Feature image from bustedcoverage.com.
For the Uninitiated
NCAA Division I is a hotbed of obscure rivalries. You’d be hard-pressed to find eight schools that hated each other more in this entire country — perhaps in the world. It’s like a family of eight siblings who are all hyper-competitive and always trying to one-up each other.
Harvard and Yale have “the Game” in football (no points for creativity there), but Yale and Princeton also hate each other. Brown doesn’t like Penn. Cornell and Harvard throw dead things at each other when they play hockey. Dartmouth is a bit of a dark horse and, in football, Columbia gets kicked around…well, like a football.
As you’ve probably guessed, some of this pent-up animosity also extends to the non-athletic realm.
Harvard and Yale are again, head-to-head, while Princeton gets a few jabs in too. Meanwhile, everyone else sees a school of preppy arrogant trust-fund babies, a school of preppy arrogant trust-fund babies in a bad neighborhood, and a school of somewhat shut-ins in New Jersey —the horror! — respectively. Brown is seen as hippie kindergarten, Columbia is a school of corporate scumbags, Dartmouth kids are constantly not sober, Penn kids look down their noses at everything, and Cornell is a safety school.
These are stereotypes, for sure, but they’re stereotypes that we incorporate into our everyday discourse. It’s not uncommon to be scrolling through the Ivy League Snapchat story and hearing schools diss each other based on these stereotypes — a Yale kid might be calling Harvard kids out for their ego, a Brown kid will probably be telling everyone to play nice, and the other Ivies are constantly wondering how Cornell manages to be on the Ivy Story so many times — like, is it even an Ivy, really?
(But we’re actually funny, thank you very much.)
So what’s it really like when people from different Ivies meet each other?
Infiltrating Enemy Territory
A while back, I had stayed at Harvard with one of my roommates. We are both Cornell students, and she was dressed as such — she had a bright red-and-white hat on with the name emblazoned on it. On our way back to the dorm we were staying at, we decided to take a side route.
“I’m sure the dorm was this way,” said my roommate.
She gestured at a courtyard that looked like it was enclosed by a fence. On the side we needed to get across.
“Are you sure there’s an opening in that fence? If not, we’re going to have to jump that fence,” I said.
“There’s probably a gate.”
So we walked closer to the fence, and sure enough — there was a gate that led out of the courtyard. However, there was an ID scanner to get out.
(For context, this gate led to a public street. Why you needed an ID scan to get onto the public sidewalk is beyond me.)
“I guess we’re jumping a fence. It’s not that high, I think we can take it,” I said. The fence was about six or seven feet tall, a bit taller than both of us, but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle without a running start.
“No, let’s…not do that.”
Just then, a girl who had been in a hurry to get back into a nearby dorm turned around and approached us, possibly after having overheard our exchange.
“Are you two trying to get through?” she asked.
“Yeah, we’re staying with a friend in Dunster,” said my roommate.
“Oh, I can scan you guys out!”
She looked us up and down curiously.
“Where are you guys from?” she asked.
My roommate pointed at her hat. “Cornell. We’re here in Boston for a concert.”
“That’s really cool! What concert?”
“Troye Sivan,” said my roommate. “He’s a pop artist.”
“That must’ve been so fun!”
At this point I was wondering if this girl got this excited over everything — she clearly didn’t know who Troye was, which was fine, but she seemed genuinely excited for us. After scanning us out, we thanked her, and she saw us off with a little wave (which was the most adorable thing).
My roommate and I turned to each other.
“She was really nice,” I said.
“You know, the Harvard kids I’ve dealt with are all pretty nice.”
Yet, I’m still planning on pelting their hockey team with dead fish and insults in a couple of weeks (“Give me an A, give me another A, give me another A, welcome to Harvard!”). Last year someone managed to knock the wind out of Harvard’s goalie with a frozen bass and Lynah Rink exploded with applause. We don’t mess around, you know.
“So…do you really hate each other?”
Yes and no.
I don’t know if I’d be speaking for all of us, but I definitely hate on the concept of a school more than the students who go there. Granted, I think it’s impossible for all students of all eight schools to actually get along with each other and sing Kumbaya, but if I ever show animosity towards a person from another school, it’s by virtue of the person they are and not the school they go to.
As with all stereotypes, you’re going to find people who play them straight and some other people who defy them entirely. I’ve met Columbia kids who could pass for Wolf of Wall Street extras, but I’ve also met some who are genuine and altruistic. I’ve met entitled Harvard kids who have life handed to them on a platter, but I’ve also met some hardworking idealists trying to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. So on and so forth.
But my perceptions of these people aren’t completely divorced from the schools they attend either. When I come across someone who matches the negative stereotype, I might think “well, that’s a typical _____ kid for you.” Because it’s interesting when you do find someone who finally plays a stereotype straight.
In short, I smack-talk schools without a second thought — they’re institutions worth billions, so what’s my two lines of snark to them? However, I evaluate the people who go there as individual people because people are more than stereotypes. And most people I’ve met also do the same.
All Fun and Games
For the most part, I personally enjoy this competition — as much as “us v. them” is a bad mentality to have for other situations, it helps build school spirit and motivates me to push myself harder. Plus, let’s be real: it feels good to be able to talk trash once in a while, without the negative repercussions.
Also, I hope I’m not just being idealistic, but I’d like to think that the reason the Ancient Eight like to hate on each other is because they mutually respect each other to some extent. Harvard and Yale may be grade-inflated and full of rich kids, but there’s something about centuries of tradition that you just can’t deny. Princeton may be in New Jersey, but its STEM programs are pretty amazing. Columbia and Penn may be finance sector feeders, but hey — it’s good for social mobility.
Brown may have an incredibly generous grading system, but they’re generally a bunch of sweet and open-minded people. Dartmouth may be kind of far away from everything, but their professors are super nice. Last but not least, Cornell may be three-sevenths public school, but our student body is wonderfully diverse.
At the end of the day, these are eight schools full of some the best and brightest people the world has to offer. They’re all great institutions in their own way, and to be able to attend any one of them already is quite an achievement.
Which is why I really like the sibling analogy for the Ivies; it is a family of eight children. Some are older than others, and each of them possesses their own unique personality. Sometimes they like to mess with each other, but at the same time they’re all related to each other and don’t intend to actually hit where it hurts.
Unless, of course, you’re the Harvard hockey team at Cornell. We’ll be aiming for your vitals.
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