A sculpture meant as a public statement about University policy was badly damaged Thursday night, when it was apparently thrown by students involved in secret society Tap Night from Beinecke Plaza into the sunken sculpture garden on the plaza.
The pill-bottle-shaped sculpture, which was intended to symbolize the number of annual deaths from lack of access to medicines, was erected by Yale’s chapter of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines. The group, which lobbies Yale to help make patented medicines affordable in developing countries, commissioned an architecture student to design the structure and unveiled it Wednesday. UAEM members found the sculpture late Thursday evening thrown into the Beinecke Plaza sculpture garden, said Ami Parekh LAW MED ’09, co-director of the Yale chapter of UAEM.
With help from University building services employees, UAEM members removed the pill bottle from the sculpture garden and replaced it in its original position on Beinecke Plaza, where it now stands alongside a statement from UAEM decrying the vandalism and encouraging those responsible to volunteer to help rebuild the structure.
Yale UAEM co-Director Shayna Strom ’02 LAW ’09 said UAEM would like to maintain student focus on the original goal of the project.
“We were obviously shocked and frustrated and disappointed, but I think at this point we’re really hoping there’s a way to salvage the symbol of the pill bottles,” Strom said.
Parekh said UAEM has been pleased by Yale students’ response to the vandalism, stating that approximately “100 or 200” of the 500 total signatures to the petition came after the vandalism.
“Students have cared more about the issue rather than this random act of violence,” Parekh said.
Strom said a great deal of the disappointment following the incident stemmed from the hard work students put in to building the sculpture. Parekh said it took 15 students a total of more than 500 hours to assemble the structure.
Although no witnesses to the incident could be reached for comment, Jordan Strom ’07 said he had heard that the individuals responsible were a male wearing a Speedo swimsuit, a male dressed “in a baby costume wearing a diaper,” and a male in a purple dress, indicating that the vandalism was a result of secret society Tap Night activities.
Jordan Strom said he was told that the three males were confronted by witnesses after they threw the pill bottle over the edge of the pit, but that the perpetrators were “too intoxicated to pay much attention.”
“At this point we know given the descriptions of what we heard that it was a secret society, but we have no idea which one,” Shayna Strom said.
On secret society Tap Night, which occurred Thursday, Yale juniors who are being tapped are often made to perform a variety of embarrassing and bizarre stunts around campus.
Both Shayna Strom and Parekh emphasized, however, that UAEM is not interested in a “witch hunt” for the individuals responsible, but that the group wants to turn the incident into a positive opportunity for students to publicize their opinions about access to medicine.
Parekh said UAEM had contacted University President Richard Levin’s office about the vandalism, and that the group was hoping for a public statement from Levin denouncing the incident.