> They [Erika and Nicholas Christakis] have failed to acknowledge the hurt and pain that such a large part of our community feel. They have again and again shown that they are committed to an ideal of free speech, not to the Silliman community.
It is simply incredible to see anyone criticized for having a strong commitment to the freedom of speech. It's all the more amazing that it happened in a newspaper and on a college campus. The paragraph (as well as the rest of the piece) also seems to acknowledge that the demands of the protesters are at odds with the rest of the community's right to free expression. At a minimum, it acknowledges that the Christakises' position is one of principle, while failing to respect that fact.
The newspaper is offline now, but the op-ed was located at http://yaleherald.com/op-eds/hurt-at-home/. It's still available in Google's cache.
"There was so much coded language in that e-mail that is just disrespectful," said Ewurama Okai, a junior.
I, too, read the letter, which was my impetus for doing further research of my own. It seems pretty benign and progressive when read with no surrounding context (as the author presents it), so I found it hard to believe that some of the smartest students in the country would have such a poor reaction towards it. Clearly there is a larger theme that many here are failing to discuss, which is the wide perception of a pervasive and ingrained culture of racism at Yale.
It's unfortunate but understandable that some students got so worked up that they behaved poorly and acted on emotion, rather than rationally, which they later did with the petition and various letters/articles addressing the issue.
We should be focusing on the overall themes of the argument rather than the specific anecdotes of what one student said or did which may not be representative of the entire body.
See my (downvoted) comments below for a more thorough discussion between myself and tptacek.
Intelligence is orthogonal to wisdom. They could theoretically be the smartest students in the country, but even if so that doesn't mean they're wise or emotionally stable. I would recommend that you obey your own judgement here.
If you see a house burning you call the fire department, you don't start speculating that maybe it's a movie set.
That's because you ignored the word "ideal". It's not saying he can't have a commitment to freedom of speech. It's saying that he can't excuse not taking the students concern seriously because of it. Just because I like to promote e.g. human rights doesn't mean it's appropriate to troll every military thread on HN about it. Anyone can hold stubborn views and it's fine to do so, unless it's actually your job to takes peoples concerns seriously.
> When students tried to tell him about their painful personal experiences as students of color on campus, he responded by making more arguments for free speech. It’s unacceptable when the Master of your college is dismissive of your experiences. [...] We are supposed to feel encouraged to go to our Master and Associate Master with our concerns and feel that our opinions will be respected and heard. [...] He seems to lack the ability, quite frankly, to put aside his opinions long enough to listen to the very real hurt that the community feels. He doesn’t get it. And I don’t want to debate.
It's almost never about opinions in these cases, but about trust. If you're unrelenting now, what says you want be that when I have some other concern?
And I don’t want to debate.
Mind you, that's not saying that the perception of sealioning is necessarily correct, but it certainly reads to me like the perception is there.
A: I think the moon is made of cheese.
B: Why do you think that? Do you know of any evidence?
A: Sea-lioning! I will not debate you!!
An example in practice is the talk page for Gamergate on Wikipedia, where organized brigades of trolls spent so much time re-asking the same questions over and over that at least for a while (I haven't checked if it's still the case) the mods there started topic-banning anyone who posted something already answered in the FAQ on the page.
No, it really isn't.
Here's the real backstory of "sealioning": Group A made some assertions. Group B refused to accept their assertions. Group A decided that what was called for was yet another in a long list of mechanisms for dismissing and invalidating criticism. And here we are.
You can't just wave a hand, or a rhetorical gimmick lifted from a webcomic, and make your critics go away. They will never go away. There are still people who think that the earth is flat or that vaccines cause autism or that GMOs are dangerous. If you hurl abuse at them and find tricks like the "sealioning" accusation to dismiss them, you're just sinking below their level and making them look like the rational ones. A better policy: let the fools ask their foolish questions. If you are right, you have nothing to fear, and all the fools will accomplish is inadvertently help you educate the onlookers.
That's what that email (very politely) did, though, didn't it?
However well-intended it was meant, it was a reply to "please be considerate about your costumes" with (to paraphrase much more bluntly) "well, why should we care about college students being offensive or inoffensive?".
It's the kind of thing that is worth discussing in the abstract, but it would be hard to argue it's not tangential to the original topic.
"I don’t wish to trivialize genuine concerns about cultural and personal representation, and other challenges to our lived experience in a plural community. I know that many decent people have proposed guidelines on Halloween costumes from a spirit of avoiding hurt and offense. I laud those goals, in theory, as most of us do. But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students."
The original email coaching students on acceptable costumes had 13 signatures from Yale administrators and faculty. Erika's email was NOT asking why anyone should care, it was asking why the students should not be their own agents.
The whole thing seems premeditated rather then fueled by student concerns when you consider she has written an article on the subject: http://ideas.time.com/2012/10/23/have-adults-ruined-hallowee...
That doesn't follow. Furthermore, she was signing her single name to her response to a letter signed by 13 administrators and faculty. If anything, her dissent might have reduced the appearance of a cohesive insertion of Yale authority. What I have quoted was near the heart of her message and sensibly supported throughout.
Her Time article was on the same theme of the insertion of adult control over Halloween. Is this supposed to reveal a "premeditated" crime?
* Her letter tries to influence the students she had authority over as her position as associate master. It was implicitly co-signed by her husband, the master. The letter was only sent to those students.
* Most of the rest of the letter has a different questioning rhetoric tone, of course no one can make you see that if you don't want to.
* The article shows she had an agenda and wasn't just reacting to the letter. It bring into question whether she is appropriate for the roll as associate masters since she apparently thought promoting her own agenda was more important than good relations to the students.
What's missing: "Respected and heard" does not necessarily equate to "agreed with." It seems more like these students are pissed that the Master is not agreeing with them, but instead is respecting and hearing their opinions while agreeing to disagree.
