Brianna Loo

Forty-nine faculty members, including two residential college masters and dozens of senior professors, have signed an open letter defending the controversial email by Silliman College Associate Master Erika Christakis that featured in national headlines over the past month and sparked weeks of campus protests.

The letter, authored by physics professor Douglas Stone, argues that Christakis’ email — which criticized administrators’ efforts to encourage students to be mindful of culturally appropriative costumes — was a modest and reasonable attempt to spur campus debate. It pushes back against students who consider Christakis’ email irresponsible and insensitive and claims that some protesters have “recklessly distorted” the message in order to cast it as an endorsement of racist speech. Next Yale, a newly formed coalition of students of color and their allies, has demanded that Christakis and her husband, Silliman College Master Nicholas Christakis, apologize for the email and resign from their posts.

“The email … did not express support for racist expressions, but rather focused primarily on the question of whether monitoring and criticizing such expression should be done in a top-down manner,” the letter states.

Stone told the News that the Halloween email was a useful contribution to campus discourse and that the Christakises are model faculty members who deserve admiration rather than criticism for their efforts to promote intellectual debate on campus.

Stone added that dozens of his colleagues agreed with the content of the letter but declined to sign it for fear of provoking more controversy.

“We have an obligation to say something reasonable about this,” Stone said. “The silence of so many people in terms of really defending the Christakises has solidified the narrative that they did something wrong.”

The signatories of the open letter include a number of high-profile administrators, such as Calhoun College Master Julia Adams, Saybrook College Master Thomas Near and School of Management Dean Edward Snyder.

Joan Feigenbaum, Computer Science department chair who signed the letter, said students have subjected the Christakises to unfair ad hominem attacks.

“Disagreement is fine,” Feigenbaum said. “However, disagreement does not require verbal abuse.”

The faculty letter has drawn scrutiny from students and professors critical of the Christakises.

Brea Baker ’16, the president of the Yale chapter of the NAACP, said the faculty letter fundamentally misunderstands the responsibilities associated with the mastership of a residential college.

“If the Christakises are more tied to the idea of free speech and positive intent than they are to the impact of their words on the students they are charged with protecting … the roles of master and associate master are not for them,” Baker said.

Gerald Jaynes, professor of economics and African American Studies, said that although he does not believe the Christakises are guilty of racism, he will not sign the open letter because the debate over Erika Christakis’ email is a distraction from more important issues, such as faculty diversity.

Christakis did not return request for comment.

Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway told the News earlier this month that many faculty members are concerned that student opposition to the Halloween email will have a chilling effect on free speech on campus.

Stone said he holds those concerns, adding that several colleagues warned him that the open letter would make him a target of the ongoing protests.

“It’s not good for our community to feel constraint in our expression of reasonable and relevant views,” Stone said. “That’s unhealthy for Yale.”

Over the last month, the Christakises themselves have become focal points in the campus debate, as students and professors struggle to come to terms with the racially charged incidents still polarizing the University.

In early November, a group of students gathered outside the Christakises’ campus residence demanded an apology for the Halloween email. A video of the incident, in which one of the students can be heard swearing at Nicholas Christakis, provoked an angry social-media backlash from free-speech advocates after it was posted online.

“[The open-letter signers] were very upset about the videos of the public shaming, and the way that Nicholas was treated by that group,” Stone said.

The week before the Thanksgiving recess, Holloway and University President Peter Salovey rejected calls from Next Yale to sanction the Christakises. In an email to the Silliman community, the two administrators announced that the Christakises will remain in their positions, lauding the couple’s “long-standing and deep dedication to undergraduates.”

The faculty letter, released as a public Google document yesterday, praises that decision. It also calls for administrators to adhere to the principles outlined in the 1974 Woodward Report, a foundational document designed to promote free expression at Yale, and endorses widespread demands for the University to improve faculty diversity.

“The letter expresses commitments to stand in solidarity with members of the community harmed by bigotry and to debate our educational policies,” Snyder said.

The open letter is the latest in a series of faculty petitions related to racially charged controversies on campus. Hundreds of faculty members have signed an open letter spearheaded by anthropology professor Douglas Rogers — and co-authored by five faculty members — which was released Nov. 10 affirming their support for minority students.

A short notice posted last week on the website of the Sociology Department expressed support for Nicholas Christakis, but did not mention the Halloween email.

  • suttonkeany

    I graduated in 1963 with a major in philosophy. The truth is that I have always felt there was something fundamentally sound about physics people.
    I applaud the energy and diligence of the student activists, but they must make their points in the crucible of open and free debate, not raucous ad hominem yelling.
    Yale will continue to flourish because of members of its community like the Christakises. And Professor Stone.

    • ldffly

      I have philosophy diplomas from Yale. The people I dealt with in the 1970s (with one exception) wouldn’t be tolerating the shrieking girl.

  • http://www.about.me/Stephen_Green21 Stephen Green

    This letter is a good move to show some institutional support that free speech still matters, even at a liberal college like Yale. It’s still disappointing that some faculty feared reprisal by Admin and students, preventing even more signing the letter. You might notice that most signees are not humanities profs (a group that deals in emotions) but rather sciences (a group that deals in facts). Here’s a novel idea going forward: if you believe that Yale is systemically challenged and does not provide the ‘nurturing’ environment you require, matriculate. It’s a free country, still. Whinging students are welcome at many other universities.

    • ldffly

      Humanities disciplines deal in emotions? Really? Modal logic deals in emotions? Last I saw that was a concern of philosophy.

      • Craig Weber

        Dealing in emotions is not mutually exclusive with formal logic. The humanities can be largely subjective without being entirely subjective.

    • The_Dumb_Money

      I agree with Idffly. The idea that all humanities just deal with emotions and not facts is….an emotional statement, not a factual one.

  • Ralphiec88

    I really wish YDN writers would stop inserting commentary and outright misrepresentation into their articles. The Christakis letter did not “criticize administrators’ efforts to encourage students to be mindful of culturally appropriative costumes”. Kudos to Professor Stone for attempting to bring the rhetoric back to reality.

  • river_tam

    > Gerald Jaynes, professor of economics and African American Studies, said that although he does not believe the Christakises are guilty of racism, he will not sign the open letter because the debate over Erika Christakis’ email is a distraction from more important issues, such as faculty diversity.

    Sounds like Professor Jaynes is a coward.

    • 100wattlightbulb

      And a racist himself. Diversity is simply code for “no more white men”. Forget best person for the job. The students are the big losers (as well as the paying parents and donors).

    • dzmlsience

      Jaynes is just doing what is best for his professional career. Becoming a figure in the race wars guarantees lifelong employment at Yale. It’s much more security than a sterling research and publishing record… and much easier.

      White guilt is so easy to manipulate.

  • Douglas Levene

    What is most disturbing about this report is that dozens of faculty members support the Christakises privately but are afraid to do so publicly. What has happened to Yale?

    • ldffly

      What does tenure mean? Tenured members afraid to speak up? That is the most disturbing aspect.

      • Cutler

        They have reason to be afraid, tenure isn’t a reliable defense against Title IX complaints.

        • ldffly

          Yes, you are right. Title IX is something I hadn’t considered. Here in the private world, we don’t live with that sword of Damocles.

      • je2016

        Have you considered the possibility that they have not signed the letter because they do not agree with it?

        • ldffly

          The initial comment stated that there exist faculty members who support Christakis privately but are afraid to do so publicly. Presumably, they would agree with the sentiments of the letter.

    • KiteFlyer89

      This brand of social justice actively intends to create a spiral of silence effect. It’s not incidental, it’s the point.

  • CoryIntheHouse

    I’m glad actual adults seem to be taking over the conversation now as opposed to a bunch of whiny spoiled children.

