Letter from the editor

Graphic by Alex Swanson

On Fri., Nov. 6, the Yale Herald published an opinion piece titled “Hurt at home,” which articulated an individual’s feelings of discomfort in the aftermath of an email from Silliman College’s associate master. On Sat., Nov. 7, we removed that article from our website at the author’s request.

I recognize that we published the article with only a Yale audience in mind and that many readers outside of Yale took issue with the article’s perspective. In the following paragraphs, I hope to provide context helpful in understanding the events of the past week and “Hurt at home.”

Many readers interpreted “Hurt at home” as a direct and unreasonable response to Associate Master Erika Christakis’ email to students in the college. In considering this issue, it’s also important to acknowledge that Associate Master Christakis’ email was itself a response. It rebutted an email from Yale’s Intercultural Affairs Committee, which is made up of many of Yale’s religious and cultural group leaders. That email urged students to be culturally sensitive in choosing Halloween costumes.

Associate Master Christakis’ email articulates her faith in the Yale students’ ability to dress themselves without administrative mandates. The IAC, however, threatened no disciplinary measures for cultural insensitivity. In rebutting an email urging simple mindfulness, Associate Master Christakis’ message, intentionally or not, was “don’t be mindful.” It is this aspect of her email that has proven most troubling, especially in light of a master’s unique role at Yale.

The role of master is distinct from that of professor. While each residential college has a dean, who functions as the college’s chief academic advisor, the master’s role is one of community leader. The Yale College website reads, “[The master] is responsible for the physical well being and safety of students in the residential college, as well as for fostering and shaping the social, cultural, and educational life and character of the college.” The University touts the communal environment enabled by masters as a major draw for prospective students.

Students in Silliman expressed their discomfort and pain at Associate Master Christakis’ decision to write her email. Instead of first trying to understand students’ concerns, both Associate Master Christakis and her husband, Silliman Master Nicholas Christakis, took to Twitter, posting articles that they felt justified Associate Master Christakis’ point of view. Master Christakis even went so far as to retweet an article he had posted on his personal account from Silliman College’s own Twitter account, falsely representing it as the position of the college.

Masters are individuals, and as such have a right to voice their opinions. But Associate Master Christakis’ message is tainted by her decision to email it directly to all Silliman students—an email list to which she has access through her administrative role in the college. She could have published these thoughts on a personal blog or in a publication. She chose not to.

This incident has become an issue of free speech. The term was introduced into this conversation when Master and Associate Master Christakis asserted that in opposing the recommendations of the IAC, they were defending a right to free speech. Readers unfamiliar with the nuances of this situation believe that students have censored Master and Associate Master Christakis; they haven’t made that argument themselves.

Nicholas and Erika Christakis have an undisputed right to free speech. No one has argued that they, as individuals, should not. But students have exercised their own free speech in speaking against the way Master and Associate Master Christakis have treated their office. This incident is not analogous to a professor offering an unpopular view, or a controversial speaker coming to campus. “Hurt at home” addresses a failure to perform the duties of a defined role: nurturing the Silliman community.

David Rossler

74 Responses

  1. Michael Paul Goldenberg says:

    This is the state things have degenerated to at one of the premier universities on the planet? How utterly sad and pathetic.

    The real world has all sorts of people in it. Universities and colleges prepare students to live in that world, not in some utopia where everyone is nice, no one disagrees with anyone else, no one ever has to hear a difficult, challenging, or unpleasant idea, and all genuine thought, feeling, or speculation is suppressed out of “commitment to an ideal of being offended trumping the 1st amendment, academic freedom, and intellectual discourse.”

    That’s not university life: it’s nursery school. And tuition at most of the latter probably doesn’t put anyone into long term debt. Seems like attending Yale these days, however, puts students into utter emotional and intellectual infancy.

    • Doug says:

      Comparing a thoughtful email to a swastika gets at the core problem here: disproporitionate response and black and white thinking.

      Someone sends email, even if it’s misguided, even if its someone with an air of authority, ends up turning into “the gestapo is being sent to strip us all of our rights.”

      You could instead say “maybe she’s a good person acting out of ignorance. Maybe she supports the ideals of the policy, but doesn’t want it to be on the University to enforce.” A million more charitable interpretations are likely truer than “she’s secretly a racist Nazi.”

  2. Jacob Aster says:

    These comments are ludicrous, and themselves largely childish. Remember that Yale students in this house are aged 17 to 22, and the house master is somebody that is specifically living in the dormitory to foster inclusion and house life. I would also be rattled by the thinly veiled support of intolerance and bigotry of the house master.

