More than 700 Yale students are protesting two faculty members who criticized a campus-wide email about offensive Halloween costumes.
Shortly before Halloween, Yale’s Intercultural Affairs Council sent an email to the student body, which discouraged students from wearing culturally appropriative or insensitive Halloween costumes.
“And while students, undergraduate and graduate, definitely have a right to express themselves, we would hope that people would actively avoid those circumstances that threaten our sense of community or disrespects, alienates or ridicules segments of our population based on race, nationality, religious belief or gender expression,” the email read.
Shortly after the IAC’s email was sent, it was met with a response from Erika Christakis, Associate Master at the school and child development specialist. Christakis said that students shouldn’t be told what they can and cannot wear.
“Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious … a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?” she wrote. “American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition.”
Christakis’s email touched upon the long-running debate over the balance between upholding free speech and protecting students from personal offense, notes The New York Times.
Christakis’s husband, Master of Yale’s Silliman College, defended his wife’s emails, saying that he stands “behind free speech.” He has been confronted by large groups of students demanding that he apologize for the beliefs expressed by him and his wife. When he was unwilling to do so, the students angrily cursed and yelled at him.
In an email sent to the student body on Thursday, Dean Jonathan Holloway said that he was “fully in support” of the initial email sent by the Intercultural Affairs Council, requesting that Yale students avoid culturally insensitive Halloween costumes.
As a result of Christakis’s email and the opposition that it has met, many students are calling for her resignation. Over 700 students have signed an open letter criticizing Erika Christakis and her husband for their words, which has lead to a much larger debate about free speech.