Under the Ivy
a column by Jane Martin email@example.com
Plus ça change
Especially when it
comes to Yale and, well, booze
Over the course of her first year in office, Shirley Tilghman
has had to deal with a handful of serious problems, one involving
Yale and at least one involving alcohol.
It should bring comfort to know that some things never change.
While doing some research on the history of rowing at Princeton,
Stuyvesant Pell '53 came across a series of letters written in 1915
between Princeton president John G. Hibben and Anson Phelps Stokes,
then the secretary of Yale. The two men were friends, and so when
Hibben experienced an unpleasant incident involving Yale undergraduates
at Princeton, he wrote to Stokes.
"My dear Mr. Stokes: I am writing to you at this time on
a matter which has deeply distressed me," the letter began.
Hibben goes on to describe the scene: "The members of the Yale
crew after their victory in the afternoon broke training and appeared
at a dance which was given at the clubhouse in the evening in a
state of very extreme drunkeness [sic]. It happened that Mrs. Hibben
and I had gone down to the dance for a few moments, and when the
Yale crew came into the room in a very loud and disorderly way I
asked the Chairman of the Dance Committee to have them immediately
put out, thinking that they were Princeton men." (Understandable,
to be sure.)
The dance chairman declined, explaining that the Yale men were
guests and he felt it would not be right to bounce them. Hibben
himself, not so fastidious, strode across the room and hauled the
worst souse of the lot outside, where he asked a Princeton man to
make sure the Bulldog and his teammates were brought back up to
campus and put safely to bed. However, the young celebrants persisted
and had to be thrown out two more times before peace reigned.
Stokes, grateful for the information and likely grateful that
the news came to him rather than to his boss, Yale President Arthur
Hadley, responded with requisite shock. "In my 15 years connection
with Yale University I have never before heard of any Yale athletic
organization being guilty of intemperance while visiting another
college in the middle of the training season," he wrote, adding,
"you may count on the most thorough investigation, and on prompt
and decisive action."
Stokes was as good as his word. He sent a delegation to Princeton
by train to speak with, and apologize to, President Hibben, the
dance committee chair, and representatives of the Princeton crew.
Hibben expressed himself as very satisfied with the outcome of the
meeting, writing to Stokes, "you have done everything and more
than could be expected of you under the circumstances and I should
deplore any public action ... I should not like to have Princeton
put in the position of bringing about the public humiliation of
these men." One item still nagged, however: Hibben could not
understand why Yale's coach had granted the team permission to "break
training" and go out drinking.
An apology from the coach, Guy Nickalls, set the matter right.
It was a miscommunication, explained Nickalls; in his native England
breaking training simply meant a change in diet and a few days off
from practice. "I said to them as I left Princeton, don't take
any hard drinks,...but take a bottle of beer if you like with your
dinner," Nickalls defended himself.
Hibben responded graciously, and with the hint of the underlying
and eternal problem with alcohol and attitudes toward it, concluding
his letter: "I do feel that under the exaltation of a splendid
victory such as the Yale crew won it is exceedingly difficult not
to be led unwittingly into excesses in the matter of drinking."
Jane Martin 89 is PAW's former editor-in-chief. You can
reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org