To the editor:
Calhoun Master William Sledge’s public endorsement and continuous, vocal support of Dan Kruger for Ward 1 Alderman has raised some eyebrows in recent weeks.
In addition to his op-ed and campaign contribution, this past Sunday Master Sledge e-mailed a “Special Announcement” to all Calhoun Students, inviting them to attend a reception for Kruger in the Master’s House and urging them to “Please come out to meet [Kruger] and get to know him.”
Is this an abuse of Master Sledge’s power? It would have been a scandal if my high school principal had endorsed any one candidate for student body president. One Calhoun freshman, after receiving the “Special Announcement” invitation, went so far as to “CC” the entire class an e-mail in which she told Master Sledge, “Quite honestly, your continual, concentrated support of Dan Kruger seriously makes me uncomfortable and makes me feel that you are seeking to pressure me, from your position of authority over me, to think a certain way about politics.”
I’ll admit that I felt a little uneasy when I first saw Master Sledge’s editorial in the News. But as I’ve thought about the issue more, I’ve come to a realization: it speaks well of Yale and its tolerance for free speech that a college master has the right to publicly express his political opinions, however controversial they may be. This is not a high school. This is not a state university, where concerns over state funding and public opinion influence what administrators can and cannot say. This is Yale. The political environment here is not sanitized. It’s dynamic, and it’s raw, and at times other people’s comments will make you feel uncomfortable. That’s a good thing.
If you maintain that it is inappropriate for Master Sledge to publicly endorse a political candidate, you implicitly endorse the alternative scenario: that he can have political opinions, but he should not be allowed to voice them publicly. Some might call this a wise decision, given Master Sledge’s unique position of power. I would call it a violation of free speech. I want to have the freedom to say whatever I want to, as long as it doesn’t infringe on anybody else’s rights. I would be a hypocrite if I denied this freedom to Master Sledge.
Daniel Weisfield ’07
October 28, 2003