The Story of The Battle of Missouri

Black grad student on hunger strike in Mo. after swastika drawn with human feces (Michael E. Miller, Washington Post, 11/6)

The swastika appeared overnight, drawn with human feces on a college dorm’s brand new white wall.

But the racial tension had been brewing for months.

Once ranked among the best places to live in America, Columbia has witnessed a flurry of racist incidents in recent months, culminating with the swastika scrawled in excrement on Oct. 24.

Now a graduate student says he is on a hunger strike and is willing to die unless the school’s president steps down.

“My body feels like it’s on fire,” Jonathan L. Butler, 25, told The Washington Post on Thursday night, four days into his one-man protest. “I have pain all over. I’m exhausted. Of course, I’m hungry. I’ve got an ongoing headache.”

Butler said he was just drinking water — no multivitamins, no painkillers — until University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe steps down. Butler and other black students blame Wolfe for what they say is the school’s failure to address the rising tide of racism on campus.

Students support hunger striker after talk with UM president (Andria Kirkland, KOMU, 11/3)

“Change doesn’t come from being reactive, it comes from being proactive,” said organizer Ayanna Poole. “He actually didn’t ask any questions, just took in the information and told us he is working and acting. That is exactly what it is, it is not action, it is acting.”

Five students from Concerned Student 1950 spoke with Wolfe and said they asked for Wolfe’s resignation, explained why Wolfe was a problem to the UM system and attempted to get Wolfe to understand his white privilege.

The protesters said their activism was prompted by the absence of response from Wolfe to a number of campus issues. Those include a lack of graduate student health care, the use of racial slurs on campus against black students, the end of Planned Parenthood contracts and anti-Semitic graffiti within campus residence halls.

The students said they plan to continue to peacefully protest and that support is growing. While Tuesday night’s turnout cannot be predicated, Poole said around 40 students gathered Monday night at the campsite to show their alliance, but limited tent space allowed for only seven to sleep there through the night.

Concerned Student 1950 said it hasn’t been asked to move, because it has the right to protest on campus. Major Brian Weimer, of MU campus police, said the department is aware of the activity and monitoring campus.

Gov. Nixon calls for action in Mizzou race controversy (AP, 11/8)

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon says the University of Missouri must address concerns over “racism and intolerance.”

The Democratic governor issued his statement on Sunday, a day after 32 black football players announced they will not participate in team activities until university President Tim Wolfe is removed.

Student groups have protested the way Wolfe has handled matters of race and discrimination on the campus in Columbia, and one black graduate student is on a hunger strike.

Nixon’s statement says the concerns must be dealt with so that the school is “a place where all students can pursue their dreams in an environment of respect, tolerance and inclusion.”

University of Missouri black football players pledge boycott over racism concerns (Reuters, 11/8)

Black players on the University of Missouri football team say they will boycott practices, meetings and games until the university dismisses its president or he quits, contending he has not responded adequately to concerns about racism on campus. {…}

“The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,’” the university’s Legion of Black Collegians said in a statement on Twitter.

“We will no longer participate in any football-related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students’ experience,” it said. More than 30 players were in a photograph linked to the statement posted on Saturday night.

In a statement released on Sunday afternoon, Wolfe indicated no intention to resign but said solutions to the students’ concerns were being discussed.

Head Coach Pinkel and Athletic Director Rhoades weigh in on football protest (AP, 11/8)

The latest development in the growing protest among University of Missouri football players is coming from Athletic Director Mack Rhoades and Head Coach Gary Pinkel.

“Today, Sunday, there will be no football practice or formal team activities. (continued)

Our focus right now is on the health of Jonathan Butler, the concerns of our student-athletes and working with our community…

..to address this serious issue. After meeting with the team this morning, it is clear they do not plan to return to practice until … …Jonathan resumes eating. We are continuing to have department, campus and student meetings as we work through this issue …”

The team was supposed to have practice on Sunday, but instead, held a meeting. Not much was said after.

“I’m not allowed to comment on much, so like I said we all gonna stay together as a team, we all made this decision as a team to you know, not talk to the media so you’re not gonna hear much from the players. So, I mean this is kind of the outlet for me,” Mizzou’s Jason Reese said.

That short comment was followed by this exchange with a reporter.

“Jason, were you scheduled to have practice today?”

“Yes we were.”

“And you’re not having it now?”

“No.”

“Any idea when you will?”

“Whenever this gets resolved.”

“How do you feel after the meeting?”

“I feel great, I love my team.”

Some University of Missouri Faculty Members Walk Out in Solidarity With Students (Kelly Stevenson, ABC, 11/9)

Members of the “Concerned Faculty” group at the University of Missouri walked out today in support of student activists who say the school has done too little to address their concerns about racism and racial intolerance on campus.

The group released a statement Sunday night, planning to meet at the Carnahan Quadrangle at 10 a.m. local time.

“We, the concerned faculty of the University of Missouri, stand in solidarity with the Mizzou student activists who are advocating for racial justice on our campus and urge all MU faculty to demonstrate their support by walking out on Monday November 9 and Tuesday November 10, 2015 along with other allies such as the Forum on Graduate Rights,” the statement said.

The group said it would “be present throughout the day to respond to student questions in the form of a teach in.”

Missouri president Tim Wolfe resigns amid student criticism of his handling of racial issues (ESPN, 11/9)

The president of the University of Missouri system stepped down Monday amid criticism of his handling of student complaints about race and discrimination.

President Tim Wolfe said his resignation was effective immediately. He made the announcement at the start of what had been expected to be a long closed-door meeting of the school’s governing board. He largely pre-empted that session in a halting statement that was simultaneously apologetic, clumsy and defiant.

“This is not the way change comes about,” he said, alluding to recent protests. “We stopped listening to each other.”

A poor audio feed for the one board member who was attending the meeting via conference call left Wolfe standing awkwardly at the podium for nearly three minutes after reading only the first sentence of his statement.


Editor-in-Chief
Home Page Twitter Google+ Pinterest 

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter. ...more →

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
Share

214 thoughts on “The Story of The Battle of Missouri

          • I think some conservative socon republicans equate themselves with revolutionaries that doesn’t mean they are. Everybody who protests something isn’t a frickin revolutionary. And the whole terrorist/ holocaust thing is a just a wee bit over the top. And without knowing who the wearer was it is sort of hard to tell if that was a “white college kid statement accessory” or common dress from where they are from.

              Quote  Link

            Report

              • Reason is just awful.

                It looks to me like kids doing something very grown up: taking action to create the environment they want to live and learn in. That doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with their particular actions — I think there must be more to the Missouri story than I know, and the Yale story looks odd, but is being so massively misrepresented that I’m inclined to side with the students out of spite — but upsetting the apple carts to this extent is not asking to be parented.

                Like I said, Reason is so painfully bad.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                • kids doing something very grown up: taking action to create the environment they want to live and learn in

                  To the extent that the environment they want to live and learn in will not prepare them for the world that exists post-college, adults who let them create the environment they want to live and learn in are failing these self-same kids.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                    • I’m not saying that I know what’s best for them.

                      But I am cognizant of the whole dynamic behind the reasons one goes to college and how many of these reasons are shorter-term and many of them are longer-term and one of the thing that the “kids” (your word) deserve for their six figures is adults gently pointing out which of their shorter-term goals are in conflict with certain of their longer-term goals and help these “kids” (okay, it’s our word) become young adults capable of halfway decent time horizon management when they are out in what we used to call “the real world”.

                      And while I would hesitate to say that I know what’s best for them, I do have some good guesses for what is likely to be more helpful for them personally five years hence and what is likely to hinder them five years hence (if only based on my experience of being thrown into the deep end of the pool post-graduation).

                      And I’m sure that they’ll be as receptive to advice as I was when I was their age.

