Months after a controversial email helped spur sustained student protests last fall, Nicholas and Erika Christakis will step down as head and associate head of Silliman College, effective this July.

In a Wednesday afternoon email to the Silliman community, Nicholas Christakis announced that he submitted his resignation to University President Peter Salovey last week. The couple drew national attention last fall when a Halloween weekend email from Erika Christakis defending students’ rights to wear culturally appropriative costumes sparked outrage on campus.

At the time, many students and alumni called for the couple to resign their roles at the helm of Silliman College, arguing that the two could no longer serve as effective leaders of a college community designed to create a home for undergraduates. But others said their removal would constitute a serious blow to free speech on college campuses.

In his resignation announcement, Nicholas Christakis emphasized the importance of open intellectual debate, a stance which caused controversy last fall as many students argued that the emphasis on free speech came at the cost of student wellbeing and safety.

“We have great respect for every member of our community, friend and critic alike,” Nicholas Christakis wrote. “We remain hopeful that students at Yale can express themselves and engage complex ideas within an intellectually plural community.  But we feel it is time to return full-time to our respective fields of public health and early childhood education.”’

In a Nov. 17 email, weeks after the first student outcry against the Christakises, Salovey and Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway affirmed their support for the couple and expressed faith in their “longstanding and deep dedication to undergraduates.” Vice President for Communications Eileen O’Connor said Wednesday that Salovey’s stance has not changed.

“He didn’t encourage their resignation,” O’Connor said. “Salovey has expressed his support throughout the year for Nicholas and Erika and that continues to be the case.”

While the Christakises retained their administrative roles in the college in the aftermath of the protests, they canceled their spring courses: Erika Christakis did not offer her popular course “The Concept of the Problem Child,” while Nicholas took a sabbatical and cancelled his lecture “Health of the Public.”

The announcement comes just days after the University’s commencement festivities. Traditionally, the heads of each residential college bestow diplomas upon their graduating seniors, but at Silliman College’s graduation ceremony on Monday, some students refused to accept their diplomas from Nicholas Christakis.

In a Wednesday email to the News after the Christakises’ announcement, Holloway praised the couple for their service to the Silliman and Yale College communities.

This has been a year of great challenges for everyone and I respect their decision to step down in order to devote their undivided attention to their scholarship and teaching,” Holloway said. “I fully expect that they will continue to make important contributions to our community in the years ahead.”

The Christakises’ one-year stint as the heads of a residential college is almost unprecedentedly short; Holloway said that besides a series of interim masterships, there have been only a few that have lasted one year, according to his estimation. Heads of college normally serve two five-year terms, with a three-term limit.

The Christakises’ resignation adds to a slew of administrative changes in the residential college system, as Nicholas Christakis becomes the third head of college to step down this academic year. Still, Holloway said that the search process for the new head of Silliman college should be relatively straightforward as the last Silliman search was done quite recently, after longtime head Judith Krauss stepped down in October 2014.

“Since the Silliman search was so recently conducted I think the president has a good sense of his options for Silliman,” Holloway said. “Given that, I expect that he will be able to move forward quite quickly.”

  • dmelakada

    This is a moment that everyone in the Yale community should deeply regret. An internationally prominent, innovative and path-breaking scholar, who had demonstrated his willingness to have increased proximity to students by being Head of a residential college, is driven from that post because of an emotional, groupthink reaction to an email his wife wrote. The email was, I think, imprudent; but it articulated a thoughtful and reasonable position and was not mean or ad hominem Yes, it struck some nerves; and the University should have taken notice of the expressed grievances, as it did, and addressed them. But the University should also have rallied around the Christakises in uncompromising support of the principle that the University is above all a place where viewpoints, however unpleasant (with very limited exceptions not applicable here), may be expressed without fear of reprisal except by counterargument. However legitimate their grievances, the students’ ad hominem attack on the Christakises was inappropriate and immature. The Administration and those in the faculty who did not rally to defend the unfettered exchange of ideas in this concrete context do not have the excuses of immaturity or grievance.

    • ns1984

      I too think the email was imprudent, and the Christakises’ reaction to the community’s spurning only proves the intent of the original memorandum, circulated to remind students to be respectful. Their decision to depart illustrates how difficult it is, no matter one’s age or degree of worldly success, to live in a community where you feel unwelcome. Ironically, the students who chose to be uncivil and unwelcoming to the Christakis were themselves transgressive, as Ms. Christakis suggested was their right, as generally Yale students are open minded and capable of civil, if not courteous, debate . All said, a very sad day for everyone, I agree.

      • daniels_200x

        It was a mob.

  • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

    Proud, now children? Someday, you may become adults; may you cry out in epiphany and repentance.

    • disqus654e9725qwe

      When affirmative action admits realize they can’t compete with their Ivy peers, they revert to the strategies that got them admitted, i.e. victimhood and race hustling.

  • branford11

    good riddance

    • ou812

      BE QUIET!!!

    • AMERICANMUSLIM

      You are a bigot. All speech should be protected.

  • S.L.

    “the search process for the new head of Silliman college should be relatively straightforward”–of course, as long as it’s a yes-man that never questions the directives/initiatives/crazy SJW ideas from the university administration. And the current admin deserves a kick out of the office more than the Christakises. Come on, Yale! Stop booting the good people out!

    • Nancy Morris

      The Christakises ARE good people. Very good people. And Silliman and Yale are the less for their departures as College heads. One hopes these resignations are not just prologue to their leaving Yale entirely.

      But they were NOT “booted out” or encouraged to leave. On the other hand, they have endured more than most people would tolerate and Salovey can’t and shouldn’t try to order them to stay.

      It’s small minded students who are to be blamed for this. If there is any branch of Yale that deserves criticism here it is the admissions office.

      • annette

        Yes…the admissions office is clearly a failure but so is Salovey.

  • ShadrachSmith

    Yale gave them Social Justice, good and hard.

  • mdsman

    Shame on you, Yale
    You have gone from a proud progressive institution to a laughing stock
    Disgraceful
    I will tell you that neither I, nor any of my peers, will entertain any CVs from Yale grads, post 2011.
    Good Luck
    Peace

    • Bluto Redneck ✓Shithole Appr.

      This constitutes another nail in Yale’s intellectual coffin. Thank G od that I graduated from Yale over 30 years ago. This conclusion reeks of conformity, mediocrity and heavy handed F ascism..

    • CharlieWalls

      I’m not laughing, and I wonder who your peers are?

    • yalie

      Who is it that you are hoping to punish? Do you think that all students post ’11 hold the same values as the protesters? I can tell you that they do not.

    • dan mcferr

      I regret I feel similar. Students should realize that there is such a thing as reaction in proportion, not to just get angry and demonize.

  • mdsman

    Funny….blocking comments, are you
    Predictable
    Enjoy your bubble of safety

    • branford11

      i think they just took longer than usual to approve them cuz school’s out of session. honestly i’m impressed they even ran a piece on this, usually doesn’t YDN shut down after exams? stepping it up

  • mdsman

    Still blocking comments, I see

    • habitualjoker

      Doesn’t appear to be the case — the top three comments are all in support of the Christakises.

    • habitualjoker

      Who’s blocking comments? Most of the comments here are critical of the students’s message.

  • habitualjoker

    I can’t blame them for resigning — they’d endured enough in direct harassment by the student body. It should be appalling that neither Salovey or Holloway came to their defense, but the two don’t have a spine between them. That those who woke Salovey in the middle of the night at his home weren’t immediately expelled is shocking and a testament to this.

    A very sad day for the Yale community.

    • ShadrachSmith

      The administration did this, start to finish. Those student activists/minions are the administration’s whip to compel submission to whatever. But the whip is firmly in the hand of the administration.

      • habitualjoker

        I’m very far from convinced the administration has *anything* under control.

  • sardonicus

    How disgusting. A bunch of entitled, aggrieved little Robespierres claimed 2 scalps with the silent complicity of Yale’s “leadership.” I remember the days when people with diverse opinions talked and argued and came away the better for it. Ashamed of my alma mater and its clearly declining standards. I wouldn’t hire any of these brats or donate a dime under the circumstances.

    • annette

      Could not agree more!

  • dcheretic

    The abuse that the Christakises endured was shameful. They were threatened and treated with shocking disrespect. I admire their resolve and courage for remaining in their posts for the rest of the academic year.

    It’s a shame that Salovey and Hollway caved to race-based pressure and intimidation, and did not take firm action against the students who insulted, threatened, and spat at Nicholas Christakis.The actions of the anti-Christakis mob represented a threat to academic freedom and a blatant disregard of civility.

  • Bluto Redneck ✓Shithole Appr.

    This constitutes another nail in Yale’s intellectual coffin. Thank God that I graduated from Yale over 30 years ago. This conclusion reeks of conformity, mediocrity and heavy handed Fascism.

  • Bluto Redneck ✓Shithole Appr.

    When I graduated from Yale College in 1985, the Saybrook “Master” handed me my diploma.

  • Bluto Redneck ✓Shithole Appr.

    Chud.

  • SVV

    Can Yalies spell W-I-T-C-H H-U-N-T?

  • ldffly

    ” . . . .but at Silliman College’s graduation ceremony on Monday, some students refused to accept their diplomas from Nicholas Christakis. ”
    So brave, so brave, so brave.

