“They knew, yet chose to suspend [Saifullah Khan ’19] only after students began to speak up.”
I commend yesterday’s News’ View for explicitly pointing out where the University’s interests truly lie. My quibble, if you can call it that, with the piece is that I don’t believe it’s only “protection” that’s at stake in regards to Yale’s policies on sexual misconduct. The University’s repeated failures to appropriately deal with Khan and other perpetrators of abuse further constitutes a moral failure of the very project of liberal education.
Yale College’s purported mission is “to educate [students], through mental discipline and social experience [and] to develop their intellectual, moral, civic and creative capacities to the fullest.” By this standard, Yale students like Khan and his ilk have proved themselves incapable of any kind of moral cultivation. They should not be Yale students, plain and simple. But neither should any sexual predators who can fake their way into Yale with a deceptively polished exterior. I know of two students alone who were admitted to the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy, a program supposedly among those with the highest standards for admission at Yale. But I guess “leadership potential” trumps any consideration of character (my verb is intentional).
The Onion, as always, said it best in its parody of Yale’s admissions standards: “What we look for in an applicant is evidence that he’s able to successfully intimidate his victim into silence, convince everyone that his victim is lying, or use his connections and family influence to get the whole episode swept under the rug.” By letting Justice Brett Kavanaugh ’87 LAW ’90 drink his way through college and law school and into the Supreme Court, I’m sure Yale™ improved its reputation on paper. And the school probably fetched a hefty check every year from the future associate justice on his way through the Yale incubator that was busy “develop[ing] [his]…moral…capacities to the fullest.”
Yet to buck the attitude of privilege, we have to replace it with responsibility. We need duties, not rights — we have enough of those as Yale students already. If we want a school that serves as a four-year Bacchanalia that spits out financial consultants whose main purpose in life is to make as much money as possible, and then donate it back to Mother Yale, then most certainly we should continue on the same path. Preserve our freedom to explore everything and everyone. Preserve our reckless, broken moral compass and rewrite Yale’s mission statement.
But that liberal project — of “everything goes” and a belief that any libertine fantasies are acceptable within the University, as long as administrators don’t know about it — can’t stand alongside critiques of the “boys will be boys” mentality or support for the “believe survivors” movement. That project instead considers us –– 18 to 22-year-olds, clueless as to what we really want in the world or how to interpret our desires –– to not need moral or social cultivation, to not need stricter rules in regards to behavior.
And along the way, by failing to thoroughly investigate and establish clear rules on character and conduct when broken standards are actually brought to trial, the University often doesn’t trust its most vulnerable members. I have several close friends who weren’t, by the University’s standards, “believed” for their accusations; one was silently stripped of many high-profile leadership positions on campus for supposedly lying about their perpetrator, even though their friends all know they wouldn’t dare slander another student unjustly. And another friend was dismissed by Title IX personnel, who failed to follow up on deeply held concerns about her former abuser becoming a first-year counselor, a position supposedly tasked with promoting Yale’s “moral” code. This situation should have been easily taken as a red flag. Yale can’t put the fears of legal fees above students’ safety.
Now, the two guiding principles — reputation and financial longevity — behind the Yale administration’s responses to most campus controversies are usually fine visions for preserving the school. I certainly believe that criticizing the University means asking, “Why do current administrative efforts fail to maintain Yale for the benefit of future generations?” But when these goals aren’t concerned with the moral health of its students across generations, they affect more than just the health of the institution; they prove that an unchecked liberal education fails in properly developing well-meaning individuals by ignoring what social cultivation should look like within our student body.
A moral Yale can’t have amoral standards. Otherwise, “liberal education” will remain an excuse to mask immoral behavior, from Lawrance Hall to the world’s most powerful bench.
Leland Stange is a senior in Ezra Stiles College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .