The Terror and the Ivory Tower

Shortly before Halloween, Yale University issued a missive to its student body containing guidelines on how to dress during the Halloween festivities.

Several students complained of administrative overreach and in response, Erika Christakis, a lecturer and reslife administrator of sorts, penned this email.

It is an open-minded and aspirational criticism of the university's guidelines, drawn primarily from her experiences as an academic and specialist in early childhood development.

Mrs. Christakis, and her husband Nicholas who is also a professor and advisor, were promptly drawn and quartered -- or perhaps guillotined is the more appropriate metaphor.

This is an obvious case of friendly fire, and I feel for the Christakis family.

Hundreds have signed a petition calling for the couples removal, and Mr. Christakis was publicly berated and subjected to a profanity laced tirade by activists when he attempted to address their concerns.

Mrs. Christakis' position is this; college students are adults. Young adults, developing adults, but adults none the less. They should know better than to lampoon the oppressed, and they should be strong willed enough to engage with their peers when those peers play the fool.

She writes,

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? 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. And the censure and prohibition come from above, not from yourselves! Are we all okay with this transfer of power? Have we lost faith in young people's capacity -- in your capacity ­ to exercise self­-censure, through social norming, and also in your capacity to ignore or reject things that trouble you?

In short, she thinks Yale is being patronizing and that her students know how to handle being scandalized.

Apparently not.

I have, in fact, blunted Mrs. Christakis' words.

I encourage you to read them in their entirety. She approaches her subject with candor, caution, and obvious love and respect. Mrs. Christakis doesn't want Yale telling her students what to do, not because she endorses racist costumes, but because she believes in the student body -- and she believes in a world where adults can handle their own problems without bureaucratic entanglement.

Now, you might be thinking -- Nick, didn't you call us all racist for wearing shitty costumes, like, a week ago?

Yes, I did.

But I'm a schlub.

You shouldn't listen to me. I'm writing at you laterally. I am no man's better, and my opinion is worth less than the pixels it is printed on. I attend a second tier law school (go Lady Wolfpack!) and I am the proud product of a state school education (geaux Tigers!).

My point is, when I write a column I don't speak with the authority of the academy. When you read what I write, accord it the same respect you would the words of a scruffy looking stranger sitting in the back of a public bus.

To that end; if you wear a racist costume, you're an asshole. But there aren't -- and shouldn't be -- any laws against being an asshole.

And if you think there should be, then you're an asshole too.

That's how we philosophize out here in the provinces.

I fear our infighting will leave us intellectually barren, neutered by our self-righteousness and feigned outrage.

If this is the best Yale's student body has to offer, we may be witnessing the birth of another Fox News generation -- just a little bit more articulate, and on the other end of the political spectrum.