There does seem to be some kind of a racist pattern at Yale which I would imagine violates at least some free speech law:
>> Which "free speech law" would that be which is being violated here?
> Freedom of speech and expression can exist as a concept outside the limited bounds of codified law.
I didn't downvote it, but it's pretty obvious why it got downvoted.
And if you want to go with community and what's appropriate. It's a fucking college. Colleges are places of discussion, learning and debate. College is the place to be offended. To learn why something is offensive, why something else is not, and determine whether offense is appropriate or not.
Some people might see it as cultural appropriation. But it's a fictional character. Similarly, my ex-girlfriend often (with the approval of her Taiwanese and Chinese friends) dressed in some traditional Chinese outfits for Halloween for several years. None took offense, they encouraged it!
It's really hard to tell what's going to offend and what's not.
"with the approval of her Taiwanese and Chinese friends"
Is the wrong argument to make. It's the equivalent of "I say offensive black jokes around my black friends and they think it's funny."
Calling them a minority group may not be accurate, but there certainly is or was racism/nationalism/religionism targeted against them.
If a person is Chinese, born and living in China, it seems highly unlikely that they would care about what Americans say or do.
If a person is an American, who speaks American English, lives in America, but also has Chinese ancestry: appropriation of their identity is more likely to be a problem.
As far as Halloween goes this is all hypothetical, because I'm not totally convinced that anybody is sincerely hurt by 'appropriative' costumes.
Same story as Lilo & Stitch in many ways. I bet real aliens would be offended too, and frankly all humans should be offended at how the black suits are portrayed.
(It is a stupid argument.)
There's a tendency for people of all races to take reduction of other races and wear them as a way to make fun of that race/culture.
To presume otherwise is to fall into the same trap as the students being discussed here.
Bollocks: it is of pivotal importance. There is always going to be some group with more power than the others, regardless of whether the difference is based on race, class, handedness, or simply having more power than other groups.
Blaming one race for problems implies that, if another race was in power, there wouldn't be problems. Which is A) racist and B) exactly the kind of thinking that keeps getting us into this situation, over and over, as some of us struggle towards a more enlightened and egalitarian future, rather than engaging in group shaming and futile identity politics.
Until we can start accepting that in-group bias is simply an extension of out-group prejudice, and that no group of people is immune to it, we are just going to keep bickering and fighting and struggling to dominate each other.
That I am to be judged solely by my race and not as an individual? That standards should be different for me because I'm white?
Hardly seems the world Dr. King was envisioning.
The purpose of expressing offense to speech or content is to draw attention to historical power imbalances that have enabled the abuse of one group at the hands of another. Because no one has the power to control your feelings unless you allow them to, I would not presume to tell you how to feel.
However, if you're arguing that "Stuff White People Like" is an example of how a dominant American group denigrates 'white culture' and is indicative of further systematic abuse of white people, I'm happy to take you to task on that claim, as it's demonstratively false.
The same mistake is being made by these Yale students: they're focussing on their feelings and demanding that their government (in this case, the administration) take action against the people hurting their feelings. This has not worked and never will. You cannot legislate people's beliefs. You can only attempt to reason with them or draw their empathy through education. Some will believe you and join you, others will disagree.
Describing it as "knowingly offensive" seems pretty crazy to me (though obviously others disagree).
The concept of freedom of speech exists to preserve people's ability to communicate and express ideas. The "reaction" you refer to is merely an attempt to control the behavior of others. They are not equivalent.
Welcome to the New McCarthyism.
The writing I saw attributed to Erika Christakis was thoughtful, constructive, and polite. It didn't attack anybody, but promoted a viewpoint that talked about inclusion and the difficultly that can be experienced when attempting to understand the viewpoints of other groups. It's not at all combative.
I guess it just seems plainly self-evident to me that sensible discussion would be far more constructive towards solving the issues at hand. Harassment achieves almost nothing.
Perhaps because the conversation is being dominated by teenagers? The 'catastrophism' that the article cites is actually a normal psychological trait shared by teenagers. What's really at fault here I think is our binary definition of adulthood - none of the students excoriating their dorm 'master' here should really be considered psychological adults.
> With world-altering research to support, graduates who assume positions of extraordinary power, and a $24.9 billion endowment to marshal for better or worse, Yale administrators face huge opportunity costs as they parcel out their days.
or the text surrounding the e-mail
> Erika Christakis reflected on the frustrations of the students, drew on her scholarship and career experience, and composed an email inviting the community to think about the controversy through an intellectual lens that few if any had considered. Her message was a model of relevant, thoughtful, civil engagement.
> It’s hard to imagine a more deferential way to begin voicing her alternative view. And having shown her interlocutors that she*respects them and shares their ends, she explained her misgivings about the means of telling college kids what to wear on Halloween.
It's weird how much someone supposedly advocating having an open-mind are telling you what to think without explaining why. Then you get HN comments saying how respectful her e-mail was, without talking about the issues themselves. It's written for someone that agrees with the premise of the article and won't question all the embellishments. It's apparent even by the title.
Why shouldn't adult students be able to govern themselves with regard to Halloween costumes?
Why do adult students require guidance from administrators to determine what is and isn't allowed?
Why are adult students upset that someone has asked these questions?
2. Bogus premise. The original mass-email offered advice about choosing non-offensive costumes, and that advice was so general that nobody could have mistaken it for "guidance"; it was, rather, a set of questions to ask about your costume choices. It was Erika Christakis who reframed it as a set of guidelines, suggesting at the same time that Yale culture was going to police Mulan costumes.
3. The students are upset that the letter hand-waves away concerns about racial sensitivities and stereotypes by making comparisons between childrens costumes and choices made by adults in a climate where there had been real racist incidents at Halloween.
(I don't agree with the students but you should be able to summarize their arguments accurately if you hope to refute them.)
