A woman claiming to be conducting a study for the Psychology Department made sexually explicit phone calls Tuesday night to two Trumbull College students, Trumbull College Dean Laura King said.
King said the woman, who identified herself after being pressed for a name as “Mary Riley,” asked the two women — one a junior and one a senior –increasingly personal questions about their sexual experiences. King alerted the Yale community to the calls, sending an e-mail to her fellow deans that explained the events to date and urged students to report any such calls.
Yale Police, who King said are now handling the investigation, were not available to comment on the case last night.
“The woman called up, identified herself as an associate with the Department of Psychology, but didn’t identify her position,” King said. “She claimed initially to be conducting research about sex education.”
King said the woman began by asking seemingly innocuous questions such as whether the person took sex education classes in high school, but she then proceeded to far more personal questions about sexual experiences, such as whether the person had had sex or oral sex.
The woman raised suspicions about her fraudulent nature by continually pressing for additional and more explicit information and by giving a suspiciously normal name, King said. There is no “Mary Riley” listed in the Yale directory.
A faculty member in the Psychology Department, who wished not to be identified by name, said he had never heard of a Mary Riley in the department. He also said the woman making the calls bypassed several standards of psychological investigations, which are sometimes done by phone.
“Anybody who’s ever participating in a psychological study would go through a process of informed consent,” the professor said.
He went on to say that a study involving personal questions would require written consent acknowledging that the subject understood what was involved.
“Phone interviews are used for psychological studies, but after consent,” he said. “Only after somebody grants consent in written form can he or she participate in a study with certain types of questions.”
King said any additional recipients of the prank calls should contact the Yale University Police. She also said she hopes anyone who receives the calls will press “#5” after hanging up, which will alert Yale Telecom to the harassment.