Despite the weather, it’s technically spring and love should be in the air. But love had yet another obstacle thrown in front of it last week, when the Yale College Council removed its compatibility survey from its online dating site amid charges that it had violated copyright laws by using parts of Wesleyan College’s dating survey without authorization. The allegations disappoint us, and we urge the University to conduct a thorough investigation of the charges. If they are valid, the students responsible should be held accountable.
Two Wesleyan students, now seniors, created WesMatch, an online compatibility service for Wesleyan students, in the spring of 2002. When the YCC decided to create a similar service at Yale, it gained free temporary access to WesMatch, which Wesleyan had been licensing to other schools. Instead of using WesMatch, the YCC decided to create its own online matching site, YaleStation Degrees, which launched on Feb. 12. Students who registered at the site could complete questionnaire about themselves and their dating preferences and determine their compatibility with other users.
The YCC never claimed to have created the entire questionnaire from scratch, but that was the impression YCC members gave. But according to a news release posted on WesMatch.com, as many as 26 questions of Yale’s 40-question survey may have originated from WesMatch. An attorney for WesMatch sent Yale University President Richard Levin a letter Tuesday asking the University to shut down the Yale service immediately.
It seems unlikely that the similarities between the two sites are purely coincidental or accidental. Not only are many of the YaleStation questions direct derivatives of the WesMatch questions, but the page design looks strikingly similar — down to the color schemes and gradients of blue. The WesMatch questions were interspersed with other, we assume original, YCC questions, and some of the WesMatch questions were edited for grammar or to make them relevant to Yale. Such changes make it look less like the YCC was simply piloting WesMatch’s questions and more like it was adapting them for permanent use in its own project.
Assuming the questions do indeed come from WesMatch, we don’t understand why the YCC would think it could get away with such plagiarism or why it would even try. It seems senseless when the YCC clearly has the tools and capabilities to create an original product. And had the YCC decided to license WesMatch instead of creating its own version, we wouldn’t have cared. What offends us is not that the site was unoriginal, but that the YCC would represent as its own something that likely was not.
The University should not leave the controversy to the YCC to resolve and should conduct its own thorough investigation of WesMatch’s serious charges. If students on the YCC did borrow too liberally from WesMatch, the YCC owes Wesleyan the licensing fee it skipped out on the first time. Further, we especially urge the University to hold any students responsible for the alleged theft to the same standards of discipline that would apply to any Yale student who plagiarizes. Elected student bodies and officials should be held just as accountable for such a breach of ethics.
It’s a shame that the great phenomenon of YaleStation dating could come to such a sleazy end. Of course, the YCC could now create its own survey, as it could have done all along, and start over. But we doubt students will go through the trouble of doing it all again. The heyday of YaleStation dating is over.