Yale University has been plunged into campus-wide debate and protest over issues of racial sensitivity and free speech so tense it’s turning into a national news story, and it all began with two emails about Halloween costumes.
On October 28, a university committee on intercultural affairs sent a campus-wide email urging students to reconsider Halloween costumes that might be racially insensitive. In response a few days later, a lecturer in early childhood development sent an email to the few hundred students in her residential college questioning whether the first email had been necessary and worrying that universities had become “places of censure and prohibition.”
Within a week’s time, the two emails had led to protests, dramatic confrontations between students and faculty members, and a statement from the university’s president that he was “deeply troubled” by students’ concerns.
The dispute that started it all might seem trivial. But the uproar is tapping into deeper issues of racism and free speech at the Ivy League university, issues similar to those faced by many American colleges that have come to the forefront this year.
Here’s what happened and why it’s become such a controversy at Yale and nationally.
Every year, without fail, some college students somewhere take Halloween as an opportunity to wear something breathtakingly offensive, including students at Yalewho wore blackface in 2007. So, this year, Yale’s Intercultural Affairs Committee sent an email urging students to consider whether their “funny” costumes might not be so funny:
Halloween is also unfortunately a time when the normal thoughtfulness and sensitivity of most Yale students can sometimes be forgotten and some poor decisions can be made including wearing feathered headdresses, turbans, wearing ‘war paint’ or modifying skin tone or wearing blackface or redface. These same issues and examples of cultural appropriation and/or misrepresentation are increasingly surfacing with representations of Asians and Latinos.
Such emails are becoming an annual ritual on some campuses. The University of Colorado, the University of Minnesota, and Ohio University all urged their students to wear culturally sensitive costumes in 2013. One of the administrators who signed the Yale email, Burgwell Howard, sent an almost identical note to Northwestern students in 2010, the year after a blackface scandal at that university.
Erika Christakis, a lecturer at Yale in early childhood education, objected to all this. She sent an email to the few hundred students in Sillman College, one of Yale’s 12 residential colleges, saying she applauded the goal but questioned whether the e-mail was really necessary.
“I don’t, actually, trust myself to foist my Halloweenish standards and motives on others,” she wrote, adding:
I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: 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? 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.
She also passed along a message from her husband Nicholas Christakis, a Yale professor of psychology and Sillman College’s master, saying that, rather than having the university tell students what to wear and not wear, students should deal with it themselves.
Nicholas says, if you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.
The email infuriated a number of students who saw it as downplaying important racial sensitivity issues. More than 740 Yale students signed an open lettercriticizing Christakis’ email for minimizing the concerns of students of color. On Thursday, some were reportedly drafting a letter calling for both Christakises to resign as masters of Sillman College.
Nicholas Christakis apologized Friday, though saying he thought his wife’s email was well-intended: “We understand that it was hurtful to you, and we are truly sorry,” he wrote in an email to Sillman students, according to the Yale Daily News. “We understand that many students feel voiceless in diverse ways and we want you to know that we hear you and we will support you.”
The Nationals, while still negotiating with Black, then circled back to their second choice, Dusty Baker, who quickly agreed to terms and will thus spare MLB the ignominy of its first opening day without a black manager since 1988.
In the 41 years since Frank Robinson became the first black man to be hired as a MLB manager, there have been just 26 more black managers in the major leagues. If one is looking for what that presumed progress has amounted to, consider that apparently all it takes for a black manager to land a MLB gig in 2015 is a willingness to live with being the second choice—even in the eye of the public—and some lightspeed organizational stupidity.
Going by the words of Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, none of this dreck should have been lit aflame in the first place.
“Communication in the clubhouse, communication with the coaching staff, is vital,” Rizzo said when asked in a press conference what the team would seek in a replacement for fired manager Matt Williams. “We feel that where we’re at in our timetable of winning a championship, we certainly would lean toward someone that has some type of managerial experience, especially at the major league level.”
Here’s one of the affirmations I gave myself when I was younger: “I will work in Africa and help kids and help people.” And I did. I opened a school in Kenya in 2008 and a second in 2010. Now, sometimes in Africa they send only the boys to school. So we had a strict rule that our schools had to be at least 40 percent girls. It was impossible to get 50-50 boys to girls, and we really had to fight for 60-40. But we got it.