    • dzmlsience

      The adults can write all the letters they like – it barely matters. The only result is a black mark next to their names. For the tenured faculty it will be bad for their internal political situations. For the untenured, it is a fast track to not being renewed.

      Make no mistake, the inmates are still firmly in control of the asylum. There will be millions plunked down on “diversity” boondoggles, new “inclusion” deanships, re-education camps, etc. Letters like this one just help the administration to identify the reactionaries.

      Incidentally, consider how little the sympathetic non-signers must think of the racial grievance crowd on campus… Keeping their sympathies secret so as not to make the situation worse? What hothouse flowers Yale is raising. What a soft bigotry of low expectation.

  • germ_16

    Next Yale and groups like them (concerned student 1950, etc) use guilt as a weapon and will break solidarity by labeling opposing views as perpetuating white supremacy. The only thing groups like this listen to are shows of strength and power by solidarity. It is good to see that the faculty are finally speaking up for their fellow faculty members and that they realize the danger of letting these students gain too much power.

  • ldffly

    Only 49? And did any retired members sign this?

    • Bulldog

      one or two emeritus faculty, but otherwise current professors

  • Bulldog

    Here is the letter. There is a link at the bottom for additional faculty to sign: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4vHP6e5yCwLakNmRW96eFlVOE0/view?ths=true

  • 100wattlightbulb

    49 with a real conscience and a spine and integrity. The rest are scared, lemmings, and despicable hypocrites.

  • 100wattlightbulb

    The Edmund Burke quote is overused but it really is apropos here:

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

    • Bill Baldwin

      It’s a good quote. But as far as I can tell, there’s no real evidence that it comes from Burke. John F. Kennedy attributed it to him, but what did you expect from a Harvard man?

  • Phil Ostrand

    I support this letter and my families donations to Yale are tied to the administration supporting free and open dialogue on campus. Any student that shows the blatant disrespect that the Silliman student did should be disciplined. Those who spit on people at the Free Speech event should be disciplined. You can disagree. You can be angry. You do not have a right to be a bully and to assault others. Period. End of story!!!

  • david

    according to Yale.edu there are 4400 faculty members. Only 49 are willing to speak up?! The 99% should be ashamed of themselves. Kudos to the 1% with some moral fiber.

  • Debbie

    The special snowflakes will be apoplectic.

  • matt10023

    And…… let the hysterics begin….

  • marcedward

    “Brea Baker ’16, the president of the Yale chapter of the NAACP, said “If the Christakises are more tied to the idea of free speech and positive intent than they are to the impact of their words on the students they are charged with protecting”

    Dude, they aren’t there to protect you from words and ideas. If you wanted to be protected from words and ideas, should you not have stayed home?
    Where are the REST of the faculty? Hiding?

  • Kazimierz Bem

    Finally! The reaction to the Christakis reminds me of Red Guards and young Bolsheviks. If you are not with them 100% – you are a counterrevolutionary/bigot/racist/capitalist bloodsucker etc. Yale should not give in to these threats

  • rick131

    I was beginning to think there weren’t any normal people or people with a spine left at Yale.

  • Echo

    One-step solution to solve this mess: shut down every department that didn’t have a single professor or administrator sign this letter. Like a reverse “gang of 88” rule.

  • dookieboot2

    I could maybe understand adjuncts not signing this considering their job security, but every non-Maoist tenured Yale professor should have signed this letter. Yale Law School needs to draft up a similar letter as well in solidarity.

  • stevecarlson73

    While most everyone supports free speech and almost no one favors offensive speech, it appears some participants in the Christakis controversy may have an agenda. http://www.boston.com had a recent piece noting that Nicholas and Erika Christakis wrote a “free speech” piece for Time magazine that was published in December, 2012 while they were masters of a Harvard house. Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), spoke at the Buckley free speech conference at Yale this month and also at a master’s tea at Silliman College. FIRE’s mission is to promote free speech on college campuses. One of FIRE’s directors works for the CATO Institute and is a director of the Federalist Society. The Yale faculty letter (Stone letter) appears prominently on FIRE’s website.

