Yale may have won numerous awards in its years as one of the most prestigious universities in the world, but one national group recently announced the University has won a “Polly Award” for hosting what it called the “worst abuse in higher education.”
The University received first place in the Collegiate Network’s Campus Outrage Award on April 1 for sponsoring a campus-wide “Sex Week.” Event organizers defended their efforts, claiming the speakers and panels helped to educate Yale students about sex and relationships.
Collegiate Network officers condemned what they perceived as a departure from academic discourse.
“It used to be that if people wanted to discuss sex, they read [Plato’s] ‘Symposium’ or ‘Works of Love’ by Kierkegaard,” said Sarah Longwell, Senior Program Officer for the Collegiate Network. “At Yale, you would expect them to do that. Instead, [the University hosted] a fast-food version of discussion of these questions.”
The Collegiate Network is composed of representatives from 80 conservative college publications from across the nation, including the Yale Free Press and Light and Truth. Between March 10 and April 1, the organization conducted extensive research into each nominated university.
Nikki McArthur ’05, editor of the Yale Free Press, nominated Yale’s Sex Week for the award in late February. She characterized the event as “pretty immature.”
But William Garneau ’05, President of Sigma Phi Epsilon, said while students’ views may differ with respect to sex, it would be wrong to not discuss it.
“It is fine for the CN to give Sex Week the ‘Outrage Award’ if that is how they regard our treatment of the topic,” Garneau said. “But I think it is a biased and backwards organization that does not realize the benefits of such open dialogue.”
The network expressed particular discontent with a presentation by pornographic film star Devinn Lane. Longwell said while several other schools had invited porn stars to campus this year, only Yale had an adult film sponsor — Wicked Pictures.
“What made Yale unique was that they had an event sponsored by a porn company,” Longwell said. “That really surpassed what everyone else had done.”
The network said Professor Naomi Rogers’ lecture on the history of the vibrator was also an outrage. With Yale faculty participating in Sex Week, the network said it demonstrated the administration’s acceptance of such behavior.
“Handing out vibrators to people, professors lecturing on the history of the vibrator, that just illustrates the school’s complicity with the whole event,” Longwell said.
The group also criticized Yale for what it characterized as the event’s commercialization. Wicked Pictures paid for Devinn’s stay as well as a party at Sigma Phi Epsilon and shirts for the event, Rubenstein said. Doc Johnson Sex Toys also gave away vibrators during Rogers’ lecture.
But Rubenstein said the promotional element to the week was small.
The future of Sex Week may include inviting more relationship therapists, and a “diversity of speakers from all different backgrounds and professions,” including more adult film stars, he said.
“I already know that there are other porn stars that want to come to speak. I’m not going to prevent them from coming,” Rubenstein said, “I’m not going to skew [the week’s events] to be more conservative.”
Longwell said Sex Week and the other “outrages” cited by the network are part of a larger problem in U.S. colleges.
“I don’t think there’s specific reasons for these abuses,” Longwell said. “It’s part of an overall decline in educational standards and that really contributes to students not taking some of these larger life questions more seriously.”
Since Yale’s first Sex Week two years ago, publications including the Atlantic Monthly, the Christian Science Monitor, Hustler, and Men’s Health have all written articles about it.