dei sub numine viget


So I’m watching “Commander in Chief” tonight, and one of the characters excoriates the other by saying HE went to HARVARD and SHE was a “Pi Beta Phi from U.C. Santa Barbara.” She then totally slays him by saying that she actually went to Princeton and was a Phi Beta Kappa. First off, there’s nothing wrong with being a Pi Phi from anywhere, as many of my best friends wore the wine and silverblue and continue to be fabulous people.

Secondly: why all the harshing on a perfectly good state school and what’s with the obsession this country has with the Ivy League? Now, this rant is coming from a person who went to a prep school that taught us that if we didn’t get accepted to Harvard, we were going to be driving the shuttle bus from LAX to Parking Lot B. However, I never bought it. I never fell victim to the bright shiny lustre of the Ivies and I never believed it was going to cure me of either my intellectual longing or my virginity.

Worse yet, was this mid-80s invention of the “public ivies,” as if a school like Cal-Berkeley or us needed our lily gilded. The Wikipedia entry for Public Ivies mentions, among others, UVA, Michigan, Austin, William & Mary and some later additions like Indiana and UC-Boulder. Having visited and “lectured” at most of these schools, I can tell you that the education at these institutions is every bit as good as you make it as the Ivy League.

Let me just go on the record and say that UNC is a better school than Dartmouth. I’ll also say that Berkeley is a better school than Cornell. Discuss at your leisure.

I guess I’m offended at the label “public Ivy” because it speaks of an inferiority complex that I’m not willing to shoulder. I also hate terms like “Harvard of the Midwest” or “Harvard of the South” because it denies these places its true character in the reductivist rush to crown a Number One School of All Time, which, apparently, is Harvard.

I say it’s time to strike back at this way of thinking. The problem with Harvard grads, and there are many, is that they hire nobody else but each other. This has been bemoaned so often in the entertainment industry that it has become a cliché. So I’d like to propose something to you Carolina grads.

Create more of what my brother Kent calls the Light Blue Mafia; hire UNC grads first, then look around to other state schools. Special consideration should be given to UVA and the rest of the ACC (with one obvious glaring exception). Then go for the public schools of NY (SUNY) and California (UCLA, Cal). Take time out to look at people from Auburn, Tulane and Sewanee, who shouldn’t be penalized just because they’re from the red states. The rest should come from Chicago, Iowa City and Minnesota. Then let’s take over the media from the Cambridge Cabal!

Fuck being a “public Ivy.” I went to a school where my suitemate collected his tobacco spittle for two years, and I still got a script deal in Hollywood. Don’t call yourself the Harvard of the Midwest! In my book, Harvard is the Carolina of New England!

0 thoughts on “dei sub numine viget

  1. hk

    UNC versus Dartmouth. Do you have “Keggy the Keg” as your current most loved, unoffical mascot?
    You might kick our butt in basketball if they ever played, but not in the education of art of drinking games. And of course, the most practical education that I received going to Dartmouth as a minority. How to deal with rich ass white people and how to find the good ones…

  2. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Don’t even get me started.
    I was valedictorian of my high school class, and, at the end of my college decision making, I was accepted at Duke (which of course is not an Ivy, but they like to think it is) and UNC, and I decided to go to Carolina. For a variety of reasons, not the least being that Carolina was such a FUCKING FINANCIAL DEAL — I just couldn’t justify putting myself and my parents in financial debt for Duke. Getting into Carolina was like winning the lottery, in my mind. Anyway, my teachers were horrified that their valedictorian opted for a state school, albeit a “Public Ivy.” And, they were mad because I did not apply to any Ivies.
    I am very anti-Ivy. Not just for the snob factor. Not just for the elitism. Mainly, because you can never convince me that ANY of them are worth the price that they ask for tuition, board, etc. The price tags for the Ivy League schools are simply OBSCENE. The college administrators should be ashamed of themselves. It is a damn shame that so many high school students (and their parents)are brainwashed into thinking that they must go to an Ivy in order to succeed in life. I suppose that this is America and mortgaging your life out so that you can obtain the ultimate education designer label is the American way. And, the Ivies probably assume that as long as people are eager to pay the obscene tuition, they have the right to jack up the prices each year. Ugh. Ivy Schmivy. The college experience is what you make it.

