Yale College Dean Placed On Leave For “Reprehensible” Yelp Reviews

PiersonshieldPierson College Dean June Chu has been a successful academic and administrator at Yale University.  However, that stellar record came to a halt — and Chu was put on leave — after it was discovered that she had written reviews on Yelp deemed offensive.  The controversy again raises the question of whether teachers should be subject to discipline for their comments outside of schools. Chu is not accused of saying anything offensive to students or even on campus.  Yet her Yelp comments were enough to force her into a leave of absence.

In one review of a Japanese steakhouse, Chu wrote“I guess if you were a white person who has no clue what mochi is, this would be fine for you . . . if you are white trash, this is the perfect night out for you!”  She also described a theater as having “sketchy crowds (despite it being in new haven)” and a movie theater as having “barely educated morons trying to manage snack orders for the obese and also try to add $7 plus $7.”

Chu issued a public apology that said “There are no two ways about it. Not only were they insensitive in matters related to class and race; they demean the values to which I hold myself and which I offer as a member of this community.”

Pierson Head Stephen Davis called the post “reprehensible” and faculty and students denounced Chu as espousing racist and classist sentiments.  After a search, additional problematic comments were reportedly found. Davis’ letter to the faculty and students stated in part:

I am very aware that when I last wrote to you on Saturday morning, it was to ask you to partner with me in envisioning a way forward — to carve out a space for grace — in the aftermath of Dean Chu’s email to the college apologizing for two Yelp reviews in which she had used inappropriate and unacceptable language pertaining to matters of class and race. I did so even though I found the views she expressed to be deeply harmful to our community fabric. I did so because I was convinced that her apology was genuine, because I believed that those posts were not representative of her and of the good work I had seen Dean Chu do in her capacity as dean, and because I still had hope for the possibility of envisioning a path toward healing and reconciliation.

Today I am grieving because I no longer can envision such a way forward. When I wrote to you on Saturday morning, it was with the understanding — and under assurance from Dean Chu, an assurance given to me and to others — that she had posted only two troubling reviews on social media. On Saturday evening, I found out that she was in fact responsible for multiple reprehensible posts, enough to represent a more widespread pattern. The additional posts that surfaced compounded the harm of the initial two, and they also further damaged my trust and confidence in Dean Chu’s accountability to me and ability to lead the students of Pierson College.

Yet, there still remains the question of whether faculty should be subject to discipline for their exercise of free speech outside of this academic work.  As we have previously discussed (including the story involving an Oregon professor), there remains an uncertain line in what language is protected for teachers in their private lives. The incident also raises what some faculty have complained is a double or at least uncertain standard. We have previously discussed controversies at the University of California and Boston University, where there have been criticism of a double standard, even in the face of criminal conduct. There were also such incident at the University of London involving Bahar Mustafa as well as one involving a University of Pennsylvania professor.

Chu was not speaking as a Yale employee or using school resources.  She is not accused of improper conduct at the university.  Do you believe that Chu should be subject to discipline for expressing her views on social media?

97 thoughts on “Yale College Dean Placed On Leave For “Reprehensible” Yelp Reviews

  1. What are we going to do as a society when everyone is finding something offensive about everyone else’s speech.

  2. This is the sort of thing I think employers should only be able to discipline if the employee explicitly agreed to allow such in their employment agreement.

    If I recall right, the Oregon case was in a public university, which should not have the right to make such agreements. Yale, however (despite oodles of public funding), is a private school, and should have the ability to limit its faculty’s off-campus activity. For the same reason, a private religious university should be able to discipline a teacher who behaves contrary to the religion’s values.

    That said, if a school goes too far, its credibility suffers, and socially calling them out (as Mr. Turley does here) is absolutely called for. And it’s likewise totally appropriate to lobby against sending them tax money if their behavior troubles you.

    I personally don’t have a problem with Yale’s actions here (I’d feel differently if it were public), but it’s good food for thought. It’s important to keep a close, critical eye on our schools.

    • Drew – since Yelp requires you review under your own name, anything Chu says reflects on the school. If she was further down the food chain I would give her a break, but she is too high up and has to swing for her mistakes.

