Courtesy of The Whiffenpoofs
After 109 years of its all-male precedent, the Whiffenpoofs — the world’s oldest collegiate a cappella group — broke from tradition by admitting its first non-male singer, Sofía Campoamor ’20.
In a Feb. 1, 2018 Facebook post, the Whiffenpoofs and Whim ‘n Rhythm — another senior-only singing group that had previously only accepted women — announced that their auditions would be open to students of all genders. On Feb. 20, 2018, Campoamor became Yale’s first female Whiff.
“I hope that my joining the Whiffs will energize the conversation around senior a cappella,” Campoamor told the News for a February 2018 article. “I think it’s only the beginning — I don’t think we have finished creating an equitable and inclusive system for all senior a cappella singers.”
And with each following year, the Whiffenpoofs strove to do just that, stepping away from its history as a predominantly white male group.
The next year in 2019, the Whiffenpoofs accepted their second female singer to their ranks: Neha Bhatt ’20+1, who is also the group’s first woman of color. Bhatt told the News that Campoamor, who is Latina but told the News in 2019 that she does not identify as a person of color, inspired her to audition. To Bhatt, Campoamor auditioning for a traditionally “white male institution” broke down a significant barrier.
“I’m proud to be a face that is a woman of color in a space in which, even two years ago, you would never have seen this,” Bhatt told the News for a February 2019 article. “Every step is a step, and I’m excited to be one of the first to experience that.”
The Whiffs once again broke tradition in February 2020 by admitting multiple non-male members for the first time. The group’s newest non-male singers included Morgan Baker ’21+1, Lauren Bond ’21+1 and Emma Rutan ’21+1.
Rutan expressed that she felt honored and that joining the Whiffenpoofs had been a dream of hers since Campoamor “made it possible.”
“[Campoamor and Bhatt] demonstrate extreme bravery and stewardship, but there were a lot of women and non-males before them that challenged the system to make a stance for something they disagreed with,” Rutan said in a February 2020 article. “The efforts of all those people have come together to make space for Lauren, Morgan and myself.”
And this year, in the group’s first ever virtual tap ceremony, the group continued to tap non-male students to join the Whiffs. The News did not report how many non-male singers were accepted into the Whiffenpoofs this February, but incoming Whiffenpoof Syd Bakal ’22 noted that the tapped members of the class of 2022 come from the widest range of musical groups on campus in the Whiff’s history.
Bakal serves as the business manager, which also means they are the first non-male member of the Whiffenpoofs to hold a leadership role.
“I am so grateful to the recent generations of women and non-binary people in the Whiffenpoofs who have made this a possibility,” Bakal said in a Feb. 19 article.
The Whiffenpoofs were founded in 1909.