The death of Annie Le GRD ’13 was certainly the saddest campus event of my time at Yale. The number of students, faculty, staff and other members of the community who gathered together on Cross Campus at Le’s vigil showed that I am not alone in this sorrow.
Although discussing this moving case still hurts, it continues to enter conversation regularly in classrooms, dorm rooms, around dining halls and even in late-night pool games in butteries.
I believe it is important for our community to be aware of, discuss and learn from this tragic event. Although the saddening event is closest to Yale and New Haven community members, we are not the only ones talking about her case.
When my high school friends in Hungary called me to discuss Le’s tragedy, which they had read about on the front page of a Hungarian daily, I felt ambivalent. My parents told me they were “extremely worried” about me after hearing on TV about Le’s murder — as the first item of the afternoon news.
That was when I became conscious of the global awareness of this event. The story was covered not only nationally, but also internationally. How come this murder at Yale hit the global audience? Clearly, its prominence was not hurt by the U.S. domination of the global news agenda.
The coverage of this tragic case by many major news services surpassed that of other concurrent sad events happening both inside and outside the United States. While the high-profile homicide at Yale was CNN.com’s “most popular” news item until recently, a 20-year-old college student at the Art Institute of Dallas was found dead in her apartment Sept. 12. Four days later, when CNN reported on Samantha Michelle Nance’s death, its article — “Texas art student’s slaying flies under media radar” — did not receive even a single blog comment.
Nance was unscrupulously murdered in a dreadful and sensational way similar to how Annie Le was. She was killed by “multiple stab wounds” from “an unknown cutting tool.” The lack of coverage regarding Nance’s death bolstered the point Jack Shafer made in his article “Murder Draped in Ivy,” published by Slate on Thursday: The media can’t get enough of Yale and Harvard crime. Many people I have talked to here at Yale believe the reason Le’s story got picked up and the other did not lies in the association with the Yale name: Annie Le went to Yale, while Nance did not.
In the midst of such tragic events in America, a 12-year-old Yemeni girl died of painful childbirth after she was married off to a 24-year-old man. This incident is part of a larger trend in Yemen, where more than half of all girls are married before the age of 18. Nevertheless, this news item received relatively little coverage both inside and outside the United States. The decided prominence in the United States of Le’s murder over this news item might be reasonable, as only one event happened in this country. Nevertheless, the rest of the world is unreasonable in prioritizing Le’s case over arguably more significant global — and often national — news items.
Did the Yale name attract global attention to Annie Le’s death, or did the shocking circumstances of her case interest the global audience? Although I cannot definitively answer this question, one thing remains certain for me: As tragic as Le’s death was for the Yale community, it is also important to consider the other events that were displaced from the headlines by her story.
Endry Hudy is a junior in Calhoun College.