Aleksey Vayner Reported Dead in New York

Aleksey Vayner, the Yale graduate who became famous for a video résumé titled “Impossible is Nothing,” has died, according to several sources. An email sent by a friend of Vayner’s to a small group of people at Yale confirmed his death, and a woman claiming to be his niece recently posted a notice about him on Twitter.

Today a spokeswoman for the New York City Medical Examiner confirmed to IvyGate that a 29-year-old man matching Vayner’s description, under the name of Alex Stone, died on the morning of January 19 in Queens, New York. The spokeswoman indicated that the cause of death has yet to be determined.

Sometime after moving to New York, Vayner began using the name Alex Stone, and according to Queens County court records, officially changed his name in April 2012.

An email circulating among his friends said that a memorial service was likely to be held on Saturday, January 26, in New York.

Update: Gawker has confirmed Vayner’s death.

Update: Vice’s Alex Pasternak, who interviewed Vayner last spring, has published a remembrance.

MSNBC Airs The Daily Princetonian’s Misquote of Antonin Scalia

Yesterday we noticed The Daily Princetonian’s unfortunate misquote of Antonin Scalia’s comments on homosexuality during a Q&A at Princeton on Monday evening. (The article was soon corrected.) Then, last night, MSNBC aired the same error beneath the paper’s logo. We imagine the scene at the Prince’s newsroom went something like this:

Unnamed Prince staffer #1: Oh my god. Our logo!

Unnamed Prince staffer #2: Our error. The error.

Unnamed Prince staffer #3: No. Nooooooooooooo!!!!

Unnamed Prince staffer #4: Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!

Disembodied voice of Shirley Tilghman: It was the only quote that anyone cared about!

Disembodied voice of David Petraeus: The only quote that mattered!


British Sports Mogul None Too Keen on Harvard’s “Community Values” of “Integrity” and “Honesty” [Updated]

In early October, Outside published a 5,000+ word exposé of Tough Mudder, the adventure racing company founded in 2010 by Will Dean, an alumnus of Harvard Business School. The story is well worth reading in full for journalist Scott Keneally‘s thorough assessment of the company’s rapid growth over the past two years. (Update: there’s also a trailer!)

What really snagged our attention, however, was Keneally’s survey of allegations that Will Dean stole the idea of Tough Mudder while he was a student at HBS.

The evidence of wrongdoing hinges on a Harvard-endorsed field study Dean performed at Tough Guy Limited, in the United Kingdom, where Dean is from. In a nut: after completing the field study, Dean submitted to Harvard and Billy Wilson (the proprietor of Tough Guy Limited) two different reports of his work:

In December, when Dean completed his report, he submitted one version to Harvard and a slightly modified one to Wilson. Both described the potential for more events, but the version he sent to Wilson omitted key recommendations for how he might immediately expand. Rather, he suggested Wilson adopt a wait-and-see approach. Wilson was unimpressed with the report, and the two men fell out of touch.

It’s sort of like The Social Network (minus the Trent Reznor soundtrack) — except that Harvard eventually took action against Will Dean.

Keneally discusses an internal Harvard investigation that arose from a complaint Billy Wilson sent to the biz school’s faculty less than two weeks after Tough Mudder staged its first event in the spring of 2010. We recently got our hands on the text of the investigation’s final ruling, which Outside quotes from, and it’s actually a bit more unsparing than the magazine lets on. Read the rest of this entry »

Brown Daily Herald Columnist Uses Fake Thomas Jefferson Quotation in Noxious Column

Last week in the Brown Daily Herald, junior Oliver Hudson argued that universal suffrage is “immoral”. On Sunday Hudson responded to his critics — who had produced some 272 comments on the Herald’s website  — by quoting James Madison and Thomas Jefferson:

In fact, the founders despised democracy. James Madison, the “father of the Constitution,” argued in the famous Federalist 10 that democracy is an undesirable form of government, incompatible with “personal security or the rights of property.” Thomas Jefferson, who penned the words “all men are created equal,” said of democracy: “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51 percent of the people may take away the rights of the other 49.”

As an eagle-eyed Herald commenter points out, there is no record of Thomas Jefferson declaring democracy “nothing more than mob rule.” According to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which collects “spurious quotes” attributed to its namesake,

We currently have no evidence to confirm that Thomas Jefferson ever said or wrote, “Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%” or any of its listed variations. We do not know the source of this statement’s attribution to Thomas Jefferson.

This is principal to Hudson’s defense: that (like Jefferson) one can believe that all men are created equal yet also believe (like Jefferson) that democracy is a savage manner of governance. So where does Hudson’s defense stand if Jefferson never argued the latter? Which other historical figure believed in equal rights but not democracy? (Also, where does the Brown Daily Herald stand on using false quotations? Or on fact-checking in general?)

Coconut Water, David Foster Wallace, and Public Urination: A Columbia Love Story

Last night Bwog published a marathon missed-connection missive by a tragic-sounding fellow named “Robert,” who is trying to reconnect with his Columbia classmate “Kristine,” who apparently stood him up. Some choice quotes:

I came here because I’d been stowed away in my room the other fourteen hours of the day, addicted to the internet like everybody else, and not getting nearly enough sunlight or, of course, actual in-person socialization. That’s why I’d come to 1020. To sit ”around” people for an hour or two. I don’t know why this is considered as weird as it is, but let’s be real, it still is (considered weird). People think people at bars alone are drunkards or else creeps and rapists. It’s not fair to people who just want to people watch for an hour to feel less alone.


