Category Archive 'Naked Parties'

05 Mar 2011

Yale Pundits Make the News

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Typical Yale secret society initiation (clothed phase) (click on image for larger version.)

This year’s February 19th Pundits’ initiation party apparently featured slightly heavier drinking than usual. A student informant (who knows if he was telling the truth?) told the Yale Daily News that five attendees wound up at Yale-New Haven Hospital and six others at Yale’s Department of University Health.

11 out 50 attendees rendered so hors de combat by drinking that they had to seek medical attention? Not just impressive, Homeric really. Vital positions have been taken in military engagements whose memories echo through history with lower percentage casualties.

The same person (who could possibly be just a little prone to exaggeration) also told the YDN that he saw “a member of the Pundits forcing attendees to kiss each other and that a Pundit forced a male friend’s face onto another’s penis.”

Three Dog Night clearly composed this little number after one of the Pundits’ parties.


This year’s Pundits initiation party rapidly achieved national news coverage.

IvyGate coverage

CBS tell all

New York Post story


Some helpful (inside Yale) background.

A pundit is an expert, a vendor of influential, nay, determinative opinions. According to Wikipedia, it even seems most probable that the common vernacular use of the term pundit has “its origins in a Yale University society known as “The Pundits” which, founded in 1884, developed a reputation for including among its members the school’s most incisive and humorous critics of contemporary society. … Several members of the society have also gone on to become leading political pundits, including Pulitzer Prize-winning author and energy expert Daniel Yergin. Other notable Yale Pundits include A. Whitney Griswold, Lewis H. Lapham and Joe Lieberman.”

The founder of the Pundits, as an undergraduate at Yale, was the illustrious William Lyon Phelps (1865-1943), who went on to become essentially the leading Humanities scholar in the United States in his day, and a long-time, enormously admired professor at Yale. Billy Phelps was, in fact, the original prototype of the star professor, whose lectures were so witty, so brilliant, and entertaining, that attendance at his course became known as a not-to-be-missed feature of the Yale undergraduate experience. Phelps was in the first half of the last century what Vincent Scully was when I was an undergraduate.

The Pundits (founded in 1884) doubtless did not originally hold naked parties, but contented themselves with assembling the wittiest and most brilliant members of the Senior Class for a weekly dinner at Mory’s, and participating in a series of elaborate pranks and lampoons intended to deflate pomposity and pretension.

When I was an undergraduate, late 1960s-early 1970s, the Pundits had become moribund and inactive. They seem to have been revived in the late 1970s, during a period in which a reaction to all the leftwing piety and politically correct cant of the Vietnam era set in and Yale undergraduates began once again reveling in undergraduate life, throwing parties, and reviving fraternities and other social organizations.

My Yale informants tell me that it was Yale’s oldest a capella singing group, the Society of Orpheus and Bacchus, founded in 1938 and usually referred to as “The SOBs,” which began throwing regular naked parties during the late 1980s. The Pundits, known earlier for lobster-and-champagne lunches on the steps of Sterling Memorial Library, had some kind of ties to the SOBs and, from them, acquired the custom of the naked party.

I found, via the Yale Daily News, a Hustler article published in 2007, by a-then-sophomore describing the Pundits taking advantage of Ivy League naked parties hitting the national media to spoof the New York Times.

[W]hen 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.”

The resulting Rachel Aviv story.

If the Pundits were fucking with the media’s mind back in 2007 on the naked-parties-at-Ivy-League-schools meme, why, I wonder, do not reporters this year worry that those mischievous Pundits may be playing mind games with them again?

Undergraduate binge-drinking, hazing rituals, and naked parties are all ingredients perfectly calculated to make journalists sit up and beg the same way ham affects my basset hound.

It may very well be that this year’s Pundits’ initiation party scandal is just one more of the nation’s leading prankster organizations elaborate satirical spoofs.

William Lyon Phelps (1865-1943), founder of the Pundits.

09 Jan 2007

This Year’s College Fad, Same as Last Year’s: Naked Parties

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A bit over a year ago (22 Nov 2005), the New York Sun was reporting on the spread of Naked Parties from Yale (and possibly Brown) to Columbia.

But the earliest public report probably appeared in the novel Chloe Does Yale published in March of 2004 by then Yale Senior (Timothy Dwight) Natalie Krinsky.

Today’s Times reports that the fad for naked parties was created in 1995 by the Yale Pundits, an undergraduate society which in earlier days contented itself with jokes and champagne-and-lobster lunches on the library steps.

The Pundits, founded in 1884 as a society of “campus wits,” have a history of rebelling against Yale tradition, often through elaborate pranks. They organize six to eight covert naked parties a year, which attract anywhere from 30 to 300 people to off-campus houses, neglected rooms in classroom buildings and even small libraries on campus.

“It’s one of those things people feel they need to do before they graduate,” says Megan Crandell, a senior who estimates that she has been to a half-dozen naked parties during her time at Yale. “The dynamic is completely different from a clothed party. People are so conscious of how they’re coming across that conversations end up being more sophisticated. You can’t talk about how hot that chick was the other night.”

News of Yale’s contribution to modern undergraduate social life has spread all the way to Scotland. The Scotsman.

While one campus source at Yale… says naked parties are “the No1” thing to do before graduation, students who attend the six to eight parties held each year say it can be a life-changing experience, far from the “frat-house” bawdiness portrayed in films such as Animal House…

Another Yale student, who did not want his name to become known by campus authorities – which do not try to stop the parties but do not encourage them – said: “Part of it is just the mystique of not knowing where you’re going. It’s become a hip thing to do.”

The events are magnets for social-climbers at other top academic institutions, including Columbia, MIT and Brown.

A better history, and a first person account from a Yale coed, appeared in the Yale Herald back in March of last year.

22 Nov 2005

O Tempora, O Mores

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The New York Sun has discovered a recent undergraduate fad spreading from Yale (& Brown?) to Columbia: Naked Parties.

Columbia undergraduates are staging parties with one basic ground rule – all guests must part with their clothes upon arrival. The invitation circulating around Morningside Heights bans three additional items: cameras, masks, and “spikey things.”.. A student who attended the party in the spring, Richard Lipkin, said about 80 to 100 naked people – including a fair number of law and business school students – were concentrated in one apartment. Clothes were dumped near the entrance. Women slightly outnumbered men, and people were generally – if not exclusively – good looking, the type who are often more willing to flout culture’s restrictions on nudity.

Mr. Lipkin said he had no recollection of the music that was played.

“It was surprisingly comfortable,” he said. “Most of the people were quite comfortable. Everyone was pretty mature about it. I don’t think anything inappropriate went on. … People were definitely networking, but there wasn’t anything bad going on.”

A novel published last March by recent Yale graduate Natalie Krinsky (Timothy Dwight, 2004) features an account of her fictionalized heroine attending one.

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