Nguyen: Low blows and deep wounds

An e-mail thread came into my Gmail inbox today, linking me to a YouTube Video called “Why Did I Choose Yale?” Produced by Andrew Coffman, Sean Goller and Tyler G Hall and released by the comedy group On Harvard Time, the video was an all-Harvard production. I clicked “play,” expecting to see some swinging fists from an old, deserving rival; I was expecting to hear rhymes of “Yale” and “fail” or the eye-roll-inducing taunts of “It’s because you didn’t get into Harvard.” I was expecting to hear how our football team had lost for the past three years at The Game. To be honest, I was even hoping for some clever new jabs. Instead, what I found was a disgrace.

This Harvard production was not throwing punches at me and at Yale — I really wish it had. Instead, the video swung at people who couldn’t return its punches. It threw low blows at victims of violence, crime and poverty. These swift punches highlighted just how elitist, ignorant and insensitive Ivy League students can be. And it made me ashamed.

“What happened to that girl who got murdered and stuffed in the wall?” One minute into the video, this flabbergasting phrase came barreling out, unfunny and shocking. I was flabbergasted at the type of swing, but even more shocked that it wasn’t aimed at me or other Yalies. Could they really bring up such a recent tragedy to make fun of Yale? Did rivalry, musicals and football games make the producers of this video forget how to be decent human beings and respectful of others’ tragedies? That girl was Annie Le GRD ’13. What happened was an act of horrible violence. Annie was a person; her friends and family are real. Could our famed Ivy League education so utterly fail to teach its students sensitivity and tact? Could these kids really be in their third and fourth year and still not have learned that producing offensive content for their own comedic satisfaction is immature? Annie can’t taunt back at you during tailgates anymore. Can you please hit someone who can fight back?

The video goes on throwing out terms like “hookers and hobos,” describing incidents of crime as if they were things intrinsic to Yale — as if poverty and crime didn’t trouble all low-income areas, including Cambridge itself. The video used these problems as jabs against Yale and New Haven, as if they should deter people from entering these communities to create change. The Harvard “comedy” producers should think about the kind of message they are sending. We are a privileged few — living in the U.S., attending these universities, showered with opportunities to make a meaningful impact. Should we really sit here, creating videos making fun of hookers, hobos, crime and Annie? Are we supposed to “transfer” out of places where these problems exist? Then what use is an Ivy League education? What use are we?

Yale has weaknesses. An old and experienced rival like Harvard should be able to identify them and rub salt on them to give us a good-natured tease and goad us into improving ourselves. Yet sensitivity and respect are not our weaknesses — hundreds stood by me for Annie’s vigil just a little over a year ago. We honored the life of someone who sought to positively impact the world around her. We are not so weak that we feel the need to use victims of violence, crime and poverty to take indirect jabs at our rivals. We expect more from ourselves than that. And we expect more from our Harvard peers.

Vi Nguyen is a senior in Davenport College.

Correction: November 25, 2010

This column has been corrected. The producer of On Harvard Time’s “Why Did I Choose Yale?” parody video was not Chris Liberge, but rather, Andrew Coffman, Sean Goller and Tyler G Hall. The columnist apologizes for the error.


  • River Tam

    > The video goes on throwing out terms like “hookers and hobos,” describing incidents of crime as if they were things intrinsic to Yale — as if poverty and crime didn’t trouble all low-income areas, including Cambridge itself.

    Compton and the Hamptons both have crime. One just has more of it. When you joke about West Philadelphia, you joke about the crime rate, but that doesn’t mean that your hometown has never seen a criminal either.

    Look, I found the joke about Annie Le tasteless and disappointing. But the jabs against New Haven are completely fair. People don’t live in fear of townies at Cambridge or Princeton. It’s one reason why a parent might want to send their child to school at one of our peer institutions. They’re not mocking poverty – they’re mocking the undesirability (and New Haven *is* an undesirable area to live in – just check out the crime rates, poverty levels, and abandoned lots) of Yale’s environment.

    It’s a fair criticism – instead of getting indignant and trying (and failing) to play the “public service” card (let’s face it – few if any Yalies come to Yale *because* of New Haven), we should try to make New Haven better – if only for the selfish reason that it will make Yale a safer school.

    (of course, Annie Le’s murder was not connected to the New Haven crime rate in any way – it was an acquaintance murder – so I’m not sure how Ms. Nguyen makes her segue in what could most appropriately described as a rant).

  • The Anti-Yale

    “Could our famed Ivy League education so utterly fail to teach its students sensitivity and tact?”

    I will repeat, it was a Yale graduate who named a cat “Kent State” in his nationally syndicated cartoon, “Doonesbury”. What must the parents of the slain students felt?

    Especially since he had previosuly drawn favorable attention to their cause with a cartoon on the second anniversary of the shootings, May 2, 1972. (link below)

    Perhaps it was because that “favorable” cartoon got him thrown out of dozens of newspapers across the country ( a novel one-day censorship), a trend which at first may have alarmed the cartoonist, but which in later repeat censorings enhanced the aura of his fame and following.

  • mpl

    I also saw this on IvyGate!

  • mrmike527

    Do we have to get offended by absolutely everything?

  • forthewin

    It’s fine to be offended by that Annie line, but this editorial really goes over the top after that

  • Dmitry

    I applaud Ms. Nguyen and the Yale Daily News editorial for promptly stepping forward to defend Annie. I also want to believe that apart from the insensitive pricks with the sick sense of humor, who manufactured the original video, the majority of Harvard students are respectful and compassionate to the people associated with the tragedy.

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