  3. Anne

    Ian and Laury, as one who attended perhaps the un-Iviest Ivy of my era — of course we Brown grads think of it as the *coolest* Ivy — I understand why this is a touchy topic. There is no doubt that among some alumni, the Ivies are a bit of an insider’s club.
    I do believe there are so many extremely good colleges/universities in this country, it’s silly for anyone to feel either snobbish or secretly inferior. And (paraphrasing Ian), a college education is what you make of it.
    Re: today’s tuition price tags mentioned by Laury: whoa. I can’t imagine any of my children will be Ivy-bound for just that reason. And isn’t D—‘s tuition higher than some of the Ivies’?

  4. killian

    Time to add a sister T-shirt to Coastopia: Harvard: The Carolina of New England. I love it. Have done time at Harvard, (Radcliffe-an entirely OTHER conversation), Carolina, Duke–in many capacities–and Carolina ROCKS. Still, to be fair, I’m thinking it had a lot to do with my abilities at those different times to “make” those fabulous experiences. . .
    And, LFMD, I completely agree: the price tags for Ivies are completely unacceptable, no matter WHAT people think they are buying. Maybe it’s the placebo effect? If you THINK you are buying cultural capital, great networking, social and economic status, name-brand recognition, academic ambience, access to intellect, whatever, maybe you ARE. . .and then maybe it’s your right to pay whatever they are asking?
    Clearly I need more coffee. . .

  5. Rich

    So, my mother was a Pi Phi. Charter member at her school, too. She’s a pretty tough & smart lady. I also happened to love my school, Denison, that little bubble of New England majesty in the middle of suburban-sprawl Ohio (although my freshman roommate used to come home from rush and pee in his closet, or in his bed, depending upon the severity of his inebriation). Got me a little degree in acting and I’m doing pretty well in my career. No need to go to a huge conservatory like CCM or Carnegie-Mellon to have a good career. Look at Jennifer Garner (yes, we went to college together).
    I too, went to a prep school, in Manhattan, that was pushing for its students to attend Brown, Harvard, Yale, etc. Many of my old classmates are all lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc, and very, very driven (possibly unhappy?). There was no room for the arts there. So I flunked myself out and wound up at a much smaller, much more relaxed school in Manhattan in which the drive towards perfection wasn’t so crippling. I did much better there.
    You receive what you put into your education. I realized that in college, only. Had I learned that in high school, I’d have saved a couple years’ worth of angst, tears, family feuds, etc. But at least I found out eventually.

  6. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    I had some coffee and just read your posts over again. God, I hate how opinionated I sound sometimes! To each his own. And, I am totally full of crap! Anne’s post reminded me that I had applied to and was rejected from Brown! I thought Brown was so cool. I must have blocked the whole rejection thing out of my mind.
    If, in some parallel universe, I had been the valedictorian of a prep school whose parents were loaded (instead of the valedictorian of a public high school with parents who are teachers) the decision to apply to the Ivies would have been as natural as the falling rain. Maybe my problem is that money (and lack thereof) has always been an issue for me, and I resent people for whom money (and things like the cost of tuition) is a non-issue.
    Anyway, I hate when I sound like a strident shrew on your blog. Sorry, everyone!

  7. Bozoette Mary

    Why, you must be talking about Dook, because you couldn’t possibly be referring to the University of Maryland, where you never wore your good shoes to the Varsity Grill…

  8. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    And, I now send my daughter to a private school wherein the cost of kindergarten was nearly as much as my first year of college tuition, circa 1986! I can’t stand myself! : )

  9. CL

    Dude, that’s two Public Ivy posts in a row. Are you telling me that with your literary success, your amazing marriage, your beautiful daughter, and your boundless talents, this stuff still matters? As an Ivy Leaguer, I will tell you that 99.9 percent of the world doesn’t care that I went to an Ivy, and it doesn’t help me very much in life, although the occasional person who thinks I’m dopey actually ends up thinking I’m a tiny bit smarter when I tell him where I went to school (most people think U. Penn is Penn State, though, so even that usually doesn’t help)…
    Don’t hate Ivy grads. It’s not our fault. And considering that these days, it’s nearly impossible for any normal kid to get into an Ivy, they’re becoming less and less relevant. Unless you volunteer, play violin, serve as varsity quarterback and have 1500 on your SATs all at once, you can’t get into Harvard anymore. Becaues parents are actually training their kids to do all those things to get in, and it’s even more cutthroat than it was. So people are well aware that there are public Ivies.
    I guess in Hollywood, it’s hard not to feel the Harvard influence, but look at all the non-collegians who have ended up on SNL too. Eddie Murphy didn’t go to Harvard.
    Finally, everyone should read the New Yorker piece by Malcolm Gladwell from two weeks ago in which he picks apart the Harvard mystique himself, and notes their history of trying to put a ratio on J*ews. (I put the asterisk in their so that N*zi groups won’t Google and find this.)
    It’s pretty surprising:
    That will be all.

