Brianna Loo

This article has been updated to reflect the version that ran in print on Nov. 18.

On the same day that University President Peter Salovey announced policy reforms responding to demands from Next Yale, a coalition of students calling for greater attention to racial issues on campus, Salovey and Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway also sent a joint email to Silliman College students affirming their support for Nicholas and Erika Christakis as the master and associate master of the college — a stance that directly opposes one of Next Yale’s demands.

In the email, which was sent to members of Silliman shortly after the University-wide email Tuesday afternoon, Salovey and Holloway wrote that they have met with Nicholas Christakis and “fully support” his and Erika Christakis’ commitment to serving the college. Additionally, Salovey and Holloway thanked Silliman students for generating discussions about how to make the college a respectful and inclusive community. The administration’s decision to back the Christakises comes amidst some student activists’ call for the couple to be removed from the Silliman mastership, following backlash generated by an Oct. 30 email from Erika Christakis defending the students’ rights to wear culturally appropriative Halloween costumes.

“Dean Holloway and I have spoken with Master Christakis a number of times in the last two weeks,” Salovey told the News. “We know he feels quite badly about the distress experienced by the Silliman community, but I know he in good faith wants to work closely with that very same community to make it a wonderful place to live.”

The subject line of the joint email read “Moving Forward Together,” and its content praised the Christakises as exceptional teachers and scholars with a “longstanding and deep dedication to undergraduates.” The email also reiterated Nicholas Christakis’ call for the Silliman community to exhibit “a spirit of generosity and a willingness to assume the best in others” — a request Christakis first made in an open letter to the Silliman community last Friday.

Holloway told the News that many faculty, alumni and students have urged him and Salovey over the past weeks to support the Christakises. He said there was never a doubt, from his standpoint, that the administration would send a statement in support of the Silliman master and associate master.

Christakis told the News that he is glad the administration has expressed its confidence in him and his wife after the tumultuous events of the past several weeks — many of which were sparked by the Oct. 30 email, though students have since emphasized that the demonstrations are not solely about her message.

“I think my wife has been subjected to an extraordinary and shameful vilification for the last two and a half weeks, overlooking the subtlety in her email and the confidence it actually had in Yalies, and I’m glad to see that, despite this response, the administration has expressed its confidence in our ability to provide a good education to undergraduates,” he said. He added that he looks forward to working with Silliman students to create a stimulating and welcoming community of which they can all be proud.

But some Silliman students remain steadfast in their resolve to replace the current college master and associate master. At around 1:30 a.m. last Friday morning, students began to circulate a petition calling for the removal of Nicholas and Erika Christakis from their respective positions. The petition came hours after Next Yale submitted a list of demands — including the removal of the Christakises — to Salovey last Thursday night.

Silliman students interviewed expressed mixed feelings about the administration’s support for the Christakises

“I have heard from friends that because the Christakises will remain as master and associate master of Silliman, the chance of them transferring to another college is high,” Michael Fitzgerald ’19 said. “I personally love that [the Christakises] are staying.” He added that the Christakises’ Friday open letter laid out how the couple will approach improving their relationship with the college, and he said he believes the steps will be effective.

Two Silliman students interviewed said they want the Christakises to remain in the college, but called on them to be more visible and accessible.

A letter delivered to Salovey yesterday before the Silliman email was sent urges him to maintain the current mastership of the college. This particular petition has garnered around 700 signatures from students, alumni, faculty, staff, alumni and others.

Others, however, felt that Nicholas Christakis failed to do his job as master. They said an email apology Nicholas and Erika Christakis sent on Nov. 6 acknowledging that they had caused students pain came too late.

“There should have been more discussion on the master’s part to acknowledge the degree to which he might have hurt certain students,” a Silliman sophomore said. He added that he supports the Christakises’ removal and has signed the petition that calls for it.

In a separate email also sent Tuesday, Nicholas Christakis invited Silliman students to a follow-up meeting this weekend that will focus on substantive steps in moving the college forward.

  • dcheretic

    Thank you, President Salvoey and Dean Holloway, for your commitment to free speech!

    • 100wattlightbulb

      Yes. To free speech. No, to more of the same liberal crap that created this mess.

      • Moi

        There are many liberals who don’t agree with what is going on.

      • Debbie

        Classic liberalism is akin to fascism to these wannabe revolutionaries. Even “progressives” who are insufficiently obsessed with race and gender are their enemies.

    • MattSchlager

      This is the best comment so far. Everyone else has too much to say.

  • 72bullldog

    This is a huge relief to many alums and students who have been watching this closely.

  • concerned

    I sincerely hope that individual students who feel the need to change their residential college from Silliman right now (because it is not a wonderful place to live for them) will receive equal support from the entire Yale community to do so. And I expect the YDN to report if anyone’s immediate request to relocate from the Silliman residences is blocked by administrative inertia.

    • 100wattlightbulb

      I say good riddance and woe to the accepting Dean and Master.

    • Ralphiec88

      I agree that Yale should support such requests where possible, not because they are justified, but because it is a waste of energy to fight them. As for the notion that Silliman should be a “wonderful place to live for them”, I can tell you from experience that 10 or 20 years out, you’ll find some students who blame the school for the poor choices they made and have accomplished little since. Many others will have thrived, recognizing that the challenges they faced in college helped to prepare them for the challenges ahead.

    • Anthony

      I think your hopes will be just fine.

    • johnsmith363

      Right, because now they all feel “unsafe.” How are these sensitive snowflakes going to survive in the real world when they graduate?

  • germ_16

    Ah, so the plan to acquiesce to some of their demands didn’t quench their bloodlust in the slightest, eh? The administration will learn fast that this is a power play, the funding for the cultural centers was merely window dressing. What they want is the power. The power to dictate who is hired and who is fired. They want more diversity, which is code for less white people. They want you to never say something that hurts them, and they need power in order to stop it. They will begin disruption, they will force a narrative of oppression and neglect. Get ready.

    • groenima

      This response doesn’t make sense in light of the article. . Admittedly, the last paragraph didn’t make a lot of sense either; how does a petition circulated last Friday prove the student’s resolve after Salovey’s email today? And what’s with the fear mongering: power, less white people, disruption, narrative of oppression and neglect? Who is your audience here? I don’t think it’s anyone at Yale.

      • germ_16

        In light of the article, it says even after all the decisions made in favor of the activists demands, they still want the Christakises to be fired… so what I said makes perfect sense. Not sure how you didn’t understand that. I am speaking also on the larger picture of what I’m seeing happening. My goal isn’t to sow fear, it’s to speak more clearly the reality of what is happening. Take a look at the result of the University of Missouri’s activism and you might be able to grasp what I’m saying a little more clearly.

    • JacksonT

      You make an excellent point. The protesters want “more diversity” which I assume means more people of color. But shouldn’t “more diversity” also mean more of everything that is under-represented on campus, e.g. conservative voices included? If 90% of faculty members self-certify as liberals, is there not a cause to call for additional conservative perspectives? Or, as I expect the case to be when it comes to the current protestors, diversity for thee but not for me.

  • ldffly

    This is not disturbing at all. It is good news. The bad news is that Pres. Salovey said no student would be disciplined for what went on in the confrontation. The administration will not even force repentance for the liberal use of fxxx toward Christakis.
    I hope that she is responsible enough to approach Christakis on her own initiative and offer an apology for the ugly outburst. Eye contact and a shaking of hands with a promise of good will in the future would show an adult character.

    • ldffly

      An addendum: If it had been me, I would have expelled her. Even a tenured professor who did that to another tenured professor in public would have been subject to public censure. At a minimum.

  • 100wattlightbulb

    There should be no more admits that are not based on merit. Almost everyone knows someone at home, who was more qualified than someone they know at Yale, who was denied admission and it’s irritating and frustrating to both parties. The students with high test scores, high caliber rigor, and leadership roles, know they are at Yale for those reasons. The students who had mediocre SAT’s or ACT’s and some rigor in high school- know they displaced someone more qualified than they. It’s bound to build resentment on both sides. So, basing admission on something as relative as scholarship, ends this. Everyone will have EARNED a spot, legitimately. Anyone who argues against this does so out of some misguided sense of guilt, misguided sense of entitlement, or nefariously, because they want to keep the divide there. It’s time to focus on real academics and not this utopian ideal of diversity and inclusion, that disregards qualification.

