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Reflections on the Revolution at Yale

Three years ago this Fall, Yale University descended into what can only be described as a fit of mass psychosis.

On November 9, 2015, over 1,000 people—about one fifth of the undergraduate student body—walked out of classrooms and into the quad to participate in a ‘March of Resilience.’ An a cappella group led the crowd in a medley of “We Shall Overcome.” Native Indian performers formed a drum circle. “We are not victims,” a student organizer affiliated with the school’s Latino cultural center declared. “Today, we are on our way to being victors.”

Against what sinister forces did Yale’s students feel compelled to summon up their stocks of ‘resilience’ in righteous battle? The first grievance cited by the student protestors was an alleged ‘white girls only’ party thrown by one of the university’s fraternities. Word of this event had gone from a Facebook post to international headlines, tarnishing Yale’s good name in the process. Had such a party actually taken place, it indeed would have been cause for protest. But it’s hard not to be skeptical about this sort of thing, as many of them turn out to be hoaxes, often perpetrated by the very people claiming offense.

Which is exactly what an investigation by the Yale College Dean’s Office determined a month later, finding “no evidence of systematic discrimination against people of color” at said ‘white girls only’ party. The Dean did, however, fault the brothers of Sigma Alpha Epsilon for “creat[ing] a chaotic environment,” demonstrating “little regard to crowd control and overcrowding inside the house” and “behavior” that “fell short of the community standards and the kind of civic engagement that I have sought to promote.” He found them guilty, in other words, of being frat brothers.

The second supposed incident of racial injustice involved an email sent by a professor, Erika Christakis, questioning an administrative warning to students regarding Halloween costumes that perpetrate ‘cultural appropriation.’ Because Christakis had suggested that young adults should be able to make their own decisions about masks and capes, a mob of students, faculty, and deans demanded that Yale remove Christakis and her husband, fellow professor Nicholas, from their positions as residential advisors. During a two-hour, outdoor harangue of Nicholas, captured on a video that went viral, students yelled, cursed, and physically intimidated him as four Yale deans and administrators watched impassively.

While the university did not succumb to demands that the couple be sacked, the administration essentially sent the message that sided it with the students. Two weeks after the ‘March of Resilience,’ the administration announced a doubling of budgets for the various (African-American, Latino, Native American etc.) cultural centers, racial sensitivity training for faculty and administrators, and the creation of the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration (which has since become the institutional home of the postmodern cultural studies journal Social Text, known primarily for its embarrassing role in the Sokal hoax). This diversity-budget bloat is part of a larger trend. And it has coincided, not coincidentally, with a doubling of tuition since the time I was a Yale freshman 15 years ago. As for the students who mobbed Nicholas Christakis, not only did the University (disregarding its own undergraduate regulations) conclude that their behavior fell short of grounds for disciplinary action, it rewarded two of them with prestigious class prizes upon graduation in 2017.

Fast-forward to this past May, when a white, female graduate student called the Yale Police Department (YPD) upon discovering a black woman sleeping in a dormitory common room. When the police arrived and asked the suddenly awakened, and understandably annoyed, woman for her identification, as is standard practice, she showed them a Yale ID card. Her name on the card, however, did not match the one in Yale’s database. Following a tense exchange with a (black) YPD sergeant, the confusion was soon resolved, with the Yale police admonishing the white student that her black peer had as much a right to be in the common room as she.

It is of course humiliating for a student to have the campus police called on them for, apparently, no other reason except her skin color. And if racial bias really was the reason why the complainant called the Yale police, it would fit into an all-too-common national pattern. But as far as Yale is concerned, what this episode revealed was the racial prejudice of one, rather eccentric, 43-year-old, perpetual graduate student, who, upon seeing a black person sleeping in a common space, erroneously assumed she was trespassing. What it did not reveal was “institutional racism,” either on the part of the YPD, which was merely following procedure, or the university.

