Category Archive 'Liberal Hypocrisy'

28 May 2016

Christakises (and Free Speech) Not Coming Back to Yale

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ScreamingStudent
The Shrieking Student confronting Master Christakis last November.

We saw this week the sad denouement of last Fall’s Great Halloween Costume Controversy at Yale.

The very liberal Master of Silliman College and his equally liberal wife and co-Master, were publicly denounced and vilified early last November for Mrs. Christakis’s daring to question the dictate on the vital issues of Halloween costuming laid down by Yale’s “Intercultural Affairs Committee,” a 13-member group of administrators from the Chaplain’s Office, campus cultural centers, and other campus organization. That committee urged students to be careful of the cultural implications of their Halloween costumes and to avoid trespassing upon the tender sensitivities of officially-recognized victim groups via the use of feathered headdresses, turbans, “war paint,” or blackface, all cases of inappropriate “cultural appropriation and/or misrepresentation.”

Co-Master Erika Christakis responded two days later, the night before Halloween with her own email, based on her professional expertise as a child development specialist, questioning the appropriateness of the university policing students’ choices of Halloween costumes:

    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.

Christakis raised free speech and expression issues and then inquired philosophically:

    Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive? American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition.

Demonstrations ensued, an open letter denouncing Erika Christakis’s email was signed by hundreds and hundreds of students and faculty, Nicholas Christakis was confronted and abused by “the shrieking student,” Yale Dean Holloway was confronted and scolded by a crowd of students of color, demonstrators demanded the Yale Administration apologize and meet a long laundry list of demands, including the dismissal of both Christakises.

The University declined to fire the Christakises, and affirmed that they continued to have its support. But, Erika Christakis quit teaching at Yale last December, and her husband Nicholas announced soon thereafter that he would be taking a sabbatical for the Spring Semester.

On Wednesday this week, the Yale Daily News reported that, all that solid Administration support notwithstanding, what do you know? the Christakises will never be coming back.

Months after a controversial email helped spur sustained student protests last fall, Nicholas and Erika Christakis will step down as head and associate head of Silliman College, effective this July.

In a Wednesday afternoon email to the Silliman community, Nicholas Christakis announced that he submitted his resignation to University President Peter Salovey last week. The couple drew national attention last fall when a Halloween weekend email from Erika Christakis defending students’ rights to wear culturally appropriative costumes sparked outrage on campus.

At the time, many students and alumni called for the couple to resign their roles at the helm of Silliman College, arguing that the two could no longer serve as effective leaders of a college community designed to create a home for undergraduates. But others said their removal would constitute a serious blow to free speech on college campuses.

In his resignation announcement, Nicholas Christakis emphasized the importance of open intellectual debate, a stance which caused controversy last fall as many students argued that the emphasis on free speech came at the cost of student wellbeing and safety.

“We have great respect for every member of our community, friend and critic alike,” Nicholas Christakis wrote. “We remain hopeful that students at Yale can express themselves and engage complex ideas within an intellectually plural community. But we feel it is time to return full-time to our respective fields of public health and early childhood education.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education noted that Yale’s fidelity to its own supposed ironclad commitment to Free Speech seems to be less than ironclad in actual practice.

Now both professors have stepped down. The “glowing promises” … in Yale’s famed Woodward Report, which assures students and faculty members that they are free to “think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable” and states that “[a]mong the College’s most cherished principles is its commitment to freedom of expression.”

With the Christakises’ resignation, it’s clear that Yale’s ability to live up to its public promise to provide an environment that fosters free and robust debate has been called into sharp question.

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It is probably some Yale irate alumn who has singled out the shrieking student on Facebook for revenge.

DontHireJerelyn

20 Aug 2010

Ground Zero Mosque: Liberals Suddenly Discover Property Rights

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John Podhoretz, in Commentary, admires the way the Ground Zero Mosque debate has suddenly caused liberals to embrace property rights.

One of the hilarious ironies attendant on the mosque debate is the sudden discovery by the liberal elites of the vital importance of property rights — how Imam Feisal Rauf and his people have purchased a site on which they should be able to build “as of right,” and how those who are objecting to the mosque’s construction are committing an offense not only against the free exercise of religion but against commonly accepted principles involving real estate.

For the past 40 years, especially in New York City, property rights have taken a back seat in almost all discussions of the proper use of real estate. Following the lamentable razing of the great old Penn Station, the general proposition has been that any major project should have a distinctly positive public use. Landmark commissions, zoning boards and the like have imposed all sorts of restrictions and demands on property owners that interfere with their right to build as they would wish. Laws have been written after the fact (especially when Broadway theaters were jeopardized by real-estate development in the early 1980s) to restrict the right of property owners to do as they would wish with the land and buildings they own.

Thus, the outrage which greeted the suggestion that zoning boards and the like should and could be used to block the Cordoba Intitiative is bitterly comic. Such boards have been used for decades to block projects for reasons involving the “sensitivities” of a neighborhood, like the time Woody Allen and others fought the construction of a building at the corner of 91st and Madison on the grounds that it would harm the historic nature of the area — when in fact he and his neighbors were concerned about a shadow the building might cast on their communal backyard. Walter Cronkite went on a tear against a tall building being built by Donald Trump on the East Side near the UN because it was going to block his view.

Perhaps we should just argue that, once the Saudis and Iranians have paid for putting up the new 15-story building, it should be open to “urban homesteading” by artists and the poor, as liberal New Yorkers have frequently advocated with respect to other people’s buildings.

Or we might simply have Zoning or one of those Neighborhood Development Authorities require Abdul Rauf to include so many low cost housing units as part of the permission price for being allowed to build anything.

Or, why wait? we could just send in some urban pioneering activists right now to set up living arrangements in the empty Burlington Coat Factory building just as it is, thereby acquiring by virtue of the quaint customs of the city squatter’s rights. Then let Abdul Rauf try getting one of the radical leftwing judges of New York City’s Housing Court to issue an eviction order.


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