Yale Sacks Dean Over “Classist” and “Insensitive” Yelp Reviews

yelp200px-Yale_University_Shield_1.svgWe recently discussed the controversy surrounding postings by June Chu, dean of the school’s Pierson College, on Yelp.  She was called classist for such comments as “This establishment is definitely not authentic by any stretch of any imagination and perfect for those low class folks who believe this is a real night out.” Chu has now been fired by the university in a move that makes many academics feel uncomfortable over the monitoring of their statements outside of school in social media.

Chu was put on leave after it was discovered that she had written reviews on Yelp deemed offensive.  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. 


There remains great uncertainty for professors on how the limitations that they face outside of their positions in participating in public commentary or social media.  The fact that “classist” comments can be also grounds for termination is chilling for many teachers.

What do you think?

60 thoughts on “Yale Sacks Dean Over “Classist” and “Insensitive” Yelp Reviews”

    1. So in the end, Dr. Williams kept his job. Here’s the report from the Dean of Students: http://www.trincoll.edu/AboutTrinity/offices/president/Documents/FinalWilliamsReport12July17.pdf

      And here’s the statement from the president:
      July 14, 2017

      To the Trinity College Community,

      Freedom of inquiry and freedom of expression in pursuit of the truth are essential, not only to the health of the academy but also to the advancement of civilization. Our understanding of academic freedom in America today is rooted largely in a joint statement from 1940 by the American Association of University Professors and the Association of American Colleges that asserted the fundamental importance of academic freedom for the common good and the advancement of truth. The heart of the concept, of course, is much older and goes much deeper — to the very founding principles of democratic governance.
      Academic freedom is not absolute, however. The events of recent weeks have compelled us to ask important questions about the limits of such freedom and the responsibilities of faculty members, who hold special positions in our academic communities.

      Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs Tim Cresswell’s review of the recent social media activity of Professor Johnny Williams is now complete. We appreciate everyone’s patience in providing us with the time to complete this important review. Dean Cresswell’s report and recommendations are available here. I have reviewed them with the Board of Trustees and now affirm Dean Cresswell’s conclusion that Professor Williams’s actions and words were protected by academic freedom and did not violate Trinity College policies. A related statement from the Board of Trustees also is available online.

      Dean Cresswell’s review included consideration of policies on academic freedom, nondiscrimination, and professional ethics as outlined in Trinity College’s Faculty Manual, as well as policies concerning employee rights and responsibilities and statements on discrimination and harassment that are contained in our Employee Handbook. Dean Cresswell also consulted with external legal and policy experts before providing his recommendations.

      By mutual agreement, Professor Williams will be on leave throughout the fall semester to provide some time and distance from this recent controversy and to allow him to continue his scholarship on race, racism, and academic freedom. The threats of violence against him, his family, and our campus have shaken us all, and we want to do what we can to ensure the continued well-being of our community. Professor Williams will return to his teaching duties on campus in January 2018.

      Let me be clear: While I support Professor Williams’s right to express his opinions, as I have previously stated, I do not condone the hashtag he chose to use. This was interpreted by some to be a call to let people die, though Professor Williams stated publicly that was not his intent. Nevertheless, the words used in that hashtag not only offend me personally, they also contradict our fundamental institutional values and run counter to our efforts to bridge divides and to promote understanding, both among members of our College community and between us and members of communities beyond our own.

      Some have said that Professor Williams caused the harm that has been inflicted upon him, his family, and our College — that he should have known better. But while Professor Williams may have meant for his words to be provocative, much of the most intense public reaction to his social media posts was fueled by misleading and incorrect reports about what he actually said. In particular, the initial report by Campus Reform led to distortions and an ensuing harassment that has become troublingly common for people of color and those who speak out on issues of race and racism. Such harassment, intended to intimidate, is appalling and, indeed, a threat to freedom of expression and to robust debate aimed at discovering truth and knowledge. These attacks against free speech have happened at numerous other colleges and universities. In a country more deeply divided than ever, especially on issues of race, we must be able to speak openly without fear of intimidation or violence.

