In 1972, undergraduates at the Yale Daily News published The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges, an entertaining but blatantly sexist description of what it was really like to attend several hundred colleges.
The Yale newspaper continues to publish an annual Insider’s Guide to the Colleges, one far more anodyne and less offensive than its earliest version. Imagine such a publication today describing Trinity College coeds as “unattractive.”
That first Insider’s Guide actually contained the sentence, “One [Trinity] history professor explained, ‘These girls don’t have to worry about being molested. Their faces are their chaperones’.” Really.
Many schools were going coed at the time, and women and minorities clamored for fair treatment. And yet it apparently didn’t occur to the editors of The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges that they might offend female readers with comments like, “The young ladies are especially warm and are reportedly easily convinced of the virtues of losing their virtue.”
Colleges in the early 1970s were loosening their rules in the midst of the sexual revolution. And campuses all over the country were reeling from the unrest of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
So the Insider’s Guide to the Colleges found an audience for answers to such questions as “Do students smoke pot?” “How hard is it to get a date?” “Do the dorms have curfews?”
Insider’s Guide to the Colleges
Tufts, which had gone coed, could be better than Williams or Wesleyan for men because, “There is something discouraging about the wild-eyed, hangdog look students develop at those isolated, all-male institutions,” the Insider’s Guide reported.
Bennington College won praise for its relaxed parietals. About the only rule it had was to ban lighted candles in dormitories.
Back then, people considered Bennington expensive at $5,000 a year for tuition, and you could go to UMass for $1,000 if you lived in state.
Sports didn’t get much attention at UConn.
And something else has changed since then. The Insider’s Guide described “the perennial middle class,” with rising expectations and hopes. It turned out to be not so perennial, after all.
Below are excerpts from the guide about New England colleges.
Amherst men tend to be strapping, athletic, handsome, friendly, preppy types of guys. They study hard but not too much, and they owe much of their image to the prep-school students – a third of the student body. The college held frequent lectures, rock-and-roll concerts, dances and mixers that the students from three nearby colleges attend.
“Another advantage we should mention is the active drug trade in the area – if you’re interested in that sort of thing,” wrote the Insider’s Guide.
650 men, 550 women.
The authors lumped Bates with small, out-of-the-way liberal arts colleges that had a good reputation. Bates was ‘superintellectual’ with no social life. Lewiston, Maine, was a hole, and the dull campus ‘unceasingly Georgian.’ The male-female ratio at Bates, provided ‘virtually unparalleleld social boredom.’ (But not for the female students, presumably. There were 650 men, 550 women.)
The school won praise for its many academic offerings and Robert Chute, a poet and scientist on the faculty. The administration, though, was characterized as autocrats who won’t retire ungracefully resist change and make everyone else uncomfortable.
61 men, 500 women.
Bennngton, wrote the Yalies, was a peculiar place where both pot-smoking and touch football were on the rise. But whether a student would enjoy Vermont’s rural beauty depended on the ability to endure mud – and the near-constant bombardment of music and dance. For the Bennington girl of limited patience, the authors recommended a car – or a jet.
The unstructured college had no grades and no traditional organizations, though the students took their studies seriously. The Insider’s Guide included an anecdote about a ‘coed’ (male student) caught by a female student emerging from the shower naked. She smiled, said “hi” and walked past.
4772 men, 1780 women.
Any school in or near Boston got a thumbs up from the authors because of the lively cultural offerings and preponderance of students. They simply described Boston College as Catholic, a university and located in Boston, actually Chestnut Hill. “But 25 cents and 20 minutes on the MTA will get you to Boston,” they note.
6,070 men, 8,582 women.
The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges called Boston University a typical big urban university. Hungry hordes of Harvard and MIT men are the bane of a BU man’s existence, noted the authors. The school has strong offerings in political science and fine arts. It’s so big, you can take many course offerings, including an African language. But you can be as forgotten as an MTA schedule.
947 men, 96 women.
