Bullied by Yale students, Erika and Nicholas Christakis resign their residential posts

In October of last year, Erika Christakis, child development expert and associate master of the Silliman residential college at Yale University, sent an email to students in response to a dean’s email about a big fracas involving “inappropriate” Halloween costumes. Christakis discussed the difficulties of determining whether costumes were potentially offensive and warned about the dangers of impeding free speech. It was a pretty innocuous letter (read my post about it here), but it ignited a huge reaction among students, an explosion whose fuse—black students’ feelings of University oppression—had been smoldering for a long while. As I wrote at the time:

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.

And her husband Nicholas, a professor of Medicine and of Sociology, as well as co-Master of Silliman, was horribly beleaguered by students holding him accountable for his wife’s email, cursing and shouting at him (see the video here).  That was the beginning of a huge round of protests by students at Yale, with the University by and large capitulating to the now-familiar list of non-negotiable student “demands.”

There was a petition by faculty supporting Nicholas and Erika Christkis, but only 49 faculty signed it. That’s a pathetically low number! And the students called for the Christakises to resign, saying that they had created an “unsafe space” at Silliman, and ruined their “home. As the Yale Daily News reported, at graduation this year some students refused to accept their diplomas from Nicholas Christakis’s hands.

The students won. In December, Erika decided to withdraw from her teaching post at Yale, and Nicholas Christakis took a one-semester sabbatical. There’s little doubt that they did this to avoid further student harassment.

Now, according to a new article by Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic, as of Wednesday both Nicholas and Erika have resigned their residential positions at Silliman College. As the article notes, “Nicholas Christakis will continue on as a tenured Yale faculty member. Erika Christakis, who gave up teaching at Yale last semester, recently published a book, The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need From Grownups.”

Now I can understand, and find it admirable, that the Christakises would step down if they felt they could no longer be effective residential heads. Many students really disliked them, as the diploma incident above notes. But the problem is this: the immature and bullying students should not have reacted that way. By all accounts Erika and Nicholas were great housemasters and excellent teachers, and now their skills are lost to Yale because of bullying students. As far as I can see, Yale itself has done little to support them. As for the faculty petition, The Atlantic notes this:

Some activists nevertheless cast the couple as symbols of what was wrong with Yale, an injustice noted by a group of faculty members who came to their defense. “In the case of the Christakises, their work has been more directly oriented toward the social justice than the work of many other members of the Yale faculty,” they wrote. “For example, Nicholas Christakis worked for many years as a hospice doctor, making house visits to underserved populations in Chicago. Progressive values and social justice are not advanced by scapegoating those who share those values.”

With regard to Erika Christakis’s email, the faculty members declared themselves “deeply troubled that this modest attempt to ask people to consider the issue of self-monitoring vs. bureaucratic supervision has been misinterpreted, and in some cases recklessly distorted, as support for racist speech; and hence as justification for demanding the resignation of our colleagues from their posts at Silliman.”

But relatively few humanities professors signed that letter of support. [JAC: As is often the case, scientists are more willing to sign such petitions. Don’t ask me why.]

And when drafting the letter, the physics professor Douglas Stone found himself warned by faculty colleagues that he was putting himself at risk of being protested.

At Yale, I encountered students and faculty members who supported the Christakises but refused to say so on the record, and others who criticized them, but only anonymously. On both sides, people with perfectly mainstream opinions shared them with a journalist but declined to put their name behind them due to a campus climate where anyone could conceivably be the next object of ire and public shaming. Insufficient tolerance for disagreement is undermining campus discourse.

So we have a campus where people are publicly afraid to speak their minds, terrified of student reaction. Yale has indeed allowed a climate of intolerance to grow: a culture of hatred and public shaming.

And so, two great resources for Yale students, and two dedicated teachers, give up a lot of their duties in light of the bullying they faced by students. Shame on the Yale students for their immaturity and Authoritarian Leftist ideology, and shame on the Yale administration for not supporting the Christakises. I urge you to go back and read Erika’s letter to the “Sillimanders”, and see if you find anything in it that would justify such a student response, or anything that would brand the couple as racists. As author Friedersdorf says at the end of his piece, “. . . the couple’s ultimate resignation does nothing to improve campus climate. What a waste.”



  1. yiamcross
    Posted May 27, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Mob rule rules and so the plunge towards a fascist state picks up pace, the bend to the left so extreme it meets the Trumpist right. You couldn’t make this stuff up, the mob physically and mentally intimidates a couple of apparently exmplary teachers whilst complaining they don’t feel safe? I fear for America and, since these are the people who will have influence over one of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals, for all of us.

    • Rob
      Posted May 27, 2016 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      Agreed. I shudder when I see this mob behavior.

    • SA Gould
      Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      Agreed. There is nothing admirable about mob rule, no matter what the cause.

  2. sgo
    Posted May 27, 2016 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    What a shame indeed. And though I followed the story here at WEIT, I did not realize that this is the same Erika Christakis of the book also mentioned in this post, The Importance of Being Little. I noticed it through a tweet/blurb by Steve Pinker and recently borrowed it from my library. Had to return it because of time constraints. So now I realize that a good way to support them is by buying the book! I liked what I read so far.

    • Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      Similarly, when this story broke, I didn’t realize it was the same Christakis (Nicholas) responsible for a recent uptick in interest in my field. (social networks analysis). A bit of a causality muddle, in my opinion… not to mention a dog & pony show, but it was a huge reanalysis project conducted successfully. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/04/books/review/Stossel-t.html

  3. Shlomo Sprecher
    Posted May 27, 2016 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Have you read the current (5/30) New Yorker article by N. Heller, on Oberlin and Joy Karega?

    I’d love to read your reaction.

    Thanks so much.

    S. Sprecher


    • Posted May 27, 2016 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      I read the article pretty quickly. My impression was that it was a good summary of what was happening on campuses, but was “chickenshit” in its refusal to take any stand on the issues. It was mere reportage, and said nothing you couldn’t have learned much earlier at this site.

