Did Salovey get it right?
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42 comments to Did Salovey get it right?

  • Bertram Culver

    It is trumpian late, but my working with the internet ether & email & all matters staged in the ether is decades remiss. But I will try once again to post a comment at “Did Salovey get it right?”:

    Who gives a fig what the president of Yale may feel? I say the former master & mistress of the Yale college were more or less run off by him and some in the Yale community because they had the temerity to counsel their residents to let up on what Halloween costumes might be considered appropriate. Further, I say the great Class of 1962 should make them honorary members for our upcoming reunion, whether or not they were able or chose to come. I would for damn sure give my calendar a harder look should this be considered.

  • Phil Moriarty

    A quick note with three cheers for our Class Officers and all our classmates working on our upcoming 55th reunion! While it may be a labor of love it is work and it takes an enormous amount of time.

    Thank you all,
    Phil Moriarty

  • Charles Merlis

    Sometime ago, I saw the streaming screaming video and I think I read the Salovey article, but who can remember specific details at my advanced years, so rather than commenting on the precise facts of the Silliman encounter and how justice should be meted out, I will just give an opinion on an issue: If speech is used to obstruct speech, it should be dealt with in a reasonable manner which may include disciplinary actions. As a freshman at Yale, I was involved in “CHALLENGE” which sponsored bringing political questions and controversies to campus (i.e. General Carlos Romulo came to speak about “non-nuclear nations in a bipolar world”, I had lunch with Barry Goldwater who came to speak about???). At some point there was a move to prevent someone from speaking on an issue (if anyone can remember who and what the speaker and issue was back in 1959, i would be grateful). In our “free” society, it seems left leaning groups are less tolerant than right leaning groups, except, perhaps, in cases like BLACK LIVES MATTER, where right groups seem threatened by the truth that “Blacks” have historical and continuing discriminatory barriers to overcome. I was an opponent of the Viet Nam War and as such I became a “street corner speaker” for Eugene McCarthy in NYC and helped him win the Democratic primary in New York State. I later went to Chicago for the convention but despite my assistance E. M. lost. There were people who rioted against the war; though that was not my style, I could understand their passion and admired their commitment and danger they put themselves in, however, if they took lives and seriously harmed others that was too much. i. e. some people think abortion is murder but that does not condone killing doctors. So if someone prevents another from speaking on campus by FBombs or other loud noises what is a reasonable response. Maybe being barred from campus dining halls, maybe a probation which would include a suspended sentence of being off campus for a while, etc. And how would something reasonable be found. When I returned to Yale for the last one and a half years of my college career in 1971, I was elected to the Executive Committee, which was a student/faculty group which dealt student/faculty issues. I think that incident should have been referred to this group and a solution would have been arrived at. Which solution would probably not have satisfied everybody.

  • Boyd Murray

    I am surprised that none of the comments which I have read here use the word “bullying” in the discussions of free speech.

  • Chris Cory

    Jan– Just saw your thought about relaying the prayer for the Darkhorse battalion to Salovey. I am “corresponding secretary” but don’t think the job involves being a go-between for individuals. Could you send it to him yourself? Or better, write an op=ed about the media neglect of those guys and send it to your local paper or The Times? The contrast between aggression and microaggression is worth pondering (though to me it doesn’t wash out the importance of either).

  • Bill Boyer

    Thanks, Jan, for bringing us back home. With Yalies still hyperventilating in their crying rooms after the recent election, it is important to remember that tough young Americans are still sacrificing so that we can have a peaceful holiday season. With the PC crowd in charge in New Haven, it doesn’t look like the next generation of leaders will have “Y” pins on their lapels.

    Hank Truslow has a good suggestion: maybe we organize a “Protest March” at our 55th to show our displeasure with Yale’s pusillanimous response to campus misbehavior.

    And thanks, Roman, for that link.

    Happy Thanksgiving, all.

  • Jan Greer


    I received this from another vet today. You might want to pass it along to Peter Salovey, so he can suggest what Americans in these circumstances might have to say about their desire for “safe spaces” to protect them from “microaggressions.”

    Hey, y’all, listen up: freedom isn’t free. Never has been. So get over yourselves.

    “Prayer Request

    We are asking everyone to say a prayer for “Darkhorse” 3rd Battalion 5th Marines and their families. They are fighting it out in Afghanistan & they have lost 9 marines in 4 days. IT WOULD BE NICE TO SEE the message spread if more could pass it on. Nothing in the media about these guys because no one seems to care:
    Justin Allen, 23, Brett Linley, 29, Matthew Weikert, 29, Justus Bartett, 27, Dave Santos, 21, Chase Stanley, 21 Jesse Reed, 26, Matthew Johnson, 21, Zachary Fisher, 24, Brandon King, 23, Christopher Goeke, 23, Sheldon Tate, 27.
    All are Marines that gave their lives for YOU this week.
    Please Honor THEM by forwarding this. I just did.”

