Breaking stalemate, Shvarts submits new senior art project

Aliza Shvarts ’08 has submitted another art piece in place of her controversial senior project that purportedly documented nine months of self-induced miscarriages, the University said this week.

The announcement — which came Monday, a week and a half after Shvarts’ initial project inspired nothing short of a national controversy — appears to provide an answer to the long-discussed question of whether the Davenport College senior’s art exhibit would ever be displayed. Last week, the University forbade Shvarts from installing it unless she admitted the piece was a work of fiction. She did not.

In the announcement, which came in a news release e-mailed to the News, University spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said Shvarts requested permission to substitute a different piece of art in place of what Klasky termed “the performance piece” she had originally planned as her senior project.

“We welcomed the solution that Aliza proposed,” Klasky said, “as were had been unable to determine with clarity whether Ms. Shvarts had in fact undertaken actions injurious to her health in carrying out her original project.”

The Director of Undergraduate Studies in the School of Art, Henk van Assen, approved her request, the statement said.

But the matter of whether it truly entailed nine months of self-inseminations and repeated miscarriages, as she claimed, or was merely performance art, as the University said, remains anyone’s guess.

Shvarts could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday and has not spoken publicly since defending her project in an op-ed piece in the News more than a week ago.

The announcement ended an eight-day stalemate between Shvarts and the University, which had refused to allow her project to be displayed unless she met several conditions — namely, that it would not include human blood, and that she would admit her story of self-inseminations and pregnancies was not true.

Yale College Dean Peter Salovey outlined those demands in a written statement on April 20. Shvarts never commented publicly, and the University repeatedly offered nothing more than to say that nothing yet had been determined about whether her project would ever be displayed.

But it was clear that the saga would not drag on forever. The Undergraduate Art Senior Project Show closes Thursday, after all.

There appeared hope shortly after Salovey released his statement that Shvarts might capitulate, and that her project would be able to be installed last week, perhaps within a day or two of the show’s Tuesday opening.

But no agreement came.

On Tuesday, the show opened. A flock of media rushed to it — but Shvarts’ project was nowhere to be found.

As the impasse dragged on, it appeared most likely that if any agreement was to come between Shvarts and the University, the beginning of this week was when it was most likely to happen. On Monday, faculty from the School of Art were scheduled to critique and evaluate her project, as is customary with senior projects for undergraduate art majors.

With no project on display, it was believed that Shvarts would have received a failing grade for her senior project — a requirement for art majors, according to the Yale College Programs of Study.

Perhaps that possibility, observers mused, would be enough to compel her to agree to Salovey’s demands. Whether or not the possibility of failing played into her decision was unclear; van Assen has not commented publicly on the matter, nor has Shvarts’ adviser, School of Art Lecturer Pia Lindman.

But whether Shvarts would have failed may have been a moot point, since her failure to complete the Art major may not have affected her eligibility to receive a diploma.

It appears the Davenport College senior is a double-major in art and English, given the latter subject’s listing with her name on Yale’s online Facebook. Thus, as long as she had at least 36 other credits to her name — not including ART 495, the senior project course — she would have appeared to remain eligible to graduate next month, least as an English major.


  • Recent Alum

    I am still waiting for the YDN to report on when Shvarts and her advisors will appear before the Executive Committee. Surely this matter is sufficiently important to take a few hours of Ex Comm's time, especially considering the relative importance of other matters that they have been deliberating recently?

  • Anonymous

    Pathetic. After causing all the strife, making all those statements in her editorial, she is revealed as not believing enough in her own strident babble to stand behind it. Empty posturing by a someone ultimately showing herself a coward.

  • Anonymous

    Come on all, say what you will about the project, but let's stop bashing the Art major (see comments from original article on Shvarts). It's just like any other major in which students have the discretion to put in as much or as little work as they want. If they choose (and have the proper credentials, prerequisites, and determination), art majors are just as capable of succeeding in professions like law/medicine/education/business as economics or biochemistry majors.

    -Alum '07 (non-art major)

  • Peter S.

    It is really sad that Yale has crushed Aliza Shvart's freedom of speech, but yet protected the hate speech of frat boys. This is really making the sexism embedded in Yale's power structure very transparent.

  • alum

    well, she did spend 8 months on the other, so let's cut her some slack

  • Anonymous

    So she came up with and finished a senior project in eight days? Makes me feel good to have been working on mine for eight months. Then again, her degree will be in Art, so I guess we will be even.

  • Another Alum

    I'd like to know too, re: Shvarts. However, the Executive Committee only has jurisdiction over students in Yale College, so her advisors would have to be disciplined through another procedure.

  • Anonymous

    I don't really think that Shvarts should be punished by Ex Comm. I am pro-life and I believe that it is completely outrageous that abortions at will are offered at DUH and encouraged at Yale generally (and hopefully the Schvarts fiasco will cause the administration to reconsider this), but given that abortions are permitted at Yale there is really no ground to punish Schvarts.

    Is there any chance that Schvarts is in fact pro-life and the entire thing is a fraud (albeit a well-intentioned fraud) intended to denounce the culture of death among the American Left-wing? I guess since she is an art major and they are all ultra-left, probably not…

  • Anonymous

    Good to know it only takes ten days to come up with, create, and submit a senior art project.

  • Alumna


  • To #1

    Can you tell me why in the world she would be excommed? She got authorization from officials and she did NOTHING ILLEGAL!!! on what grounds would she be excommed? get some sense.

  • Hieronymus

    Peter: how was her speech "crushed?"

    So far as we know, she faced…nothing.

    Whereas the fraternity pledges faced ExComm and were found, appropriately, not guilty.

    [ed. note: how appropriate! My "captcha" phrase is "recent mense"]

  • Anonymous

    Seems like it's not difficult to come up with a senior project.