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PC Campus Culture
What Happens when Faculty Stand Up to Illiberalism

A free speech controversy at Yale that helped inaugurate the current wave of nationwide campus protests has ended in disgrace. The New York Times reports on the sorry end to a sorry saga:

A Yale lecturer who came under attack for challenging students to stand up for their right to decide what Halloween costumes to wear, even to the point of being offensive, has resigned from teaching at the college, the university said Monday.

The lecturer, Erika Christakis, an expert in early childhood education, wrote an email in October suggesting that there could be negative consequences to students ceding “implied control” over Halloween costumes to institutional forces. “I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious,” she wrote, “a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?”

After the email, a group of students confronted [Chrstakis’ husband, the master of Yale’s Silliman College]. One student was shown in a video posted on YouTube confronting Dr. Christakis as he clasped his hands. “It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not!” the student was heard yelling. “Do you understand that? It is about creating a home here!”

In explaining her resignation, Christakis said in a statement to the Washington Post: “I have great respect and affection for my students, but I worry that the current climate at Yale is not, in my view, conducive to the civil dialogue and open inquiry required to solve our urgent societal problems.”

As KC Johnson points out, doesn’t appear that Yale made a great effort to change her mind. “It makes the decision more straightforward from a human resources point of view,” Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway said to the campus paper. “I don’t have much to add to her decision.” And, of course, the university has caved to many of the demands of the activists who effectively forced out Christakis with their bullying tactics.

The tragedy here is not that Yale students have been deprived of a competent and courageous educator, though that is deeply unfortunate. It is that other professors, at Yale and across the country, will now be much less likely to speak about against campus Jacobinism, lest they share the fate of Erika Christakis.

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  • Beauceron

    “the current climate at Yale is not, in my view, conducive to the civil dialogue”

    It’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to get the Left what it wants. The Left has no interest in debate or dialogue. It has no interest in alternate opinions or ideas. Do what they say or face the consequences.

    “It is that other professors, at Yale and across the country, will now be much less likely to speak about against campus Jacobinism, lest they share the fate of Erika Christakis”

    Professors having been a model of intellectual courage over the past 50 years?

    Most professors, as far as I can see and have seen, are in agreement with these protestors.

  • WigWag

    Professor Mead was on the faculty of Yale for many years and he is a graduate of the institution. It would be interesting to get his personal take on what’s taking place at his alma mater.

  • Beauceron

    If you have not read it, Professor Harry Jaffa’s lecture, “The Reichstag is Still Burning: The Failure of Higher Education and the Decline of the West” is very much worth the read. Delivered in 1989, and focusing on the problems on campus that began in the ’60s, it is both insightful and provides a useful history of how we got where we are today.

    Available for free here: http://www.claremont.org/crb/campusmadness/TheReichstagisStillBurning.pdf

  • qet

    Whether faculty do or don’t stand up makes no difference, except that those who do at least have self-respect. I know references to the Nazis are tired but they’re always so darned pertinent! There were people who stood up to the Nazis. But they could not stop the Nazis. They either fled while flight was an option, or died. Others got the message and kept their mouths shut and their glances down on the pavement. But still, as in the Soviet Union and Mao’s China, it was necessary for the thug contingent to have a regular supply of victims. How can you feel large and in charge if you’re not arresting, imprisoning, torturing and executing people!!!

    The Nazis were motivated by revenge and this is what motivates the leaders of the college protests. A mob psychosis has been generated and is now in the process of being communicated from college to college like the plague, by fleas riding rats. A certain type of highly resentful person sees this as his opportunity for attention and a feeling of power, which he has no intention of not taking advantage of. Heads must roll.

    Like the Inquisition, eventually this whole thing will end, but too late for the poor teachers caught up in it. Fate is cruel like that, as the ancients understood. Speaking of the Inquisition: “The last execution of the Inquisition was in Spain in 1826. This was the execution by garroting of the school teacher Cayetano Ripoll for purportedly teaching Deism in his school.”

    Coincidence?

    • Beauceron

      “Like the Inquisition, eventually this whole thing will end”
      I am not sure it will, actually. This has been going on for some 50 years on college campuses, with the demands getting narrower and more absurd and it has not ended. Having gained the benefits (privileges) of affirmative action in entrance exams and employment, special racial identity majors and centers, special programs, clubs and groups, they now want even more money for those groups and more quotas based on race. With few or no actual discriminatory actions to complain about, they’ve moved on to microaggressions.
      I keep hearing people talk about “peak Leftism,” the idea that, at some point the Left gets so crazy that they jump the shark and collapse. I don’t see that on the horizon. I think, as with the diversity fetish that began on campus, this will jump from campuses to the workplace and filter in to every aspect of our society. I think these are the new rules we will have to all follow, so you’d best be paying attention.