  • chris Cory

    Clearly, Tom, a lot of this discussion is running on assumptions. We need a fuller understanding of just what did happen to the girl afterward, and more generally of when it may be, or not be, approriate to “walk (or storm) out” of a difficult situation. (In protest, or angry protest? In tears? To cool off? In disgust after the first performance of Le Sacre du Printemps?). I’d like to know what happened after the video cut off, if anyone spoke to her, and if she regretted her outburst or apologized. I hope that one day she and the Christakises and maybe a dean will tell as much of the aftermath and fallout as they know, and/or that a careful reporter will find out what happened. But for the time being, I suspect this is all private.

  • Tom Rianhard

    I’m disappointed; all the commentary on free speech, diversity and safe spaces seems to have missed two issues;
    – the young woman who howled the ‘f-bomb’ tirade deprived Professor Christakis of his free speech right to respond to the issue, and then ran away rather than politely listening to any response he might have had, at least in the a few views of the video that I saw.
    – what would all the commentaries below have said if the professor had responded in turn with a ‘f-bomb’ tirade directed at the young woman and her friends; my perception is that there would have great criticism of said professor, free speech be damned.

  • This comment focuses mainly on the renaming issue. [I’m from the University of Chicago and you already know what our Dean John Boyer and President Bob Zimmer have said, which is what I wish President Peter could say.] As for renaming, Princeton [where I am currently visiting faculty] has faced the issue doubled down with respect to the racist Woodrow Wilson, former president of the university after whom many things are named on the Princeton campus. Agitation caused high level committees to consider renaming things now named for Wilson. Many opinions were sought, including those of alum David Kennedy, distinguished historian on the faculty at Stanford. He wrote a marvelous letter laying out the difference between memorializing and memory. I am sure those on the Yale committee will read this letter and learn from it. They might even publish it to the Yale community. Just in case they don’t, I’ll give you the link to it and urge you to read it. It will help you understand why you can abhor slavery and still support continuing to name the College for John C. and the University for Elihu. If you can’t access the letter with this link, write me at roman@uchicago.edu and I’ll send you a pdf. Princeton decided to continue using the name Wilson in various places.



    • Bill Stott

      I thank Roman for calling my attention to David Kennedy’s article and distinction between memory and memorializing. I absolutely agree with Kennedy (and Roman). In 2015, UT Austin, where I taught for 30 years, removed the statute of Jefferson Davis, the slave-owning president of the Confederacy, from the campus Main Mall, where it had been since 1933. I wrote the following, which I wish someone would put on the empty pedestal:

      The absence in the air above
      Is where Jeff Davis lately stood.
      He’s gone because most Texans think
      The Cause he fought for had come to stink—
      A rotting corpse within our home,
      A thing to pity and, more, to shame.
      The past can’t change: it’s fated.
      We change how it is celebrated.

  • Chris Cory

    FYI, I hope to send another timely edition in a few days with a most thoughtful election reflection to comment on, and soon after that, and edition about sculpture and Finns.

  • Chris Cory

    From George Grumbach (who apparently hasn’t figured out how to post directly but said I could do it for him. Comments on his comment are welcome.):

    I think we have other things to think about than a college president and a college today. Our country is about to be set back about 2 decades on civil rights, women’s rights, and climate change, for sure, and maybe foreign policy, global economics and even war.

  • Hank Truslow

    Rather than feel guilty for the sins of the past we need to be learning from them and looking to a better future. Changing the name of a building, removing a statue, burning books, or silencing others significantly narrows the educational window. We should be teaching and learning not rewriting history or avoiding “uncomfortable” subjects that might be offensive to some. Having your own opinion is a basic right. The forcing of that opinion on others is not a right. We are all different and I would hope that to be the natural order of things. What keeps us from absolute anarchy is an understanding of and respect for the laws and tenets that define our society and have evolved from our history. At this moment in time “we are poor little lambs who have lost our way.” Maybe we should plan to stage an old fashioned demonstration for our 55th !!

  • James Kelly

    Most of the comments covered the issues of the topic, “free speech (vs,and/or ) inclusion very well. What stands out is the lack of agreement on any specific prescription as to how to solve all problems. The Woodward Report (1974) and the attached Dissent by one committee member provide an extensive discussion of the issues and the actual ways the difficult details of freedom of speech and disruptive behavior were dealt with by past administrations. This needs to be read to understand the Salovey statement. It is noteworthy that the many examples cited started 1 year after our class graduated. So, we only saw all of the turmoil as alumni, and did not experience the setting first hand. Emphasis in some letters on one individual without ” (politically) correct behavior” seems overblown compared to what the administration had to deal with in prior tests of the limits of free speech. Nonetheless our contributors have, to a large extent, kept up with the times and been able to look at the issues as complex and needing thoughtful attