Letter: Yale’s alums are great comedians

I can’t really disagree with Matthew Ellison’s column in yesterday’s News criticizing the negative epistolary aftermath of the Yale Alumni Magazine’s startling report that there are homosexuals among us (“Old-fashioned bigotry,” Sept. 17). But I do have one complaint: Why the dour tone? Any survivor of English 120 will clearly recognize that these letters are the stuff of great satire. They’re even funnier than “Barack the Magic Negro.”

Let us all pause, for a second, and relish genius.

The octogenarian satirist Donald Conklin ’45, seconded by others of our elders, writes that “one day the straight students may become a minority [at Yale],” scared away from one of the world’s most coveted educations, it is implied, by the terror of same-sex hand holding. Think of the pain this must cause an Eli of that age who has witnessed with woe the steady usurpation of Yale’s white straight male Christian majority by The Others; it’s as if the admissions office eliminated the Jewish quotas all over again.

The younger comedian Stephen Schmalhofer ’08, in a poetic cipher I will charitably call Miltonian, will keep the scholars busy for centuries with his references to Yale’s troubled gay future and a Classical-sounding “plinth of Personal Identity.” The humor is subtle, but it’s there. It’s funny, you see, because plinths were common in Ancient Greece, and Greeks were immoral homosexuals. And that’s why the barbarians sacked Rome. Or something like that.

Of all of these men (yes, exclusively men), Paul Loomis ’60 deserves the Pulitzer for his wit. He is unapologetic. Being manly, he certainly doesn’t fear the pansy queers. His feelings are closer to “[d]isgust or repulsion … involving something deep and visceral,” he writes. For anyone skilled with the find-and-replace function on a word processor, this manifesto is versatile: Just replace the word “gays” with other short nouns like “negroes” or “Jews,” make some minor cosmetic changes, and voila — you have fanatical invective for any occasion.

Thank God we have alumni with a sense of humor.

Tyler Hill


Sept. 17

The writer is a 2009 graduate of Pierson College and a former news editor for the News.


  • Y’12

    Well said, Tyler.

  • Men?

    Um… the older alumni are men because, um, the older alumni are…. men. You know, like, until 1969 and all that?

    Also: folks often get more conservative as they age; try to consider an future potential moves prior to laughing your azz off at them (my fave at Yale, from a tattooed girl: “Ha! Look at that old lady with a tattoo! Gross!” Duh….).

    Lastly: don’t diss your alumni network, esp. in print. Just sayin’.

  • alum

    nice letter .it would be great if you posted links of sources for hte quotes you have here. it would be interesting to see the full context

  • CC 2011

    This made me laugh. Thanks Tyler – I had indeed been in the ‘dour tone’ camp when I first saw the letters this summer.

  • MSDC

    The comparison to ‘Barack the Magic Negro’ is unfortunate and betrays a great deal of ignorance. Whereas the alumni statements were actually offensive, ‘Barack the Magic Negro’ was actually making fun of of white condescension via a reference to the ‘magic negro’ trope in American literary and cinematographic history. I find it disappointing that you would simply here that somebody from “the other side” used the phrase ‘magic negro’ and jump to the conclusion that it is an example of racism.