    It’s just a swastika. Get over it. Look away when you pass it in the hall.

    No, the Christakis are not the persons for such a position and she is right to encourage Yale to sack them. It is like a sexual assault officer having a pinup girl in his office.

    • Tony R says:

      Jacob: Are you arguing that a well-reasoned public argument, in a deferential tone, challenging a school policy, albeit by a dorm “Master” “is like a sexual assault officer having a pinup girl in his office?” Really? You need to join the outside world. That academic bubble is messing with you. There is not a hint of “intolerance and bigotry” in that email, whether “thinly-veiled” or otherwise. Also, Yale has shown these past few days that it is OK to be rude, arrogant as well as wrong in the name whatever is the cause of the day. Sorry, I do NOT “feel your pain.” Get a life.

      • Jacob Aster says:

        Swing and a miss. Nobody asked you to feel pain, stay on track here.

        It is very much like having a pinup girl displayed. As students we had some on our walls in college, but it would be inappropriate as an adult living among the students. Not what they are there for, nor the environment they should mentor. I’m not alone in believing that a Yale education should also include learning why display of a swastika or dressing in blackface may not be appropriate.

        The Master is not doing a very good job at her position, and should be fired. The students are asking for this (callously at times, yes), and I agree with them. As an outsider, an alum, and a human being.

        • Joe Hansem says:

          How can you mispresent the facts so blatantly and engage in such scurrilous character assassination? blackface? swastikas?

        • Mark Gomez says:

          Wow. You actually believe that innocuous email is like a swastika? A pinup girl? It is sad that you might actually be the future of this country. Well, hopefully not you. Nobody wants a man with a sandy vagina.

        • Dave says:

          Jacob, the saddest part about this your comments is that you apparently believe this senseless drivel you have written. You do not have the right to never be offended or have your feelings hurt by anyone. That’s life, get over it, grow up, and move on.

    • Jay Y says:

      What a bunch of whiny babies at this school.

      Wait until you get into the real world.

      A support of intolerance? She encouraged dialogue and talking about issues like a real adult should do, not running away like a scared bitch and crying in the corner because something upset you.

  3. Alex says:

    Though some of your larger concerns about the treatment of black and minority students on campus are exceedingly valid, it’s unreasonable to assume this discontent can fully be addressed in Halloween costume policy and related email responses. Disagreement over Halloween costume policy, particularly in the diplomatic manner shown by the Christakises, does not equate to uncaring treatment in a dorm or elsewhere on campus, and equating it is as such serves to detract and distract from the important issue of equal and fair treatment. Safe spaces were never meant to be a place where all uncomfortable feelings were kept at bay, they were meant to be places where all opinions could be shared and explored in a non-threatening manner. The student reaction has been deplorable. This conservative-esque “with us or against us” bully mentality exhibited in this case, co-opting the liberal language of safe space, and not allowing room for nuance or reason, are some of the more frightening elements exposed in the Yale case.

    • Dave says:

      Alex, you should take a long hard look at your fellow liberal activists. The actions you cite are not “conservative-esque”. Rather they are standard plays from the liberal playbook.

  4. Chris says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with Michael Paul Goldenberg’s comment, and would like to make one additional point.

    You write “In rebutting an email urging simple mindfulness, Associate Master Christakis’ message, intentionally or not, was ‘don’t be mindful’.” I think this is the major point that most people seem to misunderstand, yourself included. Rather than interpreting Christakis’ message as “don’t me mindful,” I, personally, look at it as “be mindful, but use your own mind’.

    One can be mindful on one’s own, using their own judgement. You don’t have to rely on others, or the university you attend, to tell you what’s right and what’s wrong. Goldberg was right in his comment referencing nursery school, because that is what it is for, not higher education.

  5. Joe says:

    this article gave me a booboo

  6. Peter says:

    The article accuses the Masters of sending the message “don’t be mindful”. This is a complete misrepresentation of the email. Students were be respectful, but also to be adults, and to address any differences of opinion about the appropriateness of another student’s costume directly, like a confident adult. This urging to maturity is urging a much higher form of mindfulness than the idea that the administration should eliminate all potential conflict.

  7. S.M. Stirling says:

    Words cannot adequately express the degree of contemptuous mockery to which this “discomfort and pain” should be treated.

    But hey, let’s all give it a try.

    Newsflash! LIFE IS PAIN!