    • hipocampelofantocame

      idffly: They don’t get their diplomas from Dr. Christakis. Where
      did you get your diploma?

  • Juan Diaz

    Sad day for Yale. The administration has caved in to the fascist whims of a few students, and all but endorsed uncivil behavior as an acceptable means of “discussing” issues at Yale. I cannot blame the Christakises for leaving. It is a loss for Yale and for free speech. What other group will be silenced at Yale next?

  • jpriestly

    Nothing good here. The tyranny of the torch and pitchfork majority in an age of driveby guillotines and social justice warriors. The students especially of Silliman who knew them will hopefully remember this moment, when the uninvolved stood by while the crowd consumed its victims and those who stood up for and even against the Christakis’ showed their mettle.

  • RuReady

    As we all know by now, it’s a scientific FACT that diversity of thought is incredibly offensive. How can these children feel save in an environment where these types of people are allowed to exist?

    Yale is better off without these adults.

  • Kurt

    Sad day indeed. The brats are coddled and the good stewards who would challenge them to grow and think are pushed out.
    If Yalies think the rest of the world doesn’t notice and see this as a crumbling of the great institutional values of liberal arts education that Yale once stood for, they are certainly misguided.
    For all it’s imperfections the Yale campus is the still the safest and most tolerant public environment students will experience in their lives (extremely overprivileged individuals excepted), and I mean that even though I am aware of the occasional rapes and murders still happening there to this day. The community would be better served learning to cope with it’s diversity of thought rather than policing it.

    Kurt Niznik
    JE ’92

  • Frank411

    When they came for the Christakises I did not speak up because I was not a Christakis…

  • marcedward

    So the message is sent – don’t dare offend a SJW snowflake or lose your job.
    It’s hard to imagine anybody with any integrity, intelligence who is of any use teaches at Yale at this point, just a bunch of timid adults who are terrified of children.

    From this point on, a Yale diploma should be considered equal to a 2nd Grade kids Participation Ribbon.

  • JohnPedant

    The strangest thing about this story is that so much passion was stirred not by any specific offensive costume (and I don’t doubt there have been some), but by the wholly hypothetical question of who should be empowered to enforce social norms IF such a costume were worn. The activists have chosen to put their faith in the Yale Administration rather than their own powers of peer pressure. A decision that might well come back to haunt them. When in doubt, empower…. the 1%. Way to go, student activists.

  • Gloria Monti

    “In a Nov. 17 email, weeks after the first student outcry against the Christakises, Salovey and Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway affirmed their support for the couple.” what a sad day for yale, when holloway, an african-american man (and my grad school classmate), supports these two who clearly belong to a college in rural alabama. BTW, it’s not free speech, it’s hate speech.

    • annette

      What a foolish comment…

  • Jawaralal_Schwartz

    Disappointed by the dual resignations, I still believe there is hope if substance replaces process. The university created new positions, had a lot of meetings and press releases and reverted to uber-opaque treatment of the miscreants in the quad. There is a whole lot of blather, but it is hard to come out thinking that the university is more advanced in its thinking. Rather, it has become a place of intellectual fear, where the funds will dry up unless the bar to unlimited students from certain countries is lifted.

  • dan mcferr

    Yale students have learned how to victimize.
    You should expect better of yourselves.

  • Harry Chiam

    I think they should have resigned months ago. It is disgusting that Yale administration supported them at the time. Be the change that you want to be. Racism should never be condoned. Ever.

  • jeburke

    Salovey, Holloway and the “activist” students who drove these two excellent educators out of Yale should be ashamed — better that, they should be shamed by everyone who prizes Yale as a great institution of learning. At its present rate of descent into supine capitulation to the whims of leftist ideologues and disgruntled students it may no longer be so — soon. It took 200 years to make Yale a first-rate university. It may take only another 20 to destroy it.

    • annette

      You are optimistic. Alumni donations are drying up and deservedly so.

  • zpinarello

    Appears that a degree from Trump University is now more valuable than one from Yale.

  • Awal

    I don’t say this lightly, but Peter Salovey is a disaster for Yale. To suggest that he’s supported the Christakises is disingenuous, at best, and an out-and-out lie at worst. Like many Yale alumni, my Alumni Fund donation dollars are going to stay in my pocket until Yale can decide where it wants to be in 10/25/100 years and plot a course. Right now we have a president who just reacts, badly, to whichever way the wind happens to be blowing.

    • annette

      Worst Yale Prez in recent memory.

  • Luc Wolthers

    Rot, pure rot. “You see how far the termites have infested, and how long and well they have dined.”