When I got there, I took out my ipod, put on the twenty-minute audiobook I have on there called “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace, and spent the next five hours or so contemplatively pacing, or sitting. This became slightly problematic when I needed to pee, as I couldn’t leave the steps in case she came, but fortunately I’d brought along my empty watter-bottle from before so I peed in that twice during the night. As I paced back and forth on the step in front of Alma Mater, I thought about fish, and water, and about how every time I’d asked a girl to take a chance, to try to take a leap of faith across that mental block that the real world is exactly as it seems, every single time, they hadn’t showed. I’d waited on this step or some version a hundred times before. But I’d never waited past when I wanted to stop waiting.

It goes on and on and on, ending with this “warning”: “If you do show, we’re doing a dramatic Notebook in the rain style first kiss. I’m not kidding around. Don’t come if you’re not up for that.”

Creepy? Sincere? Creepy because sincere? All of the above? Decide for yourself.

There’s a Huge Party at Princeton Tonight, and You Are Not Invited

Multiple sources have forwarded us a Facebook chat transcript, produced below, between two Princetonians: one, an “old money Azerbaijani freshman” (according to one source) who tonight is “dropping ~$20k on a massive party” at Princeton’s Colonial Club, the other a “sorority girl” and Tiger Inn member who really — like, really really — wants to attend said gathering.

We’ve replaced their names (and those of their friends) with Princeton alumni of historical and cultural import — a gesture of charity, sure, but also practicality: the whole transcript is kind of bleak and harrowing once you realize that flesh-and-blood Princetonians really do appraise and sort each other in the manner portrayed here.

Full, horrible transcript, after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Liane Membis Reappears with Article About Ivy Leaguers

We recently noticed that Liane Membis — the Yalie who was fired in June for planting made-up quotes in the Wall Street Journal — published an article on Thursday at Dominion New York (“the online magazine of black New York,” according to Twitter) about two Barnard sophomores:

Twin sisters Ogor and Ngozi Ogehdo, both 20-years-old and now Barnard College students left the public school system behind after elementary school for lots of reasons. They considered returning to attend a specialized high school, but chose not to because they believed they’d be happier and in a more diverse environment at a private school.

Good for her, we think! Picking yourself up after failure is never easy. Just ask Jonah Lehrer. And while we’re still waiting for someone to explain Membis’s strange post-firing dissembling, we have to agree with her Twitter bio: “Failure is not fatal.”

The Daily Princetonian’s Unseemly Affair with David Petraeus

Yesterday the critic Glenn Greenwald published an excellent column describing the meretricious dynamic — recently thrust to the fore by the sudden resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus — between the American military and the individuals paid to report on it:

The military is by far the most respected and beloved institution among the US population — a dangerous fact in any democracy — and, even assuming they wanted to (which they don’t), our brave denizens of establishment journalism are petrified of running afoul of that kind of popular sentiment.

While Greenwald calls out several TV anchors for emoting, he misses one of “establishment journalism”‘s worst offenders: The Daily Princetonian.

Six weeks ago, in a 3,000-word story, the paper reported rumors that Petraeus was seeking Princeton’s presidency. (He’s an alum of the Graduate School.) A representative passage (bolding ours):

Other classmates of Petraeus described him as serious, intense and hardworking, which some said was necessary because of his desire to acquire a doctoral degree on a compressed schedule. Yet despite this indefatigable commitment to his academics, he still maintained a separate commitment that he would never cheat on: physical exercise. Petraeus ran competitively at the time and would always find time to fit a lengthy run into his schedule, classmates said.

Fast-forward to Friday. Within hours of Petraeus’s resignation, the Prince reported that, during interviews conducted for the article quoted above, Paula Broadwell’s relationship with Petraeus seemed sort of vague:  Read the rest of this entry »

Harvard Legacy: Down with Affirmative Action!

Oh my. From the Crimson:

Helping those with primarily low academic qualifications into primarily academic institutions makes as much sense as helping the visually impaired become pilots. How would you feel if you were assured before going into surgery that your surgeon was the beneficiary of affirmative action in medical school? I do not see why higher academic institutions should lower their standards for admission.

PLOT TWIST: the author is—hiss, hiss!—a legacy:

In a way, I am the product of a sort of affirmative action, and it takes a terrible psychological toll. My father went to Harvard College, which makes me a legacy. I am kept up at night by the thought that simply because my father has attended and donated to the University, I might have taken the spot of a more qualified applicant. My name is not exactly “Sarah Wigglesworth Hurlbut Coop,” but I am still a legacy, and the thought of its bearing on my admission is somewhat terrifying.

May blogs diagnose new disorders? The author appears to be suffering from the delusion, largely indigenous to New England and the Tri-State area, that life is like the Harry Potter universe, where young wizards are admitted to Hogwarts by way of pure destiny and magical envelopes, rather than SAT tutors and enormous parental donations. This legacy actually seems to believe that she could not have attended any other school, or just not applied to Harvard in the first place, thereby saving her years of suffering, of thinking she doesn’t actually belong at Harvard.

And to answer the burning question: of course she took the spot of a better applicant. Probably a far better one. What else are legacy admissions for? Rescuing endangered animals?

This Amazing Video is Nathan Harden’s Technicolor Nightmare