A decade in the News

The past decade of controversy saw Yalies make national news with encounters from the appalling to the absurd. Theft, fraud and presidents popularly charged with both have put the Yale name into headlines. scene invites you to take a trip through the past 10 years atop the outrage of millions — the expenditures of Yale’s staggering endowment in public dispute.

2000: Fake Yale grad student sentenced to three-year probation and fines

Securing herself a place in the grand tradition of counterfeit Yalies, Tonica Jenkins forged her way to Yale graduate school for biological and biomedical science in 1997. Three years later, she pled guilty, but not without dodging police searches at Yale for her arrest and for her own hearing in 1998. Unlike her lawful undergraduate counterparts at Yale, Jenkins must have been unaware of The Fundamental Rule of Biomedical Anything: you just can’t fake it.

2001: George W. Bush ’68 sworn in as fifth U.S. president holding a Yale degree

With his inauguration, Bush brought Yale the kind of glory that comes second only to his demolition of Princeton’s goal post and his subsequent arrest following the 1967 Yale-Princeton football game. Undergraduates could sleep a bit more soundly knowing that their blue-blooded, incoherent classmates could lead a nation. Many students, however, stayed up late nights lamenting the connotations their diploma would forever hold.

2002: Yale accuses Princeton of hacking into admissions Web site; involves FBI

After casually mentioning the ease with which he could break into Yale’s online applicant database at an Ivy League deans’ conference, then Princeton Dean of Admissions Stephen LeMenager, found his claims under investigation. The security breaches were confirmed to have originated in the Princeton admissions office, where at least 11 personal files of prospective Yalies were viewed in violation of student confidentiality. Princeton placed LeMenager on administrative leave, but after calling in the FBI, Yale simply accepted blame for lax security and declined to press charges. Yale trampled Princeton at the annual Princeton-Yale game the following year in an act of vigilante justice.

2003: Yale impostor Jenkins (see 2000) faces another trial for attempted murder

Fraud and evasion barely satisfied Tonica Jenkins’s appetite for injustice. After a foiled entrepreneurial venture (a veritable family affair in which undercover police caught Jenkins and her mother purchasing 22 pounds of cocaine), the ambitious ex-Bulldog took her depravity to new heights. She kidnapped a doppelganger pedestrian whose identity she intended to appropriate after torching the woman’s body.

2004: Non-profit Security on Campus demands Department of Education investigation of rape and assault at Yale

The national watch-dog group Security on Campus, Inc. alerted the Department of Education in an August 2004 press release that Yale had consistently failed to provide comprehensive reports of sexual assault and rape. This potential violation of the Jeanne Cleary Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act poised Yale for enormous fines and loss of federal student financial aid. Yale promised to revise its policies and the charges were dropped. But the issue surfaced again in 2007 when the Sexual Harassment and Assault Resources & Education center opened, yet another instance of controversies at Yale rarely expiring as quickly as they emerge.

2005: Yale-Peru battle over Inca artifacts begins with threat of lawsuit

When Yale graduate, history professor and amateur anthropologist Hiram Bingham III 1898 bestowed hundreds of the Inca relics he excavated in 1912 at Machu Picchu upon his alma mater, he had some inkling of the controversy his gift might stir — Bingham wrote to Yale in 1916, urging that the artifacts be returned to Peru. But he could not have anticipated the threats and eventual lawsuit Peru would launch against Yale University in pursuit of those divisive artifacts including bones and ceramic shards. Today, the suit remains unresolved, and Bingham’s finds remain tucked away at Yale’s Peabody Museum. Peru is still footing a Washington law firm bill as Yale stays staunchly opposed to returning the relics ­— a move which, without any concrete legal motivation, could set dangerous precedent for artifacts preserved outside their initial ancient contexts.

2006: After ten years, Yalies finally convince University to stock residential bathrooms with soap

Emerging from their greatest victory since the two-ply toilet paper battle of the mid-1990s, Yale bathrooms finally earned the right to soap. YCC members and independent students petitioned administrators for a decade until the approximately $100,000 per year investment was made in student sanitation. If only the swine flu had come sooner …

2007: Three Yale students charged with arson over flag-burning

An American flag that once hung on the porch of a private Chapel Street residence lay smoldering as New Haven police detained Said Hyder Akbar ’07 and Nikolaos Angelopoulos ’10 and Farhad Anklesaria ’10. Akbar, though born in Pakistan, was the only U.S. citizen, while the other two, held citizenship in Greece and Great Britain respectively. Akbar took on the experience in good humor, allegedly wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the phrase “I am Famous in Afghanistan” at the time of his arrest.

2008: Aliza Shvarts ’08 stirs debate and disgust with “abortion art”

Initial questions of sanity morphed into doubts of authenticity during the odd saga of Aliza Shvarts ’08, an art major whose senior project purportedly involved numerous self-induced abortions. Yale officials said they had scientifically confirmed that Shvarts’s studio contained no traces of miscarriage-produced blood, which she claimed to have included in her installation there. Regardless of the facts, Shvarts triggered media mayhem. And then showed her work at a Tate Modern Museum exhibition in London the next fall. The hype proved its weight in … blood?

2009: Annie Le GRD’13 murdered

Yalies endured a decade of comparatively trivial controversies to arrive at this, the most unsettling and magnetic episode yet. The macabre tragedy bred ravenous curiosity as bloody clothing emerged from a lab ceiling and “Raymond Clark III” formed an ominous whisper across thousands of lips nationwide. Due to hyperactive news coverage, Annie Le’s yet unsolved murder has raised further media attention in the form of objections — to Ivy exceptionalism or, as Slate Magazine media critic Jack Shafer notoriously said, the reality that “three murders at Midwestern college equal one murder at Harvard or Yale.” Such a claim strikes the crux of controversy at Yale: it’s controversy at a steep national premium, one constantly growing into the next decade.

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