That the faculty offers guidance doesn't seem to be much of an issue since that is what the article commends Nicholas and Erika Christakis for doing. Why there should be guidance is argued in the original e-mail on costumes . That someone is upset doesn't seem to concern the author much when they don't agree with his viewpoint.
This is the problem with basing discussions on low quality articles. Let's look at the e-mails instead.
The first e-mail is arguing it's point.
> Yale is a community that values free expression as well as inclusivity. And while students, undergraduate and graduate, definitely have a right to express themselves, we would hope that people would actively avoid those circumstances that threaten our sense of community or disrespects, alienates or ridicules segments of our population based on race, nationality, religious belief or gender expression.
The second e-mail offers:
> Which is my point. I don’t, actually, trust myself to foist my Halloweenish standards and motives on others. I can’t defend them anymore than you could defend yours. Why do we dress up on Halloween, anyway? [...] Is it okay if you are eight, but not 18? I don’t know the answer to these questions; they seem unanswerable. [...] Whose business is it to control the forms of costumes of young people? It’s not mine, I know that.
It's funny you mention that - the code of conduct Github tried to adopt actually did specifically say it through their 'reverse racism/sexism' clause, aka It doesn't count as racism or sexism if your target is a straight white guy.
> Welcome to the New McCarthyism.
New? How does this differ from the Old McCarthyism?
I'm not the OP, but I think the OP's claim is that this McCarthyism pretends to be about social issues instead of pretending to be about communism.
To repeat: If you think even an incident like this Yale thing are reminiscent of McCarthyism, you should read more about the actual history of McCarthyism.
I understand the analogies in principle, but they leave out this key distinction.
> The harassers will gladly sign their own name to the actions, with the implication that if anyone should question them then their detractors will be the next target.
This characterizes a witch hunt. Old McCarthyism was a witch hunt. The satanic-abuse-slash-pedophilia day care scare was a witch hunt. What we have now is also a witch hunt. Cultural trappings may vary -- the House of Representatives was more heavily involved in hunting reds than usual; the day care scare saw more involvement from the judiciary.
This isn't a resurgence of McCarthyism, it's the same thing in new clothes. But I wouldn't think of this as coming from people remembering what happened in the 50s and thinking "I bet I could make this work today". It developed organically then, and it's developing organically now. This kind of thing is the natural state of human society; it will emerge when the culture doesn't restrain it, rather than being initiated by some unusual problem element.
1. The hunt is for something that doesn't really exist
2. Because the accusations have no base in reality, those targeted have no way to defend themselves
3. Those targeted are executed
I don't see how any of those apply here.
Comet guy's 'offensive' shirt was a big one
Seriously though, this sort of thing worries me more than any government activity or corporatism. Who needs authoritarian politics where (what seems like) a decent amount of the next generation wants to shut down anything they deem 'offensive' or 'uncomfortable'?
The videos there were particularly poignant and eminently predictable: student expresses group identity with the 'victimization culture' and screams and shouts over careful, thoughtful, measured academic, ignoring his statements and refusing to accept his right to even have an opinion. Student body watches in silence, possibly supporting the abusive screaming student, possibly in support of the professor but absolutely terrified to say anything lest they become a target of hate and abuse and country-wide public harassment. I'm not sure people with this attitude are mature enough to belong at any university, much less one of our best -- learning requires patience, respect, and an openness to other ideas. But maybe there's an opportunity there to teach them if they stay, it would just take a firm and brave stance from college administration -- the cynic in me suspects they'll find a way to fire this professor rather than that.
I'm curious whether you recognize this as your opinion, which is valuable to you because it flatters your own political beliefs, rather than an objective analysis. You've provided no evidence; you're just arguing with a straw man here. Maybe it's time for a new hobby, bro.
You will of course find all the evidence you need in TFA: the letter, the video, and if you need more it's readily available just look around. Welcome to actual discussion where we do not simply cite facts relevant or not and claim victory but provide thoughtful analysis and intellectual critique and arguments. Take a philosophy class more advanced than the "intro to rhetorical devices" one that taught you that the phrase "straw man" is a good one to throw out at random in an argument and you'll begin to understand.
It probably had to do with the general shift towards substantially more jobs requiring a college degree as a condition of employment, regardless of any actual relevance to the position, and at the same time parents pushing children towards college regardless of personal aptitudes or preferences.
The quote from the article is striking:
> It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! Do you understand that? It’s about creating a home here.
That's not the attitude of someone going to college because they see it as a method of intellectual development. It's the attitude of someone going to college because they see it as a required phase in their life that has to be done to tick off the checkboxes to enter professional life.
I don't have a problem if people don't want to face swastikas made of human feces in their homes -- different school, but sounds like the same kinda idea, http://www.salon.com/2015/11/09/amid_racial_justice_protests... -- because free speech at all times in all places isn't the single most important thing ever, especially when people are living together.
(edit: fixed a broken link)
The students want their homes to be free from racist shit (literally, in this case) and the administration responds with "intellectual development!" which is cowardly and nonsequitor.
As if you either get to be coddled (i.e. not wanting pervasive racism to filter into your living quarters) or you get to be challenged to grow intellectually (in practice, a shockingly conservative--for a university--position of "nothing's wrong, everything's fine!").
They're not working at cross-purposes, the claims of intellectual development are just a weasel word defense of the status quo; a staus quo where a lot of people of color apparently feel the continual sting of systemic discrimination.
Or, taken more positively, the administration is giving these students a chance to experience, first-hand, the concepts that power concedes nothing without a demand, that collective action is a powerful force for change, that sometimes people have to get their hands dirty and fight for things, and so on.
It's always been there. Except now, they have the power of social media. Do you find a view "problematic"? No problem. Just round up a few thousand like-minded cohorts and burn the heretics.
It was reported that most of the administration in colleges is composed of liberals. To be clear, I have nothing against liberals but the over-representation of a specific political/societal opinion in an education setting is not a good thing. And I would say the same thing if it was mostly conservatives in charge of education.
