by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
In the lead-up to Halloween, Yale Dean Burgwell Howard sent out an email requesting that students do not engage in “cultural appropriation” when it comes to costume choice. That message prompted a very mild rebuke from the Associate Master of Silliman College Erica Christakis.
According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Christakis took issue with the tone of Howard’s email that implied the school was trying to impose control over students’ choices and restrict free expression. She found that idea troublesome.
Additionally, she asked, “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? 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.”
Hundreds of students responded with a resounding, “There’s no room for that, you bigot!” to Christakis’s question. This is where South Park-style absurdity enters the story.
More than 740 Yalies and offended allies signed a letter that declared Christakis’s opinion somehow suppressed the viewpoints of minority students. Many of those same signatories refused an invitation by the associate master and her husband, Master of Silliman College Nicholas Christakis, to discuss the matter over a Sunday lunch.
On Thursday, 100 students confronted the husband and demanded a bended-knee apology from Mr. Christakis for supporting his wife’s views. The professor tried to apologize for any “pain” the email might’ve caused, but he stood by his support for free speech.
That didn’t suit his inquisitors, and they proceeded to engage in something that resembled an improvised show trial. Christakis was belittled for eliminating the pretense that his college was a “safe space” and was cursed at as students cheered on. When trying to speak, he was shouted down by his chief accuser, ensuring he never got a good chance to defend himself.