool.

Meanwhile, my father, like most children of the sixties, has moved to the blue-blazer crowd, and has belatedly embraced things Old and Blue. Yet somehow our fathers just can’t accept that their children are not only legacies but also blue to the core. While our fathers passed on the old Yale experience, they have set an example of devotion to Eli throughout our lives. Now our daily lives seem strangely close to the mythical Yale they came to revere in their alumni years. What’s a father to do? Well, come for Parents Weekend and follow his daughter into Mory’s, gasping in horror at every turn, and loving every minute.  the end


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