This is more or less what the university leadership should have said, and left it at that. But having effectively affixed a giant ‘Kick Me’ sign to its back three years ago, Yale cannot help but indulge the claims—no matter how overblown—leveled against it by activists. No doubt terrified that he would have another campus-wide protest on his hands, Yale President Peter Salovey sent an email to the entire school community two days after the incident took place, declaring, “we must neither condone nor excuse racism, prejudice, or discrimination at Yale,” and calling upon students, faculty, and staff “to reflect in new ways on the ordinary daily actions each of us can take to…combat hate and exclusion.”

But that wasn’t it. Last month, Salovey emailed the Yale community again to report on “a working group of faculty and staff” that “met bi-weekly throughout the summer and will continue to meet to evaluate short and long-term actions” to redress the climate of racism, prejudice and discrimination that supposedly pervades the New Haven campus. Among the working group’s proposals, which the University has adopted, will be “training for all incoming graduate students on implicit bias awareness,” “a new video on discrimination and harassment resources” to be “shared with all incoming students beginning this fall,” and “additional training for relevant faculty and staff…to ensure that all those who work with students understand university policy and procedures.” This added layer of training, mind you, “complements a multitude of training programs already in place in Yale College and the graduate and professional schools.”

It would be nice to have university leaders whose instinct, upon being confronted with baseless accusations that their school is suffused with racism, would be to defend the institution’s good name, not bow and capitulate. There are, no doubt, racist people at Yale, just as there are racist people everywhere. But there is no reason to believe—and, indeed, very much reason to doubt—that Yale is any more racist than the country at large (unless one takes into account its potential discrimination against Asians, which the university has implicitly acknowledged by signing onto an amicus brief defending Harvard’s allegedly anti-Asian undergraduate admissions policy).

That Yale does not, presently, have leaders willing to speak plainly to such attacks is one of the reasons I am now mounting a petition candidacy to join the university’s board of trustees (formally known as The Yale Corporation). The school’s reluctance to defend free speech, as evidenced by its shameful behavior in the Christakis episode, is another.

Such bodies play a fundamental role in governing schools, furthering their mission, and shaping their future. Thus far, my campaign has earned endorsements from a wide and politically heterogeneous array of Yale alumni—including former Democratic Governor of Alaska Tony Knowles, former Independent Senator from Connecticut Joe Lieberman, former Republican Attorneys General Ed Meese and Michael Mukasey, the democratic socialist former Yale professor and bestselling author of Excellent Sheep William Deresiewicz, and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt.

If elected, I intend to use my position on the Yale board of trustees to defend free speech and other Enlightenment values from those members of the university community who are either hostile or indifferent to the tenets of classical liberalism. Those who wish to know more about my candidacy, or assist in my effort, can find information at the web site linked below.

 

James Kirchick is a journalist, author, and petition candidate for the Yale Corporation. You can follow him on Twitter @jkirchick

 

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46 Comments

  1. YASIAN says

    Haidt says in his tweet Christakis had the patience of a saint.

    I would have characterized it as the patience of a male prostitute. Christakis bent over and indulged their ad hominem blather and pummeling of his character and motives in the most obscene way.

    Meanwhile, the Asians are looking at each other: “What in the AF is going?”

    “Dunno. They are upset about people dressing up as other people for Halloween.”

    “Isn’t that–”

    “Don’t! … try to make sense of it. Just let them tire themselves out. And do not under any circumstances tell them we invented paper. They’ll make the caucasians go back to using vellum and the blacks papyrus scrolls. It’ll make things really hard around here.”

    • They have a word for this in China: “baizuo”. Pronounced “bye-zwou”. Means idiotic Western leftists who live in societies that are paradises (compared to what they have in China) and yet attack these paradises at every opportunity for failing to be completely perfect.

      The Chinese are utterly baffled by this behavior. And frankly, so are a lot of other people across the world, including in America.

      • What do the Chinese have say about the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and its associated Red Guards?

        It seems to be a close match to the hysteria at all the colleges and universities in the Anglosphere or is that still bad think in the PRC?