And to contrast with what I just wrote, I don't think colleges are responsible (not directly at least) for this new trend, I think they just go with the flow and try to cater to students to attract them, they just give them what they want (safe spaces, puppy time, trigger warnings, etc) to make sure they can keep bringing revenue.
Well, the only disagreement I have is that you think that hasn't happened yet.
I came late to America and have no interest in politics (I can't even vote) so I want to believe that I'm able to observe and make a fairly impartial judgement. To me there is no difference between conservatives and liberals, the only details is you either hate America or minorities as you pointed out. Politics in America is sports for the educated.
> If you took a survey of the groups described in the article, 90% would self-identify as liberal.
This same statistic probably extends to the faculty and administrators trying to maintain a semblance of intellectualism at universities. They identify as liberal and came of age in a time when that actually meant supporting free speech.
It's the continuation of the US 'culture war'.
But "liberal" has two meanings: It means the opposite of "illiberal", that is, in favor of human freedom. It also means "to the left on the political spectrum", which is a completely orthogonal meaning. (The political left can be as anti-freedom as the political right, and historically, I'm not sure which side has been "better".)
Whether or not you like it, both definitions of "liberal" are in common usage. If anything, the political usage is more common than the not-illiberal usage.
That means regarding it as "culture war" to call the college students "liberal" is... swimming against the tide? Trying to fight an unwinnable war? Not a good occasion for getting up in arms, at any rate.
It wasn't some grassroots movement, it was a conscious propaganda technique. "I never use the words Republicans and Democrats. It's liberals and Americans." - James G. Watt.
It'd be like if one day people started completely uncritically and unironically referring to "libertarians" as "authoritarians". Sure, it's human language and anything goes, but it wouldn't be any less pants-on-head idiotic.
Fun fact: the politically conservative party in Australia is called the Liberal Party.
I'm an Aussie. The Liberal party, despite its often illiberal stance recently, actually has a pretty broad church of opinion within the party.
The party is definitely conservative and largely push against changing the status quo, but actually there are a lot of different views within the party.
It was only recently that Tony Abbott prevented this free contest of ideas within the party room with his "Captain's picks" (a cricketing term where the captain of the team gets to pick team mates) and allowed his chief of staff to be a "gate keeper" between him and the party, which led to policy disagreements that festered within the Coalition (National Party - largely country people - and the Liberal Party) or otherwise known as the LNP. It was an utter disaster and eventually the party elected to boot him from the leadership position. This was despite the fact this happened in the Labor party twice already and they largely won an election because they campaigned on stability!
If you accept the dictionary definition of "liberal" as the acceptance of another person's viewpoint, then I'd consider the Liberal Party to be just that -"liberal". The Abbott years were an anomaly.
Ironically there are many times I've seen people from the U.S. argue the LNP are a libertarian party. They are most definitely NOT libertarians!
I don't like the Liberal Party because of their stance on climate change and asylum seekers. With Malcolm Turnbull in charge, their stance on climate change has changed but it will take some time to unravel the stupidity of the Abbott Government's policy decisions.
I'm hoping Turnbull will change or come up with a better asylum seeker policy. Right now, there is very little difference between the ALP and the LNP.
You quote James Watt. That was 30 years ago.
This ship sailed a long time ago. You aren't going to change everyone else's usage here, no matter how hard to tilt against that windmill.
You may not believe that words have meanings, but I actually put value into semiotics and semantics.
OK, it's American slang. We're talking about an American college here, and I suspect that the majority of the people in the conversation are Americans. That means that you are the one insisting on using words in ways that are not the standard meaning.
Besides, you assume that everyone in the U.S. have the same understanding of the word "liberal". It's always good to have these terms discussed and clarified.
I believe (though I do not have the data to prove) that the majority of people on this site are in the U.S. (Not just in this conversation, on this site.) It therefore seems appropriate that U.S. definitions be accepted. (Other definitions should also be accepted/tolerated, of course, but the U.S. definitions should always be accepted - not because "it's the US!", but because those terms are used by the majority of the people here.)
vezzy-fnord has been complaining about the use of the U.S. term in this conversation. If he/she wants to say that the term may not be understood by others who are not in the U.S., that's fine. But vezzy-fnord's stance has been more that our use of the term is wrong. I disagree with that position - language is defined by usage, after all.
[Edit: I mean that the proper definition of a word on HN would be how that word is normally used by the majority of people on HN, not how it would be normally used by the majority of people in the world. Again, this is not intended to be saying that the U.S. definition is the only right one for HN - we should accept other peoples' usage as well. But telling the majority that their use of the term is incorrect... well, I think at best it's wasting a lot of peoples' time.]
> Besides, you assume that everyone in the U.S. have the same understanding of the word "liberal".
Thanks to our media's simple-minded casting of everything as "liberal vs. conservative", yes, pretty much everyone in the U.S. has that understanding. (Fewer people seem to have the understanding of "liberal" to mean "not illiberal, in favor of personal liberty". I wish it were otherwise.)
Which is, incidentally, a very liberal (using the American connotation of the word) thing to do.
Your definition of liberal more closely matches the definition of "libertarianism".
> 1. favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.
> 2. (often initial capital letter) noting or pertaining to a political party advocating measures of progressive political reform.
> 3. of, pertaining to, based on, or advocating liberalism, especially the freedom of the individual and governmental guarantees of individual rights and liberties.
> 4. favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, especially as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties.
> 5. favoring or permitting freedom of action, especially with respect to matters of personal belief or expression:
a liberal policy toward dissident artists and writers.
> 6. of or relating to representational forms of government rather than aristocracies and monarchies.
> 7. free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant: a liberal attitude toward foreigners.
So I'm not sure that I see a valid basis for your complaint.
FWIW, the GP didn't make a sweeping statement that all students were liberals, but that it was reported that student administration is largely composed of liberals.
