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.