        • Northern Observer says

          Of Course they see the parallels.
          It’s one of the reasons they openly mock western leftists – they know where this thinking leads. The question is not what the Chinese think, it is why can’t western leaders (academic, media, political) learn from their experience and react to western SJWs when they advance these ideas via mob protest and social shaming.

          But I think we are all waking up to the issue.

        • Douglas Levene says

          I teach law in China and when I told my students about the events at Evergreen, they were appalled – they saw the parallels to the Cultural Revolution quite clearly.

      • Teheimar says

        Well, some of us in the western world (Sweden here) are also somewhat baffled at that.

  2. Jeremy H says

    “…the creation of the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration”

    And in the wake of Trump’s election all these students flocked to Orwell to apparently intellectually girder themselves against the onslaught of tyranny… one can only hope there’s still a decent number of them who grasp the irony here.

    It’s definitely not surprising that ground zero for this moral plague is precisely where the most coddled, un-oppressed, technologically blessed, and overall privileged cohort of students in history has been assembled. Lacking anything even approximating an existential crisis by which to define themselves (unlike most generations in history – even gen x’ers caught the tail end of the Cold War) we’re being forced to endure the fireworks of their desperate attempt to conjure such a crisis into existence.

    Pit this force against a bloated and comfortable class of administrators who likewise have experienced no existential threat to their institutions (or privileged positions) in recent memory and it’s not all that surprising to see them instantly capitulate – their job is to balance ledgers, run events, and promote the school brand, not to fend off vicious student mobs. And having capitulated they now have little choice but to maintain this posture and double down against any criticism on the grounds of “moral authority” (meaning they have the mob behind them now). It’s hard to see this ending, even in the best case scenario, in a way that doesn’t do generational damage the reputation of academia.

    • Deafening Tone says

      What these “baizuo” (totally adopting that term) fail to recognize is that their ability to protest, even if for ridiculous reasons, is the ultimate privilege, which anyone can plainly see by reading international news. If there ever was a reason to tell someone to “check their privilege,” this is it.

  3. Alphonse Credenza says

    In New Haven especially where I was born, raised and educated, administrations, whether at Yale or at other local schools, have always coddled youth when they espouse the incendiary Marxist platform of propaganda.

    In the 60s, they did so out of fear and unknowing — never before had American students been so violent and the ideals were confluent with real liberal humanism. Now they do so because the Cultural Revolution of ’68 has spawned administrations whose Praetorian Guard are precisely those radicals and their children.

    They will not alter one iota of their modus operandi because they have too much to lose. They will circle the wagons and fight you to the death, yours or theirs.

    The only way to win this is to starve them but massively cutting federal grants to education, which I wholeheartedly approve of across the border.

    I have repudiated my Yale degree. In my (former) field, current scholarship is miserably bad with academic papers approaching the low-quality ideological jargonizing of the Party journals seen in the GDR at end of empire. In a generation, we will see — not at Yale or the Ivy because they are too wealthy — buildings at colleges empty and delapidated just as the factories in the Steel Belt in the 80s. Very soon, coming to a school near you!

    • @Alphonse Credenza
      I agree wholeheartedly with starving them of funds. The only ones willing to do that are the Republicans and they get accused by the Crtl Left establishment as being anti-education buffoons, idiots, hillbillies who are all creationists and anti-science. As if we’re perpetually reliving the 1920’s Scopes trial or as if ALL republicans or just non-liberals are the same as the Religious Right. They are able to successfully accomplish this because from the public’s perspective “who doesn’t want to fund education for the young”. Meanwhile, welcome to the Ministry of Diversity & Inclusion where it will cost upwards of $50+ a year to support the apparatchiks.

    • Area Man says

      @Alphonse:

      Great comment. It touches on what I’ve been thinking since the protests started a few years ago. So many of the professors & staff used to *be* the protesters, so they grant the students a sort of sympathetic legitimacy. I suspect they also want to be seen as still hip & cool enough to be in on it, but maybe that’s a hacky premise.

