The Great Ivy League Photo Scandal
In the late 1970’s, an employee at Yale University unlocked a room in the Payne Whitney Gymnasium and found thousands of photographs of nude students sprawled across the floor. The subjects in the pictures were incoming freshmen that attended Yale between the 1940’s and 1970’s. (Read New York Times report here).
The photos belonged to William Herbert Sheldon, an American psychologist, and the practice didn’t stop at Yale. The practice was widespread among America’s most prestigious universities (including three Ivy League schools — Harvard, Yale and Princeton), and Who’s who of Americana, George Bush, Bob Woodward, Hilary Clinton, Diane Sawyer, Meryl Streep, etc., went through this ignominy.
Although later defended as a part of the studies on the rate and severity of rickets, scoliosis and lordosis, sharp metal pins were attached to each naked student’s spine in the photos suggest that it may have been conducted to support Sheldon’s Mengelian theory on the relation between body types and social hierarchy. While Yale burned and shredded most of the photographs when they discovered them, some of the pictures survived and were later transferred to the Smithsonian. Only in 2001, those final images were destroyed.