Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Yale students have been rushing a cappella singing groups, in hopes of joining one of Yale’s most storied artistic communities. However, Yale a cappella’s relationship with the University administration was compromised during Bulldog Days, when some singing groups were sanctioned for chalking their group names on the walls of William L. Harkness Hall, a common a cappella rehearsal space, in violation of undergraduate regulations.
But members of various singing groups interviewed said the sanctions — which prevented Singing Group Council-affiliated ensembles from reserving rooms in WLH until the council met with the Yale College Dean’s Office — largely have not impacted this fall’s rush process. Members of the Singing Group Council, which oversees 15 a cappella groups, emphasized that no one group was targeted for punishment.
“We were collectively punished and the SGC as a governing body is trying to make sure that no single group is blamed,” council member Caitlin Kropp ’17 said. The group met with Yale College Assistant Dean and Director of Student Affairs Hannah Peck and Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarribar earlier this semester.
Different groups were affected to different degrees by the sanctions. Ashtan Towles ’19, a member of Shades, Yale’s only historically African-American a cappella group, said her group was not inconvenienced, because Shades rehearsals largely take place in the Afro-American Cultural Center. Groups that are not part of the Singing Group Council, such as Chinese a cappella group C-Sharp, or newer groups such as Pitches and Tones, were also unaffected by the sanctions.
But Mixed Company had “a lot of trouble” reserving rehearsal rooms through the dean’s office over the summer, according to member Sofía Campoamor ’19.
The chalking incident has raised some questions in general about where a cappella groups gather, with Hayden Kline ’17, another Singing Group Council member, noting that the central problem discussed with the Dean’s Office was singing groups “overstaying their welcome” in Yale facilities. Kline said the incident brought the Yale a cappella community “one strike away from losing various facility privileges.”
“We enjoy rehearsing in WLH, but we have also been told that our presence there can be troublesome for the custodial staff and for classes that are trying to work,” he said.
Still, Kline said, the focal point of the Singing Group Council’s discussions with the administration has been what changes will arise next year in light of a 15 percent increase in the size of the student body, especially given a cappella’s current competitiveness.
Indeed, interest in a cappella has remained high. This fall, singing groups reported audition figures that ranged between 15 and 100 underclassmen, chiefly freshmen, per group. Mixed-gender groups received more interest than single-sex and more narrowly themed groups.
“Shades attracts a niche group of people, so we usually expect to have between 50 and 60 rushees audition,” Towles said.
Campoamor estimated that about 100 students rushed Mixed Company, which is open to all genders, and she suggested a favorable instance of advertising as a possible factor in the group’s popularity this year.
“Our time slot at Woolsey Jam was toward the beginning when the most people were there, so we definitely had a lot of exposure this year,” she said.
Teddy Sokoloff ’19, a member of all-male group The Baker’s Dozen, said the Dwight Hall sign-up event saw some groups more enthusiastically approaching freshmen than others.
Peck told the News that the Singing Group Council does an “excellent job” making sure the rush process is fair and accessible.
Towles described an instance of camaraderie that she said furthered the spirit of a cappella between Shades and all-male group The Duke’s Men of Yale, when the groups promoted each other’s Singing Desserts — free shows aimed at recruitment and generating interest.
“[The Singing Desserts] were back-to-back, and it was touching to see since a cappella groups have become very competitive with each other in the past,” she said.