      And just because Chu is Chinese does not mean she is an expert is Japanese food. No more than just because I am white I am an expert on Southern Fried Chicken. She is Culturally Appropriating.

      • Again, I don’t have a problem with Yale disciplining her, as long as she had fair notice under her employment agreement. I’d feel otherwise about a public institution.

        But that said, I think you fundamentally misunderstand cultural appropriation. The idea that it’s categorically bad is antithetical to a dynamic society. Certainly it can be bad — see, for example, Warren’s appropriation of Native American heritage for Harvard preference, or counterfeit cultural products sold as authentic.

        Sometimes there’s a gray area (see, e.g., Messianic Jews). But critiquing sushi is not one. It’s just fine. So is making sushi. Even inventing a new sushi dish is okay! But if you do that and claim it’s an ancient recipe from the Mysterious Orient, then we have a problem.

        • Drew, what’s her actual profession? She isn’t a millwright who works for the B & G service and she isn’t an accountant working for the comptroller. These positions have operational measures of competence and performing them well is pretty irrelevant to what you think of service personnel in movie theatres. (While we’re at it, neither the millwright nor a bookkeeper in the comptroller’s office would have penned those reviews unless they’re very odd people).

          She’s where she is because her actual course of study (graduate work in social psychology) marked her a ‘suitable’ for institutional administration and her discipline marked her a suitable for working with a student clientele. What are the operational measures of competence for a dean of a residential college? Not very robust, but likely including ‘no incidents, please’.

        • Drew – Chu made a call to authority as an Asian so she could critique the Japanese food. Being Chinese makes this cultural appropriation. I can play their reindeer games. 🙂

          • First, sushi originated in China and branched from there; many Chinese claim it as their own contribution to cuisine, although modern sushi is objectively Japanese. Still, it has always thrived in China. For goodness’s​ sake, the word ‘sushi’ is Chinese!

            For that matter, people everywhere in coastal Southeast Asia eat sushi traditionally. These days, lots of west-coast Americans are raised eating the stuff. If someone said they were from LA and therefore a sushi expert I wouldn’t bat an eye — and neither should you.

            And finally, assuming that her Chinese ancestry gives her no personal experience with sushi is . . . frankly, it’s pretty racist, based purely on an unfounded stereotype. Remove the mote from your own eye and all that.

  3. autumn, regarding a prior thread, but too difficult to post there: Squeeky might be quite clever but consistently Makes Stuff Up. That is a mark of less than full sanity.

    Don’t let her fool you.

    • David Benson – the AAUP has been a toothless threat since the 60s. Alum are not a toothless threat, couple million here, couple million there and the bucket dries up.

      • There are alums who drop 7-figure sums. There are people who would be bothered by this. Doubt the intersection on the Venn diagram is all that extensive.

  4. The bigger problem we are not seeing are the reviews that Yale is not exposing. It appears there is a pattern of racism and classism in her reviews that go back some time. The two we are treated to are the tip of the iceberg.

  5. Does earning a PhD mean you look down on other people. My wife use to work with a woman who use to tell her that she had a college education. Finally she had it with this woman and let her know that she(we) paid for 2 college educations. I suppose you think that Elizabeth Warren was worth $400,000 for teaching one course at Harvard! I use to run a small business me one day a doctor stopped in. I went to high school with his son. So I asked him what’s your son doing these days. He said he’s bussing tables in a restaurant. I knew his son ended up with a masters in journalism. Then the doctor said, my daughter has a PhD, and she’s waiting on those tables. I’m sorry but there are a lot of over educated people in this country that are just plain full of themselves. And if you happen to be one of them then so be it!

  6. Poo-poo Harvard, poo-poo Yale, I got my education in the mail. Who would want to sit in a class room with a bunch of people who think that they are better the you.

    • Irrelevant. Her remarks were largely self-aggrandizing drivel asserting her superior taste.

      • Come on, the part about the barley educated morons managing snack orders for the obese while trying to add $7 plus $7 was pretty harmless and quite accurate.
        Though, I do think that obese people will be the next protected class. Morons are just ubiquitous in the service industry. No foul there.

        • Come on, the part about the barley educated morons managing snack orders for the obese while trying to add $7 plus $7 was pretty harmless and quite accurate.

