Humor, even society pranks, remains fundamental to the Yale experience

To the Editor:

Ben Conniff’s op-ed, “Society antics have no place in classrooms” (4/24), wrongly poses secret societies and their prank-executing taps as malicious enemies of professors and self-indulgent obstacles to our own education. It also hates on ’80s music.

For full disclosure, I am also a student in “Constitutional Law,” although I did not witness Thursday’s prank. (I slept through the first half of class after, to put it one way, listening to too much ’80s music the night before.) I am also very close friends with the so-called “masked humper,” who was an A student in professor Amar’s class just a year ago. The humper did not, as Conniff writes, intend “to disrespect Amar and desecrate one of the best classes at Yale.” An ardent fan of Amar’s, the humper was merely following his society’s orders, which provided a brief but welcome moment of levity in the 75-minute lecture. Or perhaps, his cloak and thrusting, an affirmation of the blind sexuality of unfettered free will, were meant to symbolize his support for the Roe v. Wade decision Amar was discussing that day. Either way.

Humor has long been one of Yale College’s greatest resources, a necessary antidote to the drudgery of that five-and-a-half-credit courseload in the middle of a New Haven February. Imagine how dreary finals would be without the Pundits streaking through the library. Conniff writes that “while class-interruption pranks have become increasingly prevalent, they lost all humor value a long time ago.” Conniff must not have seen last year’s Con Law prank, in which a lanky white student in a No. 56 football jersey steamrolled another before shouting, “Terry Tate, Con Law linebacker!” Or the communist parody in “Cold War” this fall, when the Pundits draped hammer-and-sickle flags from the balcony of the Law School Auditorium and presented professor Gaddis with bottles of Dubra and Popov. While it’s true that societies should spread the wealth and not subject one professor to four interruptions in a single week, the five lost minutes aren’t going to cost anybody a law school spot.

If I wanted to work in a humorless environment, I would’ve gone to Harvard. One wonders why Conniff and the rest of his purported silent majority didn’t — or if they’re petitioning to cancel Spring Fling for interfering with reading week.

Alex Goldberger ’08

April 24

The writer is in Trumbull College and is a staff reporter for the News.

Writer took the wrong approach to the issue of the Pride flag desecration

To the Editor:

In his op-ed “Co-op is using flag issue to push for power” (4/19), Michael Wayne Harris misses the point about the seriousness of the Pride flag’s defacement.

Harris argues that the defacement of the Co-op’s Yale Pride flag is offensive because the perpetrators are “assumed to be outside the LGBT community.” In fact, whether the perpetrator(s) identify as LGBT or not, this incident is offensive because it is an act of vandalism whose content suggests discriminatory and hateful undertones. It is undeniable that the covert replacement of Pride with “Gluttony” bears a negative connotation. Did the perpetrators intend to reference Pride as one of the Seven Deadly Sins? Or perhaps they were equivocating gay relationships with gluttony — i.e., beyond what is natural? We cannot be sure of the exact meaning intended — they didn’t leave a calling card — but we nonetheless have every right to be offended by this deliberate act of anonymous vandalism.

Further, Harris accuses Co-op coordinator Anna Wipfler of unjustly making claims to some fundamental “Truth” in her response to the incident. Harris takes Wipfler’s words out of context — when the perpetrators of October’s N.O.G.A.Y.S. incident defended themselves by claiming that they were trying to be funny, the administration clarified that this kind of “humor” is simply not acceptable at Yale. How’s this for Truth, Harris? True: It’s not OK for anyone to vandalize. True: It’s not OK for discriminatory hate crimes to happen on campus.

If people have concerns about Pride Week, they are welcome to voice these concerns. But the right to one’s own opinion and the freedom to express it does not give anyone the right to viciously protest anonymously or, certainly, to vandalize.

Kristine DiColandrea ’07

April 20

The writer is in Branford College.