A free speech conference inflamed racial tension at Yale University and drew protesters

March of ResilliancePhilipp Arndt PhotographyYale students hold ‘March of Resilience’ to protest racism.

Yale University has been in upheaval since two racially charged incidents occurred on Halloween weekend.

On Friday, tensions on the New Haven, Connecticut campus continued to escalate when students protested a William F. Buckley, Jr. conference on free speech, The Yale Daily News reports.

Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, spoke at the event.

He spurred the protest with a comment he made about students who spoke out against an email Silliman College Associate Master Erika Christakis sent supporting students’ right to wear offensive Halloween costumes.

“Looking at the reaction to [Silliman College Associate Master] Erika Christakis’ email, you would have thought someone wiped out an entire Indian village,” Lukianoff said, according to a student who attended the event.

A student at the conference posted the comment to the “Overheard at Yale” Facebook group during the event, prompting an impromptu gathering of a group of Native American women and other students of colour outside the building where it was held, according to YDN.

Silliman CollegeSilliman College FacebookSilliman College at Yale

The free speech conference at Yale was planned months before Christakis’ email launched a wider discussion about racism at Yale, and registration was closed.

But students protesting the event wanted a representative to be allowed to join the conference and share their views. They were denied admission.

Student protesters gathered outside of the Yale building and waited for attendees to leave.

As students filtered out, several attendees were spat on and called racists, people who went to the conference told YDN. One minority student who attended the conference told the YDN he was called a traitor.

Anger and pain are running extremely high at Yale right now, exposing feelings that Yale is an unwelcoming place for students of colour and that pervasive racism exists at Yale.

Students of colour have published a number of op-eds in the YDN and the Yale Herald, voicing disillusionment with the administration and claiming Yale doesn’t welcome minorities.

One student, Aaron Lewis, wrote a post wrote on Medium contending catchy headlines about Halloween costumes obscure the racist attitudes students of colour encounter.

“The protests are not really about Halloween costumes or a frat party,” Lewis, a senior at Yale, wrote on Medium.

“They’re about a mismatch between the Yale we find in admissions brochures and the Yale we experience every day. They’re about real experiences with racism on this campus that have gone unacknowledged for far too long,” he added. “The university sells itself as a welcoming and inclusive place for people of all backgrounds. Unfortunately, it often isn’t.”

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