                      But, similarly, I can’t help but to take up the mantle of adviser that was dropped by those who came before. I will do what I can to leave my mantle for them when my time comes. I am confident that they will pick it up.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                • When a bunch of college kids hold a rally or a protest and write opeds and yell a lot against something that seems really blown out of proportion, I don’t assume that there must be something to it to justify that sort of reaction.

                  When a large number of kids who have been preparing for most of their lives to play football at the college level start going on strike, then I figure that yeah there is probably more justification there than meets the eye.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                  • Either that or they realized, given how much money was at stake if a game got cancelled, that power lay with them, not the protesters. Now that Mizzou’s president and chancellor resigned, it’s set an interesting precedent. If you decide to protest at a NCAA Division 1 school, it behooves you to get the football team on board.

                    As for the players, if the NFL wanted to draft one or more, the boycott wouldn’t matter. Their capacity to help win games and make money for their team’s owners would.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

              • Every protest or group isn’t a revolution is the word is to have any meaning at all. So no, they are revolutionaries.

                Not to pick on Reason but that piece was mediocre and they likly started wiht their conclusion and worked backwards. Comparing Yale and Mizzou seems wrong. I agree with the criticism of the Yalies, but the kids in Mizzou don’t seem to be crying for mommy to protect them from speech they don’t like as much as saying vandalism is bad, shouting racial slurs is not a healthy community and the admin being ineffective and uncaring about it. That is a really poor comparison. Shouting slurs at at a student body prez is pushing it in terms of free speech. It should be legal, just to be clear, but the school can try to create a far better environment then one where that happens. Not wanting that kind of thing doesn’t make you a brittle snowflake.

                Maybe i’ve missed it so please clarify, but i’m not seeing how the Mizzou kids are battling to repress free speech. Go after the yalies but what am i missing.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                • I am not sure what the uni president was supposed to do exactly that would have made activists happy. Was there an act or statement that they were looking for? I have never been to the university, so maybe there are examples of racial conflict in the school’s recent history that demonstrate an unwillingness by admin to address real problems, but the examples I have seen noted by activists don’t seem like something a president would be fired for. Am I missing something?

                  As for student “revolutionaries,” I probably wouldn’t put them in the category either, but I guarantee many see themselves as such. I sure did.

                  …and perhaps they actually are revolutionary, even if they are not storming the Bastille. If you are working to change the society and its institutions you live in a profound way, is that not revolutionary?

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                  • No not revolutionary…nope, not buying that. If wanting and working for change = revolution then pretty much everybody is a revolutionary. What use is the word if encompasses everything.

                    I’m not sure about having the prez step down, i don’t know enough about the situation but my guess is likely more to the story then we have heard about.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

    • I feel like I had not even heard about this story until today, so I am thankful Will T gave us the highlights. I am still not sure what exactly requires the president quite. Because two trolls acted like dicks around students? I really could use clarification from advocates of these protests, because I’m not getting it from the #Missouri hashtag on twitter.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • To my understanding, the president sets policy. Implementation of policy lies with other departments. De facto policies are most often initiated at levels lower than the policy implementation structure would suggest.
        I would like to see their standing policy on paper.

          Quote  Link

        Report

  1. I have to say, using excrement to make a swastika is sort of a mixed signal. I hope that there’s not some terrified art student realizing that he made a huge mistake one drunken night that has spun way out of control, and now he can’t admit to it.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  2. If there was a flurry of incidents leading up to the swastika, I’m going to have to inquire into some of the snowflakes in order to get any kind of handle on what the situation actually was down there.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  3. I would like to think that on this site at least, there won’t be the amazement and bewilderment over what is making these blacks students so angry.
    I would like to think that after all the consequence-free police shootings, the evidence of systematic oppression of black people nationwide, of the malign neglect of the poorer sections of our society, that no one would need to ask why this is happening, or think that this is all about a crap swastika or drunken slur.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  4. This link does a pretty good job of providing the background. My gut tells me the Mizzou situation is meaningfully different from the Yale situation and my tendency is to support the Mizzou students while being aghast at the Yale students, given the extraodinarily diplomatic email they’re responding to. The Mizzou situation strikes me as qualitatively different, one in which they administration has essentially ignored a pervasive problem for a long time, and then, when given an opportunity to meet pretty reasonable requests from the protesting students (e.g., agreeing to hiring more minority staff and professors) geared towards changing the culture at the school, essentially gave them the middle finger.

    http://www.si.com/college-football/2015/11/09/missouri-football-protest-racism-tim-wolfe

      Quote  Link

    Report

      • Yah, I don’t know if it’d be possible to commit to a quota. But at least an acknowledgement that there is a cultural problem at the school that should be at least partially addressed through efforts to increase minority hires (or at least applications) would be pretty reasonable.

          Quote  Link

        Report

    • Yeah, Ill be the first to say that college students generally are prone to fits of melodrama and hysteria over virtually nothing.

      I say this from my own memory. In my college days of the 80’s, it was no different. Petty squabbles over everything and nothing could suddenly flare into sitdown strikes, marches and candlelight vigils over the most petty of things.

      None of which should obscure that truly profound injustices are also dealt with on colleges, sometimes by the very same people.

        Quote  Link

      Report

    • Mark Thompson: my tendency is to support the Mizzou students while being aghast at the Yale students, given the extraodinarily diplomatic email they’re responding to.

      But bad ideas are worthy of criticism, regardless of how diplomatically they’re presented. And Erika Christakis was more-or-less defending Blackface. After all, the students’ initial response to Christakis was similarly diplomatic, and made no call for her or her husband to step down. It was only after days of escalation that we got to the angry shouting–and by that point, it was coming from both sides.

        Quote  Link

      Report

        • To expand, because I don’t mean to seem curt, Christakis’ whole point appears to be that there is a continuum of behaviors and grey areas and tradeoffs and intersections of complex issues.

          To leap to she was “more-or-less defending Blackface” immediately glosses over her entire point, in favor of taking things to the clearly-offensive extreme. You’ve (along with the students’ open letter) seemingly assumed the black and white (heh) conclusion, when her basic question is whether everything is quite that simple.

          I still feel like I don’t understand the University authority hierarchy to comment on whether her e-mail should be seen as insubordinate. But even assuming it is, it seems a fairly mild form of insubordination for an entity dedicated to free inquiry.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • Conor Friedersdorf’s Atlantic essay focuses on the Christakises and how they and eventually their would-be defenders have been treated, and also briefly takes into account the assertion linked by Nevermoor below that “it’s not about Halloween costumes.”

            Characteristically for disputes of this general type, one side refers to a “larger wrong” taken to overwhelm any concern for an individual “caught in the middle.” Also, typically, being concerned for such an individual will be itself taken as participating in the larger wrong, especially if the individual belongs to the identified enemy group – the group whose members can always be presumed in the wrong – in this case defined racially.

            Concern for the individuals “caught in the middle,” determination that they be held accountable for their own statements and actions only, rather than having their rights and interests minimized, is the typical and defining liberal concern. To diminish it presumptively seems to place the goal of a just society, or of a society just in some particular way, over the goal of society anyone would want to live in (or be able to pursue questions of common concern rationally, freely, safely, and peacefully in).

            The common demand that the accused individual recite a statement confessing to crimes against the just society, including the crime of being born to the wrong class and race, before or in the process of accepting punishment, repeats this demotion of the individual to mere symbol. What’s important is not what the person might freely come to think, or for that matter what happens to him or her, but that he or she publicly submit to the new power.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • This. Exactly how I feel each time these issues come up. If every one of these cases is representative of a “bigger issue” that activists have already presumed has a correct position one must hold, there really is nothing these admins/teachers/thought criminals can do but play this Maoist game and hope they keep their jobs.

              Having said that, I am fine seeing Wolfe go due to his corporate manner of governing (which is what I have been seeing from those who know more about the Missouri case than I do). But again, can’t we take down a president for those reasons, or is race now the issue that can get you axed the quickest?