      How do we move beyond this controversy? How do we heal as a community and support one another? Since arriving at Trinity three years ago, I have worked to create spaces for open, respectful dialogues across deep differences. Once again, I will ask all members of the Trinity College community — faculty, students, staff, alumni, parents, and friends — for their help in continuing this work. Let us use this painful incident to enter into discussions about the destructive forces of racism and hate, as well as our responsibilities to one another, as a community of learners. Beginning in late summer, we will initiate programming both on and off campus that fosters civil discourse and cements Trinity as a community of learning that values differences and promotes understanding. The best place to encourage lifelong learning and engagement across deep divides is right here at Trinity College.

      I don’t have all the answers, but I know our shared belief in the importance of our educational mission will guide us as we work together on solutions. And I am confident in our strength and resilience as a community. Our work contributes to the public good, and there is much work to do together.

      Joanne Berger-Sweeney
      President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience

  1. What she says on her own time is her business, so long as it doesn’t affect her performance on campus. Life’s full of these A-holes, and campuses shouldn’t be sheltered from them.

  2. This only shows she’s a very ignorant, cruel person. I wouldn’t expect anything else from a dean at Yale–right back at you sister!

    However, as much as I dislike what she said, it’s no reason to fire her. She took public responsibility for her nasty, ignorant remarks. That should be the end of it unless she is actively discriminating on the job.

    1. She isn’t cruel. She’s another haut bourgeois snot. They’re all over the place on campuses. She’s also an embarrassment. Being an embarrassment in not in her job description.

  3. There’s no getting around that this is an attack on free expression & the university’s action is part of a very slippery slope even though she showed very poor judgement using her real name.

    Is there any evidence her attitude about white trash, etc. impacted her work?

    I’m surprised people involved in public life speak freely in social media accounts. Safety would dictate they either be super careful about what they say or have accounts which can’t be traced back to them.

    The only rationale I can find for firing her was that she lied about having made only 2 offensive posts.

    1. Is there any evidence her attitude about white trash, etc. impacted her work?

      Why would you assume it didn’t? That aside, part of her job is not making her employer look tainted.

  4. June Chu’s mistake was in voicing her opinion outside of the classroom and in an off campus forum. Had she limited her “reprehensible racist and classist, opinions to the classroom, she would have likely been lionized; not fired.

    1. She isn’t a teacher, she’s a dean. She has an academic research doctorate, but she went right into administration after completing it. Actually, she might have been subject to a public firestorm had she been a faculty member (remember Timothy Shortell?), but she’d have only faced administrative sanctions were she a Republican.

  5. It’s always been okay to denigrate white people, and especially poor whites. In movies, advertising and so forth, the white guy can be portrayed as the buffoon, the social misfit, the criminal, the pervert, and any other negative you can think of. And of course, poor whites: rednecks, trailer trash, deplorables, hicks, crackers; its always been open season on rural whites, whearas racial, ethnic, or religious minorities are off limits for any sort of criticism or stereotyping. So when an Asian female is fired for the rather common denigration of white folks, it makes me wonder if there wasn’t some other reason that they wanted to get rid of her.

    1. They don’t like Dorian Gray’s mirror held up to them. That’s why she’s gone. She is who they are, and it’s pretty embarrassing.

  6. So she’s a snob. So what? If that’s a firing offense, most Ivy League schools would have no professors at all.

    1. The professors are generally prudent enough to keep such talk to the faculty rathskellar.

  7. She was fired for saying out loud and in blunt language things Yale faculty and administration believe. She’s given her life to higher education. No husband, no children, little history of off-campus employment. Let’s hope she can rebuild, and learn to look at the world around her differently.

    1. “… loud and in blunt language things Yale faculty and administration believe.”