Now that is a bit problematic, because a. It doesn't state where this is reported so it's hard to counter, and b. It doesn't define what is meant by the term "liberal"... But these are all things to ask for clarification on.
If we could ask for clarification in a respectful way (I'm guilty of not being respectful I'm afraid) these threads would be a lot more enlightening as the discourse would flow more freely and clearly.
In the US context there is very much a reason for this: the right is hostile to intellectualism per se, and occasionally hostile to non-pragmatic education itself.
It's rather rare that the people one is speaking to in a comments thread actually change views in it, especially to the extent that they start off using codeword language. It's more for the 'benefit' of bystanders. And a bit of good old fashioned point-scoring.
Comments sections aren't solely for the benefit of the two people hashing out their views, but also for all those reading them.
The more I read that posters comments the more of a fan I become. Not because I agree, but because it makes me think. I honestly don't say that lightly.
Though maybe that is part of the problem: it's harder to have a coherent argument when two very different camps both use the same overarching ideological name to define their diametrically opposed views.
Yale students do not get to run their own university. So when they want to replace some backwards, incompetent administrators, they must turn to activism. They can't merely decide to hire better ones.
> "this sort of thing worries me more than any government activity or corporatism."
Thanks for sharing your priorities. Government and corporations are the dominant power structures which lead to international mass murder ("war"), subordination/obedience, surveillance, mass incarceration... But students replacing backwards administrators are most worrying of all.
From what I can see, it does look like he's an outstanding academic. But unfortunately that doesn't help much against an angry, offended mob.
> some backwards, incompetent administrators
Which part of the polite email that was sent would you describe as "incompetent" or "backwards?"
It's a sad day when you see students petitioning for professors to be removed for treating them like adults.
Those students become the next consumers, neighbors, managers, politicians, lawyers, judges, and, indeed, activists. Their power is not in angry protests, it manifests slowly, in the kinds of products people sell or buy, or laws we promote or demonize.
The reason I suspect student intolerance is perceived as a big problem is that for whatever nasty things THE SYSTEM is up to today, those students represent who will run it tomorrow.
Will that still be the case, if the students succeed in getting them replaced?
> Yale students do not get to run their own university. So when they want to replace some backwards, incompetent administrators, they must turn to activism.
Should they be able to remove any administrators that they want to? How many students should it take?
> They can't merely decide to hire better ones.
If they could, would they have the ability to judge which ones are better, and which ones are worse?
If you're pointing that at the Christakises, I seriously question your judgment. At least in this situation, they acted with considerable patience, forbearance, and restraint.
The outrage might be over the top for a single email, but that is not the context experienced by the students protesting. As a white guy with a good job, the Atlantic author and I share the privilege to experience race if and when we choose. From that perspective, it's easy to call this "a fight over Halloween costumes"
For the women who say they were turned away from a "white girls only" party, and for many others, it's not a fight over an email about Halloween costumes. It's about having administrators who acknowledge the reality that they experience on an ongoing basis:
It's worth reading another side of the story before jumping to conclusions:
When you see all the context that the Atlantic author, Mr Friedersdorf, chooses to ignore, you should think about the political agenda behind a piece like this.
People have become too sensitive to everything -- everything. When everyone feels that they are being victimized constantly how do you move forward? How does anyone accomplish anything? Did someone look at you this morning? Might have been a micro-aggression. Did someone say hello, but you detected a "tone" in their voice? Fucking sexism!
Perhaps these students might focus more on moving our country forward as they take the reins rather than being apoplectic over incidents that no one, including them, will remember in five years. There are very large racial issues in the US, but these are not them.
I read the medium.com article and feel that it has an equally political agenda behind it.
Both are people yelling "look over here!", but neither with realistic solutions to those problems.
"everyone feels that they are being victimized constantly" is a pretty bold claim. You offer no concrete evidence to support this. Instead you link to Jerry Seinfeld also claiming, without providing evidence, that colleges are too politically correct.
Is there too much sensitivity? I'm not saying there isn't. But you've offered nothing to support that claim other than a lazy "you know those PC college kids, amirite?" Well, no, I don't. I've heard some things I think are pretty silly, but how prevalent are they actually? Frankly, if this thread is anything to go on, anti-PC people spend plenty of time whining about how they're constantly victimized by political correctness, and I wonder how much of it is just projection.
You've taken this one incident (which, in the context of the "No Black Girls" parties and other details Fridersdorf deliberately left out, isn't even convincing on its own) and blown it out into "everyone feels that they are being victimized constantly." It's lazy and does nobody any good. Try going a week without using the words "always" or "never" unless you're referring to an actual tautology.
So? Just because you can play logical fallacy bingo with someone's point of view, does not mean that they can't express it.
That was my opinion, not a formal debate argument entry in a PC convincing contest.
"By sending out that email, that goes against your position as master. ... You should not sleep at night! You are disgusting!"
Regardless of what's happening elsewhere, this student's primary concern does appear to be the email.
If protests were primarily over the party, then a lot more people would be supportive.
There is a stark division of class which is invisible from most people's computer screens, but is very uncomfortable living here. Most of the people who attend Yale are highly privileged. But, if you're not part of the university, you are probably living in poverty here. Seeing this video being recontextualized by the Internet as part of this "Us vs SJWs" debate is infuriating.
It doesn't make them valid.
I've also read the article and it's more than about just the email or the racism: it's also about how giving up to bullies and censorship leads to abuse and injustice.
Worse yet, some are taking this as a launching point to dispose of the "safe space" concept without knowing what exactly defines a "safe space." For people who don't have anything to lose (white, rich, heterosexual, and non-transgender) this is fine. But for the rest of us who depend to communicate and get support on safe spaces online and offline it's a big deal.
This is what I find missing in most discourse anymore. It's like nobody has a feel for nuance anymore so every issue is black or white and couldn't possibly be anything else.