  8. “Students in Silliman expressed their discomfort and pain at Associate Master Christakis’ decision to write her email. ”

    Putting aside the widespread misunderstanding of Professor Christakis’ email and the nuanced and insightful theory of emotional development behind it, perhaps the most difficult thing to understand is how any adult could feel “discomfort and pain” merely at an opinion they disagree with. Not only does it expose the student’s lack of understanding of college-level psychology, but a lack of understanding of the concept of home as well. Home is not and has never been a place where one is never challenged with different opinions. That students expect to be is, as many have pointed out, a sign of profoundly embarrassing self-absorption that will be the source of amusement for rival schools for years to come.

  9. jay says:

    Someone this emotionally unstable needs counseling

    I watched the video and he made it very clear that he sympathized with your cause, but was unwilling to force others to speak/dress a certain way

    You are nothing but a bully who uses your victimhood to silence others… Get a grip

  10. Philip Maise says:

    I learned first hand at University of Michigan how minority students were catored to and given special treatment to ensure they would graduate. The net result is it became clear to me there were two classes of students, those that earned a degree, and those the university wanted to coddle so that they received a degree. Whole bogus degrees were invented like “environmental engineering” and “sports science” to ensure there were easy classes for minority students to pass.

    When I was in a hiring capacity I used to test applicants on their engineering knowledge. One applicant highly objected. This minority applicant insisted that she had earned a degree from a reputable college and there was no need to test her ability. Needless to say, she did terrible on the basic test and didn’t get the job.

    College is not some holiday camp where everyone is supposed to have a great time. Instead it is supposed to be a proving ground that demonstrates you can succeed in a game called life.

  11. Julius says:

    Christakis was not saying “don’t be mindful” in her email; she prefaced her central argument by praising this administratively promoted sensitivity. She was actually urging her students to, while being mindful of cultural misappropriation/racist behavior, concurrently be aware of the precedents set, by the way safe spaces are being set up, and by the further integration of progressive social politics. These precedents include the bureaucratic mandate of a social atmosphere that counterintuitively, while built on tolerance and justice, stifles debate and dialogue through the demand of solidarity and compliance. Polarizing radicalism helps voices get heard, but not without consequences, and while I’m not advocating for “civility”, I do think that progress is best made with cooperation, which cannot happen if people hold a “with me or against me” attitude/jump to antagonize potential allies.

    • Joe Hansem says:

      I don’t know how many of these students actually even read the email being motivated instead by mob psychology and the rumor mill.

  12. Archus says:

    Even Yale has jumped the shark with this foolishness. Once a bastion of world-leading thought, it has become yet another third-rate incubator for mush-minded neo-progressivism. You would hope a cohort intelligent enough to be admitted into Yale would have the mental and emotional fortitude to forego the coddling we see on other, lesser campuses, but it would appear that it is not so.

  13. Natasha says:

    Yale University is not charged with protecting you from the world, but rather, preparing you for it. It would seem that too many students at the University have been living in a hermetically sealed echo chamber , in which they only hear opinions with which they are comfortable , and they become hysterical when confronted with an opinion that dares to differ from their own . Please don’t confuse the role of master in the Yale College with that of Nanny in the nursery . If you are not prepared to grapple with intellectual challenge, woe betide you when you enter the adult world

    • Jacob Aster says:

      People argue this but it is quite a silly argument. Yale students know people lie, cheat, steal, in the real world, so should the master break promises or behave in an somewhat unethical manner to toughen them up so they’re not the “Nanny in the nursery?”

      Maybe they can play “bad boss” so they are prepared for Wall Street.

      Maybe not, and they’ll get their chance to suffer in the real world, but the master should be fired for displaying poor judgment.

      The sideshow here becomes a series of straw man exaggerations of the masters inappropriate attitudes and actions.

      • Carol says:

        So it is inappropriate for the Master to assume that his students are adult enough to work these things out for themselves? I guess they proved you right. These are the future leaders of the country? We are doomed.

      • Joe Hansem says:

        with your commentary being a prime example of that straw man exaggeration or were you engaging in satire?

  14. Grant says:

    The editorial states ““[The master] is responsible for the physical well being and safety of students in the residential college, as well as for fostering and shaping the social, cultural, and educational life and character of the college” – this sounds a lot like my role as a parent. And trust me, as a parent, I am many times telling my children things that make them uncomfortable, upset, in trying to teach them to respect others, to share, to be humble, to do what is right… and what I read from the Asst. Master fit entirely in that vein. Do Yale students really need mandates from on high to police Halloween costumers? Are they so fragile that they can’t bear to rely upon their own social circles to do that? Are they really driven to hysterics by the potential of someone wearing an offensive Halloween costumer? This is a campus sitting in the of a town that suffers from poverty and crime, and this is what we hear about Yale students championing? What a waste of these people’s potential to place them in a system that has perverted it so..