  10. chip

    I think Dartmouth doesn’t deserve the bashing it’s gotten. Everyone I ever knew that went to Dartmouth was really smart, really fun and devoid of attitude….I think it’s the Ivy for relaxed, socially ept geniuses

  11. David

    It has always been tough to get into the Ivies. John Cheever wrote about getting expelled from Thayer. Why? Drinking? No? Sex with headmaster’s daughter? No. He found studying 5 hours a day during spring time heartbreaking. No Holden Caulfield kind of crap.
    There is is annoying myth that the Ivies were worthless until 1964. TS Eliot was in awe of classmates at Harvard even the tough and crass ones.

  12. CL

    LFMD, don’t be so hard on yourself. I love it when you get passionate! Great line, by the way: “the decision to apply to the Ivies would have been as natural as the falling rain.”
    P.P.S: My comment about Penn State before wasn’t meant to mean I think they’re inferior; just that people don’t realize U Penn is an Ivy.

  13. Frequent Reader

    A few years ago, a visiting European made the observation that only US Americans were the only people on earth insecure enough about social status to paste decals from their colleges in the rear windows of their cars.
    So true.

  14. Sef

    Funny you should make those particular comparisons, Ian — I chose Carolina over Dartmouth for college, and then Berkeley over Cornell for law school. I’ve never attended private school in my life, and I’m all for your proposed new age of anti-elitist elitism.

  15. LFMD

    Oh, how I love you guys! If only my fellow associates at the Insurance Job appreciated me as much as you do. Ha!
    Lyle and CL: I love your blogs.
    Oh, and Lyle, truth be told: If UVA had not rejected me back in 1986, I totally would have gone there! I loved Carolina, but I REALLY LOVED UVA. I had such visions of the collegiate me, hanging out near the Rotunda with my adorable future collegiate boyfriend, autumn leaves falling all around us. . . dashed!
    But, there is still hope! Perhaps my daughter can enroll at UVA, class of 2021! Well, she is in first grade now, but we can enroll her in Kumon, then get her a tutor, then put her in a Kaplan SAT Prep course, then get her into some sports with some individual coaching (not just any sport, mind you, but one that the colleges actually care about — revenue-generating, perhaps?), then make her volunteer and do some totally outstanding college application-worthy thing, then hit the grandparents up for some money. . . .

  16. scruggs

    I had the public vs. private discussion with my little sister when she was deciding where to attend…think I had her sold and then Carolina goes and denies her admission! Almost made me get my NC tatoo removed. Almost. At least now she’s picked Michigan over Ivys (and UNC :-( ) for law school (still ringing up $150k debt).
    CL, interesting article. Esp. concerning that once you compare like pools of folks who got into both types of schools, you see similar success and income. BTW, PENN can get a pass due to its proximity to Abner’s cheesesteaks, and our good pal is class of ’93.
    Along these lines, Ian, how does your public vs. Ivy position translate to grade school for young Lucy. As both you and the Mrs. went to prep (& boarding) schools , what will your thought process be for the pre-college years? I recently read this freaky article, posted below, on how competitive NYC preschool admissions are. Your preschool can determine what K-12 you get into, which in turn can determine which Ivy you get into! It seems here in Atlanta, private school is the norm. However, my husband and I are products of good public schools as well as most probably lacking the 16k a year PER CHILD to even make this an issue.

  17. Andrew

    The best humor today is watching LFMD come undone. As someone else said, don’t ever apologize Laurie…we can always count on you to keep us going.

  18. Just Andrew

    Calm down, no need to display an inferiority complex here.
    The problem with the UNC/NC State rivalry is that the MooU folks try sooooo hard to show that they are equal to UNC grads. It’s painful to watch.
    I see the same parallel with this post – UNC and other public school grads feel compelled to defend themselves as equal to those with an Ivy eduation.
    Why? I’ve never had anyone from any Ivy even remotely look down on the fact that I went to UNC. They only care if you care, and then only because they derive humor watching you squirm and try to justify your education.

