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October 25, 2016

RICHARD EPSTEIN: Yale, Beyond The Pale.

It is equally instructive to realize that one does not have to introduce formal procedures in order to pose a grave threat to free speech on campus. Salovey takes great pride in noting “the Yale administration did not criticize, discipline, or dismiss a single member of its faculty, staff, or student body for expressing an opinion.” That sentence may be technically true, but it does not explain why Salovey did not mention the unfortunate fate of Nicholas and Erika Christakis, both of whom resigned from Yale under massive pressure after student protestors demanded that Nicholas be removed from his position as master of Silliman College. Why? Because Erika had written an email that took issue with a letter from Yale’s Intercultural Affairs Committee that warned students against various insensitive forms of behaviors, like wearing offensive Halloween costumes. The letter noted, like Salovey’s op-ed, that Yale values “free expression as well as inclusivity.” But the massive level of abuse directed at Nicholas and Erika Christakis reveals how strongly Yale weighs one imperative over the other.

The errors here are not just unfortunate glitches, but systematic blunders.

Plus, note this letter to the editor in the WSJ, responding to Salovey:

I agree with Mr. Salovey that free speech and inclusion aren’t mutually exclusive, but I think he misrepresents some of the events that unfolded last year. In particular, he claims that the “Yale Daily News, the oldest daily student newspaper in the country, filled its pages and opinion columns with voices that diverged in every conceivable way.”

What Mr. Salovey doesn’t realize is how difficult it was to find such voices. Many students privately expressed their dismay at the protests, yet very few of these students were willing to express these views in the pages of the YDN when I reached out to them. They told me they were worried about being ostracized by their peers, and they were perplexed that the administration had refused to take any disciplinary action against the protesters who cursed out Nicholas Christakis in the Silliman College courtyard. In other words, many students were worried that there wasn’t a respectful climate of reasoned debate on campus, not that Yale was making any kind of institutional effort to suppress free speech. Mr. Salovey’s argument, well-intentioned though it may be, ignores this crucial distinction.

Aaron Sibarium

Chevy Chase, Md.

Mr. Sibarium was the opinion editor of the Yale Daily News for the past academic year.

A mob that represented, almost certainly, a fraction of the student body was allowed — even encouraged — by the Yale administration to intimidate and bully those who disagreed, and faced no consequences (except rewards) for doing so. Is Salovey the worst university president in America? Well, there’s stiff competition for that slot, but he’s got to be in the top 3. But the fact that he’s weaseling on this now suggests that the tide may be turning.