  • 100wattlightbulb

    Black ministers say the racial strife at University of Missouri and Yale universities is “mass hysteria” led by Black Lives Matter – an organization they say hopes to “destabilize our society.”

    “Frankly, I believe that this is mass hysteria generated by the Ferguson incident and the Black Lives Matter cabal,” said Bishop E.W. Jackson Sr., president of StandAmerica, which is “non-profit organization that reaches across racial and cultural lines to bring people together around the foundational principles that made America great.

    Recently, STAND led a campaign to have a bust of Planned Parenthood founder and eugenicist Margaret Sanger removed from the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

    “It is very unlikely that with a black President and black Attorney General enforcing civil rights laws, that suddenly racism on campus is rising,” he said.

    The movement to stir up racial tension has other motives, he said.

  • Phil Ostrand

    I fully support the Yale administration in this. Thank you for embracing sanity, reason and education.

  • Juan Diaz

    These students are out of control. If they are unhappy in Silliman College, they can ask for a transfer to another residential college. Silliman is rather nice, so they will be able to easily replace any students that transfer out. Also, do these students really think any of the other residential colleges are going to want them? Students who scream at their Master and use profanity to address them are hardly students anyone would want in any of the residential colleges. They are disrespectful, tyrannical and overall very disagreable folks, and have no respect for Yale or the other students at Yale. They do not represent the majority view of minority students at Yale.

  • Ralphiec88

    Sanity starts to return. Absurd demands such as the monument just demonstrate that some protesters are dressing personal power grabs in the language of equality.

  • Don TD 95

    Very pleased to see reason prevail here. If faculty can be removed merely for speaking opinions with which some disagree, then the idea of the university is lost. Nothing is learned at a center for self-affirmation. Thank you, President Salovey, for standing up for free thought. Let’s hope it endures.

  • branford73

    I read Christakis’s letter to the Silliman community a few days ago, and was impressed. I wonder if any of the students who still want their dismissal have read it.

    • disqus_Jk6ocUkvFR

      I’ve read all the Christakises’ emails (how on earth are you supposed to punctuate that???). They were ALL well reasoned, understanding, gentle and thoughtful. This is why, as far as the Profs were concerned, this should not have been an issue.

  • esstee

    Thank goodness! Not only did the Christakises do absolutely nothing wrong, their support of free speech is a direct reference to Yale’s 40-year standing policy of freedom of expression (The Woodward Report), which is also part of the student regulations and therefore something each Yale student automatically agrees to when they enroll — the language is crystal-clear about that. If you’re enrolled at Yale, here’s what you agreed to:

    Oh, and it’s hardly fine-print: Pres. Salovey specifically made it the topic of his 2014 Freshman Address, and it has been directly referenced several times in recent emails from the administration. So, yeah, it’s Yale’s law of the land. If you care about how Yale arrived at its freedom of expression policy in the first place, the story is interesting and it is recounted here:

    Even though IMO it’s well-reasoned, sensible, and eloquent, you’re entitled to not like it, and even to protest it — that’s of course what freedom of expression allows. But know what you’re protesting. The Christakises were only complying with it, so stop giving them a hard time over this issue.

  • river_tam

    Make all the kids unhappy with Christakis transfer into Calhoun College.

    • Tim Steele

      now that is funny!

  • disqus_fvLIBK8ktD

    When I read this–“Salovey and Holloway wrote that they have met with Nicholas Christakis and “fully support” his and Erika Christakis’ commitment to serving the college. Additionally, Salovey and Holloway thanked Silliman students for generating discussions about how to make the college a respectful and inclusive community.”–I wonder if Salovey and Holloway met with that profanely screaming student. Is she now willing to be part of “a respectful and inclusive community”?

  • Doug

    Splitting the baby was not very Solomon-like. President Salovey should have told the protestors to take a hike, as well as standing up for the Christakises.

    • dzmlsience

      Actually, isn’t “splitting the baby” quite “Solomon-like”?

