Late Saturday morning, a college-aged male walked into Timothy Dwight College to audition for the Spizzwinks(?) a cappella group. He left a box on a table outside of the audition room, performed and walked out.
The box went ignored for several hours, stretching into the afternoon, until surrounding students began to notice a smell. After a brief inspection, students realized the box contained a prank reminiscent of a scene from “The Godfather” — a thawing severed deer’s head.
The severed deer’s head, which led TD Master Mary Lui to call the Yale Police Department, was just one of three pranks directed against a cappella groups over the weekend. Both the Duke’s Men and the Alley Cats were the targets of pranks involving a dead mouse. The pranks have rendered a rival a cappella group — the Society of Orpheus and Bacchus, to which the alleged prankster had ties — ineligible for fall rush.
The non-Yale auditionee had signed up to try out for the Spizzwinks(?) under a false name, a member of the Spizzwinks(?) told the News Saturday evening. He did the same for the other two groups, and was also scheduled to audition for the Baker’s Dozen, another all-male group. He was not hired by the SOBs, but was a friend of a friend of one of the group’s members.
According to an email sent Monday afternoon by the Singing Group Council, the SOB who had orchestrated the prank acted without the assistance of anyone else in the SOBs. Despite this, the Yale College Dean’s Office has suspended the entire group from the rush process this year, effectively barring them from recruiting new members this year. The fate of the SOB perpetrator is still uncertain, but according to a member of another a cappella group on campus, he will face the Executive Committee as a result of his actions.
The SOBs’ “singing dessert” — a recruitment event designed to showcase the group’s repertoire to interested singers — which had been scheduled for Monday evening, was canceled, as were any previously scheduled rush meals, during which prospective members meet with current members of the group.
“The SOBs wish to express their sincere regrets that the events of this past weekend transpired as they did, affected such a broad swath of the Yale community, and foremost, that fewer members of the class of 2019 may have the opportunity to participate in a cappella at Yale,” the SOBs told the News in a joint statement Monday night.
The YCDO is still in talks with the SGC and the SOBs, and additional punishments may still be handed down, said Grant Fergusson ’17, a co-chair of the SGC. If there is any kind of appeals process, he added, that will likely be between the SOBs and the administration.
Students who had planned to rush the SOBs will now be allowed to audition for additional groups or groups that they had previously stopped rushing. Fergusson said he does not anticipate that the rush process, which usually spans three weeks, will be extended because of the incident.
Still, members of the a cappella community have criticized the administration’s decision, stating that it unfairly targets the entire group — as well as freshmen interested in joining the SOBs — rather than the individual perpetrator.
On Monday evening, the SGC held a meeting with representatives of each of its 15 affiliated a cappella groups. According to an attendee who insisted upon anonymity, students there unanimously agreed that the Dean’s Office decision will more negatively impact interested freshmen than the singing group itself.
“The bottom line is the Dean’s Office came out a lot harder than the SGC had hoped,” he said, adding that freshmen interested in the SOBs now face a lose-lose situation, as they can either try out for their second-choice group or wait a year to audition.
Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Hannah Peck did not return a request for comment.
A member of an all-female a cappella group on campus, who asked to remain anonymous because her views do not necessarily reflect those of her singing group, said the SOBs’ removal from rush could hurt the group’s long-term legacy in the a cappella community.
“Every tap class is very special, so to take that away from everyone [will cause] damage to the group,” she said. “They’re not going to recover from this for at least five, maybe 10 years.”
But others were confident that the punishment would do nothing to hurt the SOBs’ reputation.
A member of a male a cappella group on campus who asked to remain anonymous because he did not want any negative attention focused on his group, said he found the pranks to be “hilarious” and typical of the SOBs, who have a reputation for being jokesters. He added that he does not expect the incident to lessen interest in the group going forward.
“I think they’re known to be a joking group of guys, and I think it’s hilarious,” he said. “For the kids that they’re looking for, I don’t think that this would deter them much.”
Fergusson noted that there is always friendly competition between groups, but he said rush usually goes smoothly and that any pranks are usually minor. This one, he acknowledged, was “kind of a fluke.”
He added that the SGC is exploring ways to allow the SOBs to recruit new members before rush next fall, although the a cappella groups do not traditionally hold spring rush.
“Obviously that’s a high target, and we don’t know if it’s feasible, but we are trying,” he said. “We’re not trying to villainize the SOBs for anything. We really are a community.”
Correction: Sept. 8
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the prankster was a Yale student. In fact, he is not a Yale student, but has ties to one member of the Society of Orpheus and Bacchus.