Campus Cultural Revolution –> More Culture War
Every time I think that there could not be anything more outrageous than whatever these crackpot campus Social Justice Warriors come up with, they manage to exceed my own imaginative capacities. Brace yourself for this one.
At Yale University, there’s a campus-wide tempest underway over an October 30 letter the wife of a master of Silliman College there wrote to residents of the college regarding the Intercultural Affairs Committee’s directions not to dress offensively at Halloween. Erika Christakis, whose husband Nicholas is master of the college (she is associate master), wrote, in part:
Even if we could agree on how to avoid offense – and I’ll note that no one around campus seems overly concerned about the offense taken by religiously conservative folks to skinrevealing costumes – I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: 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. And the censure and prohibition come from above, not from yourselves! Are we all okay with this transfer of power? Have we lost faith in young people’s capacity – in your capacity to exercise selfcensure, through social norming, and also in your capacity to ignore or reject things that trouble you? We tend to view this shift from individual to institutional agency as a tradeoff between libertarian vs. liberal values (“liberal” in the American, not European sense of the word).
Nicholas says, if you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society. But – again, speaking as a child development specialist – I think there might be something missing in our discourse about the exercise of free speech (including how we dress ourselves) on campus, and it is this: What does this debate about Halloween costumes say about our view of young adults, of their strength and judgment?
In other words: Whose business is it to control the forms of costumes of young people? It’s not mine, I know that.
You would think that college students, especially college students at one of the nation’s leading universities, would appreciate that kind of respect for them. And if they disagreed with her, they would at least consider the matter debatable.
Oh no, no, no. Over 700 students and faculty at Yale (and a few at other colleges) signed an open letter denouncing Erika Christakis. It reads, in part:
The contents of your email were jarring and disheartening. Your email equates old traditions of using harmful stereotypes and tropes to further degrade marginalized people, to preschoolers playing make believe. This both trivializes the harm done by these tropes and infantilizes the student body to which the request was made. You fail to distinguish the difference between cosplaying fictional characters and misrepresenting actual groups of people. In your email, you ask students to “look away” if costumes are offensive, as if the degradation of our cultures and people, and the violence that grows out of it is something that we can ignore. We were told to meet the offensive parties head on, without suggesting any modes or means to facilitate these discussions to promote understanding. Giving “room” for students to be “obnoxious” or “offensive”, as you suggest, is only inviting ridicule and violence onto ourselves and our communities, and ultimately comes at the expense of room in which marginalized students can feel safe.
To be a student of color on Yale’s campus is to exist in a space that was not created for you. From the Eurocentric courses, to the lack of diversity in the faculty, to the names of slave owners and traders that adorn most of the buildings on campus — all are reminders that Yale’s history is one of exclusion. An exclusion that was based on the same stereotypes and incorrect beliefs that students now seek to wear as costumes. Stereotypes that many students still face to this day when navigating the university. The purpose of blackface, yellowface, and practices like these were meant to alienate, denigrate, and to portray people of color as something inferior and unwelcome in society. To see that replicated on college campuses only reinforces the idea that this is a space in which we do not belong.
Nicholas Christakis attempted to meet with a group of students for hours to talk about all this. Take a look at how these coddled brats treated him:
There are more videos. Greg Lukianoff was there watching it, and writes:
One of the stronger accusations the students make is that Christakis’ refusal to apologize for his wife’s email makes him unfit to be master of Silliman.
“As your position as master, it is your job to create a place of comfort and home for the students that live in Silliman,” one student says. “You have not done that. By sending out that email, that goes against your position as master. Do you understand that?”
When Christakis disagreed, the student proceeded to yell at him.
“Who the f*ck hired you?” she asked, arguing that Christakis should “step down” because being master is “not about creating an intellectual space,” but rather “creating a home.”
This student is not alone. Many other students are going so far as to demand that Christakis and his wife resign from their roles as master and associate master. According to theWashington Post, students were drafting a formal letter Thursday evening, calling for the removal of Christakis and her husband from their roles in Silliman.
Read about the whole thing, courtesy of Lukianoff, of the indispensable FIRE.
Make no mistake about it, this mob is the enemy of free thought, the enemy of culture, the enemy of all of us who care about the intellect and learning. They are trying to hound this man and his wife off campus simply because she voiced skepticism over the university’s administration’s attempts to manage the way adult college students costume for Halloween. Incredibly, this mob of students, in the name of “safety,” demands that
Mommy and Daddy Yale’s administration protect them from having to confront any image or sight that might cause them the least distress.
If the Yale administration gives a single inch to these people, they will have disgraced themselves. Mark my words, though: these young left-wing, anti-liberal tyrants will move into elite positions in the American establishment, because Yale is a gateway to that kind of privilege. And when they do, they will exercise that power against anybody who doesn’t bow down to their radicalism.
Sooner or later, the backlash will come, and it is not going to be pleasant for the Social Justice Warriors. Ordinary people are going to get sick and tired of this Maoist bullying, and push back hard. May that day be hastened.
UPDATE: Reader Another Matt, an atheist who grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home, has a good point about the SJWs as products of a kind of secular Benedict Option gone wrong. Here’s his entire comment, in which he quotes another reader:
I predict when this silliness ends: when one of these over-privileged little twits tries this at his workplace and the next thing he hears is: “you’re fired.”I blame it on helicopter parenting, myself. They’ve surrounded their little darlings with so much cotton wool that the kiddies think the world owes them a totally safe and secure life with absolutely nothing upsetting them at any time. (Boy, are they in for a surprise!)
This stuff is not going anywhere. These folks are the future professors of _____ studies, human resource professionals, employment lawyers, judges, Deans of Diversity, etc.
These might be an important points vis a vis the fundamentalist BenOp worry in the previous thread. I can think of maybe two kids from my fundie cohort who were at all prepared to hold a job or to function in society. It’s not just the proselytizing, but the disregard for human authority structures and the entitlement that comes from being one of God’s chosen. The ones who got out either joined the military or went to college. I could say almost the same things:
“I predict when this silliness ends: when one of these holier-than-thou kids tries this at his workplace and the next thing he hears is: ‘you’re fired.’
I blame it on oversheltering, myself. They’ve surrounded their little darlings with so much lambskin that the kiddies think the world owes them total deference to their beliefs, with absolutely nothing resembling blasphemy or difference of belief at any time. (Boy, are they in for a surprise!)”
“This stuff is not going anywhere. These folks are the future pastors, worship band members, church photographers, etc.”
I wonder if you could look at this form of self-perpetuating grievance culture on the left as a kind of BenOp gone wrong: they’ve worked to preserve a place in academia where their values control the discourse as a means of escaping what they see as the worst of the real world; the price for not controlling extremism and purity (as I was saying in the other thread) is an inability to make a place for oneself outside when it’s time to leave the nest. It can be impossible to leave the nest at all and still function.