Outrage has embroiled Yale University over Halloween costumes. It all began when the Associate Master of Silliman College, Erika Christakis, responded to an email sent by the Intercultural Affairs Committee prior to the annual day of trick-or-treating that asked students to be sensitive to politically incorrect costumes on Halloween. Silliman is one of the residential colleges at the university. Christakis, and her husband, Nicholas, the Master of Silliman, are now being targeted for termination by the student body for daring to say that Halloween is an exercise in free speech and expression. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education had a lengthy post that outlined this descent into madness–and how college campuses are becoming bastions for coddled little snowflakes that are afraid of having their feeling hurt or their opinions challenged:
On Wednesday, October 28, Yale Dean Burgwell Howard sent an email to Yale’s entire undergraduate student body from the university’s Intercultural Affairs Committee, a 13-member group of administrators from the Chaplain’s Office, campus cultural centers, and other campus organizations. The email, titled “Halloween and the Yale Community,” implored students to be thoughtful about the cultural implications of their Halloween costumes and how they might offend or degrade others, pointing to costumes such as feathered headdresses, turbans, “war paint,” and blackface as examples of inappropriate “cultural appropriation and/or misrepresentation.” Howard sent a similar email to the Northwestern University community in 2010 when he was the dean of students there.
While the committee’s email acknowledged that students “definitely have a right to express themselves,” the committee hoped they would “actively avoid those circumstances that threaten our sense of community or disrespects, alienates or ridicules segments of our population based on race, nationality, religious belief or gender expression.”
The committee then provided a list of questions students should ask themselves before deciding upon a costume, as well as links to websites educating students about common racial stereotypes.
Just after midnight on Friday, October 30, Erika Christakis sent an email to the Silliman community in response to the Intercultural Affairs Committee’s Halloween email. Christakis explained that she and her husband Nicholas had heard from a number of students who were frustrated by the committee’s email. Although the email was allegedly supposed to serve as a recommendation rather than a formal policy, to some, its length, tone, content, and the list of 13 signatories seemed to indicate otherwise.
In addition to expressing concerns about how policing students’ costumes can limit the exercise of imagination, free speech, and free expression, Christakis asked:
Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive? American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition.
The response to Christakis’ email was explosive. More than 740 Yale undergraduates, graduate students, alumni, faculty, and even students from other universities signed on to an open letter telling Christakis that her “offensive” email invalidates the voices of minority students on campus.
Christakis and her husband have since invited all Silliman signatories of the open letter, as well as any other Silliman students who might disagree with her email, to a lunch this Sunday. The invitation was sharply rejected by some, including one student who, in a Yale Herald piece published today, criticized the invitation and argued that Nicholas Christakis “needs to stop instigating more debate.”
FIRE added that Yale is one the few higher learning institutions where support for the freedom of expression in ingrained into its ethos. Well, this whole fiasco shows that belief is in decline at Yale, with these videos showing students confronting Nicholas Christakis at courtyard at Silliman, where he was accused of racism and insensitivity:
Christakis engaged with the students and listened to their concerns for several hours. Finally, Christakis told the crowd, “I apologize for causing pain, but I am not sorry for the statement. I stand behind free speech. I defend the right for people to speak their minds.”
This was not the “apology” the students were demanding. As you can see from the footage below, which was taken by Lukianoff while on campus, the confrontation quickly escalated into a shouting match.
Yale Daily News reported that several students called Christakis “disgusting,” while about half left after they figured out the Master of Silliman wasn’t going to accommodate his statements with that of their “end of discussion” agenda. The paper also reported that some students “voiced their unwillingness to received their diplomas from Christakis at graduation.”
It’s Halloween. As a person of Korean descent, I’ve never been offended by awful costumes, even ones that violated so-called cultural appropriation standards of America’s progressive left. If you want to go as a Chinese rail worker, a geisha, a samurai, or wear a kimono, please go right ahead! This is America. I’m all for acts of expression, even if they’re horrible acts. It’s one of the many tests of American citizenship–dealing with people with whom you have deep disagreements. Will you engage or cry to mommy and daddy that your safe space was violated? Also, who is for cutting off debate, let alone being against someone trying to instigate more of it? When did Yale University become a learning institution akin to that of Oceania?
On a side note, the allegation that one of the fraternities on campus denied the entry of black students into one of their parties is disturbing, which is the chapter president has vociferously denied. But, as for Halloween costume non-controversy and refusing to accept diplomas from the Master of Silliman on graduation day because he’s for free speech–you’re going to torpedo the once in the lifetime event of graduating from college because of it. That is ridiculous.
In September, at a town hall event on college education in Iowa, President Obama weighed in on the increasingly anti-intellectual tendencies of America's young liberals, who still haven't accepted, nor acknowledged, that there are other opinions that just aren't printed inThe Nation magazine.
As Cortney wrote, the president said, “Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal, and maybe even agree with me on a bunch of issues, who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side, and that’s a problem too...I’ve heard some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African Americans or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women.”
The Virginia Tech chapter of Young America's Foundation actually held a funeral for halloween on October 30, after the school's Student Government Association laid out some reminders about so-called cultural appropriation and other idiocy relating to costumes and how not to offend people. The VA Tech SGA were not happy about the YAF event, even posting on there Facebook page that funeral was a hotbed for "tyrants in training."
Get. A. Grip.