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Yale Faculty Sign Letter Supporting Silliman College Masters

Around 50 faculty members at Yale University have signed an open letter supporting Nicholas and Erika Christakis, the master and associate master of a residential college on campus.

Some students have demanded that Erika and Nicholas Christakis leave their residence roles at Yale’s Silliman College. Those demands came after Erika Christakis criticized an email from university administrators that encouraged students to avoid racist costumes, and she said students should be able to express themselves and sort out their own conflicts.

About 50 out of 4400 faculty members have signed the letter supporting the Christakises. They said Erika Christakis’s email has “been misinterpreted, and in some cases recklessly distorted, as support for racist speech.”

The letter says that the Christakis couple only asked students to consider whether people should monitor themselves or be supervised by bureaucrats, and that the Christakis couple has been unfairly demonized and calls for “open and civil discussions, without vilifying those who disagree with one’s own viewpoints.”

Sarbani Basu is a professor of astronomy who signed the letter. She said as a South Asian woman, she supports many students’ protests against racism at Yale, but she said students went too far by yelling at authority figures and demanding Yale’s President tell the Christakis couple to step down.

"These kind of demands are counterproductive," she said. "You are hurting your own cause. It sounds stupid. Well, that’s a harsh word, but it actually hurts your own cause."

Yale senior Brea Baker is the head of the university’s NAACP. Baker said supporters of the Christakis couple are missing the point: the residence master has a lot of influence over students’ lives, and they’re supposed to use that influence to make students feel at home.

"The letter of support from faculty completely ignores the role of a master," she said.  "As the steward of the physical and mental well-being of Silliman students, that should be their priority."

A student petition demanding that Nicholas and Erika Christakis leave their residence roles has already been answered by the President of Yale. He has said they will continue to lead the residence.

Kathie is a former editor at WSHU.
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