The heated battle over cultural insensitivity at Yale University has a new victim: Science.
The Yale Daily News reports that many students question whether professors who teach science, technology, math, or engineering (STEM) are capable of dealing with issues of free speech, race, and gender on campus.
2015 saw a rash of news headlines on universities that seem more interested in censorship than suffering the protests of students offended by uncomfortable ideas. At Yale, this manifested in an email sent to students by the Intercultural Affairs Council discouraging them from wearing Halloween costumes that may perpetuate stereotypes.
A faculty member, Erika Christakis, criticized the suggestion, writing that “American universities 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.”
Students erupted in protest and called for her resignation as a supervisor (“Assistant Master”) of one of the colleges. The protests have become so bad that Christakis has decided not to teach at Yale “going forward.” When fellow faculty members rushed to her aid in an open letter of support, offended students evidently worried that most of her support came from STEM professors.
“The fact that the large majority of the faculty that signed this letter in support of the Christakises are in STEM just shows how far-removed from reality these people are,” one student wrote. “Maybe we should require faculty to take an ethnic studies class too?”
“I have a suspicion that, unless they are involved with residential college life, STEM faculty members are just as far out of the bubble as people who are not at Yale at all,” said another student. “When professors were present, I didn’t even feel comfortable reaching out to my friends about how they were being impacted by the Christakis email except very briefly before a class with a STEM professor who is a woman of color.”
For now, this is only one report. Perhaps the Yale Daily News is reporting on a rather isolated incident that happens to be related to a larger political correctness movement on college campuses. But, it’s worth keeping watch over whether STEM faculty are somehow disproportionately singled out, marginalized, or criticized.
STEM is a vital part of higher education, and we should be wary of any political correctness culture the diminishes its presence in student life.