Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Full Philosophical Meltdown at Yale

President Salovey's response to recent events at Yale is nothing short of disastrous. In a wide-ranging letter sent to the Yale community, he gives a full-throated endorsement to nearly everything the activists could want, and then some. Yale is jumping gleefully into the festering swamp of identity politics where racial and gender identity trumps all. So much for the day when we might be judged for the contents of our characters and not the color of our skin.

Naturally, Salovey says that Yale is still committed to free speech. And yet, he simultaneously says there will be no consequences for anyone's actions in recent events. That includes:

  • Jerelyn Luther, the senior who cursed at Master Christakis, telling him he was "disgusting" and to "shut the f*ck up."
  • Edward Columbia, the activist who disrupted the free speech conference.
  • Other activists outside that same conference, who acknowledge that attendees were spit on.
  • Neema Githere, the sophomore who it now appears fabricated, or at least exaggerated, the racial incident at the SAE fraternity that partially sparked all this.
So Salovey's definition of free speech now includes lies, harassment, and assault as long as progressives or minorities are doing it. Can you imagine, for even one moment, if conservative students had done any of these things? I shudder.

Salovey states that "social identity should be a focus of particularly intense study at a great university." In other words, let's study all things that separate us, not what brings us together. He promises more money for just about every diversity initiative you can imagine, plus five years of conferences on "race, gender, inequality, and inclusion." I wonder if campus conservatives will be included.

Yale has also set aside $50 million to find more minorities to populate their faculty. Seriously, are professors that hard to find? Is Yale that tough a draw that they have to spend $50 million to get teachers? Hey, I taught there for nothing (as an adjunct), and considered it a high privilege.

As day follows night, this will be the result: lots more gender and racial studies courses. I wish it were otherwise, but there simply aren't enough black physics professors to go around. If the goal is as shallow as getting more minority faces in the faculty lounge, Yale will be forced to hire them where they find them. Do you suppose Cornell West wants to move schools again?

These disciplines are little more than grievance factories, and they undermine Yale's academic legitimacy. They also drive people further apart. If you arrive at Yale and you're not already mad, you will be after a couple of identity studies courses have re-educated you.

This is why everything Salovey is doing will backfire. He is adding massive fuel to the flame. How naive to think the activists are going to say, "excellent, we won, let's hit the books." The left is never satisfied. Each victory only makes them angrier, demanding ever more.

Easy wins for the activists at Yale and Missouri are now causing this to spread like a malicious virus. At Princeton, students are demanding that Woodrow Wilson's name be eradicated (ironic, that one, as Wilson was their philosophical progenitor). At Dartmouth, they want to make "social justice" the theme of the Winter Carnival (no one has accused the activists of being a fun lot). They also stormed the library, shouting things like, "f*ck you, you filthy white f*cks." At Ithaca, they get the picture. For the movement, finding offense is like a addictive drug, and this crowd needs frequent hits.

All this, based on a handful of racial incidents that may or may not have happened, and if they did, are of unclear provenance. Still, the hunt is on, and activists are searching for affront like ten year-olds looking for Waldo. If they can't find any, it's sufficient to make something up, or to at least massively re-define our current understanding of what such thing are (see: microaggressions). Why not, after all? Ethical considerations aside, the payoff is huge.

This is all going to get much worse before it gets better, until the grown-ups reassert themselves. Sadly, there are few left in academia.

P.S. My abiding love for my alma mater has taken a serious hit, and I am very depressed about it.


  1. Q: Will Dartmouth students erect an ice sculpture of a hand with the middle finger extended in salute at Winter Carnival, or maybe a clenched fist?

    Of note, at least the president, (and I will now refer to that position in lower case as it seems appropriate given the lack of gumption and backbone a real "President" ought to exhibit), stood by the Masters Christakis.

    Because words do matter, despite the president's actions, I trust the use of the word "Master" in context of the heads of the residential colleges at Yale will remain in place as it is a term of competence and a reference to the mastery of a subject, skills, and responsibilities, and has NOTHING to do with racism and slavery.

  2. Actually, Princeton just announced they are changing master to "head." Look for Yale to follow.

    1. This will be a convenient way to get rid of the Christakises. Since the position of "master" has been abolished, no one is being fired for expressing their views. A new "head" will be appointed for Silliman.

      Willard S. Moore Y'81

  3. I disagree with your characterization of this situation as "conservative vs. liberal": "Can you imagine, for even one moment, if conservative students had done any of these things?"

    We are well beyond that. I am a life-long liberal Yale alum ('88) and I can't recognize myself in these students. It is not acceptable to yell at an adult, let alone another person in the name of "making change." This would fly nowhere else but (I guess) academia today. It's really intellectually lazy and it must be a tough way to live to constantly think you are a victim. I can hardly believe this is happening and I'm scared. And angry.

    1. While it's refreshing to see some liberals awakening to the consequences of their philosophies and distancing themselves from their present-day successors, it's unfortunate if they refuse to connect the dots or assume any accountability. I think it's a safe bet that the Yale activists aren't voting conservative.

    2. How did this become the older liberals' fault? I've never acted like this, never supported anyone acting like this, never taught our children to act like this, and I have always supported open discussion of issues. I thought everyone did. As well-educated people, if we stand for respectful intellectual discourse, polarizing it as a "see what you did you terrible liberals" isn't helping. How do you think we got here? I say, like most things, it was a number of factors.