  • theantiyale

    This is a tightrope for any college president to walk: hurtful speech and free speech intersect in a “zone of twilight ” as Justice Jackson put it in a famous Supreme Court concurrence.

    Paul Keane
    M.Div. ’80

    • Smugglers

      I believe Justice Serling’s opinion in Garrity v. Whipple (1964) leaves no room for the type of “zone of twilight” rationale we see from Jackson.

  • dzmlsience

    So brave (sarcasm).

    YouTube did all the heavy lifting for the administration on this one. Supporting Christakis over Luther was a no-brainer. Alumni would have had Salovey’s head on a platter if he caved THAT far. Even the national news media would have turned on him if he ditched the master. Nobody wants to be associated with the “shrieking snowflake of Yale”.

  • anonymouse

    I wish the support had come sooner, but I’m very pleased to see this!

  • Debbie

    It’s great that the Christakises’ are being supported for now, but it seems like a bone being thrown to common sense, while the announced policy changes amount to foolishly applying the gas rather than the brakes as the campus protest clown car speeds out of control at Yale and elsewhere.

    My prediction: The delicate, privileged flowers whose fragile feelings were so grievously hurt by a perfectly reasonable and innocuous email will continue to whine and have temper tantrums until the administration finally cravenly caves and removes the couple.

    • BossumPossum

      I urge you to read President Salovey’s email again. There are no policy changes of note… only initiatives that were, for the most part, already in the works.

      • Debbie

        Whether the changes are better described as applying the gas pedal of the clown car or flooring it, they amount to ramping up the grievance mongering and special snowflake coddling that are turning academia into a joke that even the old school “progressives” who started it all get, now that the revolution has entered the eating-its-own phase.

        • BossumPossum

          Given your consistent use of the same jargon, you obviously have an intractable agenda…which is ironic given your complaints.

          • dzmlsience

            Her agenda appears to be exposing the truth of campus culture. Is this agenda irksome to you? Ask yourself why.

        • Kelli Wilson

          You sound like chicken little. Turning academia into a joke? Embrace change my friend. It’s how you stay relevant. Luddites have no place in modern society

          • dzmlsience

            Academia has been a joke for a while now, Mr. Van Winkle. Welcome back.

          • Debbie

            If not a joke, then certainly a rich source of material for jokes. The Onion could report unembellished straight news from the campus without missing a yuk.

            I’m a Luddite who is at the end of career in high tech.

          • Jawaralal_Schwartz

            A Hewlett Packard lifer, eh? They retrained you from packing laser printers in the 90s to assisting Carly Firorina w strategic plans. Did I get it right?

      • disqus_Jk6ocUkvFR

        That’s a pretty good point, one that is emphatically not communicated in the by media now. I’m going to read the email again.

    • Kelli Wilson

      Actually, the students are tertiary to the whole debate. Kids are kids. Yale does not make major investments because a group of relatively powerless, non donating kids get their pants in a bunch. But they will make changes to reflect an institution that wants to a) not become the poster child for racial strife and b) retain their position as the global standard for academic integrity. Small minded people need not apply. It’s bigger than one person or a tiny % of the Yale population. It’s about being on the right side of the argument. It’s about America’s ability to compete and lead in the 21st century. The era of identity politics is over. If the Paris attacks taught us anything, it taught us that we need to build the next generation of leaders – the best and the brightest. Not people arguing about who can swim in the swimming pool. We’re past that now. The science has decided it. So figure out how we can all play in the sandbox. Cheers to President Salovey. Smart, intelligent, forward looking. You should be proud of him. Get a grip and let go of your insecurities.

      • Debbie

        “the era of identity politics is over”

        You’ll have to step outside the bubble to see how unintentionally ironic that statement sounds when looking in. If it’s over in Western academia, then the era of identity obsession has begun there.

        Nobody in academia (or in most places) has argued about who can swim in the pool for decades. If solutions about how people are going to play nicely in the sandbox of the world ever arise, I doubt they will arise from the Ivy League or from its graduates, who have been running the US for generations. I think you could throw darts at a phone book and pick better leaders. The coddled, privileged, fragile, self-righteous, identity-obsessed drama queens being turned out now show even less promise.

