More fighting over Halloween costumes—at Yale

As I’ve always said, the best way to counter offensive speech is with counter-speech, not by trying to ban or punish people for what they said—unless what they say constitutes an imminent call to violence or creates an illegal atmosphere of racial or sexual harassment. That is basically the principle of free speech endorsed by the government and the courts.

But free speech off campus is different from what happens in American colleges and universities, where anything that offends students is construed as “hate speech”, even if there’s no hatred involved but merely a divergence in views. I’ve written about this enough, so will briefly recount an episode at Yale University that’s reported at length at the FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) Site.

In short, on October 28 a dean at Yale sent an email about Halloween costumes to the student body, an email signed by 13 members of the Intercultural Affairs Committee, a group of administrators from various units of the university. Here’s an excerpt from that email:

However, Halloween is also unfortunately a time when the normal thoughtfulness and sensitivity of most Yale students can sometimes be forgotten and some poor decisions can be made including wearing feathered headdresses, turbans, wearing ‘war paint’ or modifying skin tone or wearing blackface or redface. These same issues and examples of cultural appropriation and/or misrepresentation are increasingly surfacing with representations of Asians and Latinos.

Yale is a community that values free expression as well as inclusivity. And while students, undergraduate and graduate, definitely have a right to express themselves, we would hope that people would actively avoid those circumstances that threaten our sense of community or disrespects, alienates or ridicules segments of our population based on race, nationality, religious belief or gender expression.

The culturally unaware or insensitive choices made by some members of our community in the past, have not just been directed toward a cultural group, but have impacted religious beliefs, Native American/Indigenous people, Socio-economic strata, Asians, Hispanic/Latino, Women, Muslims, etc. In many cases the student wearing the costume has not intended to offend, but their actions or lack of forethought have sent a far greater message than any apology could after the fact…

There is growing national concern on campuses everywhere about these issues, and we encourage Yale students to take the time to consider their costumes and the impact it may have. So, if you are planning to dress-up for Halloween, or will be attending any social gatherings planned for the weekend, please ask yourself these questions before deciding upon your costume choice:

• Wearing a funny costume? Is the humor based on “making fun” of real people, human traits or cultures?

• Wearing a historical costume? If this costume is meant to be historical, does it further misinformation or historical and cultural inaccuracies?

• Wearing a ‘cultural’ costume? Does this costume reduce cultural differences to jokes or stereotypes?

• Wearing a ‘religious’ costume? Does this costume mock or belittle someone’s deeply held faith tradition?

• Could someone take offense with your costume and why?

Well, I don’t see a big problem with that, except that some of these costumes could simply reflect admiration for another culture, or make political points (I’m thinking about religion-themed costumes). Further, the notion of  “someone taking offense” means that costumes are verboten if only a single person takes offense. As I’ve said, while things like blackface, because of their historical connotations and use, are offensive to everyone, other costumes, including ethnic dress like Japanese geishas or Mexican garb, aren’t so clear. One person’s admiration for a culture’s dress is another person’s offensive “cultural appropriation.”

What happened then is chilling, but predictable.  Some students expressed concern about the University’s email to Erika Christakis, associate master of Silliman College, a residential part of Yale. (Her husband Nicholas is master of Silliman).  Christakis sent an email to the “Sillimanders” giving her thoughts on the costume issue. Here’s part of it, but you can read the whole thing at the link. Note the first sentence and the first paragraph, which I’ve put in bold:

I don’t wish to trivialize genuine concerns about cultural and personal representation, and other challenges to our lived experience in a plural community. I know that many decent people have proposed guidelines on Halloween costumes from a spirit of avoiding hurt and offense. I laud those goals, in theory, as most of us do. But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students.

It seems to me that we can have this discussion of costumes on many levels: we can talk about complex issues of identify, free speech, cultural appropriation, and virtue “signalling.” But I wanted to share my thoughts with you from a totally different angle, as an educator concerned with the developmental stages of childhood and young adulthood.

As a former preschool teacher, for example, it is hard for me to give credence to a claim that there is something objectionably “appropriative” about a blonde­haired child’s wanting to be Mulan [a legendary Chinese woman warrior] for a day. Pretend play is the foundation of most cognitive tasks, and it seems to me that we want to be in the business of encouraging the exercise of imagination, not constraining it. I suppose we could agree that there is a difference between fantasizing about an individual character vs. appropriating a culture, wholesale, the latter of which could be seen as (tacky)(offensive)(jejeune)(hurtful), take your pick. But, then, I wonder what is the statute of limitations on dreaming of dressing as Tiana the Frog Princess [a black character in a Disney animation] if you aren’t a black girl from New Orleans? Is it okay if you are eight, but not 18? I don’t know the answer to these questions; they seem unanswerable. Or at the least, they put us on slippery terrain that I, for one, prefer not to cross.

. . . . When I lived in Bangladesh, I bought a sari because it was beautiful, even though I looked stupid in it and never wore it once. Am I fetishizing and appropriating others’ cultural experiences? Probably. But I really, really like them too.

Even if we could agree on how to avoid offense – and I’ll note that no one around campus seems overly concerned about the offense taken by religiously conservative folks to skin­revealing costumes – I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive? 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.

. . . But – again, speaking as a child development specialist – I think there might be something missing in our discourse about the exercise of free speech (including how we dress ourselves) on campus, and it is this: What does this debate about Halloween costumes say about our view of young adults, of their strength and judgment?

In other words: Whose business is it to control the forms of costumes of young people? It’s not mine, I know that.

What Christakis is doing here is, as I did, groping for standards that allow free expression and enjoyment of the good aspects of other people’s cultures while not being gratuitously offensive. And she’s expressing concern about who should control or police what is considered an “inoffensive” costume.

Unfortunately, this rather tame letter set off an explosion.  740 Yale students, alumni, faculty and staff signed an open letter to Christakis, accusing her of “invalidating the existences” of marginalized students and disrespecting their cultures and livelihoods. Her husband, the college’s master, met with the protestors, who demanded that he apologize for the email (he wouldn’t). As the Washington Post reports, some Silliman students say they can’t bear to live in the college any more, and others are drafting a letter calling for the resignation of both Nicholas and Erika Christakis.

Here’s a video of students confronting Nicholas Christakis (remember, it was his wife, not he, who sent the email). Apparently he patiently faced the students for hours, but some of them got quite exercised (transcript from FIRE, which filmed this) below:

Partial transcript from FIRE:

“As your position as master, it is your job to create a place of comfort and home for the students that live in Silliman. You have not done that. By sending out that email, that goes against your position as master. Do you understand that?”

When Christakis replied that he didn’t agree, the student thundered back, “Then why the fuck did you accept the position! Who the fuck hired you?”

Christakis began to say that he had a different view of his role at the college, but the student cut him off, saying:

“Then step down! If that is what you think about being a [inaudible] master, then you should step down. It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! Do you understand that? It’s about creating a home here! You are not doing that. You’re going against that.”

On the other hand, this isn’t exactly a reasoned discussion; the student tells Christakis to “Be quiet!”. She doesn’t want to listen; she wants to harangue. Then she stomps off.

