Yale Lecturer Behind Halloween Email Defending Free Speech Resigns

Arnold Gold/New Haven Register via AP
Arnold Gold/New Haven Register via AP

Yale University have confirmed that the lecturer who sent an email stating that students should not seek to censor Halloween costumes has today resigned from her teaching position.

Erika Christakis, an expert in childhood education, sent the email as a result of student activist complaints about cultural appropriation and perceived racism on campus. The protests will best be remembered for producing this video where a female student screamed into the face of Nicholas Christakis, husband of Erika and a Bowdoin Prize winning academic, making the bold claim that the university campus isn’t an “intellectual space.” Mr. Christakis shall also be taking a one term sabbatical in the aftermath of the incident.

Why the email generated any controversy is anyone’s guess. Mrs. Christakis asked the question, “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 also made a point of stating that “free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society” as well as urging any offended students to speak with people about any Halloween costumes they found offensive and explain their position.

Christakis’s own beliefs on the matter did not even seem to be at loggerheads with the Yale institution’s. The university’s “freedom of expression” policy states quite clearly that students agree to “join a community” where “’the provocative, the disturbing, and the unorthodox’ must be tolerated.”

The resulting furore surrounding this controversy has seemingly sapped Christakis of the will to teach, as Yale University made it clear in a statement they had not applied any pressure for her to resign and would miss her contribution in their classrooms. A statement from the university said, “Erika Christakis is a well-regarded instructor, and the university’s leadership is disappointed that she has chosen not to continue teaching in the spring semester. Her teaching is highly valued and she is welcome to resume teaching anytime at Yale, where freedom of expression and academic inquiry are the paramount principle and practice.”

Yale’s College Dean Jonathan Holloway was quoted in Yale’s Daily News publication as saying that Christakis made the decision “on her own.”

Follow Richard Lewis on Twitter @RLewisReports.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.