          No, it’s not ‘accurate’. It’s merely an indication that you have the same bad attitude she does. Be nice to human beings and stay away from them.

  7. Pierson College Dean June Chu has been a successful academic and administrator at Yale University.

    “Successful”? She was only hired last year and these posts have been circulating among students for months. (And she gave up on academic life once her dissertation was signed; she is a student-affairs apparatchik).

  8. Who will watch the watchers? No I don’t think she should be subject to a suspension. On the other hand I do agree that if she had gone after a minority group instead of white People suspension would be the least of it.

    • She’s a student-affairs apparatchik. They’ve hired a student-affairs apparatchik who is quite unselfconsciously contemptuous of non-exotic wage earners. What does that tell you about Yale’s residential colleges as far as the people who run them are concerned?

  9. Maybe she’s been a little too insulated from the average citizenry to a detrimental effect.

    I guess in college it’s not such an anomaly, but has anyone ever seen any K-12 Asian teachers?
    I’m sure California has some.

    • People who ‘make millions’ on Wall Street are numbered in five digits. Professors and deans are numbered in 7 digits.

    • All i’m saying is that if she’s really that educated and she can obviously apply her intellect why shouldn’t she go some place where she can be heartless, crass while being herself and happily make some money. She seems uber competitive Wall St. might be a good fit for her.

  10. Chu was not speaking as a Yale employee or using school resources. She is not accused of improper conduct at the university.

    What do you think would have happened had she sliced up Chicanos in those reviews? Do you really fancy the penalty would have been limited to a suspension? Can students at GW Law spell ‘u-n-e-m-p-l-o-y-a-b-l-e”?

  11. Should she be subject to discipline? I think it depends on whether or not a person/employee is considered to be a Representative of the school or whatever organization for which he/she works. In a previous job, I was considered a Representative of the company I worked for, and that reputation was 24/7. I spoke for the organization and appeared in various forums both during and outside regular office hours. In short, my name was out there as being associated with XYZ Corp.

    An Academic’s “value” to the school stems only partly from their class load or administrative duties. Their reputations are intertwined with those of the organization, they were hired for their reputations inside and outside the job and paid handsomely for it.

    Where I end up with all that is hourly workers who provide labor should get a pass, but professionals who are hired and paid to represent the University need to behave accordingly.

  12. Ha ha ha. The woman slapped her own name on statements archived in a public place which indubitably reflect the sentiments of about 40% of Yale’s faculty and administration and 20% of the country’s college educated ethnic Chinese. This is an aspect of the ‘diversity’ discourse that it’s not hard to divine (for non-juveniles who are not on the payroll), an aspect that is not discussed at all, and an aspect that faculty are largely unaware of because a fish doesn’t know it’s wet. Point it out to them and you get radio silence or institutional penalties.

    The woman in question has spent her adult life attending or working at well-gated institutions: Bryn Mawr, Harvard, UC Davis, Dartmouth, Penn, and Yale. She appears to have slid into the student affairs with of administration in lieu of seeking or landing a teaching job. Her sojourn in Sacramento excepted, she’s lived her entire life in commuting distance of Ivies and has been associated with four of them.

    These are the people our decision-making class has assigned the task of sorting the labor market. Why was that done?

  13. I’m white and am not offended by her comments. I seriously don’t care whether she makes snarky comments about white people in a review of a Japanese restaurant. If she is biased against poor or working class whites in the performance of her duties, that would be another matter. But I doubt there are any non-wealthy whites at Yale anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.

    • While I agree completely, she’s made a career out of being politically correct and crusading against the exact behavior she exhibited
      Not that she should be fired, but sometimes schadenfreude is wonderful when the hypocritical fall.

    • Her comments about white people are fine, but her comments about morons are ableist, she is also guilty of fat shaming, and her remarks about the sketchy crowd are almost certainly racist.

      Plus on Halloween, she was seem twerking and that of course is Cultural Appropriation.

  14. Hell no! She should even get a bonus or promotion – just exhibiting the Yalie elitist POV – we are great and the rest of y’all are stupid proles. Surprised she’s even been called out.

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