Ivy League Asininity
David Thier exposes the Pundits, Yale University’s secret society dedicated to raw social disobedience.
This January an e-mail seemingly from Yale University’s political science department invited selected students to “Law and Ethics in Intelligence Gathering.” The seminar, which promised to examine the role of torture in the modern world, attracted dozens of undergrads trying desperately to land jobs in the CIA. The classroom was packed, but soon the once-eager students were somberly taking notes as the bowtied professor invited volunteers to tickle a girl slathered in whipped cream and cover her with Bengay ointment before eventually threatening her with a plugged-in iron.
The professor was an actor and the girl his willing accomplice. The seminar wasn’t sponsored by the poli-sci department, but by a shadowy group of campus tricksters known as the Pundits. The whole thing was just an elaborate hoax designed to do nothing more than fuck with ambitious students. Fucking with the minds of people is what the Pundits do. They belong to a secret society of male and female seniors who, in the words of a wild-haired fellow asking to be called “Mr. E,” spend their time “introducing a little (or a lot of ) chaos into the lives of the rank and file here at Yale.” Lots of Yalies remain holed up in their rooms most of the time, reading long-dead philosophers and planning to change the world. It’s to these suckers that the Pundits try to reach out. The Pundits were founded in 1884, taking the Sanskrit word for wise man as their moniker. (Incidentally, this was the first time the word appeared in the English language.) Back then, according to Mr. E, “the group’s principal activity was Friday afternoon lunch at Mory’s [a New Haven tavern], which involved a lot of sitting around, conversing, drinking, cigar-smoking and being witty with each other. Sounds like a gay old time, really.” The Pundits gradually turned from being a closed-off society of wags to something like Yale’s own version of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters of the ’60s, traipsing around campus nude— shocking freshmen, infuriating professors and confounding administrators. In fact, a willingness to bare all is a prerequisite for membership, and recruitment sometimes takes place during in-the-buff sushi-and-cocktail gatherings. The Pundits’ infamous naked parties may be their most important contribution to the Yale scene, allowing hundreds of students to examine each other’s pubic groomings.
Naked parties have gotten lots of media attention lately, but when the New York Times called, the Pundits weren’t about to cooperate. One of the nation’s most prestigious newspapers wanted to do a story about them, but the tricksters just did what they do best—they fucked with someone’s mind. Assigned to get a firsthand account of a naked party at Yale, Times reporter Rachel Aviv contacted the Pundits. They would later bring her to a real one, but not before throwing a special shindig on her behalf. Mr. E’s eyes light up recounting the story: “Instead of a lot of people drinking and mingling in a dark, well-decorated room, we brought her to a brightly lit library in which just a couple dozen of us were sitting around and playing board games.
After the Taboo, Uno, Scrabble, etc. were concluded, we did some naked charades and then, to top it off, some naked trust falls off a table.” Likewise, Ms. Aviv’s story on the seedy underbelly of an Ivy League school was collapsing faster than Judy Miller could say, “WMDs.” The Times reporter had to be freaking out, but maybe she was just confounded by the intensity of naked charades. The evening’s coup de grâce came when the revelers gathered into groups of three to eight, distributed condoms and left. The bewildered journalist could do nothing but struggle to jot down a few notes and then slide her pants back on. The Pundits, explains one tall and impeccably dressed member, “make sure there’s never a moment when everything’s okay.”
David Thier is a Yale sophomore majoring in American Studies. He writes weekly for the arts section of the Yale Daily News.
Photo Credit: Maude Stack
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