Asking for resignations is going too far. Criticizing the Christakises is one thing, demanding that they be punished for their views is another. Erika Christakis’s letter is thoughtful and certainly an expression of free speech. Students are free to criticize it, of course, but if Yale takes any action against her or her husband, I would be both saddened and surprised. The letter to the Yale students about the issue written by Yale’s Dean of the College Jonathan Holloway is mealy-mouthed, taking no real stand on the issue.

Yale should, like all American universities, adopt the exemplary freedom-of-speech principles that recently became policy at the University of Chicago. I quote from that document (my emphasis):

In a word, the University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose. Indeed, fostering the ability of members of the University community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the University’s educational mission.

The students, by trying to intimidate and even end the jobs of the Christakises, are indeed trying to suppress speech. And if Yale caves in to them, acting “as an institution”, it will be a dark day for American education.

167 Comments

  1. Linda A.
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    This PC stuff has gotten out of control. I agree with the statement made by Taslima Nasrin in her speech to the audience at the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s conference in October…”Without the right to offend, freedom of speech does not exist.”

  2. Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    It just torques my jaw every time someone equates religion with race.

    Race and a few other things are not a choice, you are born that way, period.

    Religion is a choice people make and therefor open to all the mocking it deserves.

    Circumstances of ones birth are not open to ridicule or derision, but choices are.

    • Matt
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      As well as not being a choice, your race, gender and sexual orientation do not affect others around you. Your religion however, is not only a choice, or at least it should be, but your religion does indeed affect those around you because it affects your actions and how you vote in a democracy. So it most definitely does not deserve the same cloak of protection as race, gender or sexual orientation.

      • Adam M.
        Posted November 7, 2015 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

        I not sure I agree. Race, sex, and sexual orientation also affect how people vote, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be protected.

        I would say that any attempt to burden or harm others through the legislative process is fair to challenge and criticize, even if the desired to do so stems from membership in a protected class that you were born into.

        Also, some attributes that a person can be born with, such as psychopathy, shouldn’t be immune to criticism even if they can’t be changed.

        Also, legally speaking religion has the same protected status as race and sex.

        But if the core of what you’re saying is “don’t criticize people’s attributes when they don’t harm anyone”, then I’d agree with that, as a matter of politeness.

    • phil
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      I agree that religion is open to all the mocking it deserves, but I don’t hold that it is a simple choice.

      Most religious people hold to the faith they were born (indoctrinated) into, and for some religions and cultures expressing unbelief can be life threatening. In such instances expressing unbelief could be viewed as irrational behaviour, and expressing unbelief is not a reasonable choice for many.

    • nightgaunt49
      Posted November 13, 2015 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

      Haven’t seen a human yet change races say from human to dog, or cat or grizzly bear. Nope, but there are ways to look like them.

      People really need to grow a thicker skin. Instead some have the thinnest most sensitive skin you can have and demand that others be stopped from touching it.

      One cannot please everyone so they need to stop forcing it on people. They may just come up and decide bare skin is the choice. But someone doesn’t like it so they are free to suppress it too. Hope they don’t go to bombs to show their displeasure at that oppression.

  3. Benjamin
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    What exactly is it that these social justice people want in the long run? For only approved speech and approved thought to be present on campus?

    Who’s going to be doing this approving? Of course, they automatically, and rather presumptuously, assume this role for themselves.

    It’s almost tempting to turn their own tactics against them: tell them that we find the authoritarian overtones of their campaign against open debate, free expression, and intellectual freedom disturbing and offensive.

    I wonder if we can get universities to ban their invited speakers, and prevent them from booking rooms for events? If not, we can simply harass and shout over them, so no one can hear what they have to say.

    I’m normally not as vindictive as this, but I think they need to see first-hand the results of what they want to achieve.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      What exactly is it that these social justice people want in the long run?

      Attention.
      See “Violet Elisabeth” comment down-thread.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      Unfortunately the more moderate types of people are likely to be moderate in speech as well. We don’t shout people down.

      • Benjamin
        Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

        No. And indeed, I would never undertake any of the steps I described above.

        However, it would be nice for the social justice crown to see clearly just how quickly authoritarian measures can be used against anyone who has an inconvenient opinion or thought.

        Picking and choosing what you think other people should be able to say is an outstandingly stupid idea, and very dangerous.

        You have to trust in freedom of speech and expression, and in the power of open debate and discussion. Yes, some people will be obnoxious – even offensive – and abuse the privilege, but historically it has served us extremely well and underlies many of our other freedoms.

        • phil
          Posted November 7, 2015 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

          “an outstandingly stupid idea”

          I like that. I’m gonna use it.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

        I do. I do so respectfully but I don’t and never had tolerated bullies. As soon as she stomped off, had I been in the crowd I would have taunted her for her child like behaviour and disrespect. She was throwing a tantrum.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

          Good on ya. I have, a couple of times, taunted individuals who were getting stuck into some minor official for something that was patently not the official’s fault (e.g. the train was overcrowded). With the aim of taking the heat off the official who was just struggling to cope. It usually worked.

          cr

          • Filippo
            Posted November 7, 2015 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

            I’m reminded of a recent phone conversation with an acquaintance in another state who works in retail. He spoke of being physically poked in the chest by a disgruntled customer. It was Halloween night. Only he and a manager were on duty. All the scheduled cashiers failed to show up, so into Halloween they apparently were.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted November 7, 2015 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

              I think I told this story here before. I was once at a Tim Horton’s in my 20s and some loudmouth thought his beverage wasn’t hot enough.

              “This warm, not even hot!” He said.

              “You’re loud, not even quiet!” I remarked from my table. It just slipped out. I thought he was going to yell at me, but he didn’t.

  4. Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Many moons ago as we say (I’m 1/8th Blackfoot), I wore a loincloth, and headdress to a college halloween party. I wore it in part because I was pretty buff at the time, and wanted to wear as little as possible, and also because as I mentioned I’m 1/8th Blackfoot, which from what I understand that entitles me to refer to myself as a native American.
    So if I wore that in this day, and age would I be immediately tarred, and feathered, or could I explain that I wasn’t ridiculing anyone first?
    Or if someone said you can’t wear that because you’re white, and I said I’m not white, and they said what are you then, could I indignantly accuse them of a microaggression for dehumanizing me with the term what?

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      as I mentioned I’m 1/8th Blackfoot, which from what I understand that entitles me to refer to myself as a native American.

      I’m not sure what the Native American/ First Nations/ Inuit rule is (or more likely, “are”), but wasn’t there at least one US state that until recently would have considered you a “negro”? You admit to being 1/8 Blackfoot, so you’re slightly over 1/16 Black, and the dividing line was either 1/32 black, or “one drop, no matter how dilute.” I can’t remember which state was the 1/32 one and which was the homeopathic one, but that doesn’t matter as much as my recent election to the papacy.
      Sorry, I tuned into the Ben Carson channel towards the end there. That guy is going to do so much good for the US popcorn export industry if he gets into the White House.
      (Judging from family photos, I’m probably in the same boat as you. I’ll have to check with Dad if it was 5 or 6 generations back, but it looks like a Carribean or African sailor settled in Victorian Britain. And either that, or months working in Africa over the last few years, has stimulated me to get a number of African “ensemble” suits, to go with Erika Christakis’ sari story ; incidentally, at least one sister and one aunt have and wear saris, because they like them. But only in summer – bit breezy in winter.)

