Every fall, the Singing Groups Council works to ensure that the competition among Yale’s a cappella groups for the best and brightest freshman singers is in perfect harmony. This year, however, problems between the Yale College Dean’s Office, the Duke’s Men, and the Council has led to a rush of discord.
Yale Alley Cats member Al Powers ’04 resigned from his position as a Council co-chairman Sept. 12 to protest a decision made by Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg that he said “undermined” the Council’s “democratic function.” Last May, the Council’s chairmen set a single date for freshman callbacks, but because of miscommunication, the Duke’s Men set their callbacks for Sept. 13, a week earlier than all the other groups. The Singing Groups Council refused to allow the Duke’s Men this privilege, but after lengthy discussions, Trachtenberg overruled the Council’s decision, granting the Duke’s Men their wish and prompting Powers’ resignation.
Powers said the chairmen of the Council marked a single date for rush callbacks in order to minimize pressure on freshmen from individual a cappella groups. The Council’s charter grants chairmen the right to set the calendar, he said. By misunderstanding the rigidity of this schedule, the Duke’s Men gave themselves an extra week to encourage prospective members.
“The primary thing for the Council is to protect freshmen’s interests,” Powers said.
When the chairmen announced the rush rules this fall, the Duke’s Men said they had scheduled their callbacks a weekend earlier than everyone else. The Council subsequently decided that the rush rules would stand and the Duke’s Men would have to move their callbacks. Because the ruling caused difficulties for the Duke’s Men, Council co-chairman and Redhot and Blue member Michael Yuann ’04 said the chairmen offered to help the Duke’s Men with any problems that might have stemmed from the calendar change.
Yuann said he empathized with the Duke’s Men.
“It requires a lot of planning and a lot of thought is put into rush,” Yuann said. “It was unfortunate there was miscommunication.”
But the Duke’s Men Business Manager Brian Kendig ’05 expressed disappointment with the Council’s decision, Yuann said. The chairmen proposed bringing the issue to the Yale College Dean’s Office, Yuann said, but Kendig declined the offer.
Kendig then appealed to the Dean’s Office without notifying the chairmen. And without consulting the Council, Trachtenberg approved the Duke’s Men’s request, Powers said.
“I feel [the Duke's Men] were very uncooperative with us and I was very disappointed that they went to Trachtenberg,” Yuann said.
Kendig declined to comment.
Powers said the co-chairmen subsequently notified Trachtenberg that the Council had decided against allowing the Duke’s Men to have callbacks Sept. 13. Trachtenberg then retracted her decision, Powers said.
“The Council did vote,” Yuann said. “And [the Council] did vote against the Duke’s Men.”
The Duke’s Men appealed the decision, Powers said, and yet another meeting was held. Once again the Council, which is made up of the business managers of each a cappella group, voted against the Duke’s Men.
“One of the most important aspects of the Singing Groups Council is about having a fair rush, which was one of the reasons for having callbacks on a single weekend,” Yuann said.
Alley Cats business manager Andrew Sandberg ’05 said Trachtenberg initially said the Council should operate more independently. But at the end of the appeal meeting, Trachtenberg changed her mind once again and overruled the Council’s decision, allowing the Duke’s Men to hold their callbacks Sept. 13.
“[Trachtenberg] wanted the Council to be weaned from the Dean’s Office,” Yuann said. “[Trachtenberg's actions were] very confusing and frustrating and that was what forced Powers to resign.”
Trachtenberg declined to comment.
“I, personally, think the Council is a good idea and a necessary thing in the singing community. But it’s not working in its present format,” said Council co-chairwoman Amy Zinser ’04, a member of Whim ‘n Rhythm. “I’d like to stick around and change it for the better.”
Sandberg said he thought Powers’ resignation was justified after the past month’s events.
“Essentially, I think I totally see where [Powers] was coming from quitting,” Sandberg said. “I feel that the final decision, being overruled, made the time and efforts of the Singing Groups Council into a joke. How can you be strict with some rush rules and not others?”
Because of Powers’ resignation, the Council is short on chairmen. Yuann said the Council would be asking former chairmen to help with this year’s Tap Night.