Yale Gives Graduation Prizes To Two Students At Center Of Controversial Confrontation With Professor

ChristakisYale has been the focus of rising concerns over academic freedom and the treatment of faculty after the appearing of a disturbing videotape showing Yale students abusing Professor Nicholas Christakis who sought to have a civil conversation over an email written by Christakis’ wife.  Two of the students who were most vocal in this controversial confrontation have now reportedly been honored with the Nakanishi Prize selection committee deemed most deserving of a prize for “enhancing race and/or ethnic relations” on campus.  Various cites have stated this year’s recipients Alexandra Zina Barlowe and Abdul-Razak Mohammed Zachariah were featured prominently in the controversy.  However, the protests are not mentioned in the citations.

Lecturer, Erika Christakis is an expert in early childhood education and she wrote a good faith email discussing the effort to bar students from wearing Halloween costumes deemed offensive.  The Intercultural Affairs Committee at Yale had issued an over-bearing warning to  students that it would be insensitive to wear costumes that symbolized cultural appropriation or misrepresentation, or both, like feathered headdresses, turbans, war paint, blackface or redface, or costumes that made fun of people.  Erika Christakis questioned the implications of having students surrender “implied control” over Halloween costumes to institutional forces: “I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: 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?”  It was an honest effort to explore the issue of regulating Halloween costumes (an issue that we have explored on this blog — here and here).

Erika Christakis eventually resigned from the university.

She wrote the email in response to a directive from the Intercultural Affairs Committee at Yale that warned students that it would be insensitive to wear costumes that symbolized cultural appropriation or misrepresentation, or both, like feathered headdresses, turbans, war paint, blackface or redface, or costumes that made fun of people.  The result was a firestorm as students accused her of being racist and that anger was vented at her husband as he crossed the campus.

The videotape is striking familiar to other such confrontations across the country, including the recent confrontation of a professor who merely criticized a plan to force all non-minority students and faculty off campus for a day.

Barlowe is featured in an interview where she said that Yale was not safe for minority students.  In the interview, Barlowe radically misconstrues the point of the email and says that the incident is an example of the dangers at Yale for people of color.

I expect (and hope) that these students are being recognized for more than just this controversy.  This confrontation is, in my opinion, not worthy of recognition (let alone celebration).  I felt that the university showed little concern for the uncivil and abusive treatment afforded to the faculty member.  One of the most important lessons that we should teach on our campuses is the need for both free speech and civil discourse.  I would not have wanted these students disciplined for such an encounter but I also hope that it played no role in this official recognition.

113 thoughts on “Yale Gives Graduation Prizes To Two Students At Center Of Controversial Confrontation With Professor

  1. Proof once again that education strengthens the mind but weakens the spine. The student should have been reprimanded, not applauded for her disrespectful actions and the professor needed discipline and his man card revoked for his pusillanimity in taking it. I’m shocked the JT would say he didn’t want the student disciplined. This was a classic case of belligerent confrontation and public humiliation used as a tactic. The profanity was uncalled for and we can only imagine the self-righteous institutional wrath that would have followed had the races of the participants been reversed.

  2. They gave 2 racist bullies who shut down a professor’s free speech as well as his defense of equality for all races? Is this an Onion article?

    Well they will certainly now get more of this racism now that they have rewarded the behavior.

    Parents, vote with your dollars wisely.

  3. Have we as a culture become so obsessed with “tolerance” that those speaking loudest have become some of the most intolerant? Something to think about.

  4. Maybe what these students accomplished on campus, other than the bullying, was so great that it overcame the obvious betrayal of Yale’s ideals. If so I guess I could understand. But as a minimum the “award” statement should have included that the students did not have unblemished records and chastised them for their failure to observe common decency.

      • Speaking of shock, like some guy above said, I just found out England has multiple Kentuckys! Or it is Kentuckies??? Because I got some books from Dunfermline KY11 8NT. They got sooo many Kentuckies they have to number them in the zip codes! Who would have guessed??? Oh well, live and learn.

        Squeeky Fromm
        Girl Reporter

    • Someone from the left on the radio put it well the other day “you have a herd mentality and your afraid to stop it, so more will be coming at you everyday”.

      • I see you are using the Putin Network. No surprise for a Trumpster to be using that network to change the course of an American election and spread lies about a grieving family. Do you get paid by them?

        • yup, I roam around trying to piece together the truth – you’ll note my posts come from a wide variety of sites Progressive, Conservative and Libertarian. I’m not a Trumpster – a Bernieorbuster. So, no, unlike you and Correct the Record trolls I do not receive any monies.

          Major problem for Dims is that Independents from various walks of life and ideologies may disagree on certain issues, but we are united in our search for truth. Not the “unity” extolled by HRC.

            • That’s nonsense. It was Hillary Clinton who got paid by the Russians. It is documented she received a half a million through Bill for one of his speeches, and $144 million to her foundation, at the time that she signed off on selling 1/5 of the US Uranium to the Russians.

              Now THAT’S a lot of Russian money to throw around.

              Autumn is most certainly not a “Trumpeter” nor anyone suffering from True Believer Syndrome of any party. Which you would know if you were familiar with her posts.

              It is a shame that the knee jerk reaction is to attack the critic rather than examine the critique for its merits and flaws.

              • Just because the Clinton’s used the foundation as as a slush fund does not change the fact that Trump Kushner are probably guilty of money laundering. Jail time is coming.

                • probably guilty?