      • Scott Draper
        Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:08 am | Permalink

        I found the article overly sympathetic to the point of view of the students.

        • Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:59 am | Permalink

          And not very well written; like the author was trying too hard with strained similes and metaphors. And why do I need (or want) to know exactly what every person spoken to was wearing at the time?

      • Posted May 27, 2016 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

        The New Yorker is infuriating in its pretense at objectivity. It forgets that it is not a daily newspaper but a journal of which we expect a lot more.Its interviews with the head of The Nature Conservancy and its lead scientist, and its pro-GMO article by Michael Specter which was a hate fest against scientist/activist Vandana Shiva were what made me stop reading it. It is a fence sitter when it comes to controversy of any kind….at best; at worst it is a defender of GMOs as the Specter article most certainly was. Somehow liberal publications manage to end up on the fence “on the one hand…..but on the other….”, even when the truth is evident. I can’t think of one good reason for anyone to read the New Yorker at all any more. It sheds no light and apparently gives equal weight to evil and good without a blink of the eye.

        • SA Gould
          Posted May 27, 2016 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

          Aw, c’mon! “I can’t think of one good reason for anyone to read the New Yorker at all any more.” They have the best cartoons ever!

  4. Cindy
    Posted May 27, 2016 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Never apologize or try to please an sjw – this will only ramp up the abuse they direct at you.

    Sjws want absolute submission. You will never be a good enough ally no matter how hard you try. They have to maintain control somehow.

    • Kiwi Dave
      Posted May 27, 2016 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      To put the same matter more generally: when you reward bad behaviour, you get more of it.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted May 27, 2016 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      No, don’t apologies.
      It will prove your guilt and validate all current and further abuse.
      And if it is not a good enough apology, that will amplify your guilt, and result in more abuse.

  5. mfdempsey1946
    Posted May 27, 2016 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    But if this is the dominant state of affairs at Yale, if — in particular — the administration of this once rightly proud university and the bulk of its faculty show almost zero interest in addressing mob rule by a chunk of the student body beyond uttering tritely formal cliches…

    …then Yale no longer has anything of genuine value to offer and might just as well abolish itself.

  6. jaxkayaker
    Posted May 27, 2016 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    The students thereby prove correct the concerns about not demanding students act like responsible adults. QED.

  7. Eli Siegel
    Posted May 27, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Our left is beginning to resemble the
    Red Guards of the Cultural Revolution. Our
    right should wear black shirts.

    • Posted May 27, 2016 at 11:03 am | Permalink


    • Martin Levin
      Posted May 27, 2016 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      Or the Salem witch trials, or the tribunals following the French Revolution. It’s all about perceived cultural or moral purity. What alarms me especially is that this minority of students (fewer than 10% of students usually vote in council elections) makes far too many uni administrations cower.

  8. Historian
    Posted May 27, 2016 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    For me, the most disturbing thing about these “protest” movements is that their supporters do not primarily think of themselves as Americans, sharing a common culture with their fellow countrymen. Rather, their sense of meaning in life comes with identifying with their racial or ethnic group. Although they may not realize it, if their demands were fully implemented America would be a land of self-imposed apartheid where the interactions between various groups would be as limited as possible. Presumably, this self-segregation would be fine since all the groups would be “separate but equal.”

    Of course, such a viewpoint is delusion. Nation states composed of different groups that share little in common have proven to be tinder boxes with violence simmering and then breaking out into actuality. For example, ethnic rivalries in the Eastern Europe and the Balkans in the early 20th century was a major contributor to the causes of World War I. The thrust of true social justice in the United States in the 20th century was to break down barriers between groups, not to impose them.

    As I have written here before, I consider this current wave of campus protest to be temporary and that it will an historical footnote within a decade. In the meantime, it is the duty of people who believe in free speech and the breaking down of barriers not to be intimidated by screaming children and to forcefully speak out for why a democratic society depends on free speech. Eventually, these children may learn something.

    • Scott Draper
      Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      “I consider this current wave of campus protest to be temporary and that it will an historical footnote within a decade.”

      Probably, but these people will carry their attitudes out into the real world and may have influence for another 50 years.

      I currently work with a group of under-30 people with similar attitudes and we waste a lot of organizational time engaged in social engineering, while working on the actual goals of the organization founders.

      • Adam M.
        Posted May 27, 2016 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        Can you elaborate on the social engineering? I’m curious.

        • Scott Draper
          Posted May 27, 2016 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

          We recently had a meeting where we were assigned to give positive feedback to a specified coworker.

          Every month, we are randomly assigned to have lunch with a specified coworker, and even provided a list of questions to ask in order to get to know them better.

          We recently had a two-day “race and equity” retreat, whose main purpose seemed to be for POC to relate stories of discrimination and the rest of us to accept the blame for this.

          We have company-wide meetings every other week, and we usually have to break up into small groups to do things like make lists of ways to embrace the virtues of humility or inclusiveness.

          Dozens of other little things like this just wears me down. I’m thinking of quitting.

          • Adam M.
            Posted May 27, 2016 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

            That’s surprising and fascinating. I can imagine suggestions that people give each other feedback or eat lunch together, but assigning specific people to compliment or eat with, and assigning specific questions to ask them seems bizarre. I didn’t know such things happened.

            • Scott Draper
              Posted May 27, 2016 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

              Neither did I. I told my boss that I wasn’t going to do it. I hardly knew the person I was assigned and I felt that his asking me to do this was akin to his asking me to cheat on my taxes.

              This organization is in academia, a school district, which might explain some things.

              I think this is a result of employee surveys that suggested that some people felt underappreciated. To me, it’s naive to think that you can make people feel appreciated by force feeding them shallow compliments.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted May 27, 2016 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

            All that would really get on my tits.