    Right now, they should set up a lot of chairs in corners at Yale, because there are a bunch students that need to go sit in “Time Out” for a while..

  15. Aliyah says:

    EC’s complete email is both thoughtful and nuanced. The first role of a University really is to be an “intellectual space” through civil discourse and open enquiry. She was succeeding in that objective. You are not (yet).

  16. Peter says:

    The assault on free speech and freedom of action by Yale students is manifest and unequivocal. The Master’s defense of freedom of action was literal and unambiguous.

    The Master’s letter didn’t encourage anybody to be unmindful of cultural idiosyncracies. On the contrary, the objective reader understood, “…I do not agree with your viewpoint, but I will defend with my life your right to speak it…”

    What can we do but smile at, “we published the article with only a Yale audience in mind and that many readers outside of Yale took issue with the article’s perspective…” Really?

    You thought your peers were the only people who mattered. Now you know more. We’re your future employers, maybe. We’re watching.

    It was your choice to dive into deep water. Your well meaning Master(s) was a lifejacket. Unlike you and your peers, they have some experience in what adults enjoy referring to as, “the Real World.”

    In a fit of predictable adolescent arrogance, you doffed your best safety aid and tore it apart before casting it away.

    You weren’t ready to swim on your own. But now you’re in cold deep water and it’s an awful long way to the beach.

    The professors you castigated almost certainly share your perspective on substantive matters. All they asked was that you consider that being crass or inappropriate, while socially reprehensible, is nonetheless protected by the same laws that allow you to attack them.

    Time to understand that there’s room in the world for others’ viewpoints. Dear Children, there’s no right to be treated kindly or to be surrounded by “safe space”. If you need an atmosphere of home, then return there and let the serious students get back to studying.

    Finally, to our esteemed Ms. Luther: Your feelings are irrelevant and utterly unimportant, so spare the talk, please. And, there’s no debate here. You’re just another priviledged, enabled, young adult attacking the livelihood of academic professionals who do their best to represent more people than you and your wailing friends.

    It’s a big crazy world out here. This may be the first spanking you’ve ever recieved. There will be others. It’s life.

    • Dave says:

      I wonder how many of these student “activists” realize that every one of these videos of them behaving stupidly will be enshrined on the internet forever and that recruiters and hiring managers long ago learned how to scour the internet for this stuff to screen out the idiots before they even get to a job interview.

  17. james says:

    Seems to be a big whine to me. However, it also seems like there is a huge backstory on how marginalized some of these folks feel. If someone writes very publicly about their pain (from racism or some other source), they are most likely sincere and deserve to at least be listened to.

    One other point- I believe that people are always going to question people of color’s “right to be here” (any where with competitive admissions- a school, a job, a profession, etc.) when there is affirmative action. It is just a human reaction to assume these folks got some sort of special treatment despite the fact that it may not be the case. Until affirmative action is reworked, this is a natural result. I am not saying it is right, but it is a consequence.

  18. Zach says:

    This is a place of higher learning. Collegial debates and constructive dialogues on complex issues should be encouraged – not whined about incessantly. These students are all adults and should have the maturity to debate fellow adults without resorting to hysterical screaming matches laced with profanity. The world of academia, to which many Yale grads will devote themselves, is a place rife with disagreement and colliding viewpoints. Deal with it.

  19. Steve says:

    You would think, by the vituperative denunciations and tearful convulsions at Yale, that some idiotic frat had dressed up in KKK hoods or blackface. Nope. The wife of a house master merely suggested — in a thoughtful, nuanced, reasonable, intelligent, and adult manner — that maybe, just maybe, an institution of higher learning such as Yale ought not be in the business of telling students how to dress on Halloween before the fact. She went on to commit the unspeakable crime of suggesting that Ivy League college students ought to be allowed (and ought to want) to figure out how to dress themselves for Halloween. It you haven’t read her actual email, read it at the link below.

    These Yale crybabies and hothouse flowers should be mocked mercilessly for their infantile overreaction.

  20. Jan Burton says:

    SJW’s have turned campuses into left-wing mental asylums, and this author is a prime example.

    The children of generation snowflake needs to grow the hell up, step out of their juvenile “safe spaces” and stop acting like Mao’s Red Guards on a rampage.

    These people need to be mocked, tormented and exposed as the creeps that they are.

  21. Kenney says:

    I consider myself a lifelong lefty but these people defame the progressive movement and cannot be considered a part of it. They dishonor all the generations of peaceful civil rights protesters with the weakness of their characters and intellects. Go cry yourselves to sleep, oh ye of little backbone…but don’t call yourselves “liberals”.