> made it seem like Yale students are only rallying because of an email sent by Professor Erika Christakis, which suggested that people should feel free to wear culturally insensitive costumes on Halloween.
Having read that email, if that's all they chose to understand from the email, then I don't trust this as a source one damn bit.
It would be reasonable to speak about missed context if students protested something that was an example of a larger issue. But that's not the case. They protest something that they view as a symbol of that larger issue. Example. Symbol. Different things, but it seems people no longer can tell them apart.
I mean, really, Halloween costumes? What's next? Banning toy soldiers to protest war?
First is the echo chamber phenomenon, which I'm sure we are all familiar with and requires no further introduction.
Second, I suspect, is the amazing speed at which technology has upended the world. Where technology can have an impact, it can change things at light speed compared to what our parents and grandparents put up with.
Take TV for example. For decades, televisions were tiny, expensive black-and-white boxes. Then after a while they became affordable, small-but-not-tiny black-and-white boxes. Took a bit longer until color television was the standard, less time for decent resolutions to be expected, even less for HDTV/4K. Not to mention the proliferation of content from 1-5 channels to thousands.
I believe that as technology changes life at a rapidly increasing pace, people's expectation of a rate of change is accordingly affected. We want things now, or tomorrow, or next week if we're really looking forward.
Mix that attitude with an echo chamber and you have a sizable cohort of well-meaning young people who are perturbed - if not outraged - that the societal ills of thousands of years of cultural development haven't been resolved yesterday, and anybody who calls to question the new attitude or the speed of its implementation must have a racist/sexist/pro-refined-sugars agenda.
Nope, it exploded into an all-out culture war I couldn't have imagined.
Unsurprisingly, all this identity politicking has been met by a swift reactionary movement in bile like The Daily Stormer becoming surprisingly popular given how niche the ideology generally is. It's a buffoonish competition of "more persecuted than thou".
Meanwhile, liberal values get to bite the dust.
> The student explodes, “Then why the fuck did you accept the position?! Who the fuck hired you?! You should step down! If that is what you think about being a master you should step down! It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! Do you understand that? It’s about creating a home here. You are not doing that!”
Bloom places a heavy emphasis on extolling to college students the virtues of western intellectual tradition, and reactions like this one show why. Willingness to entertain ideas that could cause social disharmony is actually pretty unusual among world cultures. It's unusual in the western world, but even more so nearly everywhere else. It's not the natural order of things. It's a discovery, an achievement, but one that can be lost to time.
I could also talk about the first part too, like the video of the girl yelling at Nicholas is so interesting. You want to stand up for something, yet you cannot have a conversation about it and just yell at the man?
Seriously though, what is wrong with people these days that they can't even have a dialogue?
Is this the result of the us vs. them propaganda started by George W. Bush? The result of an education system which forces students to only memorize, and not to think? The result of a generation of helicopter parents?
Regardless, it's scary to think that in this day and age in which we consider ourselves so 'progressive', people attack others' beliefs (even very moderate ones) with a zeal that would make ISIS proud...
When you teach that there is no real truth, that "truth" is merely a sociological construct, that all speech is only about power (because it literally cannot be about truth), and a bunch of impressionable 18-year-olds listen and believe you, and start to act on what they believe, this is what you get. Why would you expect something else to happen?
[Edit: slight softening of language, so that it was not unintentionally accusative.]
Edit - your language was fine. I still like your explanation. Provocative language belongs in discussions like this regardless, even though I didn't take your message that way.
This issue is related is part of a larger trend whereby arguably minor transgressions trigger significant protest (see the Atlantic's coverage of Oberlin). My take is that after an oppressed class completes the initial leaps and bounds toward equality, tactics of old (e.g. nonviolent peaceful protest) cease to effect further change. New tactics therefore must evolve in order to close the remaining gap. This gap is relatively small, but its size isn't the point - the fact that a gap, based merely on class identification, exists at all should not be accepted.
The current tactics might not be perfect - I posit they are still evolving. But they do effectively utilize available resources and processes (e.g. content virality) to draw massive attention to issues.
As for their characterization by MSM (e.g. the protesters are "bullies", they have fostered what is uncharitably called a "victimhood culture") we are simply observing (or participating in) the attempt to resolve cognitive dissonance between evidence of social inequality and the intellectual status quo.
I think there are mix of issues going on here that are getting handled oddly.
1) Debating ideas versus the validity of groups.
In my opinion if there's overt racism, there is room for the campus to intervene to make sure they have an inclusive environment. However if they're debating something (intentionally picking something else) like whether or not there should be dogs on campus or whether or not dog owning is a good idea in the abstract, this is a completely fair discussion. Unfortunately both types of discussions are happening which is making the debate more difficult.
2) Offensive speech
Some people will hold and express ideas that others find offensive. As long as this speech is not designed to directly dehumanize or devalue contributing members of the community this probably has to be allowed to have a healthy dialogue.
3) Lots of poor judgement.
I suspect many of the incidents (other than the overt racism which is separate) that have crossed the line were not intended to be offensive, but I think some of them were deeply offensive. If you do something deeply offensive I think it's reasonable to be received with a somewhat hostile reaction (demands for apology, anger towards group, etc). This is probably not the most effective way to engage people, better to try to explain why what they did is deeply offensive. I think it's completely reasonable for the school to try to encourage a positive, thoughtful interaction between people without trying to police every minor injustice.
I have no problem with an NA group asking participants to respectfully focus on recovery and minimize talking about all the crazy shit you did as an addict -- participation is voluntary, after all. Imposing a similar "safe space" in the real world is obviously impossible. Attempts to ostracize those who dare suggest that a university campus should model the real world instead of a safe space is really insidious.
This is not a demonstration of "SJW" or students acting like sheltered children. It's about students protesting against a campus culture that they feel discriminates against them. Such as when a frat house explicitly banned black girls from entering on Halloween. 