        • dzmlsience

          Our own W.F. Buckley once quipped “I’d rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than by the faculty of Harvard.” Professor Hadley Arkes of Amherst lamented “how would you like to send your child and $50,000 per year to college and have them returned to you dumber than when they left?” Most kids simply are not old or mature enough to successfully fend off the monstrous leftist academic culture of our modern universities. Many of them are sitting ducks for their proselytizers.

  • Killer Marmot

    I often wonder how university presidents stand up to speak, given that so few of them have a spine. It’s good to see at least one of them not cater to the illiberal authoritarianism that flourishes on campuses.

  • NikHammer

    A whiff of sanity.

  • Anittah/Digital

    “I think my wife has been subjected to an extraordinary and shameful vilification for the last two and a half weeks.” – Nicholas Christakis

    I cannot recall any at-minimum-moderately respected private sector leader ever being quoted stating anything remotely similar to a statement such as this, as this statement per se strikes me as utterly bereft of anything remotely resembling qualities the real world demands from a successful leader.

    In addition, leaders know: when you step into such a role, the risk of “extraordinary and shameful vilification” comes with the territory.

    So this statement alone makes me very curious about how strong a leader N. Christakis is, and how capable he might be to competently lead the undergraduates of Silliman College. Were I deeply ignorant of all other matters associated with this, I’d suspect he’s a very weak leader, prone to childish acts of retaliation which seem more likely to be tolerated in academia than in the private sector.

    Okay, that was a tad unfair: I’ve never worked on the institutional side of higher ed, so who knows? Maybe on-the-record jejune petulance at supposed injustices to one’s significant other doesn’t in fact rule the day inside the ivory tower as my unfairly selected sample quote might suggest.

    But if it does, then, oh: how I tip my hat to all the academics who put up with such woe-is-me antics from people in leadership positions. I truly don’t know how you do it.

    • dzmlsience

      There are so many words in your post but it says almost nothing. You did manage to use “jejune” correctly in a sentence (sort of) and your profile picture is cute so you get a C-.

      • Jawaralal_Schwartz

        Right, but totally inappropriate in tone. two of every three words are unnecessary. I think she goes to Princeton.

    • botti

      You are deeply ignorant.

    • Diego Caballero

      I just read a lot of fancy words. I know what most of them mean. I still don’t know what you wrote. Reminds me of Deepak Chopra:

    • Ed Feldman

      I would credit him for having very high levels of self control when dealing with supposed adults throwing tantrums and saying despicable thinks to him. He tolerated it well and it is to his credit that he did and did notl et these idiot students bait him as they were obviously trying very hard to do.

  • Randy

    Realistically the University can’t fire them or they open the door to more oustings, but to be clear, everyone on the board is looking at him and his wife as a liability. I wouldn’t be surprised if they resign from the position quietly after all this is over.
    Most of the comments on this page are from personal supporters of Christakis, whereas the true campus climate, even among people who didn’t buy into the student movement, recognize that the response he and his wife had was inappropriate. No one blames them for starting the issue, but it was embarrassing to watch how clumsily they handled it afterwards. Moreover, he didn’t react until he realized there might be serious consequences for himself. Christakis will continue to be an academic contributor, but socially, at Yale, he’s done.

    • dzmlsience

      The Christakises are practically heroes among 98% of the Yale population. Shrieking Girl and the Facebook fraud, on the other hand… not so much.

    • MeMow001

      I think you are confusing your opinion with that of the faculty.

    • Sunshine43

      You wish!

    • Ed Feldman

      If what you say is true, then that is really too bad. Letting these kids run things is totally mindless.

  • disqus_Jk6ocUkvFR

    The student who said “There should have been more discussion on the master’s part to acknowledge the degree to which he might have hurt certain students” is exactly right. Prof Christakis wanted to discuss the problem, the offended students just wanted an apology – no discussion. Then this student signs a petition for Christakis’ removal. You really can’t have this both ways, like this student wants. This is the kind of fuzzy thinking that got Yale in a tizzy in the first place. I think it a shame that all students don’t recognize that Prof. E. Christalis was actually trying to pay them a compliment by telling the Yale administration to let students be students (and adults).