                  It’s been a few years since my college logic class. How does proof that Clinton used the foundation as a slush fund equal Trump/Kushner are probably guilty of money laundering? In the former, evidence exists, in the latter no evidence exists. Aha! I forgot the known variable of leftist projection syndrome. (LPS) You know, Trump/Kushner must be corrupt because Clinton is corrupt.

        • It is ignorant and flat ass wrong to call autumn a “Trumpster.” But anyone who does not toe the party line is the enemy..right Franky!

          • Nick there is no way to reason with the hardcore establishment Dims. Like cult members they simply cannot engage with much less entertain the idea that different POVs are essential trying to make sense of things. Frank sez he has to go to work – translation: he needs his diapers changed and his pacifier and a lie down in a safe space.

            Well, I gotta go too – calling the Kremlin to ask about my shipment of caviar and vodka. =)

            • LOL! You. dear autumn, are one of the freest thinkers I know. We have both lived in more than a few places. That helps in keeping an open mind. I’ve lived in 8 states in 3 time zones. As diverse as Connecticut and Missouri.

              • Nick, I grew up in what was then West Germany and traveled extensively throughout Europe – to me it was always exciting to cross a border and encounter a different language, customs, foods, art, history, etc. Then when I moved to the US initially I lived in a small town in TN (talk about culture shock!!)– grew quickly bored with the campus scene and discovered a small coffee shop where locals of all stripes gathered to hang out and talk about everything and anything so I learned a lot about diverse subjects ranging from crop rotation, Shakespeare from a house painter poet, the Deep State from a former spook – it was amazing! Then to Charleston, SC where I was delighted to discover this amazing city and meet so many Germans as well, then to Northern Virginia where the culture was awesome but oh so hard to really connect to anyone, to Vegas and now I’m back. I think that growing up around the military taught me to be flexible as people constantly moved yet the stability of my small village was a great boon.

                Traveling around the US has also been illuminating – if I had my druthers I’d live in either Western North Carolina or Washington State – love the scenery in both places and the fact that books / readers are everywhere.

  5. OT – anyone gonna binge “House of Cards”? Looking foward to escaping the “real” political world for a few hours =)

    • autumn – I found the new House of Cards inferior to the old House of Cards and have taken it off my watch list.

      • Paul, do you mean the original British version? I really liked it – just as evil, but subtle. The US version was good the 1st / 2nd season and then deteriorated – too much was thrown in. I’m gonna check out the final season though. Need an escape =)

        • autumn – I am binging A Series of Unfortunate Events. Just finishing ep. 6. Neil Patrick Harris plays Count Olaf. Very good. Kids are great.

  6. Pandering, plain and simple. Another example of rewarding bad behavior. Don’t call me when they show up at your door.

  7. You never know what sets someone off. Memorial day weekend, Man kills 8 in Mississippi. He blames it on his wife.

      • Hey I resemble that remark
        and the complement. I am not sure how you knew I carry but thanks. Never fly without it including church or the movies.

        Actually most southerners have insulted me for years being a Yankee from Jersey and all. Their favorite line is that Yankees are like hemorrhoids. They come down and won’t go back up.

        Then they inform me that the South will rise again. I just ask…you want to get whooped again?

        • CV Brown – the South is not going to get whooped again unless they send MS13 down. The rest of those sissy boys from the North don’t even have a driver’s licence. 🙂

          • Paul, growing trend down South too – I know two kids – 16 and 18 who are not interested in driving – boys FWIW. One parent is ok with that – he’d rather the kid Uber – saves money on the car insurance =)

            • Grüß gott

              Ich wollte nur einen Moment danken, um dir zu danken. Wenn du Vilsect nicht erwähnt hättest, kann es schon lange dauern, bis etwas geklickt hat und ich hätte mich an meinen Freund Jay erinnert. Danke, dass du mich dort hingebracht hast. Tschüss.

              • Gruess dich CV,

                Ich glaube wann Leute sterben das sie immer noch bei uns sind – in unsere Herzen and Gedaechnis. Gute Beziehungen make life worth living IMO.

            • autumn – he’s not a real man until he’s got a pickup with a Confederate flag flying from it. 🙂

        • Hey, I pack heat, too! I keep a little 5 shot 38 in my purse at all times. Had to have my hand on it twice, which was enough to spook off the potential baddies. Then, at home, I have the really good stuff! I plan on stocking up on ammo during the next four years.

          Squeeky Fromm
          Girl Reporter

        • Well, unless you got a lot of broke Irishmen who will fight for pay, I don’t think anybody is going to be stopping any secession any time soon. If California secedes over protecting its cheap labor, I don’t see anybody wanting to enlist to get them back in the Union.

          The Government will probably have to resort to nefarious underhanded methods like cutting off food stamps and welfare payments to bring them back.

          Squeeky Fromm
          Girl Reporter

  8. “I would not have wanted these students disciplined for such an encounter….”

    Really? Are you frigging kidding me? Guy gets insulted and verbally attacked by students. Should be exactly like an employer employee situation. You speak like that your gone.

    Like to see you encounter that at GW and turn your academic cheek.

    I think Abdul may have his fan belt too tight on his towel.

    Damn, now see what they made me do.

  9. Though it seems principled, I can’t imagine a professor actually quit for this reason alone. There’s more good to be done on campus at Yale than off. What professors have to go through! The humanity!

    The louder the squeak in a wheel, defective or not, the more grease it gets on campus. The yelling award winner clearly has a lot to vent, but her argument is well-reasoned. Hopefully, she’ll apologize some day.

  10. Wonder if they would be able to get into Yale based on grades and who is paying for their tuition? Maybe if we returned to entry based on entry exams, passing courses and paying your own way this would all go away.

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