Jamie Kirchick, Pierson 2006, is running as an outsider candidate for a seat on the Yale Corporation. In Quillette, he describes the disgraceful events of 2015.
Three years ago this Fall, Yale University descended into what can only be described as a fit of mass psychosis.
On November 9, 2015, over 1,000 peopleâ€”about one fifth of the undergraduate student bodyâ€”walked out of classrooms and into the quad to participate in a â€˜March of Resilience.â€™ An a cappella group led the crowd in a medley of â€œWe Shall Overcome.â€ Native Indian performers formed a drum circle. â€œWe are not victims,â€ a student organizer affiliated with the schoolâ€™s Latino cultural center declared. â€œToday, we are on our way to being victors.â€
Against what sinister forces did Yaleâ€™s students feel compelled to summon up their stocks of â€˜resilienceâ€™ in righteous battle? The first grievance cited by the student protestors was an alleged â€˜white girls onlyâ€™ party thrown by one of the universityâ€™s fraternities. Word of this event had gone from a Facebook post to international headlines, tarnishing Yaleâ€™s good name in the process. Had such a party actually taken place, it indeed would have been cause for protest. But itâ€™s hard not to be skeptical about this sort of thing, as many of them turn out to be hoaxes, often perpetrated by the very people claiming offense.
Which is exactly what an investigation by the Yale College Deanâ€™s Office determined a month later, finding â€œno evidence of systematic discrimination against people of colorâ€ at said â€˜white girls onlyâ€™ party. The Dean did, however, fault the brothers of Sigma Alpha Epsilon for â€œcreat[ing] a chaotic environment,â€ demonstrating â€œlittle regard to crowd control and overcrowding inside the houseâ€ and â€œbehaviorâ€ that â€œfell short of the community standards and the kind of civic engagement that I have sought to promote.â€ He found them guilty, in other words, of being frat brothers.
The second supposed incident of racial injustice involved an email sent by a professor, Erika Christakis, questioning an administrative warning to students regarding Halloween costumes that perpetrate â€˜cultural appropriation.â€™ Because Christakis had suggested that young adults should be able to make their own decisions about masks and capes, a mob of students, faculty, and deans demanded that Yale remove Christakis and her husband, fellow professor Nicholas, from their positions as residential advisors. During a two-hour, outdoor harangue of Nicholas, captured on a video that went viral, students yelled, cursed, and physically intimidated him as four Yale deans and administrators watched impassively.
While the university did not succumb to demands that the couple be sacked, the administration essentially sent the message that sided it with the students. Two weeks after the â€˜March of Resilience,â€™ the administration announced a doubling of budgets for the various (African-American, Latino, Native American etc.) cultural centers, racial sensitivity training for faculty and administrators, and the creation of the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration (which has since become the institutional home of the postmodern cultural studies journal Social Text, known primarily for its embarrassing role in the Sokal hoax). This diversity-budget bloat is part of a larger trend. And it has coincided, not coincidentally, with a doubling of tuition since the time I was a Yale freshman 15 years ago. As for the students who mobbed Nicholas Christakis, not only did the University (disregarding its own undergraduate regulations) conclude that their behavior fell short of grounds for disciplinary action, it rewarded two of them with prestigious class prizes upon graduation in 2017. …
It would be nice to have university leaders whose instinct, upon being confronted with baseless accusations that their school is suffused with racism, would be to defend the institutionâ€™s good name, not bow and capitulate. There are, no doubt, racist people at Yale, just as there are racist people everywhere. But there is no reason to believeâ€”and, indeed, very much reason to doubtâ€”that Yale is any more racist than the country at large (unless one takes into account its potential discrimination against Asians, which the university has implicitly acknowledged by signing onto an amicus brief defending Harvardâ€™s allegedly anti-Asian undergraduate admissions policy).
That Yale does not, presently, have leaders willing to speak plainly to such attacks is one of the reasons I am now mounting a petition candidacy to join the universityâ€™s board of trustees (formally known as The Yale Corporation).