  • Bildo

    There is a lot of talk about “well the students got their way” or “never disagree with a student”. That’s the prevailing rhetoric here, and I follow the line of thought. However, as a third party person looking at this, I can say that most likely had the Christakises acknowledged the accidental pain they caused in a meaningful way, then the students would have been happy and moved on. If you disagree and think the students were always out for a good ole firing because that’s what lynch mobs do, then ask yourself, “How did Dean Holloway react differently?”. He emerged as a real hero.

    As a master, you must put your students before yourself, as hard as it is, and many times throughout this, they appeared more concerned about salvaging their own careers than really trying to heal with the student body. Bringing the free speech speaker to campus suggested that it was more important to re-iterate and shore-up their side to them than acknowledge another’s, and quite logically, rather than get people to consider their opinion, it drove the community away. There was no speaker invited about hardships of native Americans, or even immigrant hardships, which I’m sure is something Nicholas can personally identify with and has had to deal with as a successful academic. To me that would have been something really healing for everyone to see about him. But sadly, it was like they were more concerned with how national news articles would read. For instance, they sent their releases to national news sources instead of Yale news sources, etc. I think some of that was panic and not thinking it through, and a lot was just honestly not prioritizing the kids or community over their national reputations. Whether that is moral or not is a different discussion and one that I will not judge, because I understand how important a career is to someone who has worked that hard. But then for the love of God, don’t become a master. Don’t sign on to shepherd a bunch of kids who are rapidly changing and growing. They need more from you than a fatherly figure set on making sure they aren’t coddled too much. They need more from someone who gets so hung up about making an ideological point, he will allow the community to fracture.

    Did the kids get their way? No, I think this was really the second best to them. I think first best would have been getting a simple acknowledgment and a conversation that could help build positive change. But this couple did not enable that to be a possibility on the table.

    • Hughlon Thornbury

      “But this couple did not enable that to be a possibility on the table.”
      No, where the Christakises made their mistake was at the very beginning. They believed it was possible to defend a young person’s ability to make rational decisions for themselves. They were wrong and they paid the price.
      This is not unexpected. It is the direct result of the indulgent way my generation raised the parents of these college students. They are spoiled because their parents were spoiled. We indulged their tempter tantrums, worked ourselves to give them the things we never had, to give them everything they wanted and expected. How else would we think they would raise their own children?
      While it is right that the generation before this one bears its own responsibility for the evolution of thin skinned, emotionally overly sensitive young people on the college campus today, my generation bears its own burden for having started the whole parental methodology of indulging and rewarding bad behavior. Somewhere along the line, someone has to right the ship if these young people are going to be able to survive in the after life following college. The Christakises gave them credit for having the fundamental intellectual survival skills needed to function in the non-educational social environment of the community of humans on planet Earth. They were wrong.

      • annette

        Bravo.

      • DJEB

        “Somewhere along the line, someone has to right the ship if these young people are going to be able to survive in the after life following college.”

        I hope they never do. It gives us Gen Xers a competitive advantage.

    • J0D

      ‘I think first best would have been getting a simple acknowledgment and a conversation that could help build positive change. But this couple did not enable that to be a possibility on the table.’..
      My goodness. What I saw? Was a mob. They yelled a bit too much over HALLOWEEN COSTUMES, they realized they yelled a bit too much so they patronized, vilified and disparaged the man more to back up how they were behaving in the first place.

      Shame on you guys. And I say ‘you guys’, cause I am assuming by your lengthy reply that you were one of the students that participated.
      Out here in the real world, I am barely making enough to survive, got drugged, dragged and raped. And by men who apparently cannot be held accountable for reasons I cannot say.. And this occurred to me in CALIFORNIA, DEAR. Not some third world country.

      I consider myself as liberal as they come. But I would cut myself if only I was in as “SAFE A PLACE” as Yale!

      Over Halloween costumes. Wow. Just wow.

    • J0D

      Let those kids trade places with me. They feel that place isn’t safe? Wow.

  • Juan Diaz

    Sad day for Yale. The administration has caved in to the fascist whims of a few students, and all but endorsed uncivil behavior as an acceptable means of “discussing” issues at Yale. I cannot blame the Christakises for leaving. It is a loss for Yale and for free speech. What other group will be silenced at Yale next?

    • annette

      Simple response. Don’t give a dime to Yale.

  • mastice

    My comment was removed because I called the students a bunch of “overgrown children”? That’s what they are. They didn’t like what these two were saying and they shut them down. These two resigned later on as a result. It’s sad because later on, when these “overgrown children” get out of college and join the real world the real world is going to eat them alive.

    • Babylonandon

      Don’t bet on that last part happening. The world is NOT going to eat them alive. What is going to happen is these da^n little snowflakes are going to go out like a plague and infect the work-worlds they settle in with their garbage and turn workplaces into hells of political correctness and social justice.