    • embala

      So the “agenda” of people involved in a free speech controversy appears to be…free speech? Truly astonishing.

    • marcedward

      Yes, as Americans we have an agenda in protecting Free Expression. People who are afraid of free expression or the free exchange of ideas have no place in higher education.
      Hope that clears things up for you.

    • terryhughes

      O, my. A possible sinister conspiracy to promote and protect free expression.

      Just the thought of it makes me quiver in my boots!

    • dookieboot2

      LMAO @ “free speech agenda”. You got to be certified.

    • cas47

      Apparently not everyone at Yale favors free speech. The children shrieking at Christakis are opposed.

  • marcus

    obviously lots of scared administrators walking on eggshells.

  • You

    Bulldog below and the article linked to the supporting letter. This is the third article I’ve read though, and the first to link to any of the 3 emails/letters. I;m confident most sane people will see there is nothing racist in her email, and it actually raises a lot of good points that can relate to political discussion in the U.S. Here is a link to the original email sent by the “Intercultural Affairs” group. https://www.thefire.org/email-from-intercultural-affairs/ Here is the email sent by Erika Christakis, https://www.thefire.org/email-from-erika-christakis-dressing-yourselves-email-to-silliman-college-yale-students-on-halloween-costumes/

  • Bluto Redneck ✓Shithole Appr.

    As a Yale alumnus, I believe that neither Master Christakis nor Erika Christakis deserve this type of non-approbation. If I wanted thought police at a university, I would have enrolled in Saudi Arabia or China.
    Well, Yale students, how about a nice open reading of “Farnham’s Freehold” by Robert A. Heinlein.

  • Bluto Redneck ✓Shithole Appr.

    Pre-moderation, Yale Daily News? How droll.

    • marcedward

      Careful you might trigger somebody who’s not a member of the Cishetropatriarchy.

  • Bob

    It is refreshing to hear the grownups speak up. About time too.

  • You

    My comment wasn’t approved? Maybe I’m not allowed to link to other websites? I suggest everyone google “Intercultural Affairs Council email” to find the first email. From there, you can scroll to the bottom and click the hyperlink next to where it says “cases”. This will take you to a page with all of the relevant emails and demands from the Next Yale group. Hopefully this comment is approved. People should be able to make there own minds up.

  • Bluto Redneck ✓Shithole Appr.

    I signed the Buckley letter to President Salovey two weeks ago.

    • dzmlsience

      Me too. I heard the signers are planning to serve Salovey with the letter on his front doorstep at midnight. Bring your pitchfork.

  • http://rasmusen.org/ Eric Rasmusen

    49 is a small number, though some very distinguished people have signed. I hope the list of ex-post signers is posted. I would not want to think that with the exception of Ted Snyder my fellow economists are cowardly or repressive. With this kind of letter one always looks for who didn’t sign as well as for those who did sign.

    I hail the assistant professors who signed. They really do have something to lose, though I think that if one puts career success over the freedom to speak, one ought to be in some more lucrative occupation.

    • Jawaralal_Schwartz

      Yes, the the bus for Goldman Sachs is idling in front of Moreys, wherever that is.

  • asda

    Wow, currently 40/57 of these professors are from a “hardcore” science. Only 4 are from the humanities. Props to the scientists finally speaking up!

  • http://calebpowell.wordpress.com Caleb Powell

    ““If the Christakises are more tied to the idea of free speech and positive intent than they are to the impact of their words on the students they are charged with protecting … the roles of master and associate master are not for them,” Baker said.

    “What’s next? It won’t be a Master’s Degree but a Marshmallow Degree.

  • disqus_f3Gqo4uR2r

    It is to be noted that these staunch defenders of free expression were nowhere to be seen when Yale was setting up its first “sister” campus, in Singapore, a “boutique police state” famous for its limitations on free expression. Every one of the signatories remained silent.

    • Nancy Morris

      Contrary to this comment, much attention was paid to free expression rights at the Yale-NUS campus by both the administration and faculty. That the signers of the current letter did not object to the Yale-NUS project probably indicates their agreement with the reasonableness of the balance struck, not a contempt for free expression rights or any inconsistency. So far, they seem to be correct: One would have to be a very difficult person indeed to argue that Yale-NUS has not lived up to its promise to date, on free expression grounds and otherwise. But, of course, it is one purpose of universities to cultivate certain classes of very difficult persons. Just so.

      Yale’s agreement with Singapore guarantees free expression rights on that campus, and allows Yale to terminate the agreement on short notice if the guaranty is abrogated. It is true that Singapore does not generally allow for free expression, and some faculty members wanted stronger assurances of free expression rights, in some cases objecting (apparently in good faith) to the entire project on the grounds that it “helps legitimize” or “whitewashes” the excesses of the Singapore government. (It is ironic that the arguments of the Singapore government for its suppression of free expression bear striking resemblances to the arguments advanced by Next Yale and its sympathizers for suppression of expression found to be “offensive” by them or other favored groups.)

      The entire issue and history are far too complex to be rehearsed in detail or even outlined here. Suffice it to say that such objections were carefully considered and found to be excessive and, in some cases, downright counterproductive. In my opinion, the balance that was struck was appropriate and reasonable. But it is beyond peradventure that the balance was struck only after serious consideration of the counter-arguments to the project and the great value of free expression.

    • MSD

      You have brought forth a great point. These entitled, coddled, condescending, oppressive, extremist, opportunistic, mentally unstable dictators with shriveling voices, are exactly like the boutique police state of Singapore and they need to be challenged before they pose a threat to the very fabric of our democratic system. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for rightly pointing out that these entitled oppressors who scream at their professors with disrespect have dictatorial, narcissistic and violent tendencies, are just like the police state of Singapore.

  • JustAGuy

    According to their open letter, these faculty members are defending the Christakis’ email against student protestors in part because:

    “All of us, together with the Christakises, condemn any racist elements on campus and strongly support efforts to further diversify Yale’s faculty, staff, administration, and student body. In fact, in the case of the Christakises, their work has been more directly oriented toward the social justice than the work of many other members of the Yale faculty. For example, Nicholas Christakis worked for many years as a hospice doctor, making house visits to underserved populations in Chicago. Progressive values and social justice are not advanced by scapegoating those who share those values.”

    I wonder if the 49 faculty members would similarly stick they necks out for the right to free speech of people who are skeptical of “progressive values” and “social justice.”

    This letter shows the hypocrisy–or self-delusion–of university diversocrats.

    • mahood

      The fact that you wonder shows that they’re hypocrites?

  • chicagoxile

    Why have so few signed, and why will so few sign in the future? It’s not cowardice. It’s simpler than that. The signatories are expressing and endorsing a minority viewpoint among the faculty.

  • kivenaberham

    ok. lets just forget that most of american institutions are run in an authoritarian system. be it our self imposed religious authoritarianism or our military authoritarianism or our corporate authoritarianism. this is what most of america is.

    the law abiding cultural identity of conservative america.

    the only thing that isn’t is our colleges and university. kind of a big joke really.

    free speech! considering that the college so call free speech have no real power to change anything. a american culture of propaganda that promote a bubble of self delusional power of importance.

    sorta like France but more childish.

    • Bob

      Ivy League students know to capitalize certain letters in a paragraph. So who are you?

  • Ben Throckmorten

    To Brea Baker: I’m on the verge of buying into microagression, safe space, though not too much on the trigger warnings. However … you guys, ie student protesters, are picking the wrong fight. I’ve been wondering where the Christakis’ defenders were and here they are. I don’t really blame them for coming to the party this late because I understand how at that time it was felt that getting involved might make things worse (e.g., choice of letting baby cry or be awaken every minute to see to what baby wants). This issue wasn’t about free speech until protesters made it a free speech issue. Just listen to the male voice in the background of the infamous video: “He’s not going to apologize … just walk away.” And incredibly, students actually started to walk away. That was more appaling that the girl who was shrieking at Dr. Christakis. The protesters and easily offended have done us all a disservice. You picked the wrong fight. Virtually every other recent campus/race issue would have been the right fight. This is the wrong one.