            I assume your individual workloads would be reduced proportionately to allow for the time you’re required to spend on the touchy-feely stuff. No? What a surprise!

            Instructing you who to have lunch with – personally I just wouldn’t wear it. Besides, are they paying you for your lunchtime? (But then I could afford to be bolshie, for my last couple of years before I retired I would have said “then make me redundant, please”. You may not be in the same boat, so don’t take my comment as advice).

            All this stuff you describe reminds me of the Cultural Revolution in China. I remember the scorn and disbelief that were directed at accounts of workers holding meetings to indoctrinate each other in the Thoughts of Mao. What was the word? – oh yes, ‘brainwashing’.


            • Scott Draper
              Posted May 27, 2016 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

              Ha, I made a reference in one employee survey about Soviet Indoctrination programs. Interestingly, this is a school district and a lot of the ideology of people with this sort of background is Marxist in flavor.

              I won’t last long in this organization, but I want to complete the project that I’m embarked on. Overall, it’s a pretty good gig; I work from home most of the time and only go into the office when I absolutely have to. We have a weekly meeting that I never go to, because it’s the one where we have to clap separately for each person who performed their duties competently during the week. Drives me insane.

      • barn owl
        Posted May 27, 2016 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

        In one of our professional schools, we recently had what was essentially a social engineering lecture from staff of the student counseling center, at a faculty “retreat.” This was preceded by a presentation by one of the administration about an alleged bullying incident, from which it was not at all clear that the incident truly represented bullying (others who witnessed the incident claim that it was a clinical faculty member justifiably reprimanding a student for being careless and not following instructions, which resulted in harm to a patient). Many clinical instructors feel that students are less able to accept criticism, and instead call it bullying, and then file grievances.

        The counseling center staff member started xir presentation with the assumption that faculty were indeed bullying students all the time, and launched into a series of social engineering corrections to faculty language, when they are evaluating students on clinical procedures. It was done in a very ham-fisted manner, and put many of the faculty on the defensive immediately. These students are performing real procedures on real patients, and can set up an independent clinical practice soon after graduating and licensing, so you’d think that the primary goal would be to turn out competent and responsible clinicians, rather than fret over precious feefees.

        • Scott Draper
          Posted May 27, 2016 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

          That sounds very similar to the environment that I’m in, except substitute “racism” for “bullying”.

          In reference to your example, I didn’t know that bullying was really a thing outside of high school….

  9. DrBrydon
    Posted May 27, 2016 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    One thing that keeps coming up in all of these incidents is how pusillanimous the administrations of these colleges are. They can neither bring themselves to tell the students to behave reasonably, or manage to support their faculty. Do they have any convictions themselves? It appears that they don’t. Rather than being educators or leaders, they are just bureaucrats.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted May 27, 2016 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      As someone noted in another thread, they are frequently career administrators. It makes no difference whether they’re running a university, a strip mall or a slaughterhouse. They just cover their asses and make sure everything is done according to procedures. And if there isn’t a procedure for something they will make sure one is set up.

      It makes no difference to them whether their institution sinks in the shit, if that should happen they just move on to the next corporate opportunity in their career path.


  10. ts
    Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    I think this is a much more complicated issue than simply a fight about “free speech” vs. “mob rule.”

    I read Erika’s original letter as essentially saying that college is a time to experiment and grow and express yourself, and if someone says something or wears a Halloween costume that you find offensive, talk to them.

    This seems totally reasonable, and is a very easy thing for reasonably privileged people to say and support. But the practical result of this position is that the burden of confronting racism falls almost entirely on the targets of racism. I am a white man, so I can’t speak from personal experience, but I think the key line from the open letter is this: “To ask marginalized students to throw away their enjoyment of a holiday, in order to expend emotional, mental, and physical energy to explain why something is offensive, is — offensive.”

    I think this the crux of a lot of these fights on college campuses about ‘safe spaces’ and related issues. For someone has the privilege to ignore racism (and related -isms) when they are tired, or busy, or just don’t feel like dealing with it, this all seems pretty ridiculous. But it seems to me that all the minority students are asking for is a place where *someone else* will shoulder the burden of speaking up. Since experience says they cannot count on white allies to do this uncoerced, it is completely reasonable to turn to the college administration for this. This request does not seem so unreasonable to me.

    From this perspective, I can understand why the letter from Erika Christakis caused the reaction it did. The message it boils down to is “fight your own battles”, which while in many contexts not an unreasonable thing to say, in this context is bound to stir up anger.

    • Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      As far as I know, virtually every college subject to these protests have convened committees or had investigations about racism. What they haven’t done, by and large, is to cave in to all the “demands” of the students. But I don’t think anybody has completely ignored the accusations of racism. It’s Yale’s duty, not the Christakises, to deal with this issue, and, as far as I know, it is. Remember, in Missouri they fired both the president and the football coach after complaints by minority students.

      • jay
        Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:41 am | Permalink

        And several of those complaints turned out to be fabricated.

      • ts
        Posted May 27, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink

        So, I don’t think the Christakises are racist, and I don’t think the letter Erika wrote was racist. I also don’t think the argument is primarily about institutional responses to racism. It is about who is going to speak up about the kinds of everyday offenses and minor slights that minorities have to deal with on a regular basis, that while they may not rise to the level of red-lining and things like that are not nothing.

        I think it is reasonable to read the original letter as the Christakises saying, in effect, the burden of fighting this kind of stuff is yours to shoulder and we are not sure that we or the administration should be helping. This is the implication of: “if you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other.”

        The Christakises position, and that of many people here it seems, is that the most important value in a pluralistic society is the freedom to say what you want. Obviously a lot of people agree with this. But, contrary to jay’s reply below, I think it is perfectly reasonable for people to disagree about the primacy of free speech. I do not think it is crazy for some people to value a space where they do not have to constantly exert themselves to defend their identities over a space where anybody can say anything and the response to hateful speech is more speech. Note that at least in the protests I’m familiar with, one of the main arguments is the *college in particular* should be a safe space, not that *no one ever* should be allowed to say anything offensive.