      • nightgaunt49
        Posted November 13, 2015 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

        “Black Foot” is an Indian tribe, not a color one.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 13, 2015 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

          I know – I was funning on one of the sillier bits of racial legislation I’ve heard of.

    • Posted November 7, 2015 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      Any pics?😁

      /@

  5. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Such adult behaviour. It must bee incredibly galling and utterly demeaning to haveeeeee their behaviour assessed by someone with experience in pre-school child development. Almost as if they might just possibly (at the age of what? 18-20?) still have some growing up to do.
    Screaming and screaming until they make themselves sick is a behaviour with a long literary precedent. How successful it was for Violet Elisabeth, I don’t know, never having actually read one of those books. But the behaviour is well attested, and in books of an appropriate level of difficulty.

    • Dermot C
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Nice comparison, Aidan, bang on. x

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

        I learned from Bram Stoker. Stake into the heart, one firm blow and never mind the screaming.
        Where is my decapitating knife, and heads of garlic for stopping up the mouth?

    • barn owl
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      Xir screaming, foot-stomping, pouty-faced tantrum rivals that of an overtired toddler with poorly-developed impulse control. Let such students “transfer to another university” if they don’t feel they’re being lauded and coddled and pandered to sufficiently. Good riddance.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted November 7, 2015 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

        Yeah. All I could think listening to that woman’s rant was what an unreasonable, irrational, self-righteous, BIT€H she was. (I’m allowed to call her a bit€h because I’m a woman. That’s how it works isn’t it?)

        • wetherjeff
          Posted November 7, 2015 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

          That’s so true Heather, as a man I can’t say that. I would run the risk of callously misappropriating her lived experience.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted November 7, 2015 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

            As long as you know your place. 🙂

            • Martin Levin
              Posted November 7, 2015 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

              May I call her a person of grievances, or POG?

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted November 7, 2015 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

                Love it!

              • Filippo
                Posted November 7, 2015 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

                Or perhaps a POE, Person Of Entitlement?

              • Posted November 7, 2015 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

                Just be sure not to call her a woman of grievances, or WOG. That wood be wong.

        • Posted November 7, 2015 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

          But, Heather, you’re not a dog!

          /@

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted November 7, 2015 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

            How do you know? You’ve never seen me! 🙂

            I did a quiz once about what type of dog you’d be that matched your personality. I got Alsatian.

            • Filippo
              Posted November 7, 2015 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

              “The mist of May is in the gloamin’,

              And all the clouds are holding still,

              So take my hand and we’ll go roamin’

              Through the Heather on the Hill.”

          • Diane G.
            Posted November 7, 2015 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

            On the internet, no one knows that!

            • Posted November 7, 2015 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

              The NSA knows …

              /@

              • Diane G.
                Posted November 7, 2015 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

                Aren’t you the killjoy?

        • nightgaunt49
          Posted November 13, 2015 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

          Just expect many female dogs howling at you for taking their collective name in vain.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted November 13, 2015 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

            Heh. If a dog is giving you a dirty look, you’ll know that she knows!

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      Yes you just witnessed a temper tantrum when confronted with a differing opinion. I wonder if her aggressive body language, swearing and calling her opponent, “disgusting” is, in her mind, a shitty thing to do to another human being. Or are only certain human beings worthy of respect. I would have shouted her down but I appreciate he couldn’t as a white male.

  6. Randy Schenck
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    To my mind these students at Yale, particularly the group out there assaulting that teacher, have serious mental issues and should seek help somewhere. In my workplace they would be gone for this behavior. It is so far over the top, ranting on over a discussion of halloween clothing. Play this back to them in 10 or 15 years if they ever grow up.

    • barn owl
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      IANAP, but “Cluster B personality disorder” definitely came to mind while watching that video.

      • Randy Schenck
        Posted November 7, 2015 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

        You could have something there. Have they raised an entire generation of people with this problem. Seems like all the schools have this in one form or the other. I’m not sure it is something they can outgrow?

        • barn owl
          Posted November 7, 2015 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

          My understanding is that it some cases personality disorders can’t even be treated effectively. This leaves the cynical part of me thinking that they’ll claim it as disability and ask for accommodations, which might, for example, include the privilege to scream at and verbally abuse people who offend them in some way.

          • barn owl
            Posted November 7, 2015 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

            it some cases >>> in some cases

            • Cindy
              Posted November 7, 2015 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

              Nice owl.

              Can I say that? Do you feel objectified?

              • barn owl
                Posted November 7, 2015 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

                Oh yes, it is the objectification of those whooo identify as owlkin.

                I would ask that you use my special pronouns, which are: whooo, whooose, and whoooself.

              • Cindy
                Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

                I was lightly trolling The Friendly Atheist comment section last week, pretending that biological sex *and* species were social constructs.

                I actually got a couple of bites on those.

                From the otherkin, who are trying to pretend that they aren’t suffering from special snowflake-ism:

                I’m very torn on that topic. There’s no reason at this time to suspect that there’s a hormonal difference or something similar that could cause one to identify with a nonhuman species, but the sensations can be extremely strong and lifelong. (I’ve “possessed” mobile, expressive ears and a tail since I can remember, for instance.) I wonder if there are early species identification triggers that occasionally have a very strong effect on humans, like the way some animals raised by another species clearly consider themselves members of that species.

                Oh, thank the gods I’m not the only one who can feel the “extra” parts!

                Just because you ‘feel’ that you have a tail doesn’t automatically follow that biological differences between various species are entirely ‘social constructs’

                I also brought up ‘bio sex as a social construct’ and suggested that, since Caitlyn Jenner was ‘always a biological female since birth’ that she won every gold medal as a bio femaale, and that gender segregation in sports should be ended. And another one bit, saying that yes, it should just be by merit, or height/weight. Which is ridiculous. I am a 6ft tall female, am reasonably strong and active, vs my sedentary boyfriend, and he is still stronger than me, even though he weighs the same and is 2 inches shorter than me.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

            Great! The part of my brain that suppresses violent reactions already works overtime. This will be my breaking point. However, by violent, typically my weapons are words, which I’ve found far more effective in wounding adversaries.

        • Filippo
          Posted November 7, 2015 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

          Evidence of the continued high schoolesque juvenilization of the U.S. university student.

          • phil
            Posted November 7, 2015 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

            I suspect it might be associated with the increased commodifaction (if that’s really a word) of education. I feel it here in Oz, where we had a couple of decades of free university. Students sometimes feel that because they’ve paid the fees they should get the ticket and all that goes with it, plus a sense of entitlement. Obviously education is not like every other commodity, it is a service and the outcomes depend heavily on things the customer must provide (e.g. talent and work).

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      Believe me, I hope I don’t have to deal with them in the workforce anytime soon. I’ve dealt with bullies like that who would yell and bluster and make you a little afraid of being hit, but they were the exception and their behaviour was frowned upon.

  7. Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Okay, I am offended by the fact that the students are yelling at a man for something he didn’t even say. That seems incredibly unfair and unjust. Trying to get someone fired for something their spouse said is way more offensive than any speech could ever be (excluding libel, inciting to riot, etc.). It is spiteful and vengeful and represents among the very worst qualities humanity is capable of expressing. What she said was thoughtful and articulate. She offered some things to think about and she didn’t even draw a hard conclusion from her thoughts on the subject. It is weird that students used to fight for the freedom to express their views openly and now a different group of students oppose that freedom. I think John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” should be required reading as it contains the most eloquent argument for free speech and why no speech should be banned that I have read.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      It’s as if she thinks a woman’s husband is responsible for what his wife says. That’s far more offensive than anything else mentioned here imo.

