Yale University is in upheaval after allegations of 2 racially charged incidents
Anger and pain have been simmering at Yale University over a series of racial controversies that took place over Halloween weekend.
The tension on campus started with a two-sentence post on Facebook by Yale sophomore Neema Githere, in reference to a party on the Friday before Halloween.
"I'd just like to take a moment to give a shoutout to the member of Yale's SAE chapter who turned away a group of girls from their party last night, explaining that admittance was on a 'White Girls Only' basis; and a belated shoutout to the SAE member who turned me and my friends away for the same reason last year. God Bless the USA."
Members of the SAE frat have categorically denied turning away any students based on their race or ethnicity, according to the Yale Daily News.
Still, those words caught fire on the New Haven campus, and other students began echoing her sentiments and sharing their own experiences of racism on campus.
"I've been harassed in dining halls, at fraternity houses and on New Haven streets by Yale fraternity members and male athletes," Briana Burroughs wrote in the Yale Daily News (YDN) several days later.
"Their words — from 'charity case' to 'ghetto Black bitch' — continued to echo in my head. Fear paralyzed me as their discussions of my Black body and hair turned into taunts and fondling."
The day before Githere's Facebook post, an "associate master" — an administrator who oversees students at a residential college — set off another racially charged debate with an email to students about Halloween costumes.
Silliman College Associate Master Erika Christakis emailed students in response to an Intercultural Affairs Council email that called on students to be sensitive about the cultural implications of their Halloween costumes, as Inside Higher Ed reported.
Christakis supported students' right to dress in any costumes they liked, offensive or not.
"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?" she wrote.
Her comments immediately drew the ire of some students in Silliman, and elsewhere on campus, who claimed they invalidated the voices of minority students.
Christakis' husband, and the master of Silliman College, Nicholas Christakis, defended his wife's position and that of free speech, according to Yale Daily News.
More coverage of the alleged 'White Girls Only' party:
A major part of Yale's identity is its residential college system. The 12 residential colleges house students for their entire undergraduate experience and include dormitories, dining halls, and gyms.
But more than that, residential colleges are a home away from home for students. Masters — the term given to the administrator who oversees a residential college — live among the students, and invite students into their homes for various social events during the year.
Francisco Anzola/FlickrAgainst this backdrop, there have been a number of op-eds have been published by students of color in the YDN and the Yale Herald, and confrontations between Yale students and the administration, with students voicing their disillusionment with the administration and claiming that Yale is not a safe haven for minorities.
The two separate events also seemed to expose an an underlying feeling for students on campus that Yale is an unwelcoming place for students of color and that pervasive racism exists at Yale.
"Being the Master of Silliman is a position of power. To use it to marginalize so much of the student body is deplorable," Jencey Paz wrote an op-ed in The Yale Herald.
Paz continued on, speaking about the impact that the Christakis' emails have had on students at Yale.
"This email and the subsequent reaction to it have interrupted their lives," she wrote. "I have friends who are not going to class, who are not doing their homework, who are losing sleep, who are skipping meals, and who are having breakdowns. I feel drained."
Yale students challenge dean over racially-charged incidents on campus:
Many, on campus, and elsewhere, support the students who come forward to share their stories about their experiences at Yale.
But the events on campus have also drawn derision from those who see the events on campus as another example of coddled liberal arts students unable to deal with differing opinions.
And some students on campus have backed Erika Christakis, arguing that her email was valid.
"Christakis is not hostile to any minorities," Cole Aronson wrote in the YDN. "To the contrary, by advocating a campus where feather-dress costumes are met not with tar, but with dialogue, Christakis treats all students as equals. Her opponents ought to emulate her."
For their part, some Yale administrators have started to come forward to mend the divide on campus. Jonathan Holloway, the first black dean of a residential college at Yale, met with students on Thursday to hear their concerns.
"It's not easy to hear your stories," Holloway said to students after listening to their concerns.
"Not because I disagree with them or because I don't understand them. I do. It's difficult to know that someone who's vested with the responsibility to take care of everybody, that you felt the need to tell me that. It's painful for me, but I'm glad you did."
Yale University President Peter Salovey took that message a step further. "We failed you," Salovey, told students, according to the Washington Post.
"I think we have to be a better university. I think we have to do a better job."
We reached out to Yale for comment and will update this post if we hear back.
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