    • Saul Till says:


      There’s a tiny isthmus of land, between the ‘illiberal left’ on the one hand, and gloating right-wing conservatives who are just as hostile to free-speech when it impinges upon their sensitivities on the other hand – it is where the grown-ups live.

      Reclaim the word ‘liberal’ – ‘liberalism’ has always been bound up with free speech; indeed free speech is a liberal invention. These students are quite simply not liberals – to be liberal is to speak up for a NEUTRAL system – economically neutral, politically neutral, religiously neutral. It is to envisage a society from behind Rawls’s ‘veil of ignorance’, where you cannot be sure which position you will end up occupying and therefore you make the system as neutral and even as possible. It is not to rig the game so that you never have to run into a disobliging opinion, never have to deal with anyone you don’t like.

  22. Re: Steve says:

    one correction: “Crybullies”

  23. Patrick says:

    I have lost all respect and admiration for Yale. This situation is being handled terribly and my heart goes to the Christakis’s. If Yale lets them go I will be utterly ashamed.

    Everyone just needs to put on their big boy pants and grow the hell up

  24. Brandy says:

    Yale: It’s not about creating an intellectual space.

  25. Jack says:

    It’s heartening to see that most of the posts are reasonable defenses to the right of free speech. But sadly, I have a feeling most of you are, like me, not current Yale students.

    Where are the students who are defending the college masters? Do they not exist? Or have their freedoms of speech been stifled in deference to “safe spaces?”

  26. Detener La Locura says:

    The graphic used at the top of this article shows an image of shattered glass, which insinuates violence and is potentially triggering. It was reckless and offensive for The Yale Herald not to take my life experiences into account when it selected this problematic image. Delete it immediately.

  27. Jon says:

    This will finish the USA. BRIC need do nothing but sit back and laugh as these snowflakes p*** away their privileges. We’d probably laugh in Europe too if we weren’t already over.

  28. Adolph says:

    For all of you who decry free speech, I have a solution.

    Pass an amendment. Amend the Constitution to repeal the first amendment, and then we can put to rest our fetish for free speech, religion, and press. Then we can outlaw offending blacks, gays, transgendered, and minorities, while simultaneously legalizing the same treatment of straights, whites, and men.

    Free speech is for the hateful speech, for the abominable opinions, and for those thoughts and words that good society deems unpalatable. That is exactly why it is explicitly impossible for the government to restrict such speech.

    Until that happens, all this whining comes across as crybullying.

  29. Michael Fairney says:

    The master should have done what I do to my wife whenever she is having a silly tantrum and accusing me of being mean: laugh in her face, tell her she is being ridiculous and then just walk away.
    To try and engage with someone screaming at you will never work, and only gives them the sense that they are winning.
    laughter wakes them up.

  30. David says:

    I am truly embarrassed for Yale. At best sounds like the delicate “children” attending expect a communal group therapy session…at worst Romper Room.

  31. Frank Schoeman, TD '66 says:

    I wish I had the time to go over the details of what actually happened. Yale college was all-male, and had very few African-American students when I graduated. I got to be friends with two African-Americans who were also TD. I spent a Summer in New Haven rooming with one (not a classmate, but ‘in Aussie terms’, a mate”)and a ‘white’ student who had dropped out for two years in the Marine Corps. I recall that during my four years at Yale, at one point, I joined student protests against George Wallace (as a Freshman/Sophomore?) resulting in a speaking engagement being cancelled. I subsequently regretted that decision after I learned the importance of Free Speech thanks to Yale’s Liberal Arts tradition. A better option IMO (now) would have been to make him agree to a question and answer session as a requirement for the invitation to stand.
    I am a White-African-American, having left apartheid South Africa, to live in a country, that I hoped would have both freedom of speeh, and, thanks to the Civil Rights Act a path to a Ethnically, and culturally integrated society. I have been disappointed, and now, also by Yale Undergraduates, if, and only if, ethnically suggestive Halloween costumes were being worn the way a Pirate, Witch, Zombie, Extra-Terrestrrial, outfit was being worn. If style, and behavior of/in such a costume could be construed as being a deliberate attempt to denigrate the group represented, then that student is worthy of opprobium. Otherwise, I would just chalk it up to youthful thoughtlessness, even at Yale.
    If one notices that I didn’t use the word ‘race’, it is because the scientific consensus is that homo sapiens sapiens is the only extant human species, ‘race’ is too aoften used to imply different species.
    In short, I think everybody has over-reacted.