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • I am fine seeing Wolfe go due to his corporate manner of governing(…). But again, can’t we take down a president for those reasons, or is race now the issue that can get you axed the quickest?

                How is his “corporate method” wrong? Where does it fail? And I am asking those questions in light of the fact that MU has a faculty senate. Academics generally dislike admins anyway and coming from outside really riles the feathers, but how was he/his methods worse than say Janet Napolitano? Or Peter Salovey?

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                • I don’t know, I just spent the last night reading people’s posts on Twitter who had a lot to say about the resignation. I am still trying to figure out why he had to step down for what looks like very light offenses on his part.

                  Like CK mentioned above, there seems to be a segment of protest supporters that are telling us this is about some much bigger issue and that we just don’t get it. If that is the case, than I would like to better understand what these larger issues are, and since many mentioned Wolfe’s corporate style (including the Washington Post) I felt like I was better understanding student/faculty anger towards him.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                  • I was very young, but do remember the late 60s and early 70’s battles over Vietnam, hippies, civil rights, etc.

                    I do recall how a lot of people became collateral damage, people who weren’t necessarily for or against the war strongly but got caught on the wrong side at the wrong time, and were harassed, shamed, scolded, or fired.

                    Yes, its a terrible thing, and we should protest these sorts of injustices.

                    But what did anyone expect? We use the language of war to describe our political battles, because they contain the same problems of advancing a cause, while wanting to protect noncombatants.
                    Did we expect that political armies march in formation and precisely target only the evildoers and magically spare the civilians?

                    Part of me wants to caution zealous political actors like those students, who slip easily into the same rabid ferocity that marks soldiers in battle, and produces injustice just as indiscriminately.

                    But the larger part of me wants to caution the rest of us, that warfare, political or actual, is the inevitable result of our lazy acceptance of injustice.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

            • Try it this way: you’re a black senior at Yale. You’re part of a tiny minority, and you’ve consistently tried to improve awareness and otherwise make it easier for black kids who come after you. You’ve consistently felt that the administration is antagonistic and doesn’t care about your concerns (or, at least, rates them far lower than other students’ concerns).

              Then, an administrator asks students to be mindful of their Halloween costumes, particularly those employing racist methods like blackface (I mean.. give me a break… you’re defending BLACKFACE?!?). You might feel like you’ve made some progress. Or, you know, not since that email is immediately attacked. You object, and (as you’ve done for years) point out your concerns.

              But now, apparently, you can’t complain any more because while the Siliman Dean can say that YOU’RE wanting to be coddled, you can’t express your disagreement without being accused of hurting this poor individual “caught in the middle” (even though that person chose to take on that role).

              That’s definitely not a convenient way to continue not talking about the actual issues raised (both before and in the email). Definitely not a pretext to allow you pretend you’re defending something other than white kids in blackface. Anyone offended should politely wait in a corner until there is no particular event to reference, so that you can tell them their concerns are merely hypothetical and no white person is there to be “caught in the middle.”

              And the ongoing attempts to get exactly the same message across? Who cares. They weren’t news until now.

                Quote  Link

              Report

        • Glyph,

          I don’t see it explicitly stated, of course (neither do you since she didn’t say any such thing). The closest I could find is language like this:

          Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.

          That statement could be read as an endorsement of racially offensive speech – costumes in this context – but that strikes me as strained. It could more reasonably be viewed as expressing apologism for folks who engage in racially offensive speech/costumes on the premise that tolerating such expressions is entailed by (or at least consistent with) accepting free speech as a governing social norm. But even more reasonably yet, it seems quite obvious to me that she’s saying that part of a free society is allowing people to engage in offensive speech, else the concept of free speech is compromised in practice, implying that the folks who are offended – the ones who perceive a slight or indignity – are doin it wrong.

          Now, I don’t think she meant to say that considerations of free speech ought to govern, and therefore trump, the legitimacy of all costume choices. But she draws the line much closer to the “tolerate offensive free expression” side of the debate than many students are comfortable with (obvs).

          But I don’t think that’s what the kids are pissed off about, actually. I think it’s that from their pov she condescended to them and treated them like … well, kids … by speaking to them as if their own views, and the university’s!, on these matters were insufficiently mature or well reasoned. And she might be right. And THEY might also be right. But alsotoo, surely the University’s original post encouraging students to be respectful of others when picking their costume garb was right. And she got right up in the middle of it.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • I really, really think it’s ridiculous to throw people in jail for racism.
            I do think that free speech is the hallmark of an open society, and to blatantly create laws that favor one group of people over another — even in such small things as speech, is blatant favoritism.

            … and it should be clear that I’m not talking about Missouri anymore.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • I think she was saying the first: that students shouldn’t be offended by such costumes. And more to the point, I guess, she was (perceived as) chastising the University for distributing a memo encouraging students to be respectful of others in making their costume choices and by inference, chastising students who might be so offended.

              That’s the way I read it, anyway. Whether she made a valid point or not, I think what the students perceived was her making a normative, and therefore judgmental, interjection into an otherwise perfectly appropriate call for respecting others when making costume choices. I tend to think they’re right in viewing her comments that way, actually. I think they’re wrong to make a big deal about it.

              I don’t think she was saying that those types of offense are insufficient for the university to take action.

                Quote  Link

              Report

          • by speaking to them as if their own views, and the university’s!, on these matters were insufficiently mature or well reasoned.

            To me that seems a stretch, and Christakis went out of her way, I thought, to concede the validity of other viewpoints when she wrote:

            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.

            Also note that, unless she is lying, she claims to be giving voice to other students when she says

            I have heard from a number of students who were frustrated by the mass email sent to the student body

            That is, those students (if they exist) felt their views weren’t being articulated. Maybe they felt their views were being dismissed as immature or ill-reasoned.

            surely the University’s original post encouraging students to be respectful of others when picking their costume garb was right.

            I agree with this, believe it or not. Nothing wrong with saying, “Be thoughtful out there.”

            I just don’t think that mildly-questioning what might be lost by hyper-focus on offense and sensitivity (or questioning whether the university, whose job it is to provide an experience that the students’ parents cannot, should nonetheless automatically assume the role of the students’ parents rather than letting them find their own way to some degree) automatically counts as

            -eras[ing] the voices of the students
            -trivializ[ing] the harm done by these tropes
            -inviting ridicule and violence onto [the students] and [their] communities
            -[causing students’] existences …[to] be invalidated on campus

            [brackets by me, for grammatical coherency; if anyone feels I have substantially changed the charges from the students’ open letter, my apologies.]

            Christakis’ original e-mail seems to say, “There’s maybe more than one way to look at some things, and maybe we should talk about them?”

            The open-letter response seems to say, “No – there is only one way to look at things, and implying there might be another, is in itself offensive.”

            Assuming those are accurate summaries of the respective positions, I know which one looks more like “open inquiry” to me.

              Quote  Link

            Report

                • Well, it is important to get clear on the reasoning in all this since The Kids These Days are gonna continue to subvert the dominant paradigm. :)

                  One thing thing about the substance, tho, is that I think it was a big mistake for the Cs to bring free speech into all this. Personally, I think the issue is a matter of a) respect for others, b) taking offense to certain types of expressions, and c) balancing respect for others with taking offense. None of that has anything to do with free speech, unless the argument is that a free speech robustity! entails that no one is justified in expressing their offense-taking. And personally, I think there IS a little bit of that in play here.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                • Except for one more thing!

                  I think Christakis makes an interesting point when she talks a little about Halloween’s unique nature in American culture.

                  Halloween, as a holiday, is probably about as close as this Puritan-derived culture gets to bacchanalia.

                  Sure, Americans get wasted on St. Patty’s and New Year’s and Cinco de Mayo and make bad decisions there too; but Halloween alone has that tradition of putting on masks, and pretending to be another (probably a SEXY another), and letting ids run a little free, for one night only.

                  Right there, that’s a recipe for social boundaries getting a little blurry; and it probably serves a psychic-release function.