Equality is important. In the NFL, they have something called the Rooney rule. It says that teams have to interview minority candidates for senior jobs. It’s a rule that companies in Silicon Valley are starting to follow too, and that’s great. But we need to see more women and people of different colors and nationalities in tech. That’s the reason I wanted to do this issue with WIRED—I’m a black woman, and I am in a sport that wasn’t really meant for black people. And while tennis isn’t really about the future, Silicon Valley sure is. I want young people to look at the trailblazers we’ve assembled below and be inspired. I hope they eventually become trailblazers themselves. Together we can change the future.
Many fewer baby girls are born in India and China than the odds would predict. LA Johnson/NPR
Many fewer baby girls are born in India and China than the odds would predict.
The world’s girls are healthier than ever. They live longer and more of them are going to school than at any time in history.
This story is part of our #15Girls series, profiling teens around the world. Read the stories here.
But most of them face discrimination simply because they are girls. The discrimination happens at every point in their lives.
In some cases, it starts even before they’re born, when parents decide to abort a pregnancy if the fetus is female.
A good way to get a sense of the progress — and the remaining gaps — in worldwide gender equality is by looking at the data. Numbers can tell a compelling story. The story we’re going to tell focuses on girls ages 10 to 19, an age range used by the World Bank and other groups to track populations. Worldwide, about 600 million girls fall into this age range. Nearly half of them live in just seven countries. Those countries are the focus of our story.
You might expect that there would be an even number of boys and girls in this age group in these seven countries.
But you’d be wrong.
Consider the girls who were never born.
On average, about 105 boys are born worldwide for every 100 girls. Girls tend to make up for this difference over time because of their greater resilience and resistance to disease.
A new LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co. study on Women in the Workplace finds that corporate diversity initiatives aren’t helping women break the glass ceiling. WSJ’s Shelby Holliday takes a closer look at the reasons why and other key takeaways from the data. Photo: iStock/Getty Images
Cue the broken record: Women rein in career plans to spend more time caring for family. What’s more, they are inherently less ambitious than men and don’t have the confidence that commands seats in the C-suite.
Something else is happening on the way to the top. Women aren’t abandoning their careers in large numbers; motherhood, in fact, increases their appetite for winning promotions; and women overall don’t lack for ambition and confidence that they can take on big jobs. Yet when asked whether they want a top role in their companies or industries, a majority of women say they would rather not grab the brass ring.
Those are the findings of a major new study of women in the workplace conducted by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co. The research, which gathered data on promotions, attrition and trajectories from 118 companies and surveyed nearly 30,000 men and women, is among the largest efforts to capture attitudes and data about working women. The study involved major North American companies and North American units of global ventures headquartered elsewhere. It reveals sharply different views of the workplace, in which women say they experience a playing field at work that is anything but level.
Roughly equal numbers of men and women say they want to be promoted—78% and 75%, respectively. But as men’s desire for big jobs intensifies in the course of their careers, only 43% of women said they want to be a top executive, compared with 53% of men. Perhaps most startling, 25% of women feel their gender has hindered their progress, a perception that grows more acute once women reach senior levels.
Two women have completed the Army’s tough Ranger School, officials say. Both are in their 20s and are lieutenants.
The Pentagon has not decided whether they will be approved for ground combat.
“They’ll now wear the Ranger tab on their uniforms,” Tom says. “A coveted award among infantry soldiers.”
Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh congratulated all the new Rangers in a press release:
“Each Ranger School graduate has shown the physical and mental toughness to successfully lead organizations at any level. This course has proven that every Soldier, regardless of gender, can achieve his or her full potential. We owe Soldiers the opportunity to serve successfully in any position where they are qualified and capable, and we continue to look for ways to select, train, and retain the best Soldiers to meet our Nation’s needs.”
The Ranger course began in 1950. The Army says that around 40 percent of male soldiers in Ranger School graduate.
The Army announced its decision allowing women to participate in Ranger training in January. After the announcement, we reported that:
“Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, has previously said Army leaders will monitor the pilot program.
” ‘We’re just going to let the statistics speak for themselves as we go through this,’ he said, in response to a question from a soldier at a virtual town hall-style meeting on Jan. 6. ‘The main thing I’m focused on is the standards remain the same.’
“He added: ‘We don’t know if it’s five people graduate, or 100 people graduate, or no one graduates. This is just a pilot to gain information for us to understand where we are, and then we’ll take that data and make a determination on how we want to move forward.’ ”
Tom describes the two-month Ranger training as grueling. It begins in Fort Benning, Ga., where soldiers train in the mountains, and ends in the swamps of Florida. The program admitted women as “part of an effort by Pentagon leaders to determine whether women can be assigned to ground combat units in both the Army and the Marine Corps.”