  32. Steve says:

    Also, note to David Rossler… when some part of your inchoate outrage stems from the fact that, “Master Christakis even went so far as to retweet an article…” you sound especially fatuous. Did you actually clutch your pearls when that happened? ISIS burns people alive in cages while you are outraged about retweets. The real world will devour you mewling cubs.

  33. Troubled Employer says:

    David Rossler you are clearly a very misguided editor-in-chief. In the withdrawal of the article you layer a thinly veiled criticism of Christakises rather than addressing the deep violations of freedom of speech that Yale students seem to be engaging in this week. Instead of addressing the content of the article, you attack the Christakises. I certainly hope to never see your resume on my desk and I assure you the efforts of you and many other Yale students this week have made me very dubious about the calibre of students coming out of this once fine institution. If your retraction was meant to be an objective view of the situation from your point of view, then I dread to think what your view would be about many other situations. This is one of the most ludicrous withdrawal memos I’ve ever read.

  34. Alex Simonelis says:

    Rossler couldn’t be more wrong. Grow up. And lose the hyper pc-ness – it’s utter nonsense.

  35. Mike in Atlanta says:

    This Op-Ed completely ignores the elephant in the room, which is the “I don’t want to debate, I want to talk about my pain” line. This sold sentence is the reason the writer of the column asked to have it taken down, and everyone knows it.

    This one sentence will go down in history as a stunning, unmistakable insight into the mind of this generation of college students.

    Just because Yale may not have the most stellar record of racial inclusion does not mean today’s college students are not infantilized, whiny, self-absorbed twits.

    We live in a world in which Yale students, who are arguably in the top .0001% when it comes to relative “privilege” devote endless time abc energy to protesting how terribly they are oppressed and marginalized.

    Enough is enough.

  36. Chris Farah says:

    This is an odd thing for an editor in chief to write. It’s one thing to provide context, but you’re actually trying to shape and define the argument here. Reasonable people at Yale and outside Yale could draw different conclusions than the ones you present. Yet you present your conclusions as objective fact.

    It would be one thing if you were just another commenter, or even an op-ed writer on staff, but you’re the head of the newspaper. In a discussion like this, your role should be to create a forum where opinions can be expressed and respected, not to take sides and promote your own opinion as the truly reasonable, authoritative one.

  37. Jan Han says:

    Tried posting this on the YDN site this morning; it seems the comments do not merit approval over there. Here goes –

    Dear social justice warriors of Yale:
    Now is the time to decide whether you truly want to model what social justice looks like, or copy the worst instincts of your peers.
    I attended Yale during the mid-aughts. I still remember the (wholly justified) outrage over the Rumpus 2006 prefrosh issue, whose unfunny descriptions of Asian girls managed to combine misogyny and racism in one fell swoop. Since then, as an Asian American living in a major East Coast city, I have experienced my share of “microaggressions,” including a racist cult shouting Chinese-sounding gibberish, and threatening physical violence, as I passed them by.
    I am more than sympathetic to your ends, just like Erika Christakis was. But I am horrified by your ruthless determination to force the Christakises to resign, and to coerce the student body to take ethnic studies courses. It is part and parcel of the vigilante activism sweeping the country, from banning the new “Stonewall” film at Colorado College (too white, too male!) to defunding the school newspaper at Wesleyan (columnist dared to question Black Lives Matters’ tactics while supporting their goals!)
    There is a hermeneutics of suspicion at work in all these cases: because the speaker in question proposes a critique, however mild, they are always-already The Enemy. Therefore their words are scrutinized for malicious subtext, while the plain meaning of their speech is ignored.
    Many of you student activists dismiss concerns about free speech, claiming that they are “diversions” from the “real” issues, i.e., racism. You also claim that your tactics pose no threat to free speech, and that you are exercising your rights just as Christakis exercised hers. Conor Friedersdorf addresses this false dichotomy better than I ever could:
    To his analysis I only add two things: FIRST, Yalies should be able to distinguish between the irresponsible and responsible use of free speech. Christakis has been accused of “propagating her personal views” in another editorial – as if HER perspective were “merely” personal, while those of her detractors are (objectively true?). This casual rhetorical slippage is itself an irresponsible use of free speech – using your right of expression to subtly create a straw (wo)man whom you can then set on fire at will. Your irresponsible use of free speech, culminating in your calls for the Christakis’ resignation, sets a precedent that basically amounts to censorship. “But we’re not forbidding anyone to say what they want!” Tell that to the next professor considering whether to write a measured critique of how race and ethicity are handled by neo-liberal college administrations today.
    SECOND, your Manichean view of the world, neatly separated into Victims and Victimizers, implicitly requires that all people of color should share your views. Your vigilantism effectively chills dissent amongst your own ranks – who is going to speak out against their allies, for fear of being labeled a traitor to the cause? In effect, you are saying, “If you look like us, you should think like us.” Whether intentionally or not, you create a homogenous intellectual standard to which all students of color should adhere, and from which no variation is allowed. What does that sound like?
    It sounds pretty racist.