“The premier reform this past year was the welcome arrival to the Maine wilderness of 100 bright-eyed damsels,” reported the Insider’s Guide to the Colleges. Bowdoin attracted intelligent, affluent middle-class types. Ten percent of its students were black as a result of a massive student recruiting program begun by the mostly white class of 1965. Additionally, Bowdoin had considerable academic strengths, strong fraternities and an overemphasis on sports – “albeit out of proportion to any actual quality on the part of the teams.”
1,100 men, 1,100 women.
Brandeis in 1972 was a New York Times kind of place. High-scoring Jewish kids from New York and Boston apply to Brandeis, along with one Ivy, usually Columbia. A confrontation took place in 1969, when African-American students occupied the communications building in a demand for Afro-American studies. The president gave the students amnesty and tried to reconcile with them. The Yale students called him, ‘an extreme in-vogue liberal.’
2,800 men, 1,150 women.
Brown had just merged with Pembroke, and Brown men held some antipathy toward the former Pembrokers. The men resented their academic success, and preferred to date women from other schools on weekends, the Insider’s Guide to the Colleges reported.
“The problem with the coeducational experience is those women actually want to learn things,” wrote the Yale students. And yet, they concluded, the Brown experience is far from oppressive.
Central Connecticut State College (now University)
3,417 men, 3,275 women.
What is now Central Connecticut State University was then described as, ‘a hodgepodge of new programs, archaic majors and overcrowded classes.’ CCSC experienced growing pains as it planned to double in size, resulting in, ‘an irritating mixture of the academic and practical. Experiencing growing pains as it planned to double in size.
958 men, 716 women.
The Insider’s Guide to the College reported that Clark’s fastidious admissions department had done a unique job in picking extremely individualistic people. It praised the school for its psychology and geography departments, and cited the Heinz Werner Institute as one of the finest research centers for developmental and comparative psychology. Clark, the guide concluded, offered a top education and a social wasteland.
837 men, 697 women.
The Insider’s Guide had no love for Colby, described as having apathetic students, a dissatisfied faculty and not much to do in Maine. The college also still gave preferential treatment to alumni offspring.
359 men, 1175 women.
Recently shed of its ‘for Women’ name, Connecticut College competed with seven sister schools for students because of its outstanding faculty. And it did it despite lacking the luster of Vassar, the notoriety of Sarah Lawrence or the location of Radcliffe. Doris Day girl-next-door predominated on campus, but the problem is Connecticut College isn’t really next to anything. It cannot escape New London, the guide concluded.
University of Connecticut
7,863 men, 5,159 women.
One student summed up the school in five words. “I like UConn. It’s fun.” It was a typical huge state university, though hugely ridden with strife. One-third of the students left every year for academic reasons. Sports, the Insider’s Guide reported, were ‘little heard of.’
Dartmouth had earned a reputation as an animal school, full of men who can’t control themselves when they get within a certain distance of woman. One freshman class was said to have more than 100 high school football captains, the guide reported.
But the authors acknowledged change at Dartmouth. Students devoted a recent Green Key weekend to workshops on Kent State, Cambodia and the Black Panthers. Almost as an afterthought, they add Dartmouth offered a superb education with an especially good math department.
University of Hartford
1807 men, 1440 women.
U-Har was steeped in the finest traditions of suburbia and the American dream, wrote the Insider’s Guide. Located in the wealthy suburb of West Hartford, it stood among three excellent golf courses. The campus had a bourgeois air, but the student quality was improving and so were the academic departments. Plus, noted the guide, “You can have a good-as-hell time.”
The Yale authors offered four advantages to Harvard: interesting and diverse undergraduates, Boston location, prestige and a fair education without working too hard. Among the disadvantages: graduate students often taught undergraduates. Plus Harvard students tend to be obnoxious big shots. The campus was divided into wonks, jocks and preppies, so it was easy to wash out socially.
Another drawback: Though swarming with girls, Harvard ordered all girls out of the rooms at midnight.
“You can get better higher learning elsewhere,” the authors snarkily concluded.
Holy Cross has not wavered in its intent of educating concerned Christian gentlemen, wrote the guide. The school’s social life disappointed, but promised to improve soon with the introduction of coeds in 1973.
