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Let’s rename Colorado’s Collegiate Peaks

September 19, 2011

Part of the Sawatch Range in the Colorado Rocky Mountains is called the Collegiate Peaks as five of the highest summits, all above 14,000 feet, are named after elite universities.  They are in descending height order – Mt Harvard, Mt Princeton, Mt Yale, Mt Oxford, and Mt Columbia and each is one of the highest peaks in the United States outside of Alaska.  Like all of the Colorado Rockies, they’re magnificent areas offering tremendous outdoor opportunities.  My daughter actually got engaged high on the slopes of Mt Harvard!

This may sound like a pretty minor quibble and in the greater scheme of things it surely is, but I think symbolism matters.  I don’t think we should name our highest peaks after elite universities.  The founding mythology of the United States, after all, is democracy and anti-elitism.  The Ivy League, by contrast, is a well known center of elitism and an original home of the Old Boys’ Network.

Harvard and Princeton are the two primary producers of “talent” for Wall Street which seeks to utilize the prestige of these schools to impress its business clientele.  From 30 to 40% of recent Princeton graduates enter financial services and half of Harvard attends the Wall Street recruiting process.

As Karen Ho shows in her excellent anthropological study of Wall Street, “Liquidated: An Ethnology of Wall Street”, the most prestigious Ivy League schools and Wall Street form a cozy club based on status, elitism, and exclusivity.  To an astounding degree, Wall Street is the Ivy League and, in particular, Harvard and Princeton.  Their influence, of course, extends beyond just Wall Street as each of our last four presidents were Ivy Leaguers.

The only non-Ivy League summit among the Collegiate Peaks is Oxford but it sits quite comfortably alongside its elite brothers (sexism still lives) being the oldest university in that most aristocratic of nations.

I think we should immediately rename these peaks to either their original Indian names or, if we wish to maintain the collegiate theme, to universities of a more democratic heritage.  How about honoring public universities?  Mt Colorado State or Mt Penn State?  Or our low cost community colleges?  Mt Red Rocks Community College?

Let’s eliminate elitism from our public lands and institutions. It’s bad enough all our sporting arenas are named after corporations and banks.  Associating our major mountains with elite universities, and especially ones so linked with Wall Street, is an insult to the democratic tradition.

From → Colorado, US

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