                  I’m not saying that that means the holiday HAS to remain the US equivalent of a Roman orgy (or Comedy Central Roast), or that we MUST accept that many things we see on this day might be rude, crude, and offensive; or to imply that anything and everything can or should be acceptable. There must be, and there always will be, social limits.

                  But as one of our only remaining truly pagan holidays, I DO wonder how tightly we want to close that particular safety valve.

                  Personally, if I went to a Halloween “Race Roast” party where there was a white guy in blackface, and a black guy in whiteface, and an Asian guy in redface, and an Indian guy in yellowface – well, assuming a good demographic mix where everyone is being equally-offensive within the strict bounds of this one night, then nobody’s really being all that offensive; and that hypothetical party, actually sounds like a hell of a good time to me.

                  I can dream, I guess…

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

          • But also too, surely the University’s original post encouraging students to be respectful of others when picking their costume garb was right.

            I’m glad that I went to college at a time when the administration couldn’t be bothered to tell students how they should dress for Halloween. If anybody was treating the students like little kids in this case, it was the Yale administration. From what I read, Christakis wrote her email to address the concerns of kids who felt patronized by what the materials the university administration sent out.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • From what I read, Christakis wrote her email to address the concerns of kids who felt patronized by what the materials the university administration sent out.

              So the argument is reducing to which group felt the most patronized by the Adults in the Group: the “silent majority” who Ms C speaks for (as a Champion!) or the kids who are wearing their grievance on their sleeve?

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • So the argument is reducing to which group felt the most patronized by the Adults in the Group: the “silent majority” who Ms C speaks for (as a Champion!) or the kids who are wearing their grievance on their sleeve?

                No, although I guess it could come across that way. I find the whole university Costume Police thing to be paternalistic and overbearing, when not downright cringe-inducing. Which is why I was gobsmacked by the reaction to Christakis’s mild and respectful email and by the reaction of students and their supporters to Mr. Chistakis’s attempt to discuss the matter with them. I was particularly offput by the comment of one student who whined that she didn’t want to debate, she just wanted to express her feelings. Really? That’s what friends and therapists are for.

                Perhaps I’ve entered the curmudgeon phase of my life, but I can’t generate a whole lot of sympathy for these poor little Yalies.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

      • I really recommend you read Conor’s post, which also mentions. As Conor points out pretty clearly, the letter to which you’ve linked completely misrepresents Christakis’ letter and point. For instance, it insists that she invalidated their feelings and offense-taking in her letter – yet she explicitly validated those feelings in her letter.

        What’s more, that letter itself contains plenty of ideas that can and should be open to criticism. .

        From what I can tell, the response letter you link was posted on the evening of Halloween, and seems to have taken a few days to get some momentum, and Yale’s newspaper only reported on it on Monday, November 2. Protests seem to have started pretty quickly thereafter, and the confrontation in which demands for resignation were made happened on Thursday, November 5. I’m really struggling to see what the other actions were that escalated things, though it’s certainly possible you’ve got a different source for that than I’ve been able to find.

        To me, one of the things that makes the Yale situation incredibly different from the Mizzou situation (without defending the attempts to prevent photos from being taken – I’m ok with trying to avoid speaking to the media) is that the complaint in the Yale situation is that the Christakises dared attempt to engage in dialogue at all.

        In the Mizzou situation, the complaint is almost the opposite – centering on, among other things, that the administration refused to engage in discussion or, at minimum, was extremely slow and reluctant to engage in discussion.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • And Erika Christakis was more-or-less defending Blackface.

        Defending blackface? Did you read the same letter that I did? Should Yale students really have to be told be the administration’s Costume Police that blackface is offensive. I know common sense has taken a beating at elite universities, but shouldn’t these kids be given some credit for basic decency?

          Quote  Link

        Report

    • My inclination is the same Mark but the Melissa Click debacle of calling for reporters to be physically removed from filiming/photographing their demonstrations makes me uneasy in a way that the shrieking Yale student can’t even do. It’s like they’re trying to harm their cause as much as possible.

        Quote  Link

      Report

    • Did you know: at Yale, black women were turned away from an SAE fraternity party, and that this incident was as much a catalyst of the current fight as that idiotic email? Further, these two incidents appear to have catalyzed a response to an ongoing issue, rather than set off this FIREstorm on their own. But of course, we have a convenient professor to defend, so none of that matters.

      My apologies, , for singling you out. I’m just a little sick of this blog whining about the kids these days. I may even write a full post about it. (Such a post may have to wait a bit; my most functional laptop was stolen on Saturday)

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • If the Yale protests weren’t so focused on singling out the Christakises, I’d really have no problem with them whatsoever. I’d even support them, just as I’ve been quite vocal in supporting – and indeed, applauding – the Mizzou protesters.

        There are no doubt plenty of problems at Yale that need addressing, but it’s really hard to see how the Christakises’ behavior is contributing to those problems.

        Nor is this a question of “kids these days” for me so much as it’s a question of the following:

        1. I have a daughter. It is important to me as a parent that she learn how to solve problems on her own rather than learn to turn quickly to authority figures whenever she feels insulted.

        2. The frequency of these incidents really is becoming an attack on academic freedom, which I think is a value that needs protecting, particularly in light of the adjunctification of higher education.

        3. Safe-spaces as a sword rather than a shield is a really troubling concept to me: https://popehat.com/2015/11/09/safe-spaces-as-shield-safe-spaces-as-sword/

        4. Support for free speech is not a given as it stands: https://today.yougov.com/news/2015/05/20/hate-speech/ These students will in a few years be an important bloc of voters and will give rise to a generation of politicians and business leaders. Free speech is something I’m pretty much an absolutist about – it is my strongest political value.

        5. It’s not “just college kids.” The ease with which speech causes extreme outrage seems to be an increasingly widespread phenomenon. It is a phenomenon that, I think, is creating both a huge empathy gap on the left in which little attempt is made to actually understand what people who deviate from a particular viewpoint are trying to say, and also creating space for a particularly virulent countermovement of people on the right for whom being politically incorrect is a badge of honor, and for whom there is literally no interest in dialogue with minority groups. In short, it exacerbates polarization and makes it a lot harder to get a critical mass of people to cooperate on solutions to the very problems activists identify (even when those activists are themselves doing a good job of avoiding these pitfalls).

        6. Movements on college campuses can be important, and often are in the long run. The Free Speech Movement at Berkeley was important, certainly, and had significant (positive) implications in the long run that resonated far outside of Berkeley. When you agree with a movement that gains momentum on a college campus, it can be well worth expressing support for it. But just as much, when you disagree with such a movement, it is no less worth expressing that opposition.

        7. Relatedly, and perhaps most importantly, I can assure you that empowering authority figures based on claims of offense-taking will, in the end, be used disproportionately against minority groups.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • Some incidents are attacks on academic freedom and some are not. Those that are should be called out as such; those that are not should not be allowed to weaken arguments against the (real, dangerous) curtailing of academic freedom. Or, well, this.

          I.
          As far as I can tell just googling around, it’s the coverage of the protests that is so interested in the Christakises and what will become of them. The protests themselves are … less so.

