Posted on November 9, 2015

Watch Students Tell Yale to Fire a Staffer Who Upset Their Safe Space

Robby Soave, Reason, November 6, 2015

Students are demanding that Yale University fire two administrators who failed to speak out against offensive Halloween costumes. This is just one of the grievances of activist students–many of them people of color–who claim Yale is not a safe space for them.

On Thursday, the students surrounded Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway–a black man–in an outdoor space and chided him for failing to take action against a fraternity that had allegedly prevented black women from attending its party. (It’s not at all clear the allegation is true, according to The Daily Beast.)

After giving Holloway his comeuppance, they moved on to Nicholas Christakis, master of Silliman College. What was Christakis’s crime? His wife, an early childhood educator, had responded to a campus-wide email about offensive Halloween costumes by opining that it was inappropriate for the college to tell students how to dress. According to The Washington Post:

“Whose business is it to control the forms of costumes of young people? It’s not mine, I know that,” wrote Erika Christakis, an early childhood educator and the wife of Nicholas Christakis, the Silliman College master. Both later took to social media to defend the e-mail, incensing students by tying it to debates about free speech and trigger warnings. At a Wednesday night forum hosted by the Afro-American Cultural Center, Erika Christakis sought to leave the meeting during a discussion of her e-mail, further provoking student anger. …

Students grew distressed, with one shouting at Nicholas Christakis to be quiet and questioning why he took the position at the university. “You are a poor steward of this community,” the student said. “You should not sleep at night.”

As it so happens, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education President Greg Lukianoff was at Yale on Thursday in order to speak on a panel about free speech [Update: the panel was hosted by Christakis, according to The Yale Daily News]. Lukianoff recorded several videos of the confrontation between students and Christakis. The Post described Christakis as “frustrated,” but it’s important to keep in mind that he patiently listened to the students’ litany of complaints for hours. Toward the end of the shouting session, a student made the following comments:

“As your position as master, it is your job to create a place of comfort and home for the students that live in Silliman. You have not done that. By sending out that email, that goes against your position as master. Do you understand that?”

When Christakis replied that he didn’t agree, the student thundered back, “Then why the fuck did you accept the position! Who the fuck hired you?”