    3. Some would say that the definition of liberal political correctness is preventing the open discourse you reference. If one even suggests an open and honest discourse over the consequences of [old] liberal programs such as affirmative action, liberals quickly suppress it with the race card. I have yet to see Pres Salovey or any liberal engage an honest discourse, complete with accountability, over the recent facts - whether it be about the SAE claims or students spitting and directing hate-speech toward peaceful conference attendees.

    4. Of course Liberals and Conservatives have always been at odds as is the nature of opposing minds but, never has the gap been so wide. The problem is that the Liberals have morphed into Progressives. Progressives are not a political party so much as a 'movement'. A very dangerous movement as is obvious, by the state of academia. Seems not very many people actually grow up anymore.

  4. Among other good points, you nailed one thing on the head, Scott. Race, gender, and diversity departments are outposts for angry and aggrieved individuals, usually with less than stellar academic credentials. That goes for the professors and the students alike. Most of the truly absurd ideas that now come out of academia are born in these departments, and seep out into the real departments. Unfortunately, the cowards in the departments and the administration roll over rather than face cannibalization by their fellow liberals.

    One would have hoped that open attacks on freedom of speech and freedom of the press would have marked an inflection point where intelligent adults would have drawn the line and begun to reel in (or at least to ostracize) the children. With the exception of a few stout souls such as Dershowitz at Harvard, there is currently little evidence of courage on the academic left.

  5. As a fellow Yale '82 classmate, I am appalled by this diatribe. You clearly have completely missed the point in your pie-eyed nostalgic remembrance of Milton, Yale, and beyond. Seriously. Can you not take one second to TRY and walk in the other shoes or at least pretend to imagine what it is like? Or better, imagine what it was likely like in 1982, whether YOU experienced it or not? Seriously? YOUR experience has nothing to do with this.

    By the way, if you are going to spout intellectualism, read it ALL - - not just the stuff you want to read. Think about it all. Consider it all.

    And by the way - - this has nothing to do with Free Speech. You get that, right? There is no irony. William F Buckley conference or none.
    (or perhaps THERE is the irony...)

    1. You clearly write to impress, not to communicate.

    2. Don't you love it when ad hominem attacks are anonymous?

    3. While no one can "walk in anyone else's shoes", the best I can do is through the unedited, first-hand videos of the courtyard incident. That interaction spoke volumes to me, evidencing an unprecedented level of pandered hypersensitivity. If this Yale '82 sympathizer knows better and feels entitled to dismiss everyone else's opinion, perhaps he/she should back it up with facts rather than the kneejerk - and unjustified - sympathy we've witnessed in too many of these cases (such as Duke lacrosse, UVa, and others).

    4. Yale '82 - this is a big part of the problem. You let rip some sort of ridiculous, thoughtless and emotion laden personal attack against Scott without any rebuttal to his well thought-out piece above. I am astonished that someone in their mid-50s like you who graduated from Yale can publish such a childish and asinine comment. This is much like the entitled children at Yale who are demanding that Yale provide them with binkies. Yale '82 - you should be ashamed of yourself for you lack of decorum and respect, and in particular for posting such a juvenile and ranting comments

    5. Ugly ugly. No need for it.

      Read beyond your sphere. Discuss beyond your sphere. Consider, with seriousness, the possibility of legitimacy in the "other side's" argument or experience. As a privileged white male, I feel it is my obligation to at least consider what it feels like to be of color in an environment designed for me and mine. That's all I am saying.

      Stop patting each other on the back and read it ALL. Look at it ALL. Think about it ALL. Why not?

      And regarding the woman in the Silliman courtyard - - she will regret her loss of control for the rest of her life. That is done. But instead of focusing on and vilifying a barely young adult's loss of control in a moment, at least ask WHY such a promising and otherwise lovely (apparently) young woman WOULD lose control...

    6. @Anonymous: I decided your comments deserved a thorough and thoughtful reply:

  6. Free speech for me, but not for thee.

    Oh, how the liberal mindset has changed!

  7. Reductio ad absurdum meets Nostradamus:

    Please, following along this tortured trail we find ourselves upon, kind readers, as the inmates attempt another takeover of the academic institutions they originally asked to be admitted to in the first place... (no doubt a bitter, bitter irony to absorb for the inmates.)

    So, students are DEMANDING to rename Calhoun College at Yale, (and now Princeton and Rutgers students' are taking their respective college presidents' offices hostage with sit-ins) to, pardon the pun, to whitewash President Woodrow Wilson from their academic halls and schools because he s causing them "emotional and intellectual pain".

    Is the next round of maniacal PC-cleansing a demand to re-name Duke University because of its ties to the Duke family of tobacco barons? Or a call for dropping the name from our nation's capitol because President Georgie owned slaves?

    All hail the new "Puke University" (and its undergraduate college: "COPD"),
    and now: "Just the District of Columbia"!

    Oh wait, scratch "Columbia" from the "The District of..." I forgot Cristoforo Columbo was apparently a slave trader, and the godfather of western aggression against the indigenous natives. (Darn, I should have paid more attention in my Migration Studies classes, or else I'd have raised these examples of micro-aggression long ago.)

    On second thought, and in light of my new sensitivity to micro-aggression. I, TOO, DEMAND: Woodrow Wilson MUST be banished from future history books! (After all, he was the father of liberalism, WWI, entitlements, and the Fed, which are just as offensive to me as the other "deeds" he did in his role in American politics and business.) So say I, a fiscally-conservative capitalist (albeit one with with a soft spot for clean, cold running water in many of our currently unpaved sectors of the country, and cute animal memes & videos on Facebook.)