University of Maine at Orono
4,025 men, 3,000 women.
Though it offered a course in meat cutting, UMO ranked among the better state universities. And the gap between rules and reality bordered on the unbelievable. Liquor was forbidden on campus, but the ban was observed as well as the speed limit on the Maine Turnpike, noted the guide.
The students enjoyed skiing, and drinking ranked as the most popular activity on campus. In many ways, though, Orono was a relic from another age, when jocks score well and ROTC remained untarnished. Spanky and Our Gang was the last group to play there, and the political and cultural revolution had only begun to penetrate the Maine woods.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
3,825 men, 250 female.
MIT, a science school, was one of the finest in the country. It had its drawbacks, though. Once girls found you out as a Tech Tool, they won’t look your way. But ‘across a short span of aqueous filth known as the Charles River lies the City of Boston,’ report the authors of the Insider’s Guide. The Boston-Cambridge metropolis included 52 girls’ schools, however, making a 5-to-1 ratio in favor of the men.
At a time when authorities tried to weed out radicals from college campuses, MIT gave refuge to Noam Chomsky. Someone calculated Chomsky cost the school $1 million in government contracts and alumni giving. “We think it’s a credit to the school that they keep him on,” wrote the clearly left-leaning authors of the Insider’s Guide to the Colleges.
Massachusetts State College System
Massachusetts’ state colleges offered a refuge from the modern world, wrote the Yale students. Their seven campuses were sound, secluded, white and straight. As state colleges went, Mass State ranked among the best of the lot. It was good academically, and highly competent in the training of teachers. Campus rules, though, rated ‘puritanical.’
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
8581 m, 6505 f
UMass-Amherst actually boasted lower acceptance rates than Harvard or Yale. Nonetheless, the Yale students dismissed UMass’s average student as ‘boorish, not very intelligent and not very interesting.’ However, some students living off campus were doing ‘amazing things.’ The guide described those amazing things as ‘writing poetry, painting and smoking dope.’
1,000 men, 700 women.
The Insider’s Guide described Middlebury as ‘clean, conventional, self-satisfied.’ Surrounded by cows and farmland, the academically demanding school put students under intense pressure. Middlebury was also famous for its foreign language and literature programs.
Mount Holyoke deliberately placed itself in South Hadley, Mass., far from the corrupting influence of uncensored literature, alcohol and men. All that changed, and the school was replacing the ‘creative but frustrated Emily Dickinson image’ with something more progressive, the guide reported. Despite a remarkable offering of student activities, ‘a flock of females in full flight’ might trample someone standing by the bus stop at the main gate on a Friday afternoon.
University of New Hampshire
5,163 men, 3,672 women.
Back in the early 1970s, the conservative Legislature and apartheid-supporting Manchester Union-Leader harbored much hostility toward students and universities, the guide reported. The school had the highest out-of-state tuition in the country and steep in-state tuition. It also had a lousy location, as Durham had no discotheques.
UNH had some pluses: a pretty campus and an excellent philosophy department under Peter Sylvester. Students generally came in the ‘apple-cheeked farm’ type.
9,400 men, 4,600 women.
Northeastern, reported the guide, was large, mediocre and sometimes troubled. But it was also on the way up. The co-op program launched some students into journalism, television and Wall Street, along with ‘palatable’ jobs for many others. On the downside: a location in a high-cost, low-quality, unsafe neighborhood.
“Many Cliffies are as hip as they are huggable,” the Insider’s Guide reported. However, the old image of Radcliffe as a polite, restrained school for wealthy women hadn’t entirely disappeared.
Moreover, Radcliffe girls were aggressive, and Tillie-from-the-sticks would have had a hard time of it. The school also had a larger proportion of rugged, gutsy, infighting radicals than Harvard.
University of Rhode Island
5,907 men, 4,338 women.
URI fit the description of the state U in every respect, according to the Insider’s Guide to the Colleges. Except, perhaps, that it was a ‘surprisingly dull place aided by gifted administration.’