  • AMT70

    Our rights end where the protestors’ feelings begin.

  • dzmlsience

    1. Since when does the NAACP get to instruct a university about the role of a residential college master? Does the NAACP have a qualified opinion on this subject? Last I heard, the NAACP was having enough trouble just determining who is black and who isn’t.

    2. While this letter defends the Christakises, it still seems to endorse the litany of stereotypical academic leftist claptrap. One wonders if those latter sentiments were real or whether the signers felt paeans to diversity were necessary in order to avoid showing up in a YouTube video. Was even this mild show of support only available because the Silliman masters had solid lefty credentials?

    3. 49 signers of the Douglas Stone letter? Versus “hundreds of signers” to Douglas Rogers’ brown nosing letter in support of the rabble? It has been pointed out several times that the lion’s share of signers to the Stone letter come from departments where skin color and feelings are irrelevant. I thought it was fitting that so many faculty from the Yale Child Study Center were among the signatories. They, no doubt, recognize an infantile tantrum when they see one.

  • Tim Steele

    That’s a good letter but I do have a bone to pick with this one part:

    “For example, Nicholas Christakis worked for many years as a hospice doctor, making house visits to underserved populations in Chicago. Progressive values and social justice are not advanced by scapegoating those who share those values.”

    So, we shouldn’t be picking on the Christakis’s because they’re one of us…. LIBERALS!!! Get it? Implicitly what that’s doing is telling the students they shouldn’t be attacking anyone who shares their overall progressive agenda. The problem here is the underlying personal politics should be irrelevant to the discussion. Free speech is free speech, regardless of who’s exercising that right and what personal viewpoints they hold. I think the professors should have made that point more clearly.

    • je2016

      You are only halfway there. Look at their departments: most are either sociology (Mr) or child study center (Mrs). This is not about ideas or principles, this “don’t be mean to my friend.”

      You gotta sit back and enjoy it when the sociology department decides the tenured white man is the victim.

  • Nim

    Yale news reporters, please cover some reaction from other students of color. I think that would be an interesting journalistic piece. Do keep their names anonymous if they wish to be since it will be difficult for them to express dissent with these rude “activists” shutting people up. They have the mentality that racist speech is racist and should not even be tolerated. Well, according to their logic, they are just being bullies who scream and spit on people’s faces and deserve being expelled since school is supposed to be safe for everyone. While they trump the importance of the school be safe, they are not contributing an inch to make it a safe space. I for one would be offended and feel marginalized when I see offensive costumes but I would not feel unsafe. These protesters who do not tolerate a discussion and are not willing to accept the goodwill of others because painting them as the common enemy is more convenient for them, that is what’s scary and would make me feel question my safety as a person with different ideas and wonder if i need to brainwash myself with a hostile attitude as well.

  • MRI

    Oh FFS people. There was NEVER a free speech threat here. Christakis made this up, and now these faculty are defending her made up free speech threat. It’s utter, made up baloney.

    The original email, to which Christakis was responding, said merely “Maybe don’t be a total jerk to your fellow students this year.” It offered no penalties. It offered no official rules.

    If you read “don’t be a jerk” as an attack on your freedom of speech, then the problem is yours (and I’ll wager that you’re probably a total jerk to your fellow students on the regular).

    • marcedward

      Unfortunately for your assertions, most people did follow events and know that the Cry-Bully brigade was out for the Christtakis’ heads over their exercise of free expression. They demanded that they both be fired for their words, that is an attack on freedom of expression.
      Hope that clears things up for you!