        All I am trying to communicate here is that I think the people protesting against the Christakises, and those involved in related protests about the value of safe spaces and controversial speakers, are very likely acting based on a carefully considered set of values which put equality and the perspectives of minorities above unfettered free speech. Obviously many people here will disagree (strongly!) with these values, but it doesn’t make the people who hold them immature children who just want to be coddled.

        • Cindy
          Posted May 27, 2016 at 11:17 am | Permalink

          I am a woman and I am offended by your comment. My reasoning is purely subjective but I feel that it was full of vicious microaggressions. I need a safe space from you and i feel that PCC should silence you in order that my extra special feelz be protected. As a minority this website is a safe space for me and I could do without your misogynist microaggressions.

          Oh? You claim that your comments are not misogynist. Well, that is not for you to decide. As a beleaguered minority it is up to me to decide what constitutes offensive speech.

          Any attempts to defend yourself will just be more proof of your misogyny. In fact, disagreeing with me is misogynist.

          • ts
            Posted May 27, 2016 at 11:22 am | Permalink

            Can you explain which parts of my comment are misogynist, and what it is about them that is misogynistic? I would like to be able to communicate without offending you and I am sorry that you felt offended by my comments.

            • Posted May 27, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink

              “Can you explain which parts of my comment are misogynist, and what it is about them that is misogynistic?”

              How dare you ask. This is a safe space where you have no right to speak because free speech doesn’t have primacy, and that’s a perfectly reasonable position to take. :p

              • ts
                Posted May 27, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

                I guess you are being intentionally unreasonable to make a point here, but I also to a certain extent agree with your right to kick me out of your space. Although being a regular reader (if not commentor) on this blog I think it is a bit preposterous to take the position that this blog comment section is a “protected space”, that is not a fundamentally unreasonable position for some times and some places.

                On the other hand, I was just trying to demonstrate that it is really not so hard to apologize and learn to be a better communicator if you unintentionally offend someone. If you are really trying to communicate what is lost by at least apologizing and trying to understand why you caused offense?

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted May 27, 2016 at 7:22 pm | Permalink


                For the avoidance of doubt* –
                Both Cindy and Mike Paps were being satirical / sarcastic and lampooning the ‘safe space’ position. Their comments were not intended to be taken literally.

                We don’t always write “Trigger warning: satire follows” on this site. I think some of us feel it’s condescending to assume that we need to spell it out to readers.

                * I’m betting that I got Cindy and Mike’s intentions correctly. Doubtless they’ll tell me if I’m worng.

              • Nick
                Posted May 27, 2016 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

                Best. Subthread. Ever.

            • Darth Dog
              Posted May 27, 2016 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

              Listen carefully for a moment ts. That whooshing sound you hear? That’s Cindy’s comment going way over your head.

              • ts
                Posted May 27, 2016 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

                Yes, obviously Cindy and Mike were being sarcastic. I was trying to make a specific point — that is it not hard to give people the benefit of the doubt and make a tiny effort to reach out to their level.

            • Stephen
              Posted May 27, 2016 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

              “I guess you are being intentionally unreasonable to make a point here…”

              Ya think?

              And I love the way you responded to Cindy’s original post by automatically going into servile cringe apology mode.

              • ts
                Posted May 27, 2016 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

                See, now this attitude I don’t understand. How is trying to be nice and understand the perspective of other human beings “servile cringe apology mode”?

                You are free to believe what you believe, of course, but if you are not willing to step outside that perspective a bit I don’t think you will ever understand why people react to things like the Christakises letter the way they do.

              • pali
                Posted May 28, 2016 at 4:52 am | Permalink

                TS: “See, now this attitude I don’t understand. How is trying to be nice and understand the perspective of other human beings “servile cringe apology mode”?”

                I think the point Stephen was aiming at is that the mere claim of offense was enough to place you, conversationally, on the defensive – instead of continuing to assert your perspective and require the other side to confront it, you instead invited the other side to assert their perspective so that you would confront them. In many ways this isn’t a bad thing, quite the opposite, and I’m happy to encourage keeping an open mind – but the corollary there is to not keep it so open that your ability to think for yourself falls out.

                The mere claim of offense, I think, is one that someone should acknowledge and inquire regarding – but not one that should require an instant apology, an instant acknowledgement of having committed a wrong. Sometimes people are offended unreasonably – does the slaveholder have a right to be offended by my position that slavery must not be allowed? Do I have to give a damn that he’s offended? This is taking it to an extreme, I admit, but I hope it makes my point – just because someone claims offense at your statements doesn’t mean it is something you need to, or even SHOULD, respect.

          • Posted May 27, 2016 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

            + 1

        • Adam M.
          Posted May 27, 2016 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

          My problem with your argument is the false use of the word “racism”. You say that the letter was racist because the practical effect of the proposal is to put the burden of fighting racism on its victims.

          That presupposes two things: 1) wearing a sombrero or similar without any intent to mock is racist, and 2) an innocent policy proposal that has a negative effect on a racial group is itself racist. But neither is true as far as I’m concerned.

          Racism must include an element of disliking other races, considering them innately inferior, or similar things. “Offending” some people by innocently wearing a certain hat or suggesting groups have a dialog even if one group is tired of dialog are not racist acts.

          The false premises make the argument unconvincing to me.

          • ts
            Posted May 27, 2016 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

            Here is the start of my comment:
            “So, I don’t think the Christakises are racist, and I don’t think the letter Erika wrote was racist.” So, obviously, I didn’t say the letter was racist as you claim.

            However, *your intentions* have little to do with how someone else views your actions. Part of the point of this whole issue is to get people who are not trying to be offensive to think about how their actions may be perceived.

            • Cindy
              Posted May 27, 2016 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

              However, *your intentions* have little to do with how someone else views your actions. Part of the point of this whole issue is to get people who are not trying to be offensive to think about how their actions may be perceived.