      • Diane G.
        Posted November 7, 2015 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

        You beat me to it!

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

        Yes I was thinking the same but I’m still flabbergasted at the outburst. Good grief, I would never think of losing my temper on any authority figure at a university. I was there to learn and listened to what they said and when I disagreed I didn’t flip out.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

          She wants this guy to create a home. Is that the way she speaks to her parents. Would they react in the amazingly calm way this guy did? You just know she really wanted a door to slam as she stormed off. Entitled little bit#h.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

            Of course she acts this way to her parents, except the argument is that she didn’t get the individualized meal she requested. Oh that she had been raised by my mother. She would have slapped the sass right out of her! I’m not for slapping your kids, but I’m starting to think the 70s idea of solving everything by yelling and hitting is making more sense 😀

            • Posted November 7, 2015 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

              I see the smiley face, but still…they are trying to solve everything by yelling; and I’m afraid the hitting won’t be far behind.

  8. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    It’s about creating a home here!

    That wouldn’t fly very far in Sweden’s colleges, high schools and universities. Most of those have lodgings off site, and often organized by student unions.

    [It is different in the “folk high schools”, and those have some of these problems of confusing home with school I think.]

    Coddled, cuddled and befuddled.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      My alma mater was careful to maintain enough halls accommodation for foreign (particularly one-year exchange) students, and for first years, but not many others. going out of halls and living in the real world, cleaning your own toilet bowl and buying your own soap was considered an important part of growing up.
      About 20% of the student population were from the city and lived with the parents, but even then, about 1/3 of them moved into independent flats in town. It was all part of the process.
      Those delicate snowflakes need to meet a few Rachmann landlords, and have to live with the crack house next door. Welcome to reality.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted November 7, 2015 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

        Yeah. Universities in New Zealand usually have on-site accommodation for first years, which does NOT include a parent substitute, but after that you’re usually on your own. We don’t have fraternities/sororities either.

        • Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

          There’s a lot of variation in the U.S. My school was located in a rural area and living on campus was virtually the only option, but we didn’t have parent substitutes or fraternaties/sororities. In fact, the school had a vaguely “Lord of the Flies” feel to it. Of course this is was early eighties. The idea of feeling “safe” there is absured to the point of feeling like I’m watching a scene from another culture.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

            That’s interesting. I would have preferred to live on campus the whole time I think. There was good stuff about flatting too, but staying on campus would have meant a heap more time available for study and less stress.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

          We sort of have sororities and fraternities in Canada but it’s fringe. It is generally looked at as a way to “buy your friends” and you rarely see any of it on campus.

          There are residences in campus but I suspect many of the students live off campus, near the university. Of course, this depends on the school.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

            I didn’t know you guys had them. Massey uni isn’t in the city – it was on a rural campus. So once you had to go flatting, you didn’t have a choice but to be a long way from campus. Two of my siblings went to Auckland uni, which is right in the city, and they were always pretty close even when they weren’t living on campus.

            If I’d know about the living arrangements before I went, I would’ve gone to Auckland too. But I knew absolutely nothing about uni. I didn’t even know anyone who’d been except my teachers, and they told me nothing.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

              I came very close to doing graduate work at Auckland Uni. I even met with the Classics department head. She was so. Ice to me as I just showed up unannounced and asked about their program.

              I love where the campus is – close to Albert Park. My mom did not want me leaving Canada after she left NZ. Good thing I got all burned out with school.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

                It would have been nice to have you!

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 8, 2015 at 8:20 am | Permalink

          Oh, there was a “parent substitute” : it was paid work for a PhD student or visiting research fellow accommodated in the ground floor of each block – meaning that there was a 39:1 student to advisor ratio, and most of the time the “advisor” wasn’t native to the country. “Coddling” wasn’t on the agenda.

          • Merilee
            Posted November 8, 2015 at 8:34 am | Permalink

            We had similar “resident assistants” in our dorms, but the only coddling I remember was buying us vats of Baskin-Robbins ice cream during pre-exam “dead week.”

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted November 8, 2015 at 8:39 am | Permalink

              We got ours horrendously drunk (he was a Lebanese refugee – more or less Muslim) the night he submitted his thesis. Probably converted him to strict teetotalism.

              • Posted November 8, 2015 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

                Teetotalitarianism?

                /@

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted November 8, 2015 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

                After we’d finished with him, he brought his own drinks (trustworthy? us??) and alternated orange squash with his buy of whisky. Reasonable compromise.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted November 8, 2015 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

            In the block I lived in in my first year there was a graduate student who got free rent in an apartment in the block. Not sure what his responsibilities were – reporting required maintenance and doling out clean sheets once a week seemed about it. We were only allowed one clean sheet a week, but so many male students didn’t change theirs, I always got two. Back then (80s) there were a lot more male than female students.. There were 108 students in the block.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted November 8, 2015 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

              12 room per floor ; 9 floors.
              The main thing for the “house advisor” was to be called out to identify one of his charges if the turned up at the entry desk after “doors-locked.”
              Since, almost by definition, this meant a wake-up call at “ofuck-oclock,” this wasn’t popular. On the other hand, it was a good line : “I don’t want to disturb my house-master, so can I sleep on your room floor … can we share a bed … do you have a condom … are you on the pill?”
              A well exercised – and frequently rejected – ploy.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted November 8, 2015 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

                We had six three-storey buildings with six single rooms and a bathroom per floor. Two buildings each on three sides of a grassed area, the fourth side was a lounge, laundry, kitchen facilities, main gate. There were fences between the buildings. They were about eight foot metal railings with sharp points in the top. I can’t remember if the gate was locked at night, but I don’t think so.

                There was one building where the grad student looking after it was pretty strict though. Don’t know if it was a control freak thing or it was run by religious groups. It was much flasher than the usual, and we weren’t allowed to go inside to visit friends there. The people I knew there all came from strict Catholic families, so it might have been a private hostel.

  9. Ken Phelps
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    “Yale is a community that values free expression as well as inclusivity. And while students, undergraduate and graduate, definitely have a right to express themselves, we would hope …”

    Yes, freedom *is* slavery and some animals are more equal than others. What an travesty that he doesn’t have the sense to stop talking midway through the first sentence.

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted November 9, 2015 at 5:21 am | Permalink

      There is a big difference, though, between asking students to be mindful of the possibility that their costume choice might cause offence to some people and issuing an edict that ‘thou shalt not offend anyone by your costume choice’ and banning certain costume categories.
      No-one has a right to not be offended ever and we should all reserve the right to speak our minds freely and act freely without being constrained by anyone else’s views of what is acceptable (with the usual caveats of libel and incitement to violence being excluded). However, if some behaviour that is trivial or unimportant to me is perceived as offensive by someone else then I don’t mind voluntarily avoiding giving that offence.

