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Harvard, Yale, and the Non-Apology Apology

Tweed loves funny videos. We post them here every Wednesday. But we took a pass this week on the comedy group On Harvard Time’s spoof of Yale University’s song-and-dance admissions video, That’s Why I Chose Yale.

The otherwise-clever parody, Why Did I Choose Yale?, included a line in which a prospective student asks a Yale tour guide, “What happened to that girl who got murdered and stuffed in a wall?” It was a tasteless reference to the slaying of the Yale graduate student Annie Le, whose body was found last year in a campus lab building.

The remark offended many people, but it struck most sharply on the Yale campus, where many students and faculty members still remember Ms. Le.

On Harvard Time responded by making its original video private and then releasing a revised version (below) that replaces the offensive line with, ”What happened to the original line in this video?” The group issued a statement Wednesday that said: “The humor rested in the glossing over of a significant event, and not in the event itself. The line was not meant to make light of the incident or those involved, but rather to mock the University.’’

The statement noted that some Yale students and faculty members had “voiced concern that the line makes light of this student’s murder and goes beyond parody.” The statement continued, “This was certainly not our intention in writing it, but we understand this response and sincerely apologize for any offense it may have caused.”

Harvard produces many of America’s leading rhetoricians, so we can assume that students there are familiar with the concept of the non-apology apology and know that it is one of the oldest tricks in public life.

Is the Harvard comedy group truly sorry, or is it just incapable of admitting that it erred? —Don Troop

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