As Directed Studies students settled into Whitney Humanities Center Wednesday morning to hear Philosophy Department chair Michael Della Rocca give a talk on Leibniz, they were met with a surprise. Approximately 10 minutes into the lecture, the audio portion of a pornographic tape began playing through the speakers of the lecture hall.
“Although people found it amusing at the beginning, it soon became a very awkward situation,” David Kasten ’08 said.
Della Rocca, who is not a regular D.S. professor, was making his one guest lecture appearance of the semester when the tape began to play. The professors present attempted to turn the sound system off, but they had no luck in quieting the tape. Despite the interruption, Della Rocca’s lecture, given to 125 students, continued.
While the origin of the sound has yet to be substantiated, some D.S. students suggested the sound may have come through a wireless microphone. Others said they noticed unrecognizable students in the back of the classroom who could possibly be responsible for the prank.
“A bunch of people saw some kids who weren’t in D.S. sitting in Whitney,” Matt Lipka ’08 said. “I saw one of them carrying an iPod.”
Lipka said there is an add-on function for iPods called iTrip which allows an iPod user to broadcast through a radio. The speaker system in WHC may have a radio in it, possibly explaining how the sound was transmitted and broadcast, Lipka said.
Despite the disturbance and the scramble to shut off the sound system, students said Della Rocca remained calm.
“The speaker did a great job of maintaining his composure, and the lecture was great,” Rosa Po ’08 said. “I felt badly, and I think students felt really uncomfortable at the end of the lecture.”
Jane Levin, the director of undergraduate studies for Directed Studies, was not present at the lecture but said she was informed about the incident over lunch. Following the incident, Levin sent an e-mail to D.S. students in which she asked students for any information regarding what she called an “inappropriate” act.
“I think that this is very disrespectful of the academic process, to professor Della Roca and to the students in the class,” Levin said in an interview.
Other professors said they found the interruption very disturbing.
“It was irritating beyond word,” English and American Studies professor Wai Chee Dimock said. “The interruption was really quite great.”
Although Yale Diplomat-in-Residence Charles Hill said he had never heard of an incident like that which occurred on Wednesday, he mentioned a disruption in one of his lecture classes during secret-society tap week last year.
“In the middle of the lecture, a figure appeared in the doorway, declared, ‘Professor Hill, stop oppressing international studies students,’ and then fled,” Hill said. “I was delighted, but from what I have heard [of the incident in D.S.], it is disgusting.”
As of Wednesday night, professors said further information on those responsible and their punishment was not available. Yale College Deputy Dean Joseph Gordon said he was unfamiliar with the event and declined to comment. Dean of Yale College Peter Salovey was unavailable for comment.