  10. matt
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Notice how they use the term “deeply held beliefs” to describe something that deserves protection from criticism. “Deeply held” is another way of saying “beyond the influence of evidence and debate” which is the problem with religion. Beliefs are too deeply held. Lets not support this idea of holding beliefs so deeply that they are not open to scrutiny.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      +1!

      • Martin Levin
        Posted November 7, 2015 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        Also,just how deep is “deeply held.” How do you measure the depth of one person’s belief in elves against mine in garden gnomes?

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted November 7, 2015 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

          Exactly! Ever since the rubbish about the “deeply held beliefs” that allow Hobby Lobby to avoid the law in relation to healthcare for their employees, that phrase has made me bristle. Their “deeply held beliefs” don’t stop them making money from goods produced in China, with its (then) one-child policy and enforced abortions.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

            And Scientology to torture people.

        • Posted November 7, 2015 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

          I have a very very deeply held belief in dwarves, kobolds and knockers …

          /@

  11. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Chilling indeed. Thinking back, I (white and balding) used to wear a beautiful Dashiki shirt from Africa. I wore that thing out, I wore it so much. Were I to wear it at Yale today I am not sure if I would get out unscathed.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      How do you sleep at night Mark?

      (answer: in a luxurious silk Kimono)

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted November 7, 2015 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        Very comfortably, thank you! But silk is not comfortable. I use my flannel Star Wars pajama bottoms which my family bought as a joke, but I really like them b/c they are comfy and they have an elastic waist and pockets. Required details for practical sleepwear.

        • Filippo
          Posted November 7, 2015 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

          And morning/weekend visits to the grocery store, or so I’ve observed in my neck of the woods.

        • Martin Levin
          Posted November 8, 2015 at 1:19 am | Permalink

          I’m sure you’re3 guilty of some sort of appropriation in wearing those PJs. And complaints from the Alien Defense League yet?

        • Jonathan Wallace
          Posted November 9, 2015 at 5:28 am | Permalink

          I am intrigued as to what you need pockets for in your sleepwear! What do you keep in them? The usual day-time trouser pocket contents – small change, wallet, pocket knife, hand lens (I’m guessing you’re never too far away from one of those!)etc – would make for an uncomfortable night’s rest!

    • barn owl
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      I like to wear churidars or shalwars and a kameez, particularly when I know I’ll have to be sitting for long periods of time (e.g. traveling by car or plane). Very comfortable style of clothing, beautiful fabrics and colors available, and well-suited to the climate here. As a long-legged person, I especially love the cut of the churidars. I suppose I’ve probably offended someone by wearing clothing that is from a culture not my own.

      • Diane G.
        Posted November 7, 2015 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

        I shudder to think of all the T’s I’ve offended with my shirts!

    • Cindy
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      I love the Cheongsam. It is super sexy. Nowadays I would be accused of cultural appropriation.

    • Posted November 7, 2015 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      Two decades ago, at a crafts fair in Brooklyn, I bought some earings for the not very deep reason that they were bright and colorful. I asked the woman who sold them if she had made them herself. (I have a little thing against “crafts” fairs where the goods aren’t really crafts.) She answered affirmatively and told me that they were a traditional African style.

      I still have them. Should I never wear them again? Should no one who is not African ever purchase earings from this woman again? Is she allowed to have an opinion on this?

      I’ve recently done one of those DNA tests and haven’t gotten the results back. If it comes back that I have some African ancestry, can I wear them.

      Of course this is all incredibly stupid.

      • Doug
        Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

        Several years ago, my small New England town had a store, run by Indian immigrants, selling Indian clothing and other items. They couldn’t have been hoping to attract only Indian customers–there weren’t enough of them in the area to keep a store like that in business. Would they be told today that they were wrong for selling items from their culture?

        • Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

          Maybe only people from the U.S. should wear blue jeans.

          Really, where would humans be if we never exchanged cultural ideas?

          • Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

            Re blue jeans, if you saw non-USians wearing them, you could levi a charge for the emotional strauss.

            /@

          • phil
            Posted November 7, 2015 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

            “Maybe only people from the U.S. should wear blue jeans.”

            Oh no no no no no! Denim is supposed to be FRENCH!

      • Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

        “If it comes back that I have some African ancestry”

        We *all* have some African ancestry!

        /@

        • Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

          Yes, of course, but I mean more recent than that. There’s actually one branch of my family traceable to a group considered “tri-racial”, so the comment wasn’t entirely a throwaway. Also, I’m adopted and don’t know who my father was. I grew up being told I was part Native American. As I got older, people started making fun of me for saying that. I tried to find out the truth and reached some dead ends.

          My own racial/ethnic identity is so complicated, I think I have no choice but to walk around naked. 🙂

          • Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

            Well, of course, I was being facetious.

            It might be a good thing if we all walked around naked… if only it were warm enough everywhere.

            But, thinking about the African thing a little further, it’s all *human* culture isn’t it?

            /@

            • phil
              Posted November 7, 2015 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

              Well, yeah, and what happened to the notion that imitation was the highest form of flattery?

          • Diane G.
            Posted November 7, 2015 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

            Nah, just think up a costume that punches up.

            • Posted November 7, 2015 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

              I hope you’re joking. The whole concept of punching up is evil and dehumanizing.

              • Diane G.
                Posted November 7, 2015 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

                Well, of course I was. But isn’t the concept of punching down more so?

            • Doug
              Posted November 8, 2015 at 7:36 am | Permalink

              Is this an example of “punching up”? Here’s African-American actress Salli Richardson dressed as a blonde for Halloween.

              I was feeling a little blond!!!! #halloween #ilovemylife

              A post shared by salli Richardson Whitfield (@sallirichwhit) on

              How dare she!? Nordic Americans should demand an apology!

              • Diane G.
                Posted November 8, 2015 at 9:24 am | Permalink

                That’s a toughie. On the one hand we’ve got white privilege, on the other dumb blondes…

                What if they cancel each other out and it’s neither up nor down but punching straight ahead??

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted November 8, 2015 at 11:28 am | Permalink

                Ahhh but dumb blond women….that’s punching down. But since the person doing that is African American, she is punching up because she is probably beneath the dumb blonde.

                OMG, I just had a brilliant idea! Create a matrix of “punching up” and “punching down” so you always know, based on your own privilege, what you are allowed to do.

                We could even make it an app.

              • Diane G.
                Posted November 8, 2015 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

                LOL! This is beginning to sound like The Onion. 😀

                Love the app idea! So many possible parameters tho–we may need some multivariate analysis. Merilee can do that part.

              • Saul Sorrell-Till
                Posted November 9, 2015 at 6:31 am | Permalink

                I was wondering how long before there’d be an example of the appropriated becoming the appropriaters.

                If they really want to play this game, and it’s a very ugly game if you trace out the logical consequences, then there’s quite a lot of ‘white culture’ that’s just off-limits to any non-whites.

      • Posted November 7, 2015 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

        That just made me realize that from now on only Jews should be allowed to read and quote the old testament. No more of these christians quoting deuteronomy, leviticus, or even genesis to justify their beliefs. That’s cultural appropriation.

      • nightgaunt49
        Posted November 13, 2015 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

        Technically we all came out of Africa to spread around the world. Minor changes in DNA only.

