More than a century of tradition changed at Yale University on Tuesday.
The Whiffenpoofs, the senior a cappella group, admitted its first female singer. Sofia Campoamor was picked to be one of the 14 new members of the Whiffs’ Class of 2019.
“I’m really excited,” said Ms. Campoamor, a 20-year-old junior from Washington, D.C. “To me the overall goal is to change the conversation around senior a cappella to one that is not about gender, but about music.”
She expects to join as a tenor, and the group doesn’t anticipate changing its repertoire to include her. For her audition, she sang a solo of Sara Bareilles ’ “Manhattan.”
Founded in 1909, the Whiffenpoofs bills itself as the oldest collegiate a cappella group in the U.S. The Whiffs and an all-female senior group, Whim ‘n Rhythm, announced on Feb. 1 that they would consider auditions from all singers in the junior class. Tapping women for the Whiffs has been debated on campus for years.
In a joint statement, the groups said they sought to be more inclusive. “Both Whim ‘n Rhythm and the Whiffenpoofs acknowledge the transgender, gender nonbinary, and nonconforming members in our community, and understand that they feel unseen within the current paradigm of ‘all-male’ versus ‘all-female’ senior a cappella.”
Kenyon Duncan, the pitchpipe of the Whiffs, said his group got a lot of support and “positive vibes” for its decision to call itself “lower-voiced’’ rather than an all-male. He said about 40 juniors auditioned this month, and their gender wasn’t tracked.
The debate about gender and inclusion has been occurring on campuses nationwide. In December, Harvard University announced it was forging ahead with its long-debated plan to bar members of unsanctioned single-gender social groups from leadership positions in campus organizations, and from receiving formal endorsements for prestigious awards such as the Rhodes Scholarship.