    • dzmlsience

      Such compliments are pearls before swine. These students really were not worthy of the Christakis’ assumptions about their maturity and intellectual honesty.

  • Kelli Wilson

    Just wait a while. One would think Yale alums were a bit more business savvy. Guess what, you don’t get to embarrass the University unnecessarily and retain your highly favored status. They had problems at Harvard and now theyve thrust Yale into the spotlight…negatively. The arc of the moral universe bends blah blah blah. They should start planning their next move. I’ll bet $$ on it.

    • dzmlsience

      Alumni are almost universally supportive of the masters. The kids have embarrassed everyone connected with Yale.

      • Jawaralal_Schwartz

        And especially you, or so it seems. Just remember, many people share your embarrassment, no?

    • Tyler

      There’d only be a backlash against Yale if they fired this couple. Your post shows a profound disconnect with what people think and feel. Nobody is on the side of the Marxist minorities who think having anything resembling a reactionary opinion is a fireable offense. The affirmative action student body is embarrassing Yale.

  • Tim Steele

    “I have heard from friends that because the Christakises will remain as
    master and associate master of Silliman, the chance of them transferring
    to another college is high,” Michael Fitzgerald ’19 said.

    I remember when I was at Yale in the 90s it wasn’t that easy to transfer colleges. You needed a really good reason to do so and this is not even remotely a good reason. But Yale probably should just let the whiners leave — perhaps send them to Calhoun as others have suggested.

    • dzmlsience

      When these students “transfer” it should be to their local community colleges. They are not Yale material and probably are not ready to be away from home. Yale Admissions, you got some splainin’ to do!

  • dzmlsience

    “Shrieking Girl” will end up as another Sandra Fluke of the left. She will not be able to find a job in the mainstream but somebody like Soros or Clinton will pick her up for their foundation. Alternatively, she could continue her shrieking in print at some liberal rag like the NYT or WaPo.

    • Debbie

      If Soros, Clinton or a media outlet don’t hire her, she still has her family’s wealth to fund her world travel hobby.

      • Jawaralal_Schwartz

        She does not appear to be from wealth, by Yale standards. To some people, her family’s net worth may be rather irrelevant to her role in this matter, anyway.

      • Ed Feldman

        Shrieking girl should have to carry a heavy ball and chain on her travels just to help her stay grounded in decency.

  • Rod Berne
  • Debbie

    It’s hard to have dialogs here when posts take 10 hours and more to get through pre-moderation.

    • dzmlsience

      They have to make sure every comment is sanitary and micro-aggression-free. Do you know I have had a post deleted 4 times because it includes the word “niggardly”? As in “the university is too niggardly to fund its own CS courses while throwing lavish resources at the protesters’ boondoggle programs…”. If that’s the way the newspaper is run, imagine the atmosphere in a gender studies course.

    • Jawaralal_Schwartz

      It is all part of free speech procedures, Deb. Chill.

  • (@^@)

    To sum: So a small minority overread their own issues into an email and then noisily demanded “justice.” If you did not get the support you needed you were found unreasonable by prevailing community standards. Spend some time overseas and then see if the Christakis’ are a real issue. I think not.

  • Ed Feldman

    I observed on You Tube a video made of some of the open discussion in an open air setting apparently on campus with a number of students gathered around Nicholas Christakis. It was not clear just what the substance of the complaints toward the Christakis’s were. An apology for the wording of some email or letter requesting control and consideration associated with students wearing Halloween costumes seemed to be the reason. What was clear was the over the top belligerent, verbal threating and vulgar degrading language that was being used by a couple of the students. One in particular was a disgrace to humanity in her verbal attack and insults. Not a plus for what one would want to think is typical for the students attending Yale. Just from what I could see from the complete disrespect of these few students and the apparent egging on of others not being vocal participants was enough to let me know I would never want a family member of mine participating in that class of students. You would have thought someone had just shot their mother or something as grievous. What in the blank is wrong with these students? I guess they are students but the have not earned any part of what that title means in a social sense. They are verbal terrorists. I will never get this audio picture out of my mind. Just one of those terrible things no one would ever want to see.