  12. Historian
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    I am not a psychologist or sociologist, so my comment is just based on my observations over many decades and my study of history. It seems that all people need to develop some sense of self-worth. That is, they need to feel their lives have meaning. For some people, self-worth comes through individual achievement. They feel that they have made a contribution to the world. They do not have to look elsewhere for self-validation. But, many people feel that individually they have accomplished little. To compensate for this, their self-worth derives from identification with a group. Such groups can include (but not limited to) a religion, race, gender, ethnic group or even a sports team. Thus, when they perceive that their group is demeaned, they interpret this to mean that they are being personally demeaned. Extreme group identity (us versus them) is the source of so many of the world’s problems. This condition, pervasive and worldwide, is unlikely to be relieved any time soon since it seems part of human nature. Undoubtedly, there is an evolutionary explanation for this, such as it enhances a person’s ability to survive and pass on his/her genes.

    • Doug
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      There is a quote I’m trying to find, but can’t. Maybe someone else will remember it: “The less reason a man has to feel proud of himself, the more likely he is to feel proud of belonging to some group.” That’s not an exact quote, but it’s the gist.

    • Wildhog
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I was thinking about this today. People with real power are not the ones who are obsessed with trivial tokens of respect. Its people who feel powerless that are.

    • nightgaunt49
      Posted November 13, 2015 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

      I don’t have one. I just consider myself a human being of the planet Terra. Anything else is just the joy of having variation in the mix.

  13. wetherjeff
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    I was literally speechless when I saw those videos. The behaviour of the students is disgraceful and appallingly self-indulgent. Do they not see the irony in claiming they want a ‘safe space’ while publicly and nastily abusing another human being? In particular the girl who shouts near the end should be ashamed of herself, her behaviour was shocking. I would never have dreamed of speaking to a member of university staff like that when I was a student. If I had I would have been severely punished, and she should be too. She’d be fired in most workplaces.
    If this bunch represent the elite of American students then the situation is pretty grave. How the hell with these mollycoddled infants cope if they ever get a job? This makes me so angry; they are pathetic and the lot of them need to grow up. Self-indulgent babies.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      I agree completely. What particularly worries me is that students like this are likely to end up in academia, poisoning generations of liberal arts students. They wouldn’t survive in the real world. (Except maybe as the type of lawyers who sue at the drop of a hat.)

      • Wildhog
        Posted November 7, 2015 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

        If its any consolation, Im not sure liberal arts students can get much more poisoned than they already are.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      Along that line, I would hope that the more egregious students will be marched to a hearing before the Dean of Students, followed by appropriate consequences such as expulsion. Such openly hostile behavior should not be tolerated from anybody, least of all to a member of the faculty. There are some real teeth behind our protections at the workplace.

    • Adam M.
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      I’m a bit torn on the issue. While her behavior was egregious and hypocritical as you describe, punishing her for what amounts to offensive speech also seems hypocritical.

      On the one hand, schools need discipline to accomplish their educational mission, but this didn’t occur in a classroom and she isn’t preventing other students from learning. Also, everyone involved is (legally) an adult. So I would be against punishing her for her harsh words.

      As satisfying as it may be to punish people who make the worst of their right to free speech, I think we should make a point of protecting her speech. It’s true that Yale is a private school and they’re not required to allow free speech, but they still should, as a university.

      • wetherjeff
        Posted November 7, 2015 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

        It’s not her words that are unacceptable, it’s her aggressive and threatening behaviour. Turn it round and picture a tall, stocky male student berating a petite female professor in the same fashion. That would be totally unacceptable and so is this.

        • Adam M.
          Posted November 7, 2015 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

          Well, I have to disagree there. Her words were harsh and aggressive, but there was no threat made or implied to his safety. Similarly I don’t think a man should be barred from speaking harshly to a woman (though it may be rude) simply because he’s larger and she might feel afraid, if he doesn’t actually make any threats. “I feel afraid” doesn’t imply “you’re threatening me”.

          But if she had articulated a real threat to his safety, I’d agree with you that it’s a punishable action.

          • Bob Murray
            Posted November 7, 2015 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

            Adam, at 46 seconds in, she shrugs her back pack off her shoulders and steps in toward him. I read that at least as a warning sign.

            • Adam M.
              Posted November 7, 2015 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

              It’s true, she did remove her backpack and step forward and some might say it resembles a prelude to battery. But does that really rise to the level of a threat that should be punished? It seems too speculative and ambiguous to me, and I’ll note that no assault or battery followed so any perception of such would have been mistaken. It certainly wouldn’t satisfy a court.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted November 7, 2015 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

                Her body language was certain,y threatening and she was definitely in his personal space.

                Imagine if the roles were reversed and he behaved like her. I think just because he is a male and therefore bigger, it would be seen as much more threatening. I actually thought she might do something physical after she removed the knapsack. Perhaps she would have if her opponent had not remained so calm.

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted November 9, 2015 at 5:41 am | Permalink

      One can only hope that this girl will grow up one day to be embarrassed and ashamed by this video.

  14. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    That’s one of the most obnoxious videos I’ve seen in a long time – the fury, the hysteria, the childlike frustration of the girl is startling. This is a young adult having the kind of temper tantrum kids usually grow out of by the team they leave primary school.

    I’ve been trying to pin down the psychological and intellectual difference between those on the liberal-left who are, IMO, reasonable and those who aren’t, and most of the time I keep coming back to one thing, which is the degree to which the people in question reach decisions based on instinctive, emotional reactions rather than thinking things through.
    The people who traduced Charlie Hebdo, who smear Maajid Nawaz and who scream in the face of this Yale official seem to be motivated almost solely by strength of emotion. They feel angry and frustrated and that constitutes a rationale for going after someone. They have close analogues on the right, which is why the term ‘reactionary left’ makes a lot of sense to me.

    I recently heard from a leftist who’d been to an anti-Israel gathering – with people like Seumas Milne and other unsavouries giving talks – and his words after the thing had finished(and it was a pretty unpleasant, anti-‘western-imperialism’, hard-left, ‘Hamas are freedom fighters’ kind of affair) were ‘it was excellent – it really made me angry, and it’s important that we remain angry’. Whatever you think of that rationale, it’s the dictionary definition of ‘reactionary’.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      re. my last line…probably would’ve been more appropriate to say “whatever you think of this rationale, it’s uncannily similar to the thinking of the reactionary right.”

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted November 7, 2015 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

        Maajid Nawaz calls them the “regressive left,” which I think is a really good description too.

    • Posted November 7, 2015 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

      I’m old enough to remember when “radical left” and “liberal” were two very different groups with different histories and different ideologies.

      I’ve just finished “Days of Rage,” which I highly reccommend, and it seems to me that the radical left, after finding itself having alienated much of the U.S. population, folded itself into the liberal groups the had previously disdained. A large diffence between the left and liberals is embodied in the issue of free speech. In fact, this is indirectly referenced in Christakis’ email where she mentions that the meaning of “liberal” is different in Europe.

      The right, of course, is happy to encourage this confusion. A few days ago, I read something about China’s one child policy. The entire point of the article relied on that very confusion since it said that the one child policy was an example of what is wrong with liberalism. Of course, Maoism never was liberal. When I was young, a Maoist would have disdained the word. But, you know, as the Beatles said, “If you go around with a portrait of Chairman Mao…” So, the Maoists and the Marxists pretend to be Liberals.