      • Alphonse Credenza says

        As the child of a university administrator of the old school in New Haven during the 60s and a public school reading teacher, every nightni heard at the dinner table all about the administrative response to the campus drama. They didn’t know what was happening really, all the while they were hiring the fifth column of post-modernists who rent the fabric of scholarship with their destructive meaninglessness.

        What could they do? Remember the bomb threats (which my father received dozens of!? Remember when the City of New Haven welded the sewer covers because the miserable Black Panthers threatened to destroy the water supply? Remember the faculty, well paid and often tenured, who supported insurrection? And the administration, who caved to their own annihilation?

        You can’t win if you don’t fight. Now the situation is better understood. The mask is off, the culprits exposed. They must be attacked relentlessly until they are thoroughly demoralized. Nihilists have nothing but their resentments to feed on, so persistence is essential. They have already lost the major battle, in my opinion, and only hold territory now as a legacy that deteriorates faster than even they know.

        Long live real scholarship!

  4. Alphonse Credenza says

    Why can’t I edit my reply? I’d like to edit the spelling errors I see only now.

  5. CookingPots says

    I agree for the most parts with the comments above, and I have read Haidt’s recent book and listened to the Harris podcast.
    But something is still missing….
    Haidt and Christakis both still ultimately falter on the ideas of diversity/inclusion/equity. While acknowledging the madness exposed in the student protests and the fudging of truths in the social justice narratives, they both still say – oh what we need is more understanding; racism is still prevalent (Haidt still props up the now repeatedly debunked claims of highly police on black crime), the students actually have good intentions, they’re just “misguided”; diversity is still a wonderful goal (no matter the context. A white klansnen moving into a black neighborhood is technically more “diverse.”)
    Ultimately, I find that these attempts are futile in that they will make no difference. Until *very* uncomfortable truths can be acknowledged and discussed – ie blacks are more violent (would you really move your family to inner city Baltimore/Detroit. Or Africa. Or Brazil. Or anywhere blacks are the majority), women are generally incapable of being impartial and separating themselves emotionally from a problem, immigration is not a benefit without heavy heavy cost – there will only be tiny baby steps forward. And it may already be too late.
    If anyone’s going to play the ID game: I’m a white girl from Fisherville, TN who grew up in a trailer. Feel free to bash away.

    • I don’t exactly have one saved in my bookmarks (but believe have read one or more). Could you please provide a link to a good study that debunks policy brutality/murder of blacks? Thanks.

    • cacambo says

      Does calling out bigotry constitute “bashing”? Oh, and by the way, you left out the part about greedy, money-grubbing Jews secretly plotting to take over the world…

      • CookingPots says

        *shrug* If bigotry is merely acknowledging reality, then yes I suppose I’m a bigot. I have nothing against individual blacks, women, or Jews (my mother was Jewish by the way, and much of her family died in the Holocaust. But that’s irrelevant to my points). I abhor the concept of slavery/Jim Crow policies, but denying social realities about the differences in races/cultures/gender is no way to solve the problems we are facing. Women are more emotional and are underpresented at the higher end of the intelligent bell curve; blacks on average have lower IQs and their culture places high esteem on self destructive behaviors. Etc etc etc…
        I’ve lived amongst white trash. Now I live on the border of a ghetto in DC. There are parallel overlaps, but those that screech about racism / bigotry are simply showing their cards- that they simply be don’t have to live in these environments and deal with reality.

        • cacambo says

          Well at least you’re backing off your unsubstantiated claim that “blacks are more violent.” I guess that’s progress.

          • CookingPots says

            Get back to me when you’ve lived in a black majority city in a black majority neighborhood.

          • BrianB says

            Google the list of countries with the highest homicide rates.
            Correlation does not mean causation but the trend follows from continent to continent and nation to nation.
            I wish that it wasn’t so, just as I wish black American violent crime rates weren’t vastly higher than other races, but wishing doesn’t make it go away anymore than crying “racism” does.
            The fact of the association of race to violence of course does not mean any individual can or should be judged by their race nor are their rights or individual value effected by the association, nor does it answer whether the issue is genetic, cultural or some other issue.
            But it is real and it so far has seemed somewhat intractable. Calling people who point this out names might make others feel better but it does not address a real problem.

    • peanut gallery. says

      It has less to do with race and more to do with class. The white people in my shit neighborhood are just as bad (generally speaking). You know what to look for in how someone carries them self and how they dress. Focusing on race is a mistake progressives make.

  6. Trajan Fanzine says

    Harvard paid them off and gave in to a form of extortion, which as any member of the real world ( non academia) knows, just leads to more of it……

  7. Ed Hagen says

    After watching the 4 videos of Christakis and the Yale students, I find that I disagree with the thrust of this article and most of the comments. What I saw was Christakis making great points, and the students listening to him and making their points in response. Folks took turns speaking. Some even raised their hands. No one was shouting down the other party. Almost everyone was respectful, or attempting to be, in what appears to be an impromptu discussion in an emotionally charged situation. Even the women at the end of part IV was expressing her honest emotional reaction, which, however much you might disagree with it, still provides useful insight into (some) students’ reactions.

    In other words, this was a great example of free speech in action. Free speech is not necessarily dispassionate speech, or correct speech, or speech that is free of ugliness. Christakis can walk away proud of his handling of what could have been a disastrous encounter, and yet with much more insight into the perspectives of at least some of the students (many didn’t comment during this encounter). And the students can walk away equally proud of their thoughtful engagement with Christakis, yet hopefully also with much to chew on.

    I haven’t followed up on the reactions of the Yale administrators or the climate at Yale in general, so I can’t comment on those.

    My two cents.

    • ga gamba says

      No one was shouting down the other party.

      “Be quiet!!! . . . . Why the fuck did you accept the position?!?!?!” And more shouting follows as Christakis attempted to answer her question. “Just step down!!!”

      https://youtu.be/V6ZVEVufWFI?

      You’re Jerelyn Luther and I claim my £5.

      And the students can walk away equally proud of their thoughtful engagement with Christakis…

      Most bizarre thing I’ve read today, and I’m a daily Guardian reader.

      • Ed Hagen says

        Some shouting? Yes. Did it prevent Christakis from making his points? Not even close. Christakis talked a lot, and most students listened. Several students talked a lot, and Christakis listened.

        In part I (I think), a young women made the good point that if you hurt someone you care about, even by accident, you apologize, a point which Christakis accepts. He rightly doesn’t apologize for other accusations, however.

        • ga gamba says

          No one was shouting down the other party.

          Some shouting? Yes.

          Okie dokie.

          a young women made the good point that if you hurt someone you care about

          It was about Halloween costumes. The girl chose to flip out over something trivial. The note was written by Christakis’s wife, yet the mob went after him. How does 1/5th the undergraduate class converge on the fella without it being coordinated? They expected him to cower and beg, but he didn’t. This frustrated them. She wasn’t owed an apology for a difference of opinion, and certainly not one for a difference of opinion about something as insignificant as a costume. Screw that. This was a group of authoritarians grown accustomed to everyone caving to their demands and walking around on egg shells to avoid upsetting them. How dare someone counter the demands of the those who shall never be defied!? Entitled prats. Ms Luther was a fourth-year student at the time, so that put her at age 21 or 22. She behaved like 5-year-old. Even more worrisome is she’s a school teacher now.

          Christakis shouldn’t have apologised for that. He certainly was owed several, though.

          • Ed Hagen says

            “It was about Halloween costumes.”

            Sure. I agree with Christakis on substance. But Kirchick seems to be basing his candidacy for the board on free speech:

            “If elected, I intend to use my position on the Yale board of trustees to defend free speech and other Enlightenment values from those members of the university community who are either hostile or indifferent to the tenets of classical liberalism.”

            I didn’t see much restriction of free speech in those videos. Perhaps there was in other aspects of this case.