This is the closest the author comes to addressing the real issue, rather than picking anecdotes and quotes to defend his thesis while hyperbolically  bashing the "activists":
Some Yalies are defending their broken activist culture by seizing on more defensible reasons for being upset. “The protests are not really about Halloween costumes or a frat party,” Yale senior Aaron Lewis writes. “They’re about a mismatch between the Yale we find in admissions brochures and the Yale we experience every day. They’re about real experiences with racism on this campus that have gone unacknowledged for far too long. The university sells itself as a welcoming and inclusive place for people of all backgrounds. Unfortunately, it often isn’t.”
But regardless of other controversies at Yale, its students owe Nicholas and Erika Christakis an apology. And they owe apologies to other objects of their intolerance, too.
This is bad and misleading journalism written to generate views and stoke a flame war by bringing in the popular theme of college-student-as-inept-coddled-child-who-fights-for-trivial-things-and-bullies-others.
 This beggars belief. Yale students told to talk to each other if they find a peer’s costume offensive helplessly declare that they’re unable to do so without an authority figure specifying “any modes or means to facilitate these discussions,” as if they’re Martians unfamiliar with a concept as rudimentary as disagreeing in conversation, even as they publish an open letter that is, itself, a mode of facilitating discussion.
There was apparently a racist incident at a frat house, but Christakis had nothing to do with it. The ire Christakis faces appears to derive entirely from the email Erika Christakis wrote. When the girl in the campus quad screams at Christakis that he's disgusting, should resign, and should not be able to sleep at night, she's yelling because he refuses to apologize for the email.
This was the big deal, apparently:
I'm not arguing against free speech, but it seems like many interpreted her comments to be accepting of a pervasive and ingrained culture of racism at Yale.
We should be focusing on the overall themes of the argument rather than the specific anecdotes of what one student said or did which may not be representative of the entire body.
What's a code? It's a way for a sender to send a message to a recipient without anybody else being able to understand it. For a racist, say, coded language can be a very useful way of hiding their racism and still communicating.
But if you get hyper politically correct, and compile every possible word that you could possibly perceive to be a code word for any possible oppressor in any possible context, well, you get so many words that even a reasonable, thoughtful communication trips your detectors.
But for it to be code, the sender has to intend to send the code. For example, if I'm tapping my foot at random, and the Morse Code translation of those taps offends the person in the next cube, well, sorry, but I don't actually know Morse Code, so I wasn't sending a coded message.
So: Was the language in that letter "coded language"? Or are the students so hyper-sensitive that everything is "coded language"? My guess is that they're hyper-sensitive.
The Genius annotation of the letter makes a lot of totally reasonable arguments, reasonable enough that I would characterize the whole letter as "somewhat wrong-headed" now. But so what?
I'm not sure that calling for the Christakis' resignation is the correct remedial action, but if you were being discriminated against, wouldn't you be angry and ready to fight? Especially if you were promised a safe haven from racism and discrimination at one of the country's most elite schools?
Most of the stuff I've seen on Facebook from Yale students has been directed towards the frat, so I'm surprised there isn't more of a mention of that whole incident in this story either.
If the Chisakises had an actual problem with racial insensitivity, their opponents were given ample opportunities to allow Nicholas and Erika to hang themselves with their own words --- the protesters wrote open letters, had campus debates, &c. Instead, they jumped the gun.
I don't have a horse in the race, and I wanted to call out the author's blatant bias, and yet I was immediately downvoted to the bottom of the thread.
I am disappointed to see these knee-jerk reactions gaining consensus when we have precious little insight into the issues at hand and how they are actually being dealt with.
at some point the university administration needs to simply stop acknowledging this as an acceptable form of communication. it isn't. once those children leave the university they'll discover that for themselves all too soon.
It all seems rather childish. Erika wrote the most open wise letter that basically expressed the desire to not render judgement.
The students are angry that they didn't want to judge others.
Sounds a lot like the troubles Jesus got into personally.
Nobody is suggesting that it's not free speech to call someone racist or demand their resignation. Free speech can express intolerance.
What I didn't do: I did not call for his firing from his position for his views, that would be intolerance, and not criticism.
The professors didn't call for any students expressing different opinions to be expelled.
The way it's being applied on college campuses is insane.
It is sad that the absurdity has been allowed to go on for so many years before the average person decided to be reasonable and push back. I'm glad that people are finally waking up and realizing that a culture where dressing up for Halloween is "potentially offensive" is absurd .
I fear a world where I can no longer purchase a kimono because it has been labeled as "potentially offensive" and "cultural appropriation" of the Japanese people by a group of disproportionately white "progressives". While ignoring how the Japanese people feel about it, of course. Also - even if you were Japanese you wouldn't be allowed to wear a kimono. After all, it is possible to appropriate your own culture .
Saying that effective tactics should not be used because bad people also use them only disempowers those under attack.
The professor was brave enough to put her name to her opinion. I think those opposing her should also be as brave and let their names be known and let everyone see their responses. If that is negative because of the way they expressed them, then they might see that their behaviour is not terribly acceptable.
Honestly, I used to agree with you on this, but I'm starting to think that this craziness isn't going to end until the "activists" start getting a taste of their own medicine. And it's not like they won't claim they're being persecuted anyway...
It's far too easy for activists and anti-activists alike to get caught up in the crusade, and it's not hard to imagine that someone names an "activist in need of a taste of their own medicine" that gets piled on before anyone realizes a mistake was made and an innocent was punished, perhaps even irreparably.
Between the censorship, "safe spaces" where people refuse to even think about an idea they find offensive, the decline of academia as a viable career path, and the overwhelming tuition costs, I think talented and ambitious people are going to be spending as little time as possible at universities in the future.
These students then take these lessons out into the open, and are infernally convinced that they are Right and everyone else is wrong. It is shameful that these pseudo-philosophies are allowed to be taught in school as if they have any intellectual depth. Their only purpose is to radicalize the students into being loud self-righteous people.