      Sorry, for the tirade. I hope it wasn’t too annoying. As a liberal who values free speech I’ve been very bothered by these people in recent months – mostly since the attacks in Paris last February.

      • Posted November 8, 2015 at 3:25 am | Permalink

        Yep. The Maoists, self-proclaimed Marxists… the Communist in SE Asia — all dispensed with the liberals first thing. It’s why I fear massive social upheaval more than any other thing. The ones with the glasses are always the first to go. And in very nasty ways.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted November 9, 2015 at 7:39 am | Permalink

          That’s why I switched to contact lenses. I always had that sneaking worry in the back of my mind that the Khmer Rouge would come get me one day.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted November 9, 2015 at 6:24 am | Permalink

        I used left and liberal interchangeably, simply because that’s how most people see things. There are social and intellectual differences; even bigger ones when you’re talking about the hard-left.

        I really agree with you, and one of the things I try and get across whenever this comes up is that ‘liberal’ actually means something – there are certain principles, like free speech, a free press, secularism, equal rights, democratic accountability, etc. that liberalism stands for, and that people who ignore, or even oppose these principles on the basis of some monochrome view of geopolitics or a dogmatic commitment to identity politics, shouldn’t get to call themselves liberals without a pushback.
        That’s why most of the time I use the term ‘illiberal left’. It makes it clear that calling yourself a left-winger doesn’t automatically make you a liberal.

        Re. the Paris attacks – the reaction of the modern left to those killings will go down in history as their nadir(at least, I hope it’ll be their nadir). Smearing the murdered cartoonists, true progressives who worked with the threat of firebombing and death every day for years, as racists less than 24 hours after they were slaughtered in their workplace…their behaviour beggared belief.
        I’ve not a doubt in my mind which side of the fence the shrieking girl in the video would’ve stood on back when Charlie Hebdo was attacked.

  15. George Millo
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    I highly encourage you to watch the actual video of the girl giving the “Who the fuck hired you?” quote to Christakis, if you haven’t seen it already.

    (It’s the third video down on the original FIRE page.) Text can’t convey the tone of the histrionics she screams into Christakis’s face. What a preposterous, snivelling, spoiled little brat. Reality is going to hit this girl in the face HARD when she crawls out of the comforting womb of academic life (although that being said, there’s no guarantee that she ever will.)

    These students will move heaven and earth to avoid anyone’s feelings getting hurt on campus, but when it comes to genuine humanitarian outrages – see e.g. the death, torture, rape, and enslavement of millions of women across the Middle East, or things like FGM and honor killings back to home – they typically remain silent. Why could that be?

    • Posted November 7, 2015 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

      It’s truly appalling. They are not only silent, they actively shield and defend these actions. They create the chilling effect with their Islamophobia weapon, smear and abuse people who place their priorities differently and engage in tactics online that are nothing but breathtakingly dishonest. It’s even bleaker when you try to argue with them.

  16. Diana MacPherson
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    My cousin from California had that stupid “I am not a costume” post on her Facebook and her friends all posted about how wonderful it was. The funny part is, she had an earlier post of her and her boyfriend dressed in French Maid costumes on their way to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I badly wanted to tell her that French maids are not costumes but I had already unfriended her last year when I was getting annoyed at seeing her vacuous “me” centric posts when I was going through my whole cancer thing. Damn it.

    • Adam M.
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      She’s obviously an atheist.

      • Adam M.
        Posted November 7, 2015 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

        I should give a reference for that joke. 😛

  17. Posted November 7, 2015 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    (I’m thinking about religion-themed costumes)

    So am I. I’m now wondering if this costume would be considered out of bounds. I guess I’m kind-of old school now (and that previous costume has now been done so much it’s old hat), but isn’t this kind of thing precisely what makes Halloween such a great holiday?

    • Adam M.
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      That priest costume is extreme but I laughed. Not exactly “safe for children”, and potentially in violation of obscenity laws, but it’s certainly the kind of costume that’ll make a Halloween memorable… 🙂

  18. dorsaamir
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    As a current Yale student, I feel extremely uncomfortable in this atmosphere and am borderline scared to express my opinion. Doesn’t feel like a safe space for me.

    • barn owl
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      What, in your opinion, are the requirements and necessary characteristics of a safe space?

      • Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

        My take is that all the folks agitating for “safe spaces” are actually making dorsa feel unsafe, not that dorsa was advocating for safe spaces.

        Did I get that right?

        /@

        • dorsaamir
          Posted November 7, 2015 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, this. I find it disturbing that advocating for free speech and meaningful debate is somehow an offensive stance to take.

      • Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

        You might be misunderstanding the comment (?) Perhaps I will be corrected, but I think dorsaamir was remarking on being stifled by the hair-trigger offense buttons of the peers at Yale. I read it as irony.

  19. Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Holy crap… when I saw the name Christakis, it didn’t even ring a bell that this was *the* Christakis, as in Christakis & Fowler, who just recently made a splash in my field of Social Networks. I met Fowler a few years back, but not Christakis (and blew off watching the Ted talk), so didn’t recognize him. I thought the stuff that made them famous was a kind of dog & pony show (you don’t make yourself overweight, your NETWORKS do) – that it puts the cart in front of the horse…

    But man… just saw the video. That’s some serious cool by the man right there.

  20. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    That dean’s email would get right up my nose. Mealy-mouthed effluvium of the ‘offence culture’.

    Petrakis’s email is excellent, it puts the argument for free expression perfectly. (Well, except for two words – ‘lived experience’. Ugh. That’s just one of those phrases I have a phobia about…)

    cr

  21. Filippo
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    ‘When Christakis replied that he didn’t agree, the student thundered back, “Then why the fuck did you accept the position! Who the fuck hired you?”’

    Let someone talk to these entitled children like that and see if they don’t get their drawers in a wad.

    Excellent how the gentleman handled their epithets. Were I him I would have been tempted to get down on my knees and bow down before her.

  22. Merilee
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  23. Posted November 7, 2015 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Even though I consider myself now a veteran with dealing with such people, I am still amazed when I read their exclamations such as this one:

    It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! Do you understand that? It’s about creating a home here!

    What I find truly disturbing that their postmodern intersectionality racist mindset is perfectly common and arguably mainstream in the US secular movement. Notably, the arguments of their defenders is that people just want to sin just want to blackface, as if critics really argued for a right to blackface.

    Similar dishonest strawmans are around the “safe space” concept that underpins all of this. Here, the social justice warriors propagate through all channels that critics of the “safe space” wanted untrammeled freeze peach, which then gets conflated with hate speech, which then becomes that all people who disagree are truly haters and bigots and worse.

    In reality, the internet always had moderated spaces and nobody argued to get rid of them. Reality always had special purpose corners where it was commonly understood that hosts can of course enforce their rules.

    The argument is against “safe spaces”, which have a church-like function of allowing the Social Justice Warriors (Regressive Left, Authoritarian Left) to preach their postmodern nonsense without dissent. They want to prach, and want everyone to “shut up and listen”, which they admit themselves.

    And this is exactly in the quotation in there. That’s the “home”, which is in contrast with the “intellectual space”. Let’s not fool ourselves though, the atheist-skeptics movement conflicts run along the very same lines. Spaces were converted into “homes” of postmodernist intersectionality nonsense, and when someone agreed or thought this was still an “intellectual space”, they got the same histrionical reaction and smearing.

