Which campus is worse–the University of Missouri, where the football team forced the president to resign, or Yale, where Halloween never ends?
It's a tether-ball match between which group of supposedly mature and sophisticated students can become the most hysterical over slights that are largely imaginary. And also between which college administrators can most cravenly kowtow to the hysterical demands of their students for a "safe space."
First Missouri, whose president, Tim Wolfe, announced his resignation today over…what?
African-American students at Missouri have complained of inaction on the part of school leaders in dealing with racism on the overwhelmingly white Columbia campus. Black student leaders have conveyed their displeasure over students openly using racial slurs and other incidents.
In October, a person used feces to draw a swastika on a wall in one of the residence halls, and in the spring, there was a "similar use of anti-Semitic language and symbolism" at another residence hall, according to Residence Halls Association president Billy Donley, who said in a letter he was upset that most students were unaware of the incident.
In another recent incident, a group of African-American students complained that a school safety officer didn't aggressively pursue an apparently drunken white student who disrupted their gathering using a racial slur.
Payton Head, president of the Missouri Students Association, wrote an explicit Facebook post describing his own experiences on campus. White men in a passing pickup truck had hurled a racial epithet at him as he walked across campus in September, he said.
In other words, a drunken white lout said something nasty and racial and managed to escape unpunished, someone drew a swastika with feces (that incident has "hoax" written all over it), and some rube non-students (because what college youth would be caught dead driving a pickup?) delivered a racial insult .
That was it. Oh, and some campus social justice warriors have been trying for months to get Mizzou to remove a statue of Thomas Jefferson (he owned slaves, you know) erected decades ago in recognition of the state of Missouri's status as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
But what a firestorm ensued! The football team went on strike, refusing to play, the faculty senate issued a vote of no-confidence in the administration, and a graduate student went on a hunger strike. That did it.
What's remarkable about Wolfe was his eagerness to appease the campus radical elements even as they were defenestrating him:
Saying he takes "full responsibility for the inaction that has occurred," he asked that the university community listen to each other's problems and "stop intimidating each other."
"This is not — I repeat, not — the way change should come about. Change comes from listening, learning, caring and conversation," he said. "Use my resignation to heal and start talking again."
Weeks of simmering racial tension at Yale University boiled over in recent days into a debate over whether the administration was sensitive enough to concerns about Halloween costumes seen as culturally offensive, students and adminstrators said.
Peter Salovey, the president of Yale, said he had been left “deeply troubled” by a meeting he held with students of color last week who were “in great distress.” Many said they did not believe the university was attuned to the needs of minority students.
“The experiences they shared went beyond the incidents of the last few days,” he said in a statement. “Their concerns and cries for help made clear that some students find life on our campus profoundly difficult.”
The debate over Halloween costumes began late last month when the university’s Intercultural Affairs Committee sent an email to the student body asking students to avoid wearing “culturally unaware and insensitive” costumes that could offend minority students. It specifically advised them to steer clear of outfits that included elements like feathered headdresses, turbans or blackface.
In response, Erika Christakis, a faculty member and an administrator at a student residence, wrote an email to students living in her residence hall on behalf of those she described as “frustrated” by the official advice on Halloween costumes. Students should be able to wear whatever they want, she wrote, even if they end up offending people….
Ms. Christakis’s email touched on a long-running debate over the balance between upholding free speech and protecting students from hurt feelings or personal offense. It also provoked a firestorm of condemnation from Yale students, hundreds of whom signed an open letter criticizing her argument that “free speech and the ability to tolerate offence” should take precedence over other considerations.
“To ask marginalized students to throw away their enjoyment of a holiday, in order to expend emotional, mental, and physical energy to explain why something is offensive, is — offensive,” the letter said. “To be a student of color on Yale’s campus is to exist in a space that was not created for you.”
Ms. Christakis’s email also led to at least one heated encounter on campus between her husband, Nicholas Christakis, a faculty member who works in the same residential college, and a large group of students who demanded that he apologize for the beliefs expressed by him and his wife, which they said failed to create a “safe space” for them.
When he was unwilling to do so, the students angrily cursed and yelled at him, according to a video posted to YouTube by a free speech group critical of the debate. On Sunday it had been viewed over 450,000 times.
And Salovey, far from standing up for a Yale faculty member's right to express her views in a civilized and respectful manner, said this:
For now, I want to reiterate our community expectations for inclusion and diversity. As Dean Holloway wrote this morning, Yale belongs to all of you. Yale must be a place where each person is valued automatically, without having to demand or labor for that recognition. I do not want anyone in our community to feel alone, disrespected, or unsafe. We must all work together to assure that no one does.
So I ask you, dear readers, to cast your vote: Which campus is worse, the University of Missouri or Yale?