      If that’s true, or at least partly true, wouldn’t Yale and Dean Chu and society in general benefit greatly if discourse weren’t shut down by firing her?

      We’d all benefit if she, profs, administrators, students could openly discuss their views, many or even most of which I may find repellent? But, we may learn that they’re not all condescending bigots, maybe most aren’t — but we’ll never know since they’ll be fired or at least risk firing for honestly stating their views. Fabulous!!!

      1. No, we’re not better off. Faculty and students have ‘views’. The staff and administration have jobs and careers like everyone else. You don’t hire sales reps to trash your product.

        1. “You don’t hire sales reps to trash your product.”

          Certainly a valid argument.

          But still, I wonder; the “product” of a college or university is the cultivation of thought, of critical thinking, a search for truth. Rather than arbitrary censors, PC enforcers (left or right), a free and robust marketplace of ideas should decide which ideas succeed.

          If you’re selling widgets, widget-trashers should be fired. BUT, if you traffic in intellectual inquiry, beware of orthodoxy.

  8. “What do you think?”

    1. I want to read more from Mr. Turley about this difficult issue. I’m uncertain.

    2. Dean Chu words were reprehensible, exactly the unpopular type of speech which needs protection.

    3. BUT, private businesses, entities , etc. have a right to establish employee standards (even for “off premises” conduct); BUT, it’s a limited right, I believe. I seem to recall a “public interest” exception which may bar a private entity from prohibiting speech/conduct which is deemed to be in the public interest. For example, an employer should not be able to punish or fire an employee: who votes or said he voted for President Trump or Crazy Bernie, etc.; or an employee who flies an American flag at her house.

    4. The “public interest” exception may not be perfect but it’s probably better than either extreme, with no exception. If employers were barred from establishing any standards, the NYT could not fire its PR person for complaining that the Holocaust was too limited. Without the “public interest” exception, see #3 above.

    5 How about allowing the establishment of employee standards while vastly (or at least somewhat) expanding the “public interest” exception to increase protection for political, gender, race, cultural speech? In this case, Yale would allow Dean Chu to defend her statements while allowing students, profs, etc. to opine. No vote would be taken, no mob rule, she’d keep her job while the marketplace of ideas would decide her reputation or standing in the community. My default setting is to defend and promote free speech.

  9. Yale and academia are better off without her. Does it really matter how we find out that someone is not of the proper material for the job. Case in point…..DC.

  10. I really think that the VA Tech shootings changed the tolerance levels at most universities. Faculty and administrators keep the worse case scenarios in their minds when any sort of dissent arises.Also more than likely the trouble makers aren’t the stellar keepers the school wants, so buh bye.
    She just got bitten by her own mouth spewing ideas that she supposedly preaches against.
    I know some have asked what if she was black. I wonder why she just didn’t cop religion and ask for forgiveness.

    1. I really think that the VA Tech shootings changed the tolerance levels at most universities. Faculty and administrators keep the worse case scenarios in their minds when any sort of dissent arises.A

      That’s absurd. The Virginia tech shootings were not the work of a political dissenter. They were the work of a very damaged individual who had no coherent worldview, just personal frustrations. What was interesting about that case is that members of the creative writing faculty spotted trouble while the psychiatric center and superordinate administrators did not, allowing him to slip through the cracks.

      1. So does it matter what kind of dissenter one be?
        Have you personally spoken to any deans of any particular institution of higher learning?
        I have and what I said was almost verbatim from someone I know in that position.

        1. I have and what I said was almost verbatim from someone I know in that position.

          That’s does not reflect well on the institution. At the very least, they should hire people who are not incapable of analogical reasoning.

      2. I agree. I doubt the VA shooter was concerned with the culinary preferences of down-scale white people.

  11. She’s entitled to her opinions and we’re entitled to think Yale is a symbol of everything that’s wrong with this country — elitist, patronizing, condescending, authoritarian, radical, unsupportive of basic rights and just plain wrong-headed on most everything. Boola, boola!

