Yale couple flees classroom amid free speech chill

8 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Halloween Costume Uproar Causes Yale Resignation.

A Yale University faculty member who sparked protests when she said students should be free to push boundaries with Halloween costumes, even to the point of offense, resigned from her teaching position, the school announced Monday. “Her teaching is highly valued and she is welcome to resume teaching anytime at Yale, where freedom of expression and academic inquiry are the paramount principle and practice,” the school said.A Yale professor who argued for students’ right to wear culturally insensitive Halloween costumes and triggered outcry on campus has announced her intentions to resign from teaching at the university.Anti-free speech demonstrators at one of America’s most vaunted universities have claimed a pair of scalps – a husband-wife duo who say teaching is too much trouble in a campus climate “not conducive to civil dialogue.” Yale University professors Nicholas and Erika Christakis, who both have always gotten overwhelmingly positive reviews from students, said they have had enough, after an email she sent sparked a campus-wide controversy that soon pulled him in. “I have great respect and affection for my students, but I worry that the current climate at Yale is not, in my view, conducive to the civil dialogue and open inquiry required to solve our urgent societal problems,” she said in an email to The Washington Post. “I have great respect and affection for my students, but I worry that the current climate at Yale is not, in my view, conducive to the civil dialogue and open inquiry required to solve our urgent societal problems.” The affair began in October, when Erika Christakis, a psychology professor and associate master at the school’s Silliman College, one of a dozen residential communities, sent out an email defending the right of students to wear costumes which may be “culturally appropriating.” That spurred outrage and led to one student confronting Nicholas Christakis on the campus quad and berating him in a shocking episode that was caught on video that soon went viral.In this Nov. 9, 2015, file photo, Yale University students and faculty rally to demand that Yale University become more inclusive to all students on Cross Campus in New Haven, Conn.

Christakis came under attack in October for her response to a request from the Intercultural Affairs Committee that students avoid wearing racially insensitive costumes, such as Native American headgear, turbans or blackface. Erika Christakis made a “voluntary decision not to teach in the future,” according to a statement from the university obtained by The New York Times on Monday. The video showed Nicholas Christakis, a physician and professor of social and natural science, calmly trying to reason with a student who was screaming at him for not keeping students “safe,” as others snapped their fingers in a trendy sign of approval.

At schools including Michigan and Yale, students say the protests that led to the resignation of Missouri President Tim Wolfe are emboldening them to take a harder line. Nicholas Christakis, her husband and a professor of sociology who defended her argument, also announced that he will go on sabbatical for one semester. The school also has been dealing with criticism over a residential hall named after John Calhoun, a prominent slave-owning politician, questions about how minorities are treated on campus and allegations that a woman was turned away from a fraternity party because she was not white.

Hundreds of members of the Yale community called for her resignation after her email, in which she wrote, “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.” Recently, more than 60 Yale faculty members issued an open letter defending Christakis, saying that of all the university’s values, “none is more central than the value of free expression of ideas.” The university’s President Peter Salovey also defended her, and said last month that he and Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway “fully support” both Christakises commitment to serving the college.

It read in part: “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?…Whose business is it to control the forms of costumes of young people? It’s not mine, I know that.” Christakis’ email (as well as a reportedly racially charged incident at a frat party on campus) sparked protests and outcry over racial insensitivity at the school.

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