  38. BS_Detecter says:

    Our country needs more educators like the Christakis’, not less. The message they sent was “be mindful” on a MUCH higher level than the cartoon-ish “be mindless” message sent out by the IAC.

    David Rossler is either cognitively challenged if he doesn’t understand what the email said or spectacularly arrogant to believe that anyone with a brain would think that what he’s saying is anywhere near accurate.

    If that whining, crying infant screaming at the teacher in the viral video is indicative of American college students I weep for our future. “You can’t do anything if I find it offensive…it’s educators’ jobs to protect us from being offended…*cry, scream, shout down any intelligent response*…and run off when I’m done throwing a tantrum so there’s not a rebuttal.
    Seriously one of the most pathetic, disgusting displays I’ve seen in a long time. My 5 year-old niece isn’t that bad.

  39. Chris says:

    Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, the internet never forgets. You might have taken down the “Hurt at Home” letter at the request of its author, but its still floating around on the internet for everyone to see/read. If anyone hasn’t read it please do, it will be very apparent why the author, and likely by extension the progressive faculty and students at Yale, wanted it pulled. One of the last lines in the letter read:

    “And I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.”

    Given the context of Halloween costumes and an email sent suggesting that Yale students are mature enough to handle this issue on their own without University interference, this is a pretty pathetic comment to make. The “I don’t want to debate” mindset can be seen taking its physical form with the outburst from the female student against Mr. Christakis in the viral video everyone here has likely seen. As he attempted to clarify a position he felt she wasn’t properly representing she yelled at him to “BE QUIET!” and proceeded to curse at him. Oddly enough the progressive students refrain from clapping when they approve of a point being made because loud noises can be triggering for some people, but won’t shy away from a shrieking tantrum when someone dares to withhold an apology and values freedom of speech and expression over someone’s feelings.

    These students aren’t here to participate in a learning environment where opposing ideas are tolerated and considered. No, that would actually be open minded. They are here to have their feelings coddled and no amount of hand waving and attempts at justification can turn their cries into something more important or more positive. And again I’d like to ground this discussion in its proper context – Halloween costumes. That’s the racial rallying cry that these students and faculty are assembling under and that’s what they need protection from.

    Yes, yes, yes… I know… I’m a horrible privileged person person who’s discounting the experiences of minorities. How could I know the pain someone experiences when they see someone wear a cultural costume for a few hours out of a year? How could I know the unsafe feelings that haunt these students after realizing that their headmaster felt that they were mature enough to handle this issue on their own without the University interfering? Who does he think they are, well rounded, self confident, and intelligent adults?

    Perhaps I’m a horrible privileged person who doesn’t understand, or perhaps they’re the ones who don’t understand that this could be a defense for anyone and anything. Of course no one knows exactly what you’re experiencing because they’re not you. Anyone can use the line “you don’t know how it feels” and follow it up with demands that their feelings not be criticized or even questioned. It’s a very easy defense to mount, especially when you combine it with silencing tactics. Even the students who wish to wear cultural costumes could resort to this tactic. You don’t know how they feel, you don’t know their pain. Now sit back, “BE QUIET!”, don’t criticize, and accommodate their demands. What’s that? It doesn’t work like that? You’re damn right it doesn’t.

    My advice to students who want to dress how they want next year, just say that you’re not dressing up as a specific culture. Say you’re dressing up as a cultural insensitive person appropriating someone else’s culture. It would be Halloween after all, and you’d be donning a very scary, at least in their minds, caricature.

  40. Joe Hansem says:

    Well, if his debate had occurred as a “conversation” on the terms and in the tone of Rossler’s commentary above, that would have been one thing. Clearly the Christakises acted ineptly, breaching administrative discipline. But sadly the demogoguery, hyperbole and hysteria that emerged over something fairly trivial in the broader scheme of things was wholly disproportionate to the infraction committed, a “pc” caricature of itself that brought this august institution into disrepute and subjected it to ridicule, showcasing the lack of maturity of too many otherwise very bright students. Good Lord, you’d think this was Erika Huggins and Bobby Seale on trial! An email that at worst was laden with complacent liberal platitudes is something that makes people feel unsafe? Get a grip! All this actually does the struggle for social justice a disservice by trivializing it.

