New video has surfaced from last fall showing a group of students yelling at Nicholas Christakis, the former master of Yale University’s Silliman College, accusing him of promoting violence because he didn’t support one of their social-justice causes.
In case you’re not familiar with Christakis, the story goes like this: Last fall, his wife sent out an e-mail criticizing Yale for telling students not to wear culturally insensitive Halloween costumes because she didn’t think it was the administration’s job to tell students what to wear, and then Christakis agreed with her and refused to apologize. The anger and protests that ensued over it eventually resulted in both of them having to resign last spring.
The things that these videos show are beyond parody: One student says the real reason he didn’t remember her name was because he’s a racist. Another student compares the pain she endured from his supporting his wife on that issue to getting a soccer ball kicked in your face and having your nose broken.
Throughout, Christakis is clearly trying to remain calm. He says things like “I’m doing my best,” “One of my limitations as a person which I always had was I wasn’t very good with memorizing names,” “That’s a good argument,” and “I’d like to apologize for having hurt your feelings.”
Still, Christakis tries again:
If you want to actually hear what I have to say, if you want to actually act in a way . . . like people who are interested in a conversation, then let me at least address as a human being one thing at a time. Don’t act like a mob that is trying to get me to say different things.
But his plea doesn’t work, and “a mob” is exactly what these students continue to act like. They continue to shout over him and laugh at him mockingly. One student gets up right into his face. Another student yells, “I am sick looking at you.” and “I am disgusted knowing that you work at Yale University.”
At one point, a student even declares that what he “did was create space for violence on campus.” When he disagrees, she shouts, “It doesn’t matter whether you agree or not! It’s not a debate!”
Now, creating “a space for violence on campus” would be setting up a boxing ring and encouraging students to punch one another – not supporting your wife’s criticism of a college’s micromanaging its adult students’ Halloween-costume choices. That’s not what the word “violence” means. It’s insane, no doubt, but her most insane comment actually comes right after: “You want free dialogue? You want free speech? This is how it works. Someone speaks, you listen, you do not cut them off.”
And she was saying it while screaming in Christakis’s face and not allowing him to talk. Her lack of self-awareness in making that statement is astounding, but the bottom line is that she and the other students acting like her just don’t care about “free dialogue” at all.
As Reason’s Robby Soave writes:
Make no mistake: You cannot watch this video and say that the social-justice obsession on college campuses isn’t hindering free speech. You cannot say that the “safe space” movement would never hinder an open conversation. What’s more, the bullying, almost tyrannical way in which these students hinder that kind of conversation is completely opposed to what anyone would describe as being the kind of respectful space that these students claim to want — “claim,” of course, being the operative word, because, just as Soave points out, their “safe space” isn’t actually about “peace” at all. No, these students feel “safe” only in spaces where they can force out anyone who disagrees with them, and it’s sad that they’re actually being allowed to get their way. After all, both Christakis and his wife resigned over this. Open conversations about issues are the best way to learn more about the world, and it’s tragic to see that people at Yale University — a place for the best and the brightest! — value the ability to have them less than the demands of a shouting, insult-hurling mob.
It’s crystal clear that these students want the kind of safe space that threatens intellectual freedom. Their ideal safe space isn’t just a private area where they can go to be at peace with like-minded individuals. They believe that the entire campus is made unsafe — is made susceptible to violence — when people express views that clash with their far-left vision of social justice.
– Katherine Timpf is a reporter at National Review Online.