      • mcountry

        Nobody has demanded that they be fired from their teaching posts. You should follow events more closely

      • MRI

        0. Going straight to the ad hominem attacks (“Cry-Bully brigade”) is compelling evidence that you have no real argument here. So too your condescension.

        1. Christakis’s email claimed that the *original email from the administration* was a free speech threat. At best it was either poor reading comprehension on her part; worse, it was intellectually dishonest.

        That’s what I was discussing, when I mentioned the original email. Answering as if I was talking about something other than the Christakis email – which is what you are doing – likewise displays either poor reading comprehension or intellectual dishonesty. Which is it?

        2. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom of consequences for your speech from your private employer. If Christakis had said “I think we should return to an era of separate but equal,” or something equally unambiguously racist, then there’d be no argument about whether she should be removed from her position as associate master.

        You happen to disagree that her comments rose to a level where removing her as associate master is appropriate; but that doesn’t mean you object to there being consequences for speech.

        • Bill Baldwin

          Can you cite the portion of Christakis’s email where she “claimed that the ‘original email from the administration’ was a free speech threat”? I don’t see that anywhere. (If she said that, I’d certainly disagree with her. But I’d still feel the explosive response was at least premature and probably far stronger than warranted.)

          I do agree that if Christakis had said something genuinely racist, even covertly so, a strong reaction would be appropriate. If her email seems racist to you, can you help us understand why? Is it impossible to believe that impression may be mistaken? Is it impossible to believe she may have had no racist intent? Is it impossible to have a calm discussion where both (all) sides begin by respecting each other and giving each other the benefit of the doubt? I mean, obviously it’s too late for that now. But what was gained by escalating to this stage immediately?

          • MRI

            Thanks Bill.

            1. I misspoke – my apologies. Christakis did not “claim” – she clearly implied. (So I guess I should be more circumspect about criticizing folks’ reading comprehension, huh?)

            Christakis’s email mentions free speech multiple times, most notably, “Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.” Why does she raise this issue, at all? It’s obvious to me that she saw some free speech concerns in the original email from the Administration – is this not obvious to you? What is the explanation for why she mentions free speech multiple times, if it’s not that she believed the original email presented a free speech concern?

            2. Her email is clearly racist, and the passage that best captures it is this: “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.”

            What the black (and other minority) Yale students want is a safe space – to just exist. Yet here’s Christakis, arguing that the safe space (and it’s notable that she actually throws the phrase “safe space” around in this way) that’s needed is not so that the minority can just exist, but rather to ensure that the majority can offend the minority without worrying about censure.

            This is so absurd that it defies understanding. Censure, formally defined, is just more free speech. But didn’t she want to ensure free speech? Just not free speech that criticizes poor, abused white students who want to make fun of black student in peace, I guess?

            Christakis is arguing here for free speech and safe space — but only for the bigots. So yes, that’s definitively racist – regardless of her intent (which is irrelevant – because you don’t know, and neither do I, what her intent was.)

            If your goal is mutual respect, then you should loudly condemn Christakis – the white person in power who wrote something racist. And you should not condemn the students – who have been victims of racism their whole lives – for not responding to her clear racism politely. Related, telling the black students who are objecting to racism that they need to be more polite is a derailing technique called tone-policing. If you’re serious about being an ally, please look it up and stop doing it.

  • Pipett

    You should not attempt to destroy the career of someone who favors free speech over defending minorities to the death from every imagined slight. I no longer have any respect for Yale University, and hope more rational voices will step up to defend their rights.

  • mahood

    I support free speech and applaud those who signed the letter. But I don’t castigate those who didn’t. Sometimes it’s a good idea to let things simmer down. Obviously a lot of the people commenting here are spoiling for a fight. If the Christakises were fired, I would agree. But afaik, the fact that some people are opposed to free speech didn’t actually end up in restrictions on free speech. As long as there are no such restrictions, it’s not clear to me why being provocative now is wise. Fun, sure, but wise, no. Wait and see.