              TRANSLATION: intent is meaningless

              • ts
                Posted May 27, 2016 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

                So are you arguing that it is not possible to unintentionally offend someone?

              • somer
                Posted May 28, 2016 at 12:31 am | Permalink

                agreed. Intent is always important thats why its been a critical factor in criminal law since Roman times (and probably before). Also there has to be obligation on both parties to make some attempt to see the others view and sometimes conflicts are unavoidable because life does not always offer outcomes that are satisfactory to all. Moreover these students intimidated and humiliated the two teachers en masse and then deliberately bullied them out of their jobs. Totally disproportionate and to my mind unacceptable.

              • Cindy
                Posted May 28, 2016 at 1:27 am | Permalink

                Which makes me wonder if regressive bullies are really, truly, interested in promoting change…

                Abusing people who have good intentions but falter is *not* the way to win hearts and minds, yet these SJWbullies seem to take pleasure in it. Back when I used to comment frequently on various SJW themed blogs, it never did matter how good your intent was – you were an evil shitlord if you even once stepped out of line. The emphasis was on *punishment* for your misdeeds, and nothing short of grovelling for forgiveness was ever accepted. Kinda like how ts responded to me here…cringeworthy.

              • Posted May 28, 2016 at 8:55 am | Permalink

                “Back when I used to comment frequently on various SJW themed blogs, it never did matter how good your intent was – you were an evil shitlord if you even once stepped out of line.”

                One of them wouldn’t be a blog run by someone who’s name rhymes with EZ Fires would it? I remember the expression “intent isn’t magic” being popular there. They believe that intent doesn’t matter so fanatically that in the the Israeli Palestinian conflict for example, the difference between intentionally targeting civilians, and intentionally trying to avoid killing civilians doesn’t matter, all that matters is body count.

              • somer
                Posted May 28, 2016 at 12:33 am | Permalink

                If someone is unintentionally offended either the offender didn’t know why or if they did but felt the issue was important for other reasons its still good intent – if the reasons on balance are likely to be better than the offence caused. Also a culture of offence as opposed to harmful real outcomes, is not something to be encouraged

              • somer
                Posted May 28, 2016 at 2:02 am | Permalink

                Also agreed Cindy. First these students acted to threaten harrass and humiliate the Christakises. Then they scream for them to be sacked. They are bullies pure and simple and their behaviour is extreme. It is absolutely beyond me why TS advocates being sympathetic and accommodating to any demands and threats. Its like a parent who always gives in to a thoroughly spoilt and bullying child who has learned to behave that way because its always worked that way – then they go out into the world and if they can’t get their way with people by direct bullying they manipulate and distort the facts of the situation to get what they want at work or with people close to them

        • somer
          Posted May 27, 2016 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

          RE TS comment. Except that free speech is too often the kingpin on which other rights depend, or at least bound to affect other rights and standards of living, in most societies. If dressing up parties on campus constantly lead to insulting costumes it would be better to have an agreement that dressing up parties are banned but the point is that students have to learn to communicate and not silence as the first reflex. Safe spaces are an inherently bad idea.

          Secondly, the wording of the letter was moderate – it was calling for students to resolve the matter amongst themselves. Moreover the Christakis’s are plainly anything but racist in their personal lives. What this does is foster a witchunt culture on campus where academic positions are in danger of being about conformity to current student views, not researching and teaching difficult issues. Many things about LIFE are offensive, banning as the first reflex is just stupid. By not supporting the Christianises the uni is setting a bad example.

          Thirdly, the treatment of the Christakis’s is callous and inhumane in the extreme by the students. ANY student who calls for the Sacking of staff in this way needs to look very hard at themselves. I do think these people, in a peer group of like minds which insist on never being challenged, are acting in an entitled fashion, are undermining their educational experience and the principles (and ultimately the abilities) of any good educational institution and callously treating other human beings

        • Posted May 29, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink

          They are free to have different values, but fighting to have the Christakises FIRED from their jobs is not in any way a reasonable response to this clash of values.

    • jay
      Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      No that letter should NOT have caused reaction it did. This is (should be) a pluralistic society, what some people find entertaining, or funny, others may find offensive. That’s how freedom works. You don’t get to choose what other people can do.

    • Darth Dog
      Posted May 27, 2016 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      If the students are trying to create safe spaces, who are the safe spaces for? It certainly seems like Erika Christakis did not have a safe space. She couldn’t even state a perfectly reasonable point of view without being harassed to the point of eventually having to leave their job. So obviously it is not about safe spaces for everyone. Consider the comments in the post about how many faculty members were afraid to state their opinions in public.
      It seems like there are special people who have safe spaces while everyone else is at great risk.

      • ts
        Posted May 27, 2016 at 11:18 am | Permalink

        The whole point about safe spaces, at least as I understand it, is that they are explicitly safe spaces *for minorities and underrepresented groups*. Perhaps some people need to feel a little more hesitant than they currently do about voicing their opinions for that to happen.

        As I said in one of my comments above, I fully understand that this is a value system very different from one that privileges free speech above all others. It is an uncomfortable value system for people who are used to being able to say what they want to contemplate. But that does not mean it is invalid, or ridiculous. Even if you strongly disagree, it is worth considering why some people might feel like there are more important things than free speech.

        • Jonathan Dore
          Posted May 27, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

          “The whole point about safe spaces, at least as I understand it, is that they are explicitly safe spaces *for minorities and underrepresented groups*.”

          And this is the nub of the problem. Who gets to decide who is a member of such a group, and who is not? Intersectionally speaking, virtually anyone is relatively “privileged” in some respect, and less so in others. Who gets to assign a value to a person’s relative privilege or disadvantage? How is the scale calibrated? How are scales compared from one realm of privilege to another (is 1 point of race privilege worth the same as 1 point of gender privilege? If so, why? If not, why not?). *Anyone* who is a student at Yale is, by a global standard, already at the very pinnacle of educational privilege.