So there's that, plus there are completely ineffectual helicopter parents who have coddled their children so much that they grow up spoiled. I saw the video of that person at Yale shouting at the professor - if my mother saw me do that she'd slap me in the face. What a despicable display of disrespect towards a reasonable man.
As opposed to what? Teaching that we live in a fantasy world where everyone is actually treated equally?
"To accuse others for one's own misfortunes is a sign of want of education. To accuse oneself shows that one's education has begun. To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one's education is complete." - Epictetus
> Erika Christakis' ... message was a model of relevant, thoughtful, civil engagement.
That is a parody of bullshit.
She refers repeatedly about "censure and prohibition but do read the email she is complaining about  and tell me where the requirements are:
> Yale is a community that values free expression as well as inclusivity. And while students, undergraduate and graduate, definitely have a right to express themselves, we would hope that people would actively avoid those circumstances that threaten our sense of community or disrespects, alienates or ridicules segments of our population based on race, nationality, religious belief or gender expression... There is growing national concern on campuses everywhere about these issues, and we encourage Yale students to take the time to consider their costumes and the impact it may have. So, if you are planning to dress-up for Halloween, or will be attending any social gatherings planned for the weekend, please ask yourself these questions before deciding upon your costume choice
From the genius annotations to her email  by April Joyner:
> it is hard for me to give credence to a claim that there is something objectionably “appropriative” about a blonde-haired child’s wanting to be Mulan for a day
This is an example of a straw man argument. The original email from the Intercultural Affairs Council said nothing about blond-haired children wanting to be Mulan—or children at all. The email listed “wearing feathered headdresses, turbans, wearing ‘war paint’ or modifying skin tone or wearing blackface or redface” as examples of Halloween costumery that could be culturally insensitive. Christakis also likens college students, most of whom (legally speaking) are adults, to young children.
For the larger issue of whether her husband or she or both should resign/be fired or not that's a more complicated issue and I don't see much of a serious conversation in the comments here. For people who's job description includes being "responsible for the physical well being and safety of students" to be this tone deaf on race, resignation strikes me as a legitimate demand.
 "Nicholas says, if you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended." The less said about 'look away' as a policy, the better. As far as 'telling people what is offensive', correct me if I'm wrong but isn't that exactly what was happening in the first place when they sent out an email that essentially said 'maybe don't be an asshole this Halloween'?
It seems like both the original e-mail and the response were both within reason actually. Remember the second e-mail was not just responding to the first e-mail, but also to the reaction to the first e-mail.
Email 1 tldr: You might not realize that people find your cultural stereotypes offensive, please be considerate (although the explicit list of costumes felt a little too much like trying to give a pre-approved list of costumes).
Email 2: Not all things that are offensive should be banned, engage with people.
I however suspect that on the student level the discourse seemed much less civilized which is why the whole thing is blowing up.
I actually don't think the blond-haired girl example is a complete straw man. She was just trying to show that there was a large area between "probably okay" and "probably not okay" where people probably weren't able to agree, but people could still put outer bounds on. Also while this might not have been a complaint in the original e-mail, it very well could have been a complained the reaction to the first e-mail generated.
In today's society it is incredibly violent to go after another person's job. It is what they've been doing for many years, 8 hours a day, it is a way to provide for their families. You're basically trying very hard to hurt a whole household just because one person disagrees with you.
How is publicly shaming someone and aggressively lobbying for them to be fired not violent?
Violently going after someone's job would be punching their boss in the face until they agree to fire the person.
EDIT: Speaking from an American English perspective, anyway.
Definitionally, violence is physical. Redefining it to include non-physical acts is pure politics, and I for one will not let it pass without calling it out for the bullshit it is.
Wikipedia talks about nonphysical violence in the context of a "power relationship," where someone with a significant amount of power/control over the victim is the instigator. Things like emotionally abusive relationships. A bunch of people with no direct authority over you trying to get someone fired for inappropriate behavior doesn't fit that narrative.
If you told me people were violently going after someone's job, 100% my assumption is going to be "so they burned his garage down and threatened that his house is next unless he quits?" (or something along those lines). Calling phone calls and #FireBob tweets coming from people of no authority "violent" is an attempt at grabbing all the emotional baggage that comes with the word and attaching it somewhere that it doesn't belong.
I wonder if some universities will start advertising that they don't care about "safe spaces" and "puppy time". In the end, in the US, universities are in it for the money, and there seems to be a market for students who want to learn and not have to deal with this BS.
Which is why a lot of college are pandering to these people. They make them a lot of money.
> and there seems to be a market for students who want to learn and not have to deal with this BS.
I don't think colleges would necessarily brag about it, just not pander or do anything. Maybe I am wrong, but I haven't seen any engineering colleges do stuff like this. People just go, learn, and come out.
Expel them, escort them off campus, get restraining orders to keep them away both physically and virtually. Shut down all of their student accounts and access. When they resist toss 'em in jail and sue them.
Responding weakly to this kind of madness (and it _is_ madness) will only lead to anarchy.
The reason for jail would be violation of a restraining order. The reason for civil suit would be damages to the university's image or property.
The problem could be cleared out in 3 days and not a stir of it left after a week, were the administration willing to maintain control of their campus.
What would you do? Fire the professor for standing up for the students? These students are so fucking stupid, they don't even realize the professor is standing up for them!
It's clearly not an attack on free speech. The real criticism is that it's prioritizing free expression aka speech over other rights.
I'm vehemently opposed to the kind of activism described here, but 'if you don't like it then fuck off' is exactly the wrong attitude and will not solve this problem.
These people are PAYING to go there. They are PAYING to live there. Are you saying they should have to put up with harassment and bigotry in addition to that?
This comment and some of your other ones break the HN guidelines. We ban accounts that do this. Please post civilly and substantively, or not at all.