Pierson College Dean June Chu — whose insensitive Yelp posts drew criticism earlier this week — has been placed on leave and will not participate in Commencement activities, according to a Thursday morning email from Pierson Head Stephen Davis.
Last Saturday, Chu wrote to the Pierson community apologizing for using insensitive language in Yelp reviews of local businesses — referring to customers as “white trash” and “low class folks” in one, and praising a New Haven movie theater for its lack of “sketchy crowds” in another. Also on Saturday, the News published nearly a dozen screenshots of additional derogatory reviews from Chu’s account.
“Let me be clear,” Davis wrote. “No one, especially those in trusted positions of educating young people, should denigrate or stereotype others, and that extends to any form of discrimination based on class, race, religion, age, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”
Davis, who defended Chu on Saturday, explained this morning that Chu had assured him and other Yale administrators that she had only posted two “troubling” reviews. After discovering “multiple reprehensible” posts, he said he could no longer envision a path forward with Chu as dean, having lost trust in her ability to oversee the residential college and lead students.
Chu and Davis did not respond to requests for comment. Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway declined to comment on the record.
“What holds us together is our collective effort to ensure that every single person in our midst is valued beyond measure,” Davis wrote. “This is true not only in Pierson and across the [University,] but most emphatically throughout the city of New Haven and in every locale beyond.”
Pierson Senior Administrative Assistant Elaine Lincoln will coordinate with Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Mark Schenker to address students’ academic needs before Commencement, which is on Monday.
Daniel Flesch ’19, a Pierson student, expressed surprise at Davis’ change in tone since his initial email on Saturday, but lauded his honesty throughout the week as circumstances developed.
“I’d just like to praise his transparency and his conscientious efforts to keep students up to date,” Flesch said. “I think the students trust and support him.”
Darby Mowell ’18, who is also in Pierson, said that while it is unclear whether Chu will lose her job, she suspects the incident has caused administrative tensions that would “make it difficult for her to keep working here in the same capacity.”
Mowell said Chu has always had a “strong personality and opinions,” based on their previous interactions, and her Yelp reviews could be seen as an extension of that. Chu is entitled to her opinions, despite their racist and classist overtones, she said.
But she added that having someone like Chu in a position of supervision and leadership over the student body is out of line with Pierson and Yale’s “alleged missions of inclusivity and community.”
“I personally would have a very hard time maintaining the respect for her that I think the position merits if she were to continue as Pierson’s dean,” Mowell said.
Pierson student Robert Gerdisch ’19 said it was ironic that Chu, as part of the college’s leadership, “publicly transgressed standards she finds central to her interactions with her community.”
“Ultimately, her apology was extremely sincere — that is, until the community learned of her deception,” Gerdisch said.