          These questions are, of course, unanswerable, because there is no objective basis for the assumptions underlying them — objective, that is, in the sense that different observers can agree on their properties because their properties are independent of their observers. And *that* is why this notion cannot be allowed to trump a value that *can* be objectively defined — free speech — because *its* parameters are the same for everyone, and therefore more fundamental.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted May 27, 2016 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        I specifically liked the use of ‘safe spaces’ in the original “offending” e-mail
        (italics added)
        “American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience”

        • ts
          Posted May 27, 2016 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, but this can also be read (not saying it was intended this way, just that it can be interpreted this way) as saying “it used to be okay to be racist and now the administration says you shouldn’t be racist and that’s too bad.”

          • Posted May 27, 2016 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

            I think it is no business of the administration whether people are racist or not.

            • JonLynnHarvey
              Posted May 27, 2016 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

              But it surely is the business of the admin if students act on their racism in damaging ways.

              • Posted May 28, 2016 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

                Yes, but there is nothing damaging in how students entertain themselves at a private party.

          • Geoffrey Howe
            Posted May 27, 2016 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

            Free speech does mean that it’s okay to be racist. Don’t hurt people, don’t engage in criminal harassment, but as long as you remain civil, you can say what you like.

            Now, I feel that no good can come of discussing difference between races that go beyond the medical or aesthetic (such as illnesses common to a race, or to what racial features an individual finds attractive). Even if there were meaningful intellectual differences between the races, I think that is information we should not wish to have, as it could only cause strife.

            But who gets to decide what is acceptable to talk about? The problem is, there isn’t a clear line. We know there should be one somewhere, but we also know that everyone wants to draw the line in way that is favorable for themselves, and not for others.

            And so we must draw it far out. Batman may beat people up, engage in psychological torture, and other highly questionable acts, but he will not kill. He knows that this is a line he may not cross. Perhaps he should rein back his other activities, but the killing… that’s a clear line.

            Same with freedom of speech. As long as a person is expressing ideas, no matter how crap they may be, I am opposed to silencing them. Yes, it’ll make people feel uncomfortable. And yes, some people will get the short end of the stick more often than others.

            But your posts, while reasonable, do not appear to be as reasonable as the students. I can respectfully disagree with you, but it seems the Christakis’s were not able to respectfully disagree with the students.

            Above all else, what I oppose is these peoples tactics, which are so often grossly hypocritical. An inappropriate costume can make someone feel uncomfortable. But so does an angry mob of students bullying people out of speaking at campuses. I find it very difficult to care about what makes these people uncomfortable when they show absolutely no concern for the comfort of others.

            I know there are more reasonable people expressing these feelings. But I only have so much to say to those I respectfully disagree with. They hold ideas I do not like, but I do not get riled into action against them. It’s these bullies that scare and harass people into compliance with them. And that is who people like us (by which I mean most posters on this site) are taking action against.

            I feel bad that reasonable voices are being silenced. I am, after all, for free speech. But they’re being silenced by the same people who are silencing the Christakis’s. Same as how reasonable right wing voices get silenced by the likes of Cruz and Trump.

            If you are merely attempting to represent the reasonable ideas behind the reprehensible actions of these students, then I appreciate your time. But I think more voices in agreement with the ideas of these people need to speak up against their actions. If you are doing what you can to speak up against these actions, while agreeing with their ideas, then I hope you continue, and I hope that we can make this a civil discussion again.

            • ts
              Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

              I think what I am trying to articulate is why I think that the original letter that Erika Christakis wrote, was, at the very least, misguided.

              However, just because I think that the activists / protestors have a reasonable point when they criticize the original letter *does not* mean that I think the bullying described in the Atlantic article Conor Friedersdorf is acceptable — it is deplorable (although I’ll note that, according to that article, the online hate directed at the activists was at least as severe as the online hate directed at the Christakises — although I assume that on the Yale campus this was not true). I think I basically agree with this conclusion from that piece:

              “When Yale’s history is written, they [the Cristakises] should be regarded as collateral damage harmed by people who abstracted away their humanity. Yale activists felt failed by their institution and took out their frustration on two undeserving scapegoats who had only recently arrived there.”

              I would only add two things. First, I think it is crucial to keep in mind that Yale activists have very good reason to feel failed by their institution. Second, it seems like this is in some ways fundamentally a disagreement about the role of a house master. I don’t know the culture at Yale and I can’t comment on who is right here, but obviously the students and the Cristakises have very, very different opinions about what a house master should do, as the Friedersdorf piece makes clear. I think this last part makes this very different from some other controversies, such as when protesters shout down controversial speakers (in that case I have no sympathy for the protesters).

              • somer
                Posted May 28, 2016 at 2:05 am | Permalink

                the institutions failure to defend the Christianises is another failure of the institution

    • pali
      Posted May 28, 2016 at 5:09 am | Permalink

      “From this perspective, I can understand why the letter from Erika Christakis caused the reaction it did. The message it boils down to is “fight your own battles”, which while in many contexts not an unreasonable thing to say, in this context is bound to stir up anger.”

      I read it more as a question of “is this really the battle to fight? Aren’t there far, far more important things? Can’t we let a little ridiculousness on a day we all know we’re being ridiculous slide?”

  11. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    but declined to put their name behind them due to a campus climate where anyone could conceivably be the next object of ire and public shaming.

    I’m going to expose my disinterest in USian geography again, but by any chance is Yale anywhere near “Salem,” for where the brand of cigarettes was named.
    If so, any recently-disturbed graves to explain the sudden outbreak of witch-huntery? “Flax Mother” (or someone like that) coming back to have another little massacre?
    Paranormal investigators should be sent there. With their image intensifiers and breathy exposition.
    Poor professors. Do you think that if they “walked to Canterbury Cathedral in sack cloth and ashes and allowed themselves to be flogged by the monks there,” they’d be deemed to have done sufficient penance for their sins? (Henry-2 for Becket, for those who don’t remember their history and are condemned to repeat it).