          II.
          The students asking that the Christakises be removed are asking that they be removed as Master and Associate Master of Silliman College, not that they be removed from the teaching positions that they hold. That demand seems to stem largely from Nicholas Christakis’s decision to get into a shouting match with the students he was responsible for and tell them they were wasting his time, rather than listen to them, and perhaps similar things from his wife. That is, it’s their response to the criticism of the email that is at issue (to the students), not the email itself. Here’s the timeline of Wednesday and Thursday according to WaPo, as far as I can parse it:

          (1) On Wednesday night, Erika Christakis walks out* of an Afro-American Cultural Center forum about her email before “speaking or answering questions directed at her” (quote from Yale Daily News).
          (2) Thursday afternoon, there’s a spontaneous meeting with Dean Holloway, where the students ask why there hasn’t been a response to the SAE thing, and also say the email issue was handled badly. Holloway responds very positively and is understanding.
          (3) The students try to stage a similar meeting with Nicholas Christakis later that day**; he grows frustrated, counter-demands an apology (for keeping him from other appointments) when they ask for one, and it devolves into a shouting match.
          (4) President Salovey (who I kept confusing with Holloway…) holds a closed door meeting with the students to talk about these same issues; generally responds positively and is understanding. The students have a set of demands, which (according to WaPo) consist of acknowledgement of the charges against SAE***, improved mental health resources for students of color, and student input on faculty hiring and training practices. This meeting is the first place where I hear demands for the Christakises’ removal from the Mastership, though as far as I can tell from the article those come from specific students and are not part of the organized protest. I don’t know, because nobody that I can find has quoted a student requesting or demanding they leave. The closest is one of the students in the above-mentioned shouting match asking Nicholas Christakis what he thinks his job is.

          Somewhere in there is an already-planned William F Buckley, jr symposium of some kind on the curtailing of free speech on campus, which one of the Christakises used this stuff to advertise. During that event, one of the outside people made a stupid joke about genocide, and there was a protest and more yelling, but that doesn’t appear to have been blamed on the Christakises.

          In any case, given all this, I am forced to wonder exactly what freedom the Christakises want. They said they wanted debate, but every time students come to them with criticism they leave the room. Their academic freedom is certainly not in question; nobody at Yale except perhaps the Christakises themselves seems to believe their professorships are in question. Despite FIRE’s claims to the contrary, their freedom of speech is not in question. Calls for their resignation (and dismissal in absence of it) are rooted not in the specific content of the letter they sent but in their apparent inability to listen to the students they are responsible for and to as Master and Associate Master of Silliman College.

          III.
          But none of that is what bothers me.

          What bothers me is this sort of stuff:
          -Christakis’s email cites her experience as a preschool teacher as a qualification to talk about whether and how a university should advise its students, and compares adults picking Halloween costumes to six-year-olds engaged in “pretend play”.
          -The Christakises responded to students asking them why they were trying to recenter the conversation onto free speech by sending a link to an article telling them they were coddled children.
          Will Truman doesn’t assume there’s more going on when college students hold a protest, but is perfectly willing to make that assumption if those students are athletes.
          Jaybird is worried the kids haven’t learned their lesson yet.

          It’s come up here before, this idea that college students aren’t adults (but other people who are otherwise similar to them are) because they’re in school, or because they’re entitled, or because they’re asking for some kind of accomodation. When I was a kid, I was told that my opinions would be given weight when I was an adult. That when I was an adult, I would get a presumption that my thoughts and feelings came from somewhere. Now I and others like me appear to have been No True Scottsman’d out of adulthood. And I’m left wondering, “What the hell, guys? What happened to the principle of charity? What happened to assuming that the people there, doing a thing, have a reason for why they’re doing it?” Unless they’re just children who look like adults, still just proto-people after all.

          * WaPo says she “sought to leave”, but this, from Yale itself, says Christakis said she had a class waiting. The WaPo article gives the time of the meeting as “evening”, and Christakis does have a class (it’s even the one she cites in her email!) from 7:00 to 8:50 on Wednesdays according to Yale’s schedule, so I believe her. Digging what actually happened out of all the rhetoric is an astoundingly irritating task. Anyway, the AACC probably should have checked her (publicly available, but the YDN couldn’t be bothered to check either) schedule before setting up the forum, but given the level of rancor the email generated, maybe she should have moved or canceled her class. It meets once weekly and requires instructor permission to join, so it’s probably small and could be moved if needed, but I don’t think she had an obligation to do so. It seems odd that the forum organizers didn’t push up her speaking order once this was known to them, but having been to this kind of event I can see how this could happen.

          ** His obligation probably wasn’t the class he teaches, but it could plausibly have been his office hours, which are unfortunately not published.

          *** The article specifically says “acknowledgement that the charges of racism … are valid.” I’m not sure if that means acknowledgement that they warrant investigation or acknowledgement that they are true. The first I support, and I believe is what is meant (based on the apparent prior silence from admin), but I could be wrong.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • Ah. The calls for removal begin in the Nicholas-v-students shouting match.

            And the tea with FIRE people (which I think was somehow associated with the Buckley thing, but maybe not?) happened during Salovey’s meeting with the students.

              Quote  Link

            Report

          • For what it’s worth, my view is closest to the Dreznerian one.

            And my view that it takes a fair amount to move me from “These are young people being young people” is not rooted so much in my view of “kids these days” but “kids every day since World War II probably.” The only difference between college students today and college students most of my time in school is where those energies are focused.

            I think these kids are smart, I think they’re ambitious, but I don’t think there any less of kids than I was.

            I say “most of” because there was actually a shift during my time in college. It seems like I just barely missed a previous round similar activism. There were some remnants of it on campus. When I was a columnist for the school paper by sophomore year, there were calls for my removal for saying “the wrong things.” But that was mostly brush being cleared away for whatever reason, and by my senior year the environment had changed. A friend of mine with a very incendiary demeanor and mostly right-wing views did not face the same calls that I did.

            Which is to say, I don’t think that this is quite the downfall of civilization that a lot of other people do. Energies will redirect elsewhere. Everything that changes stays the same. Up to and including college kids having misbegotten priorities, being unreliable narrators, and engaging in activities that do not stand the test of time. To whatever extent I am concerned about the direction things are headed and that it won’t actually burn itself out in quite the way I hope, it has a lot more to do with the administrators in positions of responsibility rather than the students themselves.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • I suppose I’ll have to take that. I’ll just join the legions annoyed at promises broken. (I guess I’d time it from just after the return from WWII, myself).

              Certainly, Drezner’s is the best outside column I’ve seen on it. Good on him for everything he does right in there; he gets that the outsider’s view is missing information here; he seems to almost get that there’s something wrong with the way the Christakises have been doing their job.

              Still and all, he ain’t perfect. When he talks about that column that so bothered the pundosphere, he’s right that “[v]iewed from the outside world, both the video and the op-ed can be distilled into that last sentence”, the “I don’t want to debate” one. Of course, it can also be distilled into the one two sentences before that: “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.”

              As far as I can see, Christakis is one of those unfortunate men who cannot for the life of him shut up, and the job he’s been given occasionally involves shutting up and listening. The weirdest thing to me is, in all this, Christakis and Holloway seem to have reversed the natural narrative roles that their positions at the university “should” put them in. Holloway seems to provide a perfect example of the understanding and compassionate Master that the Sulliman students want, while Christakis is taking on the role of Dean Jerkface, who can’t seem to muster up an ounce of sympathy if there’s the barest hint of a “debate” to be had.

              I suppose my problem with the Drezner article, really, and the attitude that I’m trying to get at, is this. He’s right when he says, “One of the purposes of college is to articulate stupid arguments in stupid ways and then learn, through interactions with fellow students and professors, exactly how stupid they are.” But another of the purposes of college is to articulate smart arguments (or necessary or right or what have you) in stupid ways and then learn, etc etc, how that damages your cause. And I feel like people often look at the second and are too quick to assume that what they’re seeing is the first.

              As to kids and days, well, my post, should I ever write it, may turn out to be a discussion of everything wrong with that Atlantic cover story that Drezner likes so much. (Which did get some things right! But so much of it was wrong.)

                Quote  Link

              Report

          • Don’t have much time to respond fully, but you obviously put some thought into this, so I think I owe you a response.

            – The SlateStarCodex piece makes some interesting points. I’m not sure I fully agree, though there is much I do agree with there (my big objection is that there’s a convergence of issues when we talk about the college campus context – it’s not just about social justice excesses, but also about the purpose of a college education…FIRE doesn’t just weigh in when aggression is done in the name of social justice). However, I think it’s worth my emphasizing that of the two big events on college campuses we’re talking about in this thread, I think the Mizzou situation is far more important in the long run, not only because of the changes it caused, but also because the protesters, despite screwing up royally on Monday over media access, were pretty swift to see the error of their ways. I think future protest movements can and should learn something from that. If I am focusing on Yale in the comments more now, it’s because that’s where I’m getting the pushback.