  19. LFMD

    Andrew, feel free to stop by my little home in Millersville, Maryland any time. I come undone on a daily and/or nightly basis! It’s a free show! Tell all your friends! Bring your own popcorn!
    Scruggs — that article you linked was fascinating! I would never survive in Manhattan. I lead a more simple life than I ever imagined.

  20. LFMD

    Ian, remember a few months ago when we were all chanting, “Baby! Baby! Baby!”
    “Hollywood News! Hollywood News! Hollywood News!”

  21. Bill

    Forget the Ivys! Going to Carolina was one of the single most important decisions I ever made, and I have zero regrets about it. Never considered an Ivy, although my northern New Jersey high school sent some there. Visited Dook, but never applied. It was Chapel Hill or bust, and thank god I got in. I didn’t know a soul when I got there…but my OC (orientation counselor — remember those?) took me under her wing (thanks Lisa and the gang in Connor!) and away I went on a four-year (OK, five, but the last one was just a post-graduate screw-around year) journey of great friends, interesting classes, the DTH, King Rice sightings at Players, 1-10 football seasons, quests for the perfect fake ID and all the rest. And a great deal to boot. Top that, Harvard.

  22. gina

    While at Carolina, my inferiority complex (at least one of them…) was comparing myself to out-of-state students — they had to be REALLY smart to get into Carolina. Coming from a tiny HS in NC, one that didn’t even have enough advanced students to offer calculus, I even sometimes thought that students from large public NC high schools had to be better prepared and smarter on the whole than I was. This certainly did not always turn out to be the case, but I sometimes felt that my admission to Carolina had to be based on the fact that I was from a small town in the mountains — not my intellectual capability. Even though I had a decent SAT and had attended Governor’s School…

  23. kent

    The University of Iowa has always been a place where people who want a good education get one. People used to call it “The Athens Of The Midwest,” but no one would ever call it a “Public Ivy.” And as far as I know there’s no Black and Gold Mafia. What makes Iowa worthy of accolades
    1. Famous graduates like Tennessee Williams, Greg Morris (of the original “Mission Impossible”), Gene Wilder.
    2. Famous Faculty — Grant Wood, Kurt Vonnegut, James Van Allen (for whom the Van Allen Belt) is named.
    3. A river runs through it.
    4. Allen Ginsburg said it was the only place between the coasts he liked visiting. BTW we’re the queer capital of the midwest, too.
    5. The Black Angel.

  24. scruggs

    Gina, hopefully you’ve since retired that complex, I’m sure you were perfectly qualified to be there. I will say, as an out-of-stater, I came in with all the bells and whistles of high SATs and grades, as well as All-American athletic honors, and promptly found myself on double academic probation. This was in part due to (stealing from Bill’s post): great friends, skipping classes, reading the DTH in class, ME sightings at Players, football tailgates, the perfect fake ID, and all the rest. My brilliant out-of-stater husband experienced the academic rude awakening to a lesser degree. Luckily, we pulled it together and both made it to grad school at…Carolina, of course. However, two of my best pals at UNC (former roommates and two of the smartest you’d meet) came from small towns, Wilson and Elon College, and went on to get a Yale law degree and a MBA from NYU, respectively.
    Laurie, simple is good, keeps you grounded. I can’t imagine the extra stress a life like that could add, though I guess that’s what “the hired help” is for! I vote for a LFMD blog as well.

  25. CL

    I think LFMD has expressed concern about being fired for blogging at work – but it could be just my imagination. Running away with me.

  26. ken

    Kent (et al) – Go Hawks! You did most of the heavy lifting but you forgot a few IC landmarks and U of Iowa Alumni.
    1) The Hamburg Inn – While I was nursing a wicked hangover and enjoying some delicious eggs and bacon at the Hamburg circa 1991, in walked Ronald Reagan. Despite my lifelong Democrat affiliation (Iowa went Dukakis in ’88) it was still pretty cool to meet (shook his hand and got an autograph) a US President.
    2) Gaslight Village
    3) Don’t forget BJ Armstrong (Chicago Bulls), Cal Eldred (St. Louis Cardinals, and my next door neighbor in Hillcrest Hall) and John Irving. George Gallup too, Ashton Kutcher (maybe we should keep that one secret).
    4) Maid Rite
    5) The Deadwood
    6) Record Collector, BJ Records
    7) KRUI, where my fifteen-year radio career started.