      • qet

        The Inquisition went on for centuries. Before this one ends the US college system which has been a magnet for the world will lie in ruins. My kids are in college and I feel at times like one of those poor souls in Berlin in 1938 watching the Nazi hordes goose-step down the boulevard realizing there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop them.

        • f1b0nacc1

          A very large portion of my family was murdered by the Nazis, and most of those who survived did so by leaving while they could. If you were there in 1938, you had likely waited too long…..sigh…

          • qet

            I am sorry for your loss and of course I won’t press the analogy too far. The father of my best friend in childhood was a survivor of the camps and had scars on his back and on his head. . . . . .

            But I do feel as though “we” (quotes because I’m not entirely sure who “we” are in this matter) have waited too long to be able to keep this storm surge from washing over the levee and drowning the city (another analogy that I can’t press too far).

          • f1b0nacc1

            In many ways we agree. The time to stop this was decades ago. I left academe because I saw that this wasn’t going to be stopped, that the rot, while not yet obvious, was far beyond what anyone was willing to cope with. The Left cannot be reasoned with in general, but they are far, far worse in environments like universities where they control the ‘commanding heights’ as it were. I used a quote a few days ago on another topic, let me modify it slightly here: “Where the Left is in a minority, they are obsessed with intellectual diversity, where they are in the majority, there is no intellectual diversity”
            I always wondered how the rise of fascism happened….not the whys and details, I understand that, but rather how otherwise intelligent people watched it occur and did nothing. Sadly, now I have seen it begin and gather strength…I am no longer mystified.

          • qet

            Allow me to give Nietzsche’s version of your statement: “One desires freedom so long as one does not possess power. Once one does possess it, one desires to overpower; if one cannot do that (if one is still too weak to do so), one desires ‘justice,’ i.e., equal power.”

          • f1b0nacc1

            An outstanding amplification….Nietzsche is pietzsche!

          • Eurydice

            At this point, I really don’t think it’s about ideology anymore. I think it’s about economics and survival, The university system as it stands is obsolete and universities have been doing everything they can to attract and keep students. If that means pandering to every demand, then they’ll do it, even if it means booting out a professor who’s no longer “flavor of the month.” After all, there’s no shortage of unemployed and underemployed academics.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Perhaps, but I think not. If anything, this sort of spineless pandering is about avoiding any PR-unfriendly ‘incidents’ which will scare off the parents who are going to pay for these snowflake-fascists to attend their safe spaces, as the administrators themselves have little but contempt for the students. The faculty is another matter entirely, but they are largely neutered in terms of any actual authority.
            The administrators don’t want to rock the boat, and if spinning up a few more departments (which after all provides more jobs for administrators) provides that social peace, so much the better. Remember, the universities make their real money (those that aren’t living off of federal or state dollars) on students who are going to pay the full freight, and those tend to be the white, upper-middle class crowd that is likely to be scared off by too much on-campus unrest.

          • Eurydice

            I think we’re saying the same thing. I don’t for a minute imagine thst the administration actually cares about the students as people, just as walking dollar signs. Perhaps the students sense that – it becomes one big cynical circle.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Largely I agree, though let me offer a slight shading…
            I don’t believe that the administrators care about the students AT ALL, they care about the sources of funding, and those sources are very, very rarely students. They are more typically the student’s PARENTS (in the case of no-aid students) or various state or federal government organs. In both cases, these groups would tend to look askance at an institution ‘rocked by protest’, which is bad for business. What the students themselves think is of a vanishingly small concern to the administrators.

          • Eurydice

            Sure, when I say walking dollar signs, I mean sources of funding. What we’re really hearing is the screams of the mastodon in the tar pit. Universities are dying and they don’t really know what to do about it.

      • f1b0nacc1

        The universities will not reform, you are absolutely correct, but as the support for them dries up, so will their funding. THAT will take care of the problem rather thoroughly. Some will survive, but they will have the same relevance as the great cathedrals do in Europe…lovely monuments, utterly sterile and ignored beyond their imposing presence.

  • Fat_Man

    Yale is dead. So is the rest of the American Higher Eduction system. Sadly, it will go on like a zombie apocalypse eating the brains of our children for quite some time.

  • jeburke

    Disgusting. I went to Yale. My kids both went to Yale. I very much doubt any of my grandchildren will. Salovey and Holloway may think Yale’s reputation can withstand anything, but while it took 200 years to gain it, it can be lost in 20.

    • honestynow

      I hope you’ve sent them a strong message with emphasis on no more donations unless/until this pc nonsense ends.

  • Jim__L

    Boycott Yale grads.

    • f1b0nacc1

      THAT will send a message…once the place isn’t seen as the royal road to fame and fortune, its appeal will be seriously eroded among those that matter….the ones paying the bills.

  • Eurydice

    Well, one might want to ask the folks at Harvard’s Pforzheimer House, where the Christakis’ were masters, how “competent” and “courageous” Erika Christakis was. The comments were more along the lines of “meddling”, “tyrannical” and “nuts.” So, there may be something else going on behind the scenes here than just PC-ness. But, in general, this seems to be the fault of the universities, which have been offering everything possible in order to attract students. Since when is college supposed to be “home”?

    • qet

      That description fits 99% of all Ivy League faculty.

      What one might ask instead is why the current black students would have chosen to attend such unsafe racist preserves as Yale, Harvard, Brown, etc etc.. Surely they were aware of the environment before they (a) applied and (b) accepted. Surely these students could have been admitted to a HBCU or other college they knew to be less hostile and violent and dangerous and threatening. Why would any person willingly go to a place he knew would subject him to constant violence and danger? Why? Could it be that his acts disprove his words? Could it be that his decision to attend is conclusive proof of his bad faith regarding his assertions of unsafety and violence? The same question may be asked of women, gays, Palestinians, etc etc.

      I think you are alluding to just this in your last two sentences.

      • Eurydice

        What I find really interesting about this situation is that the students don’t see that they are actually a part of the very thing they are fighting – a privileged and entitled culture. They are saying “No, I can’t be entitled, my skin is a different color!” I suppose they could talk to some really underprivileged people and ask them how they feel about “home”, but that would disturb the narrative.

  • FriendlyGoat

    One wonders what, exactly, about provocative Halloween costumes are “conducive to the civil dialogue and open inquiry required to solve our urgent societal problems”. I wish that an otherwise-good lecturer had not sided with those who feel a need to offend others for the heck of it and ended up needing to resign in defense of something not very profound in the first place.

    • Beauceron

      “One wonders what, exactly, about provocative Halloween costumes would be “conducive to the civil dialogue and open inquiry required to solve our urgent societal problems”

      What provocative Halloween costumes? There were none as far as anyone can tell. The offense was prospective, not actual.

      “I wish that an otherwise-good (we’re told) lecturer had not sided with that growing faction of people who feel a need to offend others for the heck of it”
      Again, there were, as far as I have read, no offensive costumes. And when you have a class of people who have taken being offended to a professional level, and are using it not argue for true fairness and tolerance, but as a weapon to gain power, it isn’t wrong to stand up to them. These are bullies, like much of the Left. And it’s right and proper to stand up to bullying.

      • FriendlyGoat

        Unless one is hoping to launch one’s self into a knock-off of Ann Coulter, this was not a particularly important battle to pick—-under that old theory of “pick your battles”, IMHO anyway. I think it was a poorly chosen crusade over an irrelevant “side issue” which mostly backfired on Erika. Whether she will attempt to paint herself as “wronged” for her “convictions” and therefore a faux hero for the far right remains to be seen. We’ll know in a year or so.

    • Boritz

      When they came for the costume wearers I didn’t protest because I was going as Donald Trump, and when they came for the………..

      • f1b0nacc1

        Precisely….just who gets to decide what is ‘legitimate’ when giving offense?

      • FriendlyGoat

        Going as Donald Trump is not “controversial”. You can dress up with the amazing hair to voice your approval of him—-or your disapproval of him.
        No one knows except by how you act in the costume.

  • Jim__L

    For anyone who hates polarization, this is a catastrophe. If institutions have this sort of power (rather than assuming a default position of liberty), that hugely incentivizes ideologies to attempt to take over those institutions — possibly even out of a sense of survival.

    I doubt these students know what kind of world they’re creating. This is one of those ways that we can lose liberty in a single generation.

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