            – I think it is an academic freedom issue. At minimum, the Masters (and, by implication, Assistant Masters) serve at least a quasi-academic role that encourages them to rely on their academic work and relationships. From Yale’s website:

            “The master is the chief administrative officer and the presiding faculty presence in each residential college. He or she is responsible for the physical well being and safety of students in the residential college, as well as for fostering and shaping the social, cultural, and educational life and character of the college. During the year, he or she hosts lectures, study breaks (especially during finals), and Master’s Teas—intimate gatherings during which students have the opportunity to engage with renowned guests from the academy, government, or popular culture.”

            – Nicholas Christakis, though under no obligation to do so, stood and spoke impromptu with the protesters for “several hours.” He was surrounded the entire time, and it seems that only at the end (though perhaps I’m wrong about this) did he ask for the counterapology. It’s almost impossible to see how one can impromptu stand in public and take questions and comments for several hours without listening. Listening doesn’t mean that he has to agree with them or give them what they want (an apology), though. And, well, if you’ve ever gotten interrogated by a large group accusing you of wrongdoing for “several hours,” the fact is that you’re eventually pretty likely to get frustrated, particularly when many of those questions are premised on a complete and blatant mischaracterization of what you (or, in this case, your wife) did. But taking questions for hours, while apparently missing previously scheduled appointments, before pointing out that you’ve got other places to be, hardly qualifies as walking away from the conversation.

            As for the opinions of the students having weight, well, having weight to an opinion doesn’t mean that your interlocutor has to agree with you. Moreover, the principle of charity goes both ways – indeed, much of the issue here is that this group of students seems to have chosen to read the original email as uncharitably as possible. Certainly, when comparing the students’ initial response letter to Christakis’ initial email, it seems like they read a completely different email from what she actually wrote. Everything that the initial response accuses her of failing to do in her email, she explicitly did in the email. Many of the things that she stands accused of doing with the email are honestly just about impossible to discern unless the email is read as uncharitably as possible.

            It’s perfectly correct and proper for someone who is offended to express that they are offended and angry and to express why they are offended and angry. But, where the cause is the offended person (or group’s) understanding of what someone said, it is also perfectly correct and proper for that person (or a collateral target of the anger) to respond by saying “hey, that’s not what I said or meant at all.” And if one is going to continue to insist, after getting that response, that no, really, the cause of offense did mean exactly what one says it means, then one better have some meaningful evidence to show that the cause of offense is lying about their intentions.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • -I’ll accept what you say about the Mizzou thing. Just because of this conversation I’ve sort of been drawn into the Yale thing where I haven’t on Mizzou, but that does seem to be much different, and this more an example of a genre.

              -I think we have very different concepts of how this relates to the Yale students’ educations. Or something. First, from what I can see (in that description you quote and elsewhere that I can’t recall anymore, unfortunately) the Master and Associate Master seem more like ResLife type roles to which professors happen to be appointed. The Dean of the college (each college has one according to the OrgChart, and there’s some other OverDean, which is who Holloway is, I think) looks like the academic role that you’re thinking of. As far as I can tell the Master is just supposed to liaise between students and faculty and do ResLife type things. So the role doesn’t really seem academic to me, and thus doesn’t seem subject to academic freedom calls. When I was in dorms, my RAs and building leaders or whatever they were called didn’t have any kind of “residence freedom” that let them say whatever they wanted through official channels, and I think it would be ludicrous if they did. But I think we’re starting to get towards purpose-and-scope-of-higher-ed stuff, which is a discussion in itself, as you alluded to.

              -My understanding of the Nicholas Christakis confrontation is that it soured very quickly on both sides. I can understand why it went wrong, but I think part of the negative response from the students came from the enormous contrast with the (similarly impromptu) meeting with Holloway they had just left, plus the fact that Christakis’s job, at least in the minds of some of those students (and this seems reasonable to me based on the description above) is to essentially do what Holloway was doing – express sympathy and work with them to get things accomplished vis a vis campus culture. That’s complicated by the fact that his wife’s email was part of what was at issue here, but the email is also part of the pattern the two of them have (allegedly) displayed of failing to respond. Anyway, the students’ frustration is, I think understandable. It’s also pretty clear that their expectations for the confrontation were naive, but they’re understandable.

              On the opinions having weight thing, that’s mostly me. My complaint with that is that for, say, the Mizzou situation, even in the possible absence of the source grievance people here and around the blogs are willing to assume there was a there there, where as in this case the presumption is that the kids are acting up over nothing and have just misrepresented some poor professor’s views. I only brought up the Christakises at all in that point because they seemed to have the same attitude, that there is nothing legitimate behind the protests. I happen to be of the opinion that the Christakises were in the wrong in the sending of the email and in the manner of their defense of it (I might even accuse them of using their academic freedom as a sword, rather than a shield), but I think much more important things have been lost under the Christakis/FIRE narrative: to whit, what the protesters are actually protesting about (the SAE incident, the slow response of the Yale administration, and the broader culture at Yale) and the demands they are actually making (acknowledgement of the SAE thing, better mental health resources, some kind of change in hiring/training).

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • Just wanted to thank both of you OGs, Mark and Guy, for all of your rich and well-considered comments. Would have made for several strong posts as written.

                Drezner, in the post linked by Trumwill, argues that the students would have been better left to argue and to err on their own, without a national spotlight, but I disagree that it would necessarily have been better for “all concerned” – i.e., from the students to remote observers. I still think that those who support these calls for intellectually and emotionally “safe” space are underestimating the degree of “unsafety” felt by those who find themselves thinking incorrect or possibly incorrect thoughts. Isn’t there also a significant and complex history or context justifying this type of insecurity, and reasons for others to be concerned about it?

                As for Yale in particular, the university that is rightly or wrongly taken to be one of if not the leading places of learning – of the transmission of ideas from one generation to another – in the United States and even the world, seems to be a place where the transmission of ideas is itself now being put in question. It’s at minimum strange and remarkable. Regardless of differences in “local knowledge” from site to site, the underlying conflict seems to be playing out at many sites these days, including often at this web site.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

              • Christakis responded to the students on Sunday. I regret not finding that article earlier, and not looking for it. Several of the things I did find, including possibly some that I linked, mentioned that the Sunday meeting was planned, but I didn’t look around for more about it because I (wrongly) assumed it was a means to avoid talking about the issue.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

      • Did you know: at Yale, black women were turned away from an SAE fraternity party, and that this incident was as much a catalyst of the current fight as that idiotic email?

        As alludes to above, this statement uses the word “know” to mean something akin to being aware that allegations have been made, unless I am wrong and you do have some more specific, concrete information about the incident.

        It is fine to talk about things that may or may not have happened; that is how we separate truth from rumor. The problem is when the allegation itself, the rumor, becomes the impetus to take to the ramparts. History is full of examples when rumors spread and groups assemble. Sometimes those groups are at the vanguard of a just civil rights movement. Sometimes those groups are mobs looking for victims. And sometimes those groups are just a bunch of people making loud noises until the next distraction comes along.

        Not sure that any of us are in the position to say definitively which this is.

          Quote  Link

        Report

  5. Every news piece (as opposed to opinion piece) I have seen on this, including the one Will linked to, reference long-term, ongoing, unresolved issues — both with campus life for minorities in general and with the relationship between this President and students in particular. I am assuming that these issues provide much-needed context as to exactly what just happened, and the degree to which the forced resignation might or might not have been warranted. I bet it’s even pretty complicated and/or nuanced.