    • DrBrydon
      Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      New Haven, Connecticut, is ‘near’ Salem (Danbury), Massachusetts when compared to the distance to, say, Los Angeles. Salem Cigarettes are named after Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I believe both are named after a biblical city.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:26 am | Permalink

        And Yale is in “New Haven,” I deduce?
        I didn’t know about the North Carolina Salem – I was holidaying in Boston many years ago (the MA one, not the Linconlnshire one) and desperate for a smoke, when I noticed the brand in the fag machine in the “Cheers” bar beside … Boyleston Park (??) … So I got a pack for myself and another pack for a lady who I was trying to get to “discuss Ugandan affairs” with, who also happened to be a white witch. She appreciated the joke, but had got married to someone she met at a music festival while I was attending my friend’s wedding.

      • Posted May 27, 2016 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

        The following is taken from an internet site:

        “Originally the name Salem probably had to do with a Ugaritic god, but transliterated this name neatly concurs with the Hebrew verb שלם (shalem) meaning to be complete, sound, and the familiar noun שלום (shalom), meaning peace…”

        It is obvious that these Yale students (and other such students) are not concerned with achieving a “complete” or “sound” space, or one with “peace” for all human beings.

        Must there be a phase in which those people most adversely affected by racism must counter
        with racism? The Civil War was not won and continues to be fought in the minds and hearts of certain people. Freedom and equality for people of color didn’t occur. New forms of inequality and slavery came about. All of us must work toward freedom and equality for all. Communicating with each other has to be one of the starting points.

        • somer
          Posted May 27, 2016 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

          +1 Also its not possible to deliver a good education – or realistic information for that matter – in a climate where its assumed free speech and debate is a bad thing

  12. Scott Draper
    Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    “As is often the case, scientists are more willing to sign such petitions. Don’t ask me why.”

    I think that’s an easy one: scientists are more interested in truth than those in the humanities field.

    • Historian
      Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      Your assertion is nothing more than your personal conjecture. Do you have a shred of empirical evidence to support it?

      • Scott Draper
        Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:20 am | Permalink

        It’s mostly true by definition and by self-admission. Much of the humanities is afflicted with post-modernism, which denies the existence of objective truth.

        • Stephen
          Posted May 27, 2016 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

          Scott the funny part is that you probably think you’re a skeptic.

          • Scott Draper
            Posted May 27, 2016 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

            Stephen, the funnier part is that you think your comment has content, rather than merely being an insult.

            • somer
              Posted May 28, 2016 at 5:48 am | Permalink


    • mordacious1
      Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      I wonder what percentage of these students running around disturbing the Wa of the campus are science majors? I’m thinking less than 1%.

      It’s also more difficult to replace a professor of physics, than it is to find candidates for the humanities.

      • Scott Draper
        Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:26 am | Permalink

        I was about to ask the same question. I’m betting the representation of engineering and science majors is very low in these troublemakers.

      • somer
        Posted May 27, 2016 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

        Im sure thats true but sometimes scientists on campus get infected by this sort of stuff. On other sites that shall remain nameless Ive seen posts by a professor of biology full of Crit Theory and ranting and raving about Zionism

        • mordacious1
          Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

          Indeed. Some professors (not Jerry!) may have more time on their hands. When you’re a student taking organic chemistry, calculus, microbiology and anatomy (in one semester), you don’t have a lot of time to rabble rouse. I remember trying to get my homework caught up by Friday night, so I could unwind a little. I certainly wasn’t out protesting about safe spaces on campus.

        • mordacious1
          Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

          Also, some professors are just morons. I wish it wasn’t true, but I have documented proof (as do you :))

          • someer
            Posted May 28, 2016 at 2:14 am | Permalink

            Yes I checked his details and he is (or was as this is a few years ago) a biology professor like he said. Like Scott says, though, too often parts of the humanities actively despise objective truth, and whilst science delivers extreme likelihoods rather than any absolute truth (I suspect almost all truth is contextual) the majority of the humanities in its present state doesnt begin to approach the level of certainty of the sciences. And some of it is just complete twaddle

  13. Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    I do have a theory about why scientists are more likely to sign these petitions, which comes from my own days in a humanities doctoral program. Scientists do not belong to the cult of theory, a quasi-religious attachment to charismatic figures that masquerades as an intellectual position based on argument. Don’t get me wrong, I think the humanities can and should be done in an empirical, evidence based manner (though not necessarily a quantitative one), it’s just that they aren’t, currently. I am quite sure that Yale students learn these positions and behaviors in part from Yale faculty members.

    This incident also brings up one of my pet bugbears, which is the lack of potential redress of grievance for cases of harassment that cannot be tied, in a court of evidence, to an identity category. In France, where I live now, harcèlement moral is illegal AS A BEHAVIOR, regardless of the identities of the victim and the perpetrator. In the US, you need to be able to prove that the behavior was motivated by prejudice, which is just ridiculous. (You also need a lawyer, the means to pay the lawyer, and the wherewithal to wait the years until your case comes up in civil court.)

    It’s a shame that American workers, including the Christakis’s (Christakises?), do not enjoy what have come to me to seem like basic workplace protections.

    There’s a description harcèlement moral in the legal code here: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harc%C3%A8lement_moral#D.C3.A9finitions_juridiques but it’s in French, and the “equivalent” page in English is not at all the same thing.

    • somer
      Posted May 27, 2016 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

      ++1 on the humanities and on harassment. Think the humanities need to focus on assessment of likelihood. Many areas are done well but others even within disciplines depending on the academic) are infected by pomo/crit theory.

      We have anti bullying and sexual harassment legislation in Australia but non sexual harassment is different and is unaddressed.

