A former staffer for Yale University’s student humor magazine late Monday confirmed to BuzzFeed News several details of the “hoax” psychology exam that Dr. Ben Carson recalled taking during college.
Curtis Bakal, a former editorial assistant for The Yale Record, told BuzzFeed News that he helped write the exam that Carson described taking in his 1990 book “Gifted Hands.” He confirmed to the news outlet that the Record put out a January 1970 parody issue of the university’s student paper, The Yale Daily News, that included a notice saying that “so-and-so section of the exam has been lost in a fire. Professor so-and-so is going to give a makeup exam.”
Bakal told BuzzFeed he could not confirm that Carson, or any single student, was there at the end of the fake test because he himself was not there when it was administered. A Yale Record staffer posed as a proctor for the exam, Bakal told BuzzFeed, adding: “at the end what few students remained — it may have just been one or two, I wasn’t there — received a small cash prize.”
In “Gifted Hands,” Carson wrote that he was the last person in the room after 150 other students walked out instead of completing the tough exam. He wrote that a professor then gave him $10 for being the “most honest” person in the class and Yale Daily News photographer took his picture for the newspaper.
The Yale Record’s resident historian, Michael Gerber, who worked on the magazine years later, told TPM earlier on Monday that the incident sounded like the kind of prank the staff of the Record staff would pull. Gerber was unsure who led the staff of the Record when it published the Yale Daily News parody issue at the center of Carson’s anecdote, though.
A former editor-in-chief of the humor magazine who graduated Yale in 1970, “Doonesbury” cartoonist Garry Trudeau, was also unable to shed more light on the prank when reached by TPM.
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.