  27. cm

    As an alumnus of two “public ivies,” I’ve always thought it made us look a little bush-league to bitch about the ivies. Sorry.

  28. ek

    True story: my younger brother reluctantly went to Harvard after being rejected by Carolina.
    Ian – you don’t know me but my friends and I were all faithful readers of Wednesday’s Child back in the day . . .

  29. LFMD

    Thanks. Although I am not quite sure whether you are encouraging my blog because of my witty insights or because you would like me to STFU. Perhaps a little of both! Ha! Thanks for the thought, anyway.
    Believe me, my blog would bore everyone to tears. It would be a lot of yada yada yada drove on the Beltway yada yada yada picked up daughter at after-care blah blah blah 1st grade homework yada yada yuck another home appliance broke blah blah blah mortgage payment. Insurance Job! Traffic! Burnt dinner! Weight Watchers! Clothes don’t fit! Take dog to vet! Cartoon Network! Husband’s work stress! 401K! Blah blah!
    Hell, even I wouldn’t want to read it. I would much rather read all of YOUR blogs.

  30. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Hey Kent, my husband’s parents are both from Iowa. Tim’s grandfather played on the U. of Iowa football team. . . was the quarterback, I think. Each summer they would make the near cross-country drive from Maryland and visit all of the relatives, for a month-long stay. Ever hear of Luverne? Eagle Grove? Mason City? Clear Lake? Anyway, I’ve never been, but I feel like I have, from all the Iowa talk among the in-laws. One day we’ll head out there . . .

  31. eric g.

    Chipster, I have to agree with you about Dartmouth. Remember Mark Daly and Evans McMillion, my friends in law school? They were Dartmouth ’93. Good folks, both. Hey, as I sit here typing a deposition outline at 11:47 p.m. in a hotel in Irvine, CA, I just watched a sweet SportsCenter highlight of Rashad making a driving layup in a preseason game. Oh, what might have been. Sheryl Swoopes rocks, by the way.

  32. Liana

    “However, I never bought it. I never fell victim to the bright shiny lustre of the Ivies and I never believed it was going to cure me of either my intellectual longing or my virginity.”
    I attended a private college prep school and I can proudly say that I never ever fell victim to this utter nonsense either-although I know a vast amount of people whom I graduated with that did.
    I go to a state school and I’m proud. I didn’t choose my school for its reputation, high SAT scores or this ridiculous idea that somehow these schools provide a better education. I chose my university because it offered the best program for me. The school doesn’t make you better – you make yourself better and its about time that this should be brought to the attention of the millions of college hopefulls in highschools across the country. The end.

  33. badbob(real)

    My outlook- simple (as are I, as y’all know):
    140 credits in engineering for a BS(completed in 4 years) at about any state or Ivy school gets my respect. Last time I checked, inorganic chemistry and differential equations are the same at both varieties. Harder than hell and not much time for coffeeshops. Try doing it while playing a varsity sport.
    I reckon if you do get a degree in liberal arts you should try to go Ivy…..It looks better on your resume. Same for MBS & JD.
    All that being said, IF my kids can get in, I might choose to go in deep hock to send them there for all the reasons that are mentioned above.

  34. TDSUNC92

    I know it’s been said ad nauseum, and i’m a little late in the game here posting-wise, but your education really is what you make it. but besides that, when i look back at my collegiate years, the things i remember/value most are not whether they lived up or down to their rankings as set forth in whatever sterile college guide, because i really could have given less than a #@% about these things when i was making decisions about where to go. rather, the things that i carry with me and appreciate the most are interpersonal relationships entered into, extracurricular experiences of any and every (and i do mean ANY AND EVERY kind ….. well almost any and every kind), blessed mistakes made, both personal and academic (for e.g., as a freshman, i bailed on a final once to go to the beach with my then-beau who was a senior; while i was able to make up the final, i can’t ever get back the time i wasted on THAT fool!!!! ah well, you live and you learn. but i digress …), and the important lessons learned from all of the above. and yeah, the classes i took were great and very informative, too.


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