While the rest of us are firmly heading toward Christmas and debating the godliness of coffee cups, the Halloween spirit is still haunting the students and faculty at Yale University.
It began when members of Yale’s Intercultural Affairs Committee sent an email to students preparing for that dark day, October 31. By “dark,” I don’t mean stuff like retro goalie masks or razors in your Mars bars; I mean the damning attack on free expression that’s been mounting for years on university campuses.
In this case, the radicals are attempting to make Halloween—the fluffiest of occasions—into something contentious.
For this committee, Halloween, is a time “when the normal thoughtfulness and sensitivity of most Yale students can sometimes be forgotten.” They warned against the common offenders like blackface, feathers, and turbans.
Erika Christakis, a lecturer at the school, e-mailed a counter-argument to the committee’s suggestions, saying that if students are offended by someone’s costume they had other options, such as looking away or confronting the person directly. She said she respected students as adults who don’t need authority stepping in their way. Her letter was impressively well written, thoughtful, and exceptionally cautious.
“American universities,” she said, “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.”
After her e-mail was sent, and as we’ve come to expect, students went berserk.
One said, “We just want an acknowledgment of hurt.” The offended rallied and marched on Monday chanting, "We are unstoppable, another Yale is possible.”
Even the president stepped in and said Yale needs more inclusion and healing.
Healing? When did universities become bandages for the emotionally wounded?
We often hear about the decline of free speech on campuses. For instance, the student associations have successfully banned socially conservative groups, and infantile student protesters gather and squawk when guest speakers offer alternative points of view.
But there were indications that broad-mindedness was slipping away years ago.
In the 90s, feminist theory—a passion primarily of liberals—was a talking point in all my literature courses, with the exception of male-dominated Science Fiction. I had a female professor who was so immersed in feminist discontent, that she overlooked a text with transparent biblical allusions. I don’t mind if you want to preach from the teachings of Simone de Beauvoir but you better know essential texts like the Bible if you’re teaching classic literature. I also took a theology class with a professor that was hostile to God. In short, I soon learned that quoting Nietzsche in essays would rack up my grades more than quoting Aquinas.
In spite of the left wing slant, I had a great education, and I never witnessed the kind of emotional frailty that’s occurring now. However, there are consequences when like-minds aren’t agitated. They begin to feel insulated and become out of touch with dissent, thereby stunting their growth. What else would make the president of Yale commit to “healing?”
The other culprits are parents and culture. Children should want more freedom as they grow. They should feel a natural disdain for authority; at some point they should rebel, at least a little, when being told what to do. I recommend a punk rock phase for adolescents so they can rail against the clampdown of free speech and glamorize anarchy. They’ll grow out of this quickly but retain a healthy sense of autonomy.
I fear for these protesters who are chronically offended, preoccupied with their victim status and threatened by innocent fun. Oh, the horrors that await these coddled young adults who can’t withstand a white girl dressed as Pocahontas. The world outside the bubble is pitiless, and it will deliver much harder blows.
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