  41. D. May says:

    The practice of addressing the extremely serious societal issues of racism, misogyny, transphobia, etc. by picking apart even the most tenuous examples of insensitivity and whining that racism/misogyny/transphobia/etc. “hurts my feelings” and “feels unsafe” has become the norm. This is devastating to what needs to be an effective movement to fight for social justice. It has made us look like fools and is tragically counterproductive.

  42. Li says:

    Why would someone call the author a crying baby, just because “we removed that article from our website at the author’s request”?

    • Chris says:

      After reading the “hurt at home” article its not really a reference to their behavior in wanting the article to be removed but the content of the original letter itself.

      It’s taken down from the Yale Herald but a google search for “Hurt at Home Yale” will yield links that have the letter posted. I think its worth a read.

  43. Jamie MacMaster says:

    Is Yale the biggest nursery in America, or is there another, larger one?

  44. TheDumbMoney says:

    I graduated from Yale in 2000, and I am aware of these contextual issues. I still think that the original author, Paz, and the protesters are operating from a position of: “my emotions create their own logic, I don’t want to debate, you shut up and do whatever I want.” Now there are demands for Christakis and her husband to step down. Really? Look, I’m all for changing the name of Calhoun College, a name that I cannot believe has endured for so long. Rename it after a minority Yalie? Great. Name another college after a minority Yalie. No problemo. But demanding that every student take courses in a particular subject area, ER&M, which is totally inconsistent with Yale’s policies of non-indoctrination, not to mention how the entire group system has always worked? Telling people you don’t want to debate? Spitting on people? Screaming at people when they try to explain themselves? Calling for the removal of people who by all accounts are people the NRO would label pinkos and who had the temerity to suggest that an Administration email, while not mandating punishments, was a dangerously chilling event? Please.

    The issue is not that Yalies should be able to throw a KKK-themed party while running around in black-face and torching a cross in the college courtyard. The issue is the chilling breadth of the IAC email, and the stunning lack of understanding it shows about context and the real world. If black Yale student goes to India for a semester and and falls in love wants to dress as a Ganesh for Halloween, is he to assume that the hundreds of people he will see out who know nothing about him will accuse him of cultural appropriation? Is an atheist now not allowed to dress as a pregnant nun for Halloween for fear of offending the Party of the Right? Is that sort of humor dead? My kid attends a Spanish/English dual immersion school. If she goes to Yale one day and dresses as La Catrina Calavera for Hallween as she did this Halloween as a grade-schooler, are the hundreds of people she sees out who don’t know her allowed to assume she is an evil white cultural appropriator, to assume it is mockery? What is mockery? What is respect? Where does one draw the line?

    The answer is, in the IAC missive: nowhere. There is no line. The line is purely in the minds of whatever any offended student wants it to be, and if a student is offended, that creates its own emotional logic, as the response to the Chistakis email has so spectacularly demonstrated. This is wrong. This is not Yale. That’s what was wrong with the IAC missive, its breadth, the fact that it gave exactly the dismissive, short-shrift, fake, “I’m not a racist, but…” deference to true speech concerns that the students accuse Christakis’ email of having given to theirs.

  45. Hack says:

    but what was Erika Christakis’ halloween costume?

  46. Gail says:

    I am flabbergasted at the response to Christakis’ email, and have to wonder if the students in hysterics over it have actually read the email. It seems clear to me they have not – or at least they have most definitely missed the point. Her email was thoughtfully stated. It does not advocate wearing offensive costumes, but rather that as adults, perhaps the students should be capable of making their own judgements. That is not the same thing at all! I am wondering if Christakis is having second thoughts about how adult the students actually are, now that she has seen the incredibly juvenile response from the students. An absolutely astounding lack of perspective, not to mention lack of critical thinking, and lack of reasoned debate! These students need to get a grip and grow up.
    Someone should be getting an apology, and I believe that apology is owed to the Christakis!

  47. Mark says:

    How much does it cost to send a student to this dysfunctional institution?

  48. Dr. Rick Dulas says:

    I was appalled at the Hurt at Home op-ed by Paz, but this attempt at CYA by Rossler is a laughable attempt at damage control, and completely misses the mark.

    Perhaps Yale should the motto from “Truth and Light” to “I Don’t to Debate” or perhaps “Feel My Pain!”.

  49. mike says:

    Wow! What a bunch of misguided overly sensitive whiners – perhaps the result of increasing “diversity” at Yale?

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