“Wrongthink” has been under attack on college campuses for decades, but it was in the fall of 2015 when the current trend of incivility first began picking up steam. Now, one of the trend’s first victims has received an award from his university.
One of the first signs of the oncoming deluge of protests, sit-ins, and campus “crybullies” came from Yale University, just before Halloween three years ago.
Students and grievance peddlers in the media had already been attacking the holiday for years, claiming that many costumes amounted to “cultural appropriation” and should be considered racist. Yale’s Intercultural Affairs Council circulated an email asking students to be considerate of this politically correct complaint. Ericka Christakis, then the associate master of Yale’s Silliman College, responded to the email by questioning the need for such censorship:
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 self-censure, through social norming, and also in your capacity to ignore or reject things that trouble you.
To watch Yale students’ reactions, one would think Christakis had defended the KKK. They not only protested loudly throughout campus, but demanded that Christakis and her husband, Nicholas, the master of Silliman College, be fired. Nicholas was angrily confronted by students in a video captured by Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The utter lack of respect these students had for an administrator and for a different opinion sparked others across the country to act as immaturely.
Yale University’s president and Yale College’s dean sent a short email to the Silliman community claiming to support the Christakis’, but an email sent to the entire Yale community focused on “diversity, and the need to increase it, support it, and respect it,” with just a small mention of free speech. As The College Fix points out, while Yale refused to fire the Christakis’, as angry students demanded, it honored some of the protesters.
A little over a month after Ericka sent the email, she resigned from teaching at Silliman. In May 2016, she and her husband resigned from Silliman College to focus on academic work.
Now, two years later, Nicholas has been named one of Yale’s Sterling professors, the highest honor a faculty member can receive. Nicholas is the current director of the Human Nature Lab and co-director of the Yale Institute for Network Science. Yale spokeswoman Karen Peart told The Yale Daily News that Nicholas’ recognition comes from his academic work and not the protests.