General Comments on the December 2015 Issue

Please comment below. Thanks.

Back to Yale ’62 Home

9 comments to General Comments on the December 2015 Issue

  • Thanks, Chris, for yours on microaggressions. Yale does have civility to affirm, precisely so we can all learn from each other. The admin may have capitulated a t times because it feels properly vulnerable, and yes, listening white males belong in proportion everywhere. For me the key is to sense the weight of history in the polite grief, and mourning, and courage so many Black Americans have lived for generations. We owe them thanks.

  • Chris Cory


    Some issues that interest me in this discussion are a) the building encouragement by Salovey for additional research and teaching on diversity, which turns out to be more complex than most of us probably thought, and b) dealing with the shift, on the Yale campus and elsewhere, from protests about overt racism to objections to more-subtle “microaggressions” or daily, unconscious, slights, often by well-meaning people like us.

    Wikipedia says “Social scientists Sue, Bucceri, Lin, Nadal, and Torino (2007) described microaggressions as ‘the new face of racism,’ saying that the nature of racism has shifted over time from overt expressions of racial hatred and hate crimes towards expressions of aversive racism, such as microaggressions, that are more subtle, ambiguous and often unintentional. Researchers say this has led some Americans to wrongly believe that racism is no longer a problem for non-white Americans.”

    A description from close to our own pasts is in the letters column of today’s (December 3) New York Times. A man who “decades ago” attended “an elite university on scholarship” says he still feels “stabs of pain” when he recalls remarks he overheard in dorms. They created “layers of hurt that can’t be peeled off by friendly gestures and occasional displays of respect by whites.” I can well imagine the modernized versions of such remarks, and probably am guilty of making some myself.

    The current thoughts I read regarding reducing microaggressions seem to include increased self-awareness on the part of whites to help avoid subtle slights and their consequences, active discussion and scholarly research on such behavior, and the provision of “safe spaces” where black and other outgroup students can drop their guard (like black culture houses). These may create patches of voluntary segregation for those who choose it, but don’t many extra- and quasi-curricular activities create similar benign separations? From an integrationist perspective, such “safe spaces” may turn out to meet an episodic and, I would hope, temporary need until the day when every dining hall and classroom is “safe,” but meanwhile they seem to be helpful for some students — and I gather from a few students I know that they often draw non-minority students to their activities.

  • Bill Stork

    Yale, with the question of renaming Calhoun College, is not the first to go through such a discussion. Recently protesters at Princeton demanded the renaming of the Woodrow Wilson School, because of Wilson’s quite open segregationist views.

    Julian Zelizer, a professor at Princeton, has a most helpful op-ed piece on CNN, in which he discusses the demands and raises some of the larger issues. The article is a short one, and worth your two minutes to read. It is at

    Says Zelizer: “If we are to avoid allowing this [removing the names of people with complex records] to disintegrate into the kind of debates we see in Washington, then administrators, faculty and students should use this opportunity to collectively and constructively debate some of the bigger questions that will have to be addressed at Princeton and other universities as they tackle the concerns that have been raised.”

    He says these questions are:
    1) How should we evaluate the legacy of political leaders? [FDR, LBJ, even Washington, Jefferson, Jackson]
    2) What are the issues [in renaming] that matter?
    3) Symbols versus structure: What kinds of steps would be most effective in improving conditions? [“…other structural changes revolve around the provision of effective scholarships, aggressive recruiting, robust and innovative course offerings, and effective campus policies.”]

    Similarly, at Yale, I see
    1) Concerns from historians that taking an eraser to names of important figures who held views now considered abhorrent is to diminish their other contributions (even SFB Morse held strong racist views; should that college be renamed, too? Davenport and Pierson?)
    2) Salovey, in his recent ‘News from Woodbridge Hall’ and in his interview in YAM, outlines some steps the university is taking to address the larger-issue picture, and doing so by setting budgetary and hiring priorities, establishing working committees, etc. Sufficient, or just a first step?
    3) Will ‘symbols’ concern detract from the ‘structure’ issues Zelizer and Salovey mention? Is a ‘reasoned’ or ‘reasonable’ response possible?

    Bill Stork

  • My take on Yale’s racist past as one of a quota of 7 % Jews and a public school grad. as well is this: If South Carolina can furl its Confederate battle flag in the wake of the massacre by a modern day racist at the Mother Emanuel church, Yale should remove the name of South Carolina’s most prominent racist, pro-slave advocate and Yale grad. and later 7th Vice President–John C. Calhoun–as one of its colleges. It’s the right thing to do and its morally obtuse to continue to ask any African-American student to reside there. Yes, there’s free expression and honoring one’s heritage–all the same arguments made for the Confederate battle flag, but Calhoun spent much of his life and exerted immense political power to promote slavery. It is a small step to ask, but a major symbolic stain to cleanse.

  • Ken Lockridge

    The fairly honest reporting on patents, investments, unions, Singapore and fortified
    drug company campuses in the YAM plus the assumption of a master’s authority inappropriately
    , frequently by ex-preppies, was long ago enough to stop my inconsequential donations. I made the most of a ” geographic” quota admission that I now know was designed to block out other sorts of applicants, and far exceeding my predicted average was my apology to those others, and my thanks to Yale. The young woman in the video episode is mistaken in expecting a home, and her rudeness has now gone viral, punishment enough. I arrived at Michigan in the midst of similar episodes, but was lucky enough to hear a young man from the Black Action Movement say, ” I can’t find my history in the histories you teach. ” Right on, brother. That changed my life. I went on being a tough and supportive teacher, but in my research and graduate teaching became open to a many-voiced history, and it has been a great trip into a meaningful, choral history. Along the way we became close to several families in Detroit and through our lives, children, and now deaths, we are still together. I don’t know what you gents see as your mission, and I understand that at that moment the young woman would bring out the worst in anyone, myself included, but for all of us there is great peace in learning to live our lives as together as we can be. There is no other way.Get out of your fortresses, all of you, every chance you get, and LEARN about each other. It takes time, so much time, With trust comes lifelong learning. Having destroyed the world in so many other ways, at least we can go out in style.

  • David Honneus

    Re: Reflections on Yale’s Racial Predicament 2015: A Fundraiser’s Take. First, as a public high school graduate, I was an early “affirmative action” admission when Yale was seeking to leaven the prep school domination of Yale. But, I was delighted to be at Yale and felt more than fortunate to be there. Discovered The Dramat and never looked back. Second, whatever we think or believe Yale has become, Yale it is still a private university. The students at the Univ. of Missouri, being at a public, tax supported institution, do have both a point and I believe a right, to protest. Students at Yale, again a private institution, have the right to protest but need to understand that they attend at the pleasure of Yale. If I had lost it and screamed at Duke Henning at Saybrook, I would have been asked to take a year off and return with better manners. Lastly, President Salovey at the Assembly said that students wee suffering great “anxiety” and need help. I would like to tell current undergraduates that have no idea what levels of anxiety await them in the cold cruel world!! Jobs in jeopardy, families with crises, mortgages, etc. Anxiety, indeed!!

  • Re: Reflections on Yale’s Racial Predicament 2015: A Fundraiser’s Take. FYI: On one of my recent visits to Yale (where I teach on Tuesdays), I was told by undergraduates that the famous “Halloween” letter ought to have had nothing to do with current controversies. It has been sent out regularly for many years. Apparently news is “fabricated entertainment” by other than just Donald Trump.

Leave a Comment