    That being said, I’m going to go out on a limb right now and predict that everyone is just going to line up without waiting to hear what that history is, pick a side that fits a narrative they already have going in their head about college kids today or PC or SJW or The Man or whatever, and run with it.

    I mean, just run the s**t out of it.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • I am sure said piece is coming by those who follow college sports, but the fact that the football team refusing to play is very interesting. Based on how much money football teams generate for a school, I bet this was the decisive act that got the president axed. When you start losing millions of dollars by holding your job, things are going to give.

      Maybe college athletes will begin to see this as the first of many struggles to demand more from their schools, seeing that they are major financial draws.

        Quote  Link

      Report

          • That is pretty striking. Was the university leadership so pathetic and unable to address problems that it lost support by all its subordinates?

            As for the list of demands published in the piece shared, many of them are surely things that the next president can’t do either. It will be interesting to see how they address this issue or if energy to implement any of those demands is sustained now that the president is out.

              Quote  Link

            Report

      • Is Yale different because the people who generally attend that school are rich and privileged? I don’t know the average student at this Missouri college, but since it is a public school, I imagine it is similar to the public school I attended (i.e. still a privileged lot comparatively).

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • I think it’s different because the initial cause is quite a bit more serious, and the demands more specific and significantly less censorious (the resignation demand was the culmination of the problem being ignored, rather than Option A). This isn’t demanding someone be fired because of an extraodinarily mild and diplomatic email that validated student concerns and suggested that they should be treated like grown ups, that did no more than express disagreement with a means to an end.

            Quote  Link

          Report

            • The Yale thing seems related to someone’s point up above regarding the duties/responsibilities of a Dean vs. a President/Chancellor? Is it fair to expect University president to respond to things that are rightly within the purview of a Dean, especially if the Dean is on top of it & hasn’t asked for support from higher up*?

              But then this is the trouble with evaluating systemic issues as an outsider operating on limited information. We are missing history & context that can’t be captured in a short form essay.

              *Perhaps it’s just me, but my experiences to date have left me with the impression that the younger generations have little understanding or regard for hierarchy/chain of command. Although, to be fair, a lot of the hierarchy I see operating in many places have a poor understanding of the concept, with leaders to often getting involved with issues that they should be leaving to their subordinates. If the President of Yale is known to regularly issue statements & get involved in concerns that are not part of their direct purview, then I can see how students would expect more of the same.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • The President of the United States is called upon to react to the actions of police officers, county clerks, and dozens of other actions by various employees and elected officials far down the chain of command. And it’s not exactly young kids pushing the POTUS those questions. Why shouldn’t President’s of Universities have to do the same thing?

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                  • Obama wants my french fries to be too greasy and over-salted!*

                    * At minimum, he hasn’t issued a statement to the contrary.**

                    ** Nor has the Dept. of Agriculture.***

                    *** But the First Lady is batting 1000!****

                    **** Just had to use that expression to mess with Schilling.*****

                    ***** That is all.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

              • I suspect that deans, the chancellor, and the system president all have some ability to make change or influence those beneath them. In Missouri’s case, they went after the chancellor first, until the president showed himself to be insensitive to their concerns, at which point they targeted him as well. I don’t know that they’ve targeted specific deans, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that they have.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

              • On Limited Information:
                One of the most frustrating things about this story is the degree to which the narrative was controlled by FIRE. While Yale student organizers and journalists were focused on informing other Yale students, FIRE president Greg Lukianoff (who’d been invited to Yale by Nicholas Christakis, and is the one shooting the video of those angry students in the quad) was telling this story to the outside world. And Lukianoff is doing so in pursuit of his own agenda. So plenty of focus on the content of Erika Christakis letter, but avoids talking about their subsequent dismissal of student criticism. Plenty of focus on the students’ tone, but zero mention of the actual complaints they raise. In particular, I haven’t seen the initial student response posted linked to by anyone except Yale students.

                On Yale Heirarchy:
                Handy org chart for Yale College, if it helps.

                The Christakis are Master and Associate Master of Silliman College (the husband-wife team thing seems to be common in this position)–And the Council of Masters does report to Dean Holloway. As does Dean Howard, who wrote the initial Intercultural affairs letter and whose office is in charge of the SAE investigation. So it seems like the Halloween weekend events were all within the Dean’s Purview.

                It’s all a little weird to me–because I went to a state school that wasn’t based off of the Medieval European university in the way that Yale is. So the person who did Erika Christakis’s Job at my school was the Coordinator of Student Development–People who were generally recent college grads who had about 10 people above them on the org chart rather than 3. If they’d sent out an email contradicting an official email from the Cross-cultural Centers, they’d be fired. The Christakis, though, have a much more prominent position with less organizational oversight, and are professors in addition to their role in the residential college.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                • Thanks for the link, and yeah, that Org chart reminds me of the ones I had to parse at Big Aero.

                  With regard to Yale, it appears that the Dean who should be involved is involved & is engaging with the students, which makes me wonder why people are aiming at the University President.

                  With regard to Mizzou it sounds like nobody was doing much of anything, so kicking it up the COC is more than likely warranted (although again, I’m working on limited info because I don’t have time to dig, so I could be wrong).

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                • One of the most frustrating things about this story is the degree to which the narrative was controlled by FIRE.

                  How exactly does anyone control a narrative that is being disseminated on online blogs and through social media? These are, by nature, decentralized fora.

                  If the majority of people writing about this story or reacting to it happen to echo FIRE more than they do the Yale students, then it is just because the majority of people happen to agree with that perspective. No one is controlling anything.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                  • By talking about it?

                    The protesters are responding to questions asked, but the only people asking them questions are the Yale community internal reporters. The Christakises are talking to their friends at FIRE, so FIRE’s spin on their story is the one that gets out. There’s no competing narrative, so nobody questions it, and it gets picked up by every news source talking about the issue. At this point, anyone who questions the FIRE narrative is now questioning the public understanding of the events in question, not just the way FIRE decided to filter and spin them. Which puts FIRE in control of the narrative.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

                  • By having emails and video nobody else seems to have, mostly. I’m not trying to say that FIRE is some vast conspiracy with mind control powers.

                    I’m just saying that they’re the ones that everyone else is lazily copy-pasting as this story spreads–and that’s having weird distortive effects on how the conversation is going.

                    For example, a lot of the reaction here at OT is “If this is part of a broader picture, why are all the students focusing on the Christakis specifically?” But as best I can tell, they’re not. Having browsed various Yale websites, students seem to mostly be talking about the SAE party and more generally about lack of administrative responsiveness, and the Christakis thing is more of a sideshow–But because we’re talking about the Christakis (and we’re talking about them because we all read the FIRE article and watched Lukianoff’s video), we end up making a couple of misleading assumptions.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

            • Thing is, I’ve got no problem with protesting the discrepancies discussed in that article. But if that’s what the students are really upset about, then the Christakises and their email seem like a really terrible target for those protests.

                Quote  Link

              Report

                  • ORLY?

                    But, then, I wonder what is the statute of limitations on dreaming of dressing as Tiana the Frog Princess if you aren’t a black girl from New Orleans?

                    Seems pretty close (if not exactly that) in a context where people have been going out in blackface and the desire to get people to rethink that choice was part of what prompted the initial email.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

                    • “I really like Disney princesses, and I’m thinking of going as Tiana this year.”

                      “Um…have you thought this through?”

                      “Hmmm. Maybe you’re right. Mulan then.”

                      “Uh…”

                      “Jasmine? Pocahontas?”

                      “Look, you’re just not getting this, are you? It doesn’t matter which Disney princess you like the best, it matters what color you are, and what color they are. Elsa, Belle, Ariel – those are your choices.

                      …oh, and also, you’re a man.”

                      – I did a quick Google search, and found a few reports that some Yalies have donned blackface in the past few years. One such incident is alluded to at the beginning of this response piece to Friedersdorf.

                      The problem with the piece is, though

                      [Christakis] says she is just as unprepared to rule on the appropriateness of a young white child dressing up as a black Disney princess, as a 20-year-old donning blackface. These are false equivalencies.

