Jan 21, 2010

Yale’s New Admissions Video Strikes a Controversial Chord

Yale hardly needs the promotion, but it’s difficult to resist the campy exuberance of “That’s Why I Chose Yale,” a music video premiered with much fanfare on campus and across the country via YouTube. In her email introducing the “new Admissions rock musical,” Yale Associate Director of Admissions Marcia Landesman said, “We think it is safe to say that there has never been another admissions presentation like it!” Then again, she’s probably never seen “Appalachian State is HOT HOT HOT” or the series of Marshall University TV commercials—other musical college recruitment videos currently making the rounds on YouTube.

But the Yale video is different, for Yale at least. The 16-minute musical foregoes campus stills and student interviews pasted together with acappella renditions of various old school favorites. Instead, viewers are treated to an entire production company of more than 200 students, faculty and staff dancing across library tables and through residence halls. Even NBC’s Brian Williams makes a cameo appearance, clearly avoiding an obvious prompt to sing his lines. Although the net effect is more Bollywood than Ivy, the message is fun and removes any hint of stuffy from the Yale image.

Targeting a generation of high school students weaned on Disney’s High School Musical and MTV, “That’s Why I Chose Yale” does evoke mixed reactions from prospective students, alums, and current undergrads. Armchair critics characterize the production as everything from embarrassing to fabulous. One local undergrad remarked, “It’s 14 minutes too long.” Another viewer called it “cheesy.” But many wonder exactly who the real audience might be. After all, as one prospective student pointed out, “Yale chooses us—not the other way around.”

If the goal was to create “edgy fun buzz” around the internet, then the video has succeeded. At last count, YouTube posted nearly 152,000 hits, including many from staff at local high schools who have been frantically forwarding the link with notes reading, “You have to view this!” And maybe you should.

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