Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Yale Lecturer Resigns over Campus Climate of 'Censure and Prohibition'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Yale Lecturer Resigns over Campus Climate of 'Censure and Prohibition'

Article excerpt

A Yale professor who argued for students' right to wear culturally insensitive Halloween costumes and triggered outcry on campus has announced her intentions to resign from teaching at the university.

The issue began last October, when the university's Intercultural Affairs Committee sent out an email to students instructing them to avoid wearing racially insensitive costumes for Halloween such as Native American headdresses, turbans, or blackface.

In response, Erika Christakis wrote an email to students living in the Silliman College residence where she was an administrator, arguing that students should be allowed and even encouraged to wear costumes, even if it is offensive.

"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?" she wrote. "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."

The e-mail triggered an outcry among some minority students and others, and many demanded Ms. Christakis, also a lecturer on early childhood development and her husband, fellow Silliman master Nicholas Christakis, step down.

On Nov. 9 dozens of students marched in protest against what they see as racial insensitivity at the Ivy League school.

The protests came amid a backdrop of unrest on campuses across the country, political correctness, and handling of racial complaints.

Some critics have expressed concerns that cultural sensitivities may have gone too far on campus, as The Christian Science Monitor reported last month:

But many of the student's expressions also shifted the conversation to another debate: whether college campuses are becoming "places of censure and prohibition."As Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic wrote: "It ought to be disputed rather than indulged for the sake of these students, who need someone to teach them how empowered they are by virtue of their mere enrollment; that no one is capable of invalidating their existence, full stop; that their worth is inherent, not contingent; that everyone is offended by things around them; that they are capable of tremendous resilience. …

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