                      Except, in my view, Christakis didn’t “equate” the two; her critics are doing that. Christakis herself never mentioned blackface at all.

                      In my view Christakis simply pointed out that there is a continuum of behaviors, with varying meanings – ranging anywhere from ‘play-acting’ to ‘sincere (but perhaps misguided) admiration’ to ‘clueless, careless indifference’ to ‘active malice’; and that it might behoove us, if we want to get along and learn about each other (this is where her early childhood education angle and references come in), to distinguish between these scenarios, and allow some latitude, under some circumstances (such as Halloween). “You can’t understand a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.” That sort of thing.

                      No one is saying that blackface is OK. It’s not*. Christakis’ mail isn’t saying that.

                      It’s about a range of behaviors and intentions and outcomes, a range on which blackface falls at the far end.

                      *Though to be more specific, blackface *itself* was never the issue. In and of itself, it’s just makeup; which millions of men and women don every day, and which Brad Pitt uses to become Benjamin Button.

                      The issue was utilizing that makeup to denigrate an entire race of people, to reinforce stereotypes and the like. That’s the history blackface has now, and it’s why blackface can’t really be reclaimed, any more than the ancient and venerable swastika can. The semi-recent historical associations are simply insurmountable for the modern Western mind.

                      It didn’t need to go that way though, and one way its history could have gone differently, was if blackface had simply been used occasionally as another run-of-the-mill theater special effect.

                      But of course that would have been a different society than this one was.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                      • There’s a difference between a white girl dressing up as Mulan and a white girl dressing up as Mulan with yellow-face.

                        There’s also a difference between sending an email like that one in response to a ban on some category of costumes and between sending an email like that in response to an email that specifically identified “feathered headdresses, turbans, wearing ‘war paint’ or modifying skin tone or wearing blackface or redface” while calling only for students to “be safe and thoughtful during your celebration.”

                        Do you see either of those differences?

                          Quote  Link

                        Report

              • If a group of people have a legitimate grievance, but they (collectively) fail to respond to that grievance in what we feel is a reasonable way, what does that tell us?
                My answer would be: not really much of anything, except that they are human beings. In fact, I think it is pretty foolish to expect a large, amorphous, unorganized group to behave fully rationally, especially when they are angry. This is true of all people, be they college students at Yale or residents of Baltimore.
                I grow increasingly frustrated by the tendency of observers to use the behavior of protesters as a way to question or distract from the legitimacy of their broader complaints. As far as I can tell, this is a tactic deployed against just about every social movement in our history.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

          • Honestly, it isn’t very. It’s just another weird thing that happened re: things that have movements associated with them. A link to something about the Duke Lacrosse case probably would have been more appropriate, but also more ambiguous as to my intent, which is: if this is all fake, wowzers.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • Ah. Gotcha.

              I’ve also read reports that there were reports of shots happening on campus this morning and, later, the reports of shots were withdrawn.

              So the poop swastika might not have happened, shots were not fired, and the KKK did not, in fact, show up.

              From what I understand, the racial incident was that some students were called slurs from people in a truck that drove past and it isn’t clear that the people in the truck were students at the college.

              (AND PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE IF ANY OF THIS INFORMATION IS WRONG, PLEASE CORRECT ME WITH THE RIGHT INFORMATION)

              I’m 100% down with the idea that the folks in the administration should have been replaced because they were inept and didn’t do a good job holding conversations and safe spaces and all that stuff… but, also, if the reports of the things that happened were in error, we’ve got a lot of weird stuff going on here in service to deeper truths instead of the surface-level truths.

              Which strikes me as likely to lead to bad places.

                Quote  Link

              Report

  6. As usual, Rod Dreher is reacting moderately and calmly (http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/the-tyranny-of-social-justice-warriors/). As for the rest, I’m not going to get in the argument, because I’m not going to convince you and you’re not going to convince me. So, I leave you with some comedy in the form of one of Rod Dreher’s reader talking to him about a Women’s Studies major becoming the next leader of The Terror.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  7. Black grad student on hunger strike in Mo. after swastika drawn with human feces

    Is there a betting pool on whether this was done by an actual anti-black racist or an SJ(sic)W seeking to “raise awareness?” It looks a lot like the kind of thing the latter would do.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  8. This is from the link that posted above of the Medium post from a Yale student:

    Many people (especially women of color) said they feel physically and psychologically unsafe here.

    I do not pretend to know whether this is the definitive statement of how students feel, but it is informative nonetheless.

    The idea of being psychologically unsafe, outside of legitimately traumatic circumstances, is the strangest thing about this whole issue. It is absurd, but at the same time these kids do have a legitimate beef. They are just aiming in the wrong direction. The idea that the outside world exists to validate and approbate your feelings is great stuff for Hallmark cards and Upworthy posts, but it puts you at a distinct disadvantage when negotiating the real world.

    And I draw a direct line between the style of parenting/educating/policing that sees threats everywhere and anywhere (eg Halloween candy) and a cohort of kids who fear for their safety in what has to be one of the objectively safest spaces in the world.

    Also, when did rap music become so emo? I implicate Drake in all of this, as well.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • (first time I’ve seen New Haven called one of the objectively safest spaces in the world)

      I think there’s something to your point in so far as college is a great place to need to defend your ideas.

      That said, I find it interesting that you completely glossed over the “physically and” part of the sentence in a rush to make that point. I also think you are wrong that people should not complain about being made to feel unsafe in any way because of physical attributes such as their race.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • (first time I’ve seen New Haven called one of the objectively safest spaces in the world)

        Is it really not very obvious that I meant the Yale campus and not downtown New Haven? Also, the rest of what you said makes no sense. I said nothing about defending ideas and I did not gloss over the “physically and” part of the sentence, which you acknowledge right at the beginning of your comment.

        Online writing and commenting has to be the one form of human communication where people purposefully try to misunderstand the people with whom they are interacting.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • Do you have any actual evidence that Yale is particularly safe? Because a quick bit of googling suggests that Yale (not just New Haven, but specifically the campus area) has a crime problem.

          It feels like you just sort of went with your squishy feelings of how safe a fancy college would be.

          Now, it’s not always a bad thing to go with your intuition. Your gut feeling is really just your brain subconsciously synthesizing your knowledge and awareness, and I feel reasonably confident given what I’ve seen of your presence on OT that you’re a smart, perceptive guy.

          Only, as much as I would generally trust your intuition, In this case, I trust the Yale students more. After all, they’re also reasonably smart and perceptive, otherwise, they wouldn’t be going to Yale. And they’re reporting on their own, actual experience, not just what seems right to them about other people’s lives.

            Quote  Link

          Report

        • Is it really not very obvious that I meant the Yale campus and not downtown New Haven?

          It is really very obvious you have no idea what you’re talking about. I lived two blocks off campus (well within the bubble) for my last two years. I know multiple people who were mugged by townies, and bikes (even barely functional ones) were stolen as a matter of course.

          If you think Yale’s campus is one of the physically safest places on earth you simply have no idea what you’re talking about. I wish I could say online commenting was the one form of human communication where people baldly assert falsehoods, but then I watched some of the debate last night so I can’t.

            Quote  Link

          Report

        • and

          If indeed, that student’s article, and the protests more broadly, are about an uptick in street crime spilling over from the surrounding area and the administration’s unwillingness or inability to do act, then I admit that I am wrong.

          However, I don’t think that this is about actual physical safety. Rather, I think it’s about some students belief that there are elements on campus who are insufficiently progressive in their views of race and gender. And those students believe that the administration’s failure to take action against those reactionary elements constitutes a threat to other students’ health and safety. And it is precisely this conflation of what offends ones sensibilities with what is psychologically and physically unsafe that I have a problem.

          If you disagree, fine, but let’s not play games around the edge of the issue.

            Quote  Link

          Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *