Yale President Peter Salovey and Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway sent an email to students affirming their support of two administrators mired in a controversy over free speech and racism on campus, The Yale Daily News (YDN) reported.
The email, sent to students in Silliman College on Tuesday, indicated that Salovey and Holloway “fully support” the administrators.
A racially charged debate began at Yale over Halloween weekend with an email to students about Halloween costumes.
Silliman College Associate Master Erika Christakis emailed students in response to an Intercultural Affairs Council email that called on students to be sensitive about the cultural implications of their Halloween costumes, as Inside Higher Ed reported. Silliman College is one of 12 residential colleges, also known as dormitories, at Yale.
Christakis supported students’ right to dress in any costumes they liked, offensive or not.
“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?” she wrote.
Her comments immediately drew the ire of some students in Silliman, and elsewhere on campus, who claimed they invalidated the voices of minority students.
Christakis’ husband, and the master of Silliman College, Nicholas Christakis, defended his wife’s position and that of free speech two weeks ago during an angry confrontation with students, according to the YDN.
Tension escalated when a group of students confronted Nicholas Christakis, shouting expletives, and demanding an apology for his words and those of his wife. The students have since called for the removal of the Christakis’ from their positions in Silliman, according to the YDN.
Since the confrontation, he has continued to defend his wife.
“I think my wife has been subjected to an extraordinary and shameful vilification for the last two and a half weeks, overlooking the subtlety in her email and the confidence it actually had in Yalies, and I’m glad to see that, despite this response, the administration has expressed its confidence in our ability to provide a good education to undergraduates,” he told the YDN.
Last week, Next Yale, a student group calling for greater attention to racial issues on campus, released a set of six demands to Salovey that included an ethnic studies requirement for all students and the removal of Nicholas and Erika Christakis from their administrative positions, the YDN reported.
On Tuesday, Salovey responded to the demands and laid out the policy changes he would institute for the school, which included adding additional teaching staff and courses that address topics of diversity and launching a series of conferences on issues of race.
But he also explained that no punishment would be doled out by the university to any administrators or students for any actions that took place over the past few weeks.
“No one has been silenced or punished for speaking their minds, nor will they be,” Salovey wrote in his email.
The Halloween email controversy, and demands from students, have since sparked fierce debate about free speech on college campuses.
Famed Harvard Law professor and attorney, Alan Dershowitz, weighed in on the conversation in an interview with Business Insider. He called protesters on campus “tyrannical” and claimed they don’t truly care about diversity.
“I think the most important thing to point out is the double standard and the hypocrisy,” Dershowitz said. “These are students who want safe spaces for themselves but not for others.”
Students at Yale seemed resolved to remove the Christakises as recently as last week. A petition has been circulating calling for the removal of the Christakis’ from their positions, the YDN reported.
It’s unclear how students will react in light of Yale administration’s support of the Christakises.
If you are a current Yale student who would like to speak on the record or on background about your experiences on campus, email [email protected]
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