Yale University president Peter Salovey sent an email to the university community on November 17 in which he addressed the recent protests on campus. He wrote "It is clear that we need to make significant changes so that all members of our community truly feel welcome and can participate equally in the activities of the university, and to reaffirm and reinforce our commitment to a campus where hatred and discrimination are never tolerated."
Salovey wrote, “I have heard the expressions of those who do not feel fully included at Yale, many of whom have described experiences of isolation, and even of hostility, during their time here. It is clear that we need to make significant changes so that all members of our community truly feel welcome and can participate equally in the activities of the university, and to reaffirm and reinforce our commitment to a campus where hatred and discrimination are never tolerated.”
Salovey said that the university will spend $50 million over five years to hire a more diverse faculty, while also adding courses that address diversity and race. Additionally, Salovey said that the university will create “a prominent university center supporting the exciting scholarship represented by these and related areas. Recent events across the country have made clear that now is the time to develop such a transformative, multidisciplinary center drawing on expertise from across Yale’s schools; it will be launched this year and will have significant resources for both programming and staff. Over time, this center will position Yale to stand at the forefront of research and teaching in these intellectually ambitious and important fields.”
Yale University has faced upheaval and protests for weeks since Halloween, when some students said their feelings were hurt by costumes others were wearing. Minority students have published op-eds in university publications to express their disillusionment with Yale administrators while claiming that the university is not welcoming enough of minorities.
One faculty member, Silliman College Associate Master Erika Christakis, has been the target of protests after she sent an email in support of student’s right to wear whatever Halloween costumes they like. Protesters filled a campus courtyard to address Christakis and her husband Silliman Master Nicholas Christakis. The protesters soon began screaming at the couple, and one protester told Nicholas Christakis to shut up and that he was disgusting.
Following a free-speech conference at Yale on November 13, protesters spat on several attendees and called them racists. A minority student attending the conference was called a traitor.
Students at Harvard, Yale’s principal Ivy League rival, have noted the protesters’ clamp down on free speech. In an op-ed, third-year Harvard law student Bill Barlow called the Yale protesters “fascists.” Barlow wrote in the Harvard Law Record, "This recent movement of university students to use administrative procedures to punish speech with which they disagree should be called by its rightful name: proto-fascism."
Barlow explained that that the protesters at Yale have the right to disagree with their opponent, but silencing that opposition violated the principles of free speech. He offered a chart that explained to the Yale protesters how to know if their tactics to silence their opponents is crossing the line. Some examples, included:
Calling for people to be fired for expressing their beliefs — Fascist. You are (1) calling for reprisals (2) for people expressing what they believe.
Organizing a protest against an editorial you disagree with — Not Fascist. You are condemning a belief you disagree with, but not trying to punish the speaker for saying it.
However, those advocating the cause of minority students claim that the argument that black dissenters are fascist is an old ploy used by the establishment to silence minorities.
In a response to Barlow, third-year Harvard law student Annaleigh Curtis claimed that the protesters were "calling out serious concerns on their campus." She wrote "[Students] demands are backed by the only kinds of threats that seem to work—threats of united strike and disruption," and added, "[Opponents] want certain speech not to exist because it makes them uncomfortable. It makes them feel like they’re losing something to which they are utterly entitled, which is the right to say or do anything that’s always been said and done and not have to pay social consequences for having done so."
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.