Guest Column | Branford College
Congratulations, Branford Class of 2006! Not only have you been accepted to the best university this side of the Mississippi, you’ve also been blessed enough to be part of the best residential college at Yale. Branford, for those of you who haven’t visited on one of those agonizing hour-long admissions tours, is the oldest of the 12 residential colleges. While its Great Courtyard is renowned for being the most beautiful in America (comment courtesy of Robert Frost), it also boasts more courtyards than other colleges like Saybrook or Calhoun, since we have four and they do not.
While on the subject of physical amenities that come with being in Branford, one must not forget the towers. Harkness Tower, one of the most inspiring phallic symbols on the Yale campus, resides in Branford and serves to instill cowering fear into the heathens of other colleges. Frank Lloyd Wright commented that if he were to live at Yale, he would prefer to live in Harkness.
I could go on about our dining hall (which is much better than Saybrook’s), our game room (with a pool table, foosball table and air hockey table), or our own Bechstein grand piano in our acoustically-marvelous common room, but what college life inevitably comes down to is the residents of Branford. As you may have guessed, Branford has by far the most intelligent (we won the Sheffield Cup last year, awarded for highest average science-related GPA), most attractive (I don’t really need to back this one up, just visit), and most kick-ass inhabitants.
On the more belligerent side, one can find crazy parties hosted by the God Quad, a student-elected party suite, just about every weekend. If that’s not enough to get you started, RALF gathers about every week to celebrate the beginning of the weekend by supporting serious imbibing. As if that weren’t enough to set us apart, our annual Independence Day, when Branford declares its independence from Yale, is an awesome time of barbecuing, sport and fun in the Great Courtyard.
Of course, many of these things would not be possible without our administration: Master Smith and Dean Parisier are easily the coolest one-two master-dean combo at Yale. When Master Smith isn’t hosting wicked Master’s Teas with the Talking Heads or Anthony Rapp, you can find him enjoying fine cigars and talking about the Yankees. More often than not Dean P. can be found helping freshmen through their course selection, helping sophomores find new advisors, or just baking and giving out cookies during exams.
Granted, there will some disadvantages to living in Branford. Freshmen from other colleges will constantly try to eat in your dining hall (as will all of JE), you may find yourself “killed” in an intense round of Assassins by David Barthwell ’04 or Kim Montez ’03, and occasionally you may be forced to have a wild time at Viva’s on the Branford College Council’s tab. But other than that, there ain’t too much bad with Branford. Congratulations again — you’re in for a great time.
Lindsay Elliott is a junior in Branford College and Secretary of the Branford College Council.
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Steven Smith received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He has taught at Yale since 1984 and is the Alfred Cowles Professor of Political Science and was Master of Branford College from 1996 to 2011. He has served as Director of Graduate Studies in Political Science, Director of the Special Program in the Humanities, and Acting Chair of Judaic Studies. His research has focused on the history of political philosophy with special attention to the problem of the ancients and moderns, Jewish philosophy, and theories of constitutional democracy.
His best known publications include Hegel’s Critique of Liberalism (1989), Spinoza, Liberalism, and Jewish Identity (1007), Spinoza’s Book of Life (2003), Reading Leo Strauss (2006), and most recently The Cambridge Companion to Leo Strauss (2009). He is currently working on a book dealing with the statecraft and political thought of Abraham Lincoln. In his future work he hopes to focus on the political thought of the Bible and the literature of the Jewish-American experience.
He has received several academic awards and prizes, but is most proud of receiving the Lex Hixon ‘63 Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Social Sciences in 2009. He is a die-hard Yankees fan and hopes to be able to play for the team in the next life.
He can be reached at [email protected]