    1. Maybe she did it because she loves America. Maybe she thinks making wisecracks about white trash puts her in the mainstream of American culture; it distinguishes her from FOB immigrants who see white people as one big undifferentiated blob. Maybe it was a variant strain of patriotism & unrequited love of all things Caucasian including tractor pulls, Hostess Cupcakes & crystal meth.

  12. So Bill Maher should be fired for using the N word?
    Does it also mean never to work again?

  13. I wouldn’t have fired her. Make the requisite apology and go from there I say.

    Personally, I would value her review as informative in the sense that because if I was reading a review of an ethnic or foreign restaurant that is not “white” I would rather learn ahead of time that it was not “Americanized” or white but instead authentic.

    If a person desires a true Japanese restaurant, he is better off avoiding one that is staffed entirely by white people. If it is instead staffed by Japanese and patronized by Japanese customers, most likely it is real and not adulterated. And I might add, if it is a mom & pop restaurant the more spelling and grammar errors in the menu the better.

    Works every time

    1. Help me! I am agreeing with Darren.

      I think she 🎸 rocks!

      I have been accused that my written reviews on Yelp were deemed offensive to.o (guilty as charged) and by Yelp. Thank goodness for self being employed.

    2. She’s Chinese, so I don’t know that she could accurately determine the authenticity of a Japanese restaurant. Unless, perhaps, she lived in Japan for a few years. But yes, I would agree that a Japanese restaurant frequented by Japanese, or a Chinese restaurant frequented by Chinese, or a Russian restaurant frequented by Russians, is likely to be authentic. I do find her expressed attitude to be offensive, but it’s probably no different than most Ivy League professors. And it probably doesn’t matter because a Yale professor is not likely to have any white students from poor or working class backgrounds. If she were teaching at a state college or community college, her attitudes towards lower class whites would be concerning, and possibly grounds for removal.

      1. TIN – that is exactly the argument I made when we first we presented with this problem. Her feeling seemed to be because she was Asian, she was an expert on all Asian foods. I doubt she is an expert on Chinese food.

        1. “I doubt she is an expert on Chinese food.”

          So, why not express your “doubt” to the dean in question, discuss it reasonably? Maybe she and you will both learn something, it’s possible!

          Oh, no — you can’t, she’s been fired; she and you can discuss nothing, can learn nothing from such a discussion. Great!

  14. People can make anonymous comments, and it baffles me as to why some have to make these comments with their real names.

    I found her comments immature and condescending. Yale did right.

  15. Professors, especially a Dean, are part of the University’s “brand.” They’re very much part of the school’s image and featured prominently in promotional and informational materials for the institution. As such, when they’re caught out doing things like this that reflect badly, it damages the institution as well as their personal reputations. If it was an unknown janitor, office staffer, accountant, nurse or other administrative person, then no, there’s no reason to take action so long as there’s no representing they’re part of the school.

  16. I find Miss Chu’s remarks at once accurate and highly entertaining. I do find fault with her for apologising.

    1. Squeeky – my thought exactly. If she was black should she have been fired? Her reviews were offensive and classist and elitist. And from the reviews it is clear her sh*t doesn’t stink. However, an unpaid semester off would have done the job.

      1. Yeah, because I can not recall if any black professors were ever fired for saying bad things about whites, like calling the crackers and such. It probably has happened, but none come to mind right now. FWIW, Yale is like 28% Jewish, and I think the Jews kind of don’t like the competition from the Asians. But that is just my OPINION.

        Squeeky Fromm
        Girl Reporter

  17. Those who can: do.
    Those who can’t: teach.
    Those who can’t teach: teach teachers.

    That last group are called Principals. They are not “pals”.

    1. Turn about is fair play? Tit For Tat? Can’t stand the heat shouldn’t have built the kitchen

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