      • Posted May 28, 2016 at 7:07 am | Permalink

        Actually the exchange in the thread above where overt and obvious satire went unrecognized is perhaps the best argument I’ve seen for why we need better humanities education. I cannot imagine what the world is going to be like when that type of exchange is the norm, but I sincerely hope I will be dead by then.

        • somer
          Posted May 29, 2016 at 7:45 am | Permalink

          The ongoing subtle undermining of science is part of it and I think accompanies the undermining of the humanities. From Political Correctness, from religion (both to my mind can be a kind of tribal belonging), from funding cuts or attempts to focus science on immediate profitable deployment. It was good to hear about the Florida appointment of a chair of Atheism there though I think it was as part of a sociology department. Would be good if they could expand it into a study program offering post grad and offer that as a condition of post grad studies in the field, the candidate should have done some science or mathematics unit or units (statistics wouldn’t qualify unless it also included a science unit)

  14. jay
    Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    For some time now (before this latest college nonsense) I’ve been reading articles about employers having problems with current generation of new workers… people who were raised with constant indulgence, constant reinforcement. They wind up expecting this in the workplace as well and tend to throw hissy fits if their ‘needs’ are not supplied.

    Part of this is the current obsession with ‘validation’, even among people we might otherwise be sympathetic to. Recently there was a news item on an atheist site about a gay waitress who received a Bible quote instead of a tip. I can understand annoyance, but her reaction went far beyond that. She wrote a diatribe on social media about being ‘invalidated’ by this action (advice: NO ONE can invalidate you. No one’s negative opinion can invalidate you). It came to her want a huge demonstration of support for what was a prejudiced, but ultimately very minor incident.

    As an atheist who would likely be similarly dissed by the same individual, I can understand being peeved. None of us will ever be in a world where everything is happy and no one dislikes us.

    • Adam M.
      Posted May 27, 2016 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Can you link to some of these articles? I’d like to read them.

  15. Posted May 27, 2016 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Whilw young people can have novel and insighful ideas, for the most part — if i can state the opressed opinion — young people are stupid. Lol. Those stupid young people !

    • DrBrydon
      Posted May 27, 2016 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      The trouble is that these are not their ideas. These attitudes are something they are being taught. They are being negatively socialized.

  16. Posted May 27, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    I generally think it a negative that our society is so litigious society but here is where it could work for the good. The Cristakis’ should file multiple lawsuits against Yale for providing an ‘unsafe’ environment and for allowing harrasment and they should sue every student they can identify. Force these a-holes to hire lawyers at the very least.

    • Vaal
      Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

      Whenever I cross the border (from Canada to the USA) I’m often struck at how suffused American society is with litigation.
      Suddenly it’s adds for lawyers everywhere.

      When we were in Florida not long ago practically every second billboard was for a Lawyer “In trouble with the Law? Call…” “Bad plastic surgery? Call us…” “Need legal council? Call…”

      The only thing breaking up the billboards for Lawyers were the billboards for plastic surgeons.

  17. RossR
    Posted May 27, 2016 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Could somebody not explain to these Yale students, and students in general: yes, you are entitled to protest at anything you please, but no, you do not have the right to expect that anybody will take you seriously, nor that any action be taken. And by the way, don’t you have work to do?

    • Posted May 28, 2016 at 7:13 am | Permalink

      I have that last thought (shouldn’t you be studying?) every time I read one of these stories. Speaking of checking one’s privilege, a higher education is a privilege, and a higher education at Yale an expensive privilege.

      The low point for me was the students (I think at Oberlin) who demanded to see the budget and a staff member to EXPLAIN it to them. Are you not on a college campus? Couldn’t you learn to understand a document like an institutional budget by, say, GOING TO CLASS? This is the entire point of getting an education. To develop skills and autonomy. Stop staging events and go to the library.

  18. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 28, 2016 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    “On both sides, people with perfectly mainstream opinions shared them with a journalist but declined to put their name behind them due to a campus climate where anyone could conceivably be the next object of ire and public shaming.”

    In a nation where freedom of speech and of the press are enshrined in the Constitution, the type of chilling effect described above is much more the danger to free expression than any type of de jure speech restriction by government.

    Conor Friedersdorf has established himself as one of the sanest, most-eloquent voices on the issue of campus speech today.

  19. ts
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    It is a few days later (I was away over the long weekend), and I realize the discussion has died down here, but for the record since several people seem amused that I “missed the obvious satire” of Cindy’s post in the above subthread:

    I didn’t miss the satire — it was blindingly obvious (of course many of you won’t believe me, but whatever). Discussion on the internet is tricky, but not that tricky. It was clear that Cindy was trying to adopt a caricature of the people that are disparagingly referred to as “SJWs.” I’m not sure exactly what point she was trying to make, but it seemed clear to me that:
    1) I couldn’t respond by just saying “ha ha, very funny” as I had be trying to make the point that it is important to take the complaints of people who are offended, even if you did not cause offense intentionally, seriously. To dismiss Cindy would invalidate my previous argument.
    2) At the same time, it seemed obvious to me that Cindy was not actually offended, and would not be able to articulate anything about my comments that was indeed misogynistic. If someone is genuinely offended, they should be able to explain why.

    I took a gamble that if I replied seriously, it would communicate 1) that it is easy and painless to ask why someone is offended, and 2) that if someone cannot articulate *why* they are offended by what you say it seems likely they are just trying to shut down debate and are not genuinely offended. I’ll note that Cindy did not even bother to attempt to explain *why* she was offended, since of course she wasn’t.

    Obviously the point did not come across as well as it could have, but I still think it is a legitimate argument. Asking why someone is offended, and genuinely considering their perspective, is easy to do and doesn’t cost you anything. If someone explains to you what about your statement caused offense, you should take them seriously and at least consider whether your point could be made in a different way. If the person who claims to take offense cannot or will not say why your statement is offensive, then it seems very likely that they are just trying to shut down debate.

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