          • ga gamba says

            I didn’t see much restriction of free speech in those videos. Perhaps there was in other aspects of this case.

            The info was in Kirchick’s article.

            The second supposed incident of racial injustice involved an email sent by a professor, Erika Christakis, questioning an administrative warning to students regarding Halloween costumes that perpetrate ‘cultural appropriation.’ Because Christakis had suggested that young adults should be able to make their own decisions about masks and capes, a mob of students, faculty, and deans demanded that Yale remove Christakis and her husband, fellow professor Nicholas, from their positions as residential advisors. During a two-hour, outdoor harangue of Nicholas, captured on a video that went viral, students yelled, cursed, and physically intimidated him as four Yale deans and administrators watched impassively.

            So, the mob sought to suppress the free speech of Ms Christakis by haranguing and physically intimidating… her husband. Seems to me he was selected because he was deemed a less sympathetic character than a woman for this spectacle. Activists understand optics, but even this went over the top.

  8. E. Olson says

    Yale can make amends for the rampant racism and discrimination on campus in five easy steps. The first step is to fire all white male heterosexual faculty, administration, and staff because they are obviously a lost cause and the root source of all the problems. Second, any Republican/Conservatives that remain on the faculty/admin/staff should be fired because they are obviously racist and probably Nazi. Third, all students of privilege (e.g. white, Asian, male, from 2 parent families, from top tier high schools, top 10% SAT scores, etc.) need to be expelled to promote greater social justice. Fourth, all alumni and corporate gifts from people of privilege should be rejected (and if possible returned), because social justice cannot be purchased by money generated by unearned privilege. Finally, replace the white/patriarchy inspired system of evaluating students and faculty on their displayed excellence in culturally biased test scores, grades, and research with one based on lifting up the victims of racism and discrimination. New students should be admitted based on ascending SAT scores starting at the lowest and working up, but obviously skipping any applicants of privilege, and new faculty and administration should be hired based on social justice activism rather than displayed excellence in research or teaching or management. I think Social Justice Warriors around the world will be amazed at how quickly Yale would be transformed by these simple steps towards achieving needed equity and fairness.

    • @E. Olson
      Brilliant idea. I think the term your looking for though is “Intersectional” in place of Social Justice Activism. Intersectional Feminism or the Intersectional Pyramid. So, obviously replace the white male president Peter Salvoy (or whatever his name is) with a black, lesbian, disabled trans women for the most extreme form of racial, sexist, ableist cosmic justice. It is our only way forward.
      In an ironic Randian twist it appears as though the oppressors of the world (all white cis, heteronormative, ableist or, er, normal, male and white non-males, formerly known as females and all those with superior cognitive capabilities) will have to form your own communities, or just opt-out and go work at McDonalds.

  9. If Yale is still irredeemably racist just shut it down. The students are all going to join Daddy’s firm when they leave anyway. Why bother with an education that brings them nothing but pain?

  10. Daniel says

    The academy is broken. Too much bureaucracy pushing the progressive Marxist agenda, too many areas of study teaching nothing but victimology, and because of the availability of student loans, there is nothing preventing 25% tuition increases every year.
    Abolish student loans. Or only let schools issue the loans, and allow students to declare bankruptcy. The academy would slim down to a bare bones administration and departments that produce wage-earners in just a few years. The academy would recognize SJWs as a financially unsustainable demographic, and would expel them.
    Who loses in this scenario ? Nobody with integrity.

  11. X. Citoyen says

    I think you’re doing the right thing. Petitioning for a place on the board is the best thing you could do. The only response to the march through the institutions is a counter-march through them. If people were as serious as they claim to be, they’d be following your lead.

  12. Hmmm, what to say, that the article doesnt already….People with too much time on their hands and a vivid imagination I guess..

  13. estepheavfm says

    I live is an extremely multicultural community. People from every population (“race”), except “whites,” are open about their acceptance of racial stereotypes. I think “people of no color” are unaware of the race-consciousness of the rest of the world. They project their Western “strict social construction” universalist philosophy onto others.

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