    The end game is always the same. The “home” is the first outpost, and from there people, ideas, books, and all that are removed that threaten their ideology. Here you can insert the trigger-warning indexing, the disinvites, the demonization and smearing. The ideology is totalitarian and that is a mild word for it.

  24. Posted November 7, 2015 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    If this girl went to college looking for home and not intellectual space, she should’ve just stayed in her parents’ home and took online classes from the University of Phoenix or something like that.

  25. Peter_J
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    Oh my word – it is tantrum time!

    So much for reasoned debate.

  26. Somer
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    Sillybuggers at Silliman

  27. Daniel
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    For me, this excerpt is the best.

    One reason the Constitution is a daring and courageous document is that it allows for continuing change, even of the form of government itself, if the people so wish. Because no one is wise enough to foresee which ideas may answer urgent societal needs – even if they’re counter intuitive and have been troubling in the past – this document tries to guarantee the fullest and freest expression of views. There is, of course, a price. Most of us are for freedom of expression when there’s a danger that our own views will be suppressed. We’re not all that upset, though, when views we despise encounter a little censorship here and there. But within certain narrowly circumscribed limits – Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous example was causing panic by falsely crying ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre – great liberties are permitted in America:

    • Gun collectors are free to use portraits of the Chief Justice, the Speaker of the House, or the Director of the FBI for target practice; outraged civic-minded citizens are free to burn in effigy the President of the United States.
    • Even if they mock Judaeo-Christian-Islamic values, even if they ridicule everything most of us hold dear, devil-worshippers (if there are any) are entitled to practice their religion, so long as they break no constitutionally valid law.
    • A purported scientific article or popular book asserting the ‘superiority’ of one race over another may not be censored by the government, no matter how pernicious it is; the cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument, not the suppression of ideas.
    • Individuals may, if they wish, praise the lives and politics of such undisputed mass murderers as Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong. Even detestable opinions have a right to be heard.
    • Individuals or groups are free to argue that a Jewish or Masonic conspiracy is taking over the world, or that the Federal government is in league with the Devil.

    The system founded by Jefferson, Madison and their colleagues offers means of expression to those who do not understand its origins and wish to replace it by something very different. For example, Tom Clark, Attorney General and therefore chief law enforcement officer of the United States, in 1948 offered this suggestion: ‘Those who do not believe in the ideology of the United States shall not be allowed to stay in the United States.’ But if there is one key and characteristic US ideology, it is that there are no mandatory and no forbidden ideologies.

    The expression of such views is protected, and properly so, under the Bill of Rights, even if those protected would abolish the Bill of Rights if they got the chance. The protection for the rest of us is to use that same Bill of Rights to get across to every citizen the indispensability of the Bill of Rights.
    What means to protect themselves against human fallibility, what error-protection machinery do these alternative doctrines and institutions offer? An infallible leader? Race? Nationalism? Wholesale disengagement from civilization, except for explosives and automatic weapons? How can they be sure?

    In his celebrated little book, On Liberty, the English philosopher John Stuart Mill argued that silencing an opinion is ‘a peculiar evil’. If the opinion is right, we are robbed of the ‘opportunity of exchanging error for truth’; and if it’s wrong, we are deprived of a deeper understanding of the truth in ‘its collision with error’. If we know only our own side of the argument, we hardly know even that; it becomes stale, soon learned only by rote, untested, a pallid and lifeless truth.
    Mill also wrote, ‘If society lets any considerable number of its members grow up as mere children, incapable of being acted on by rational consideration of distant motives, society has itself to blame.’ Jefferson made the same point even more strongly: ‘If a nation expects to be both ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.’ In a letter to Madison, he continued the thought: ‘A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both, and deserve neither.’

    When permitted to listen to alternative opinions and engage in substantive debate, people have been known to change their minds. It can happen. For example, Hugo Black, in his youth, was a member of the Ku Klux Klan; he later became a Supreme Court justice and was one of the leaders in the historic Supreme Court decisions, partly based on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, that affirmed the civil rights of all Americans: it was said that when he was a young man, he dressed up in white robes and scared black folks; when he got older, he dressed up in black robes and scared white folks.

    Due to the foresight of the framers of the Bill of Rights – and even more so to all those who, at considerable personal risk, insisted on exercising those rights – it’s hard now to bottle up free speech. School library committees, the immigration service, the police, the FBI or the ambitious politician looking to score cheap votes, may attempt it from time to time, but sooner or later the cork pops. The Constitution is, after all, the law of the land, public officials are sworn to uphold it, and activists and the courts episodically hold their feet to the fire.

    However, through lowered educational standards, declining intellectual competence, diminished zest for substantive debate, and social sanctions against scepticism, our liberties can be slowly eroded and our rights subverted. The founders understood this well: ‘The time for fixing every essential right on a legal basis is while our rulers are honest, and ourselves united,’ said Thomas Jefferson. “From the conclusion of this [Revolutionary] war we shall be going downhill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war will remain on us long, will be made heavier and heavier, ’til our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion.”

    Education on the value of free speech and the other freedoms reserved by the Bill of Rights, about what happens when you don’t have them, and about how to exercise and protect them, should be an essential prerequisite for being an American citizen – or the citizen of any nation, the more so to the degree that such rights remain unprotected. If we can’t think for ourselves, if we’re unwilling to question authority, then we’re just putty in the hands of those in power. But if the citizens are educated and form their own opinions, then those in power work for us. In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit.

    ~Carl Sagan (The Demon Haunted World)

  28. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted November 8, 2015 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    I’ve recently been thinking about Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development (see Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Kohlberg%27s_stages_of_moral_development
    and I can’t help wondering if the students who are objecting the most are at an earlier stage of ‘moral development’ than those putting forward a more thoughtful stance. I’m not making a judgement, merely wondering if peoples’ state of moral development reflects the environments they have been previously exposed to. It might explain why there is alleged to be a general difference in outlook between rural and big city, town and university, developed and undeveloped countries, and so on.

    Of course you then have to ask yourself “What stage of moral development am I in?”

  29. Dermot C
    Posted November 8, 2015 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Btw. this young woman just gave a master-class in art of cry-bullying. x

  30. Diana MacPherson
    Posted November 8, 2015 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    It just hit me that this part of the letter means no more toga parties because the way they are worn (without a tunic underneath) is historically inaccurate and perpetuates the idea that Romans were half naked all the time:

    Wearing a historical costume? If this costume is meant to be historical, does it further misinformation or historical and cultural inaccuracies?

  31. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted November 9, 2015 at 2:52 am | Permalink

    An update:
    – An article criticizing the students and especially the one who “goes drama queen”. Ends with the South Park sequence on Safe Spaces vs Reality.

    http://www.newsbusters.org/blogs/nb/pj-gladnick/2015/11/08/yale-student-goes-drama-queen-berserk-over-lack-safe-space

    – Erika Christakis on her husband’s twitter feed:

    “My job is not so much to speak for students, but to help them speak for themselves. (Even when I’d say same thing!) http://yaledailynews.com/blog/2015/11/02/silicon-associate-masters-halloween-email-draws-ire/ … ”

    https://twitter.com/NAChristakis


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