By Frank Ramirez at Ledger Gazette
After her email, Erika Christakis has been confronted by a group of students arguing that Yale is not only an intellectual space, but it is also a home for its students who should be able to feel safe and respected, no matter their cultural or ethnic background.
In October, the university’s Intercultural Affairs Committee instructed students to avoid wearing racially insensitive costumes for Halloween such as Native American headdresses, turbans or blackface.
Yale says Erika and Nicholas Christakis will remain in their role as Silliman’s master and associate master and are welcome back in the classroom anytime.
Hundreds of students and faculty marched in protest on November 9, complaining of racial insensitivity at Yale.
During the ‘March of Resilience, ‘ students held signs, including one that read, ‘Don’t Look Away’.
The fundamental issue is plotting that point at which offense becomes unacceptably invasive to others, and that is a target that moves as society changes.
“Professor Christakis is, hands down, my favorite professor that I’ve had while I’ve been here”, one student wrote.
Erika Christakis disagreed with this approach, arguing that students shouldn’t be ceding the control over Halloween costumes to the institutional forces. Even celebrities have weighed in on the debate, with comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher saying the environment at college makes it nearly impossible to do their routines without someone becoming upset.
In emails to Business Insider and the Washington Post, Erika Christakis said her decision to cancel her spring classes “comes in response to a campus climate at Yale not ‘conducive to the civil dialogue and open inquiry required to solve our urgent societal problems’”.
“While Yale did eventually get around to issuing a statement in favor of free expression, it’s hard to imagine that Erika or Nicholas Christakis would have chosen to quit teaching at Yale and take a sabbatical, respectively, had Dean Holloway or President [Peter] Salovey consistently shown their support for free expression through their words and actions on campus”, said FIRE’s Robert Shibley.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.