The book praised President Werner Baum for refusing to turn over a list of guest speakers and their fees to the attorney general. He wanted to search for subsidies of radicals and take away the school’s tax-exempt status. On the other hand, the administration enforced curfew, parietals and a ban on liquor at fraternities. URI also got low marks for its location in Kingston, which had little more than cow pastures, farmland and a pizza place.
Simmons tries to train women professionally while giving them a liberal arts background. It had recruited more black and underprivileged students than any other women’s college. The students got very involved in the issues of the day, just not on campus. Located in Boston, they will never lack for dates.
50 men, 2,450 women.
Smithies, wrote the Insider’s Guide to the Colleges, are “prim, pretty, young, innocent, apple-cheeked, bubbling and dull.” The admissions office prefers girls who more resemble Mary Poppins than Scarlett O’Hara, they noted. Smith offers bookish seclusion, once considered the ideal women’s education. But now, they wrote, people think education is about “people, experiences, excitement and initiation.”
1060 men, 530 women.
Trinity, noted the Yale newsmen, had a chip on its shoulder because it got left out of the Little Three Ivies — Amherst, Wesleyan and Williams. So it made up for it in social prestige. Trinity decided to give each man a bedroom, a living room and a bedroom for his valet. Times had changed by 1972, however. Trinity was trying to diversify its student body, which it held to rigorous admission standards.
2,400 men, 1,100 women.
Tufts got high marks for location and student body mixture. Described as a “good school,” it had proximity to Boston where something cool and something groovy was always going on.
The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges described Wellesley as almost a cartoon of the Ideal Respectable Yet Academically Worthwhile School for Young Ladies. It described many of the girls as Junior League liberals — idealistic, but they don’t do anything about it. The college had topflight offerings in English, history, the arts and languages, but showed weakness in science and math.
1200 men, 200 women.
Though Middletown, Conn., offered nothing but boredom, half the students at Wesleyan had cars. The school had the highest percentage of black students in the country – nearly 15 percent – outside of historically black colleges. Though occasionally too liberal for older alumni, Wesleyan then was “one of the most exciting academic centers” in the United States.
The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges had no love for Wheaton, which it described as a suitcase school that offered a solid liberal arts education with little pressure. Norton, Conn., however, was a difficult handicap to overcome.
1200 men, 325 women.
Williams offered a topnotch education, and would give Yale or Harvard a run for their money if it were bigger. The administration considered teaching more important than research, and prominent political scientist James MacGregor Burns taught there. Williams’ rural location was a drawback, however. Williams students’ parents supposedly sent their sons to college in the fall with a briar pipe and three-piece woolen underwear. Then they could count the days until spring thaw.
4,000 men, 1,000 women.
You would be correct in assuming the writers from the Yale Daily News would brag on their school. They noted that Yale was the hardest college to get into. They attributed that, in part, to the school’s sensitive and liberal administration which had quelled unrest during a three-week strike related to a Black Panther trial nearby. Its upper-middle-class students longed to fill the shoes of such public servants as Cyrus Vance, William F. Buckley, Jr., or Sargent Shriver. (Certainly Law School students Bill and Hillary Clinton did.)
They described Yale as a cross between Princeton and Harvard. It had the best English department in the world, the best French department outside of France and outstanding history, political science and biology departments. As far as social life went, Yale had a large “hippie-radical-drug-freak contingent” and “a monarchist party known as the Party of the Right.”
Images: Smith College campus By MonsieurNapoléon – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64894359; Yale, By John Phelan – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33181529. Yale campus Yale campus By Namkota – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50507969.. Wellesley College By Grom – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6424795. Brown’s Main Green By Chris Rycroft – https://www.flickr.com/photos/193316968@N06/51768485409/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=113810038. URI quadrangle By Wasted Time R – en:Image:URIQuad.jpg, Copyrighted free use, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=891529. Thompson Hall Thompson Hall at UNH By AcrossTheAtlantic – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63031225.. University of Maine CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1405898. The Willard House in Middlebury By PenelopeIsMe – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4363690. Bowdoin By Polarbear 11 – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14571061.
This story about the Insider’s Guide to the Colleges was updated in 2023.