NEW HAVEN, Connecticut—Next week’s US presidential election
will be followed with more than usual interest in the corridors of
Yale University, which counts both President George W. Bush and
his Democratic challenger John Kerry among its alumni.
“The existence of a competition between two
Yale men is not going unnoticed by our undergraduates who would
like to be political leaders in the future,” said William Foltz,
chair of the university’s International Affairs Council.
“I don’t detect much support for Mr. Bush
on the campus,” Foltz said.
One of the most prestigious academic
institutions in the country with some 11,000 students, Yale has
traditionally been seen as a Democrat-leaning school.
The university has produced four living US
presidents: Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and the
current White House incumbent.
Yale Students for Bush chair, Robert Chung,
said he would not be surprised if a majority of Yale voters cast
their ballots for Kerry, although he took issue with the
university’s liberal image.
“The reason, I believe, that Yale is seen as
a very liberal school is that the liberals are the noisiest group
on campus,” Chung said. “They attract a lot of attention.”
Lowell Levin, a retired professor who taught
at the university when Bush and Kerry were both students,
identified the Democratic senator from Massachusetts as the more
typical Yale man.
“Kerry has a demeanor which is more
sophisticated,” Levin said.
“Bush tries hard to appeal to a different
group by behaving and talking in a certain way and putting down
literacy as an unimportant factor. He claims he doesn’t read
newspapers . . . that kind of thing,” he said.
Neither candidate harps on about his time at
Yale, which along with other so-called Ivy League universities
like Princeton and Harvard has an elitist image associated with
blue-blooded New England families.
“He and I, we went to the same university.
We are both very privileged,” Kerry said in one rare reference.
“He thinks it’s entitlement.”
Yale was founded in 1701 in New Haven,
Connecticut, Bush’s birthplace.
Bush graduated with a degree in history in
1968; Kerry finished his studies in political science two years
At that time, female students were not yet
admitted and foreign students were relatively few and far between.
Today women account for half the student body.
It was also a period when campus societies
were extremely popular including the secret “Skull and Bones”
club, of which Bush and Kerry were members.
While Bush was known more for his social
activities, Kerry used Yale to take his first steps on the
political ladder, becoming president of the Union debating club
like many future politicians before him.
Bush joined the
Yale chapter of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, whose current
president, Richard Shanor, said he was “very proud” to have a
“brother” in the White House.
brings out in people a political awareness that I don’t think
exists in a lot of universities,” Shanor said.
Foltz agreed that Yale continued to view
itself as a place that prepares people for leadership.
“If Yale tries to pretend that it’s not an
elite institution it looks foolish,” Foltz said. “It really
is. That’s been constant. What has changed is the nature of the
elite. It is much more cosmopolitan than it was before.”