On Tuesday, a few Harvard students, members of a comedy group called “On Harvard Time,” posted a YouTube video mocking the now infamous “That’s Why I Chose Yale” admissions video. The spirit of this parody was entirely in keeping with the traditional back-and-forth and exchange of pithy barbs that make our rivalry so fun. Indeed, many students on our campus even appreciated the clever satirization of a video that has now, for better or worse, become a part of Yale’s image.
But in the first scene of that video, those Harvardians crossed a line: an eager prospective “Yalie” asks an admissions officer, “What happened to that girl who got murdered and stuffed in a wall?” before the officer quickly brushes her question aside and moves on.
By making light of one of the most horrific tragedies to strike our campus in recent memory, the murder of Annie Le GRD ’13 last September, the video’s authors exhibited a gross insensitivity that they may not have intended, but elicited a response that they should have expected. For Yalies to ridicule Mark Zuckerberg, or for Cantabs to lampoon George W. Bush ’68 is one thing — but to poke fun at real suffering is inexcusable.
And for many in our community, last year’s sorrow is still fresh. Whether they were Annie’s friends and family, her co-workers, her fellow students or the countless others who mourned her, even though they didn’t know her, her death lingers in our campus’ collective consciousness. The fact that the video’s makers used this tragedy as part of an effort to boost Harvard pride before Saturday’s Game makes the reference all the more insensitive.
Our first reaction was to take offense. But then we were just disappointed.
After all, the Harvard-Yale rivalry may be a fiercely competitive one, but it is still, we believe, a friendly one — quite literally so. How many of us will be staying with friends in Cambridge this weekend, or will be hosted by our respective residential colleges’ sister houses? Indeed, how many pairs of schools can say they have consistently been coming together every year for quite so long just to have a raucous good time?
Our two distinguished universities have much more in common — and our communities are much closer — than we might like to admit. We all know this in the back of our minds, but when we lose sight of this understanding, we can fall into the trap of taking our natural competitiveness too far. We saw some of our counterparts get thoughtlessly carried away in the video that went up Tuesday. It undoubtedly not the first time a truly tactless jab was thrown in the history of our rivalry, by either side. And we can only hope that most students at Harvard cringed as we did when they heard the offensive joke. But above all, we want to believe that the nature of our rivalry has not descended to the level of mocking those moments when we are most vulnerable.
If tragedy struck Harvard’s campus, we hope Yale students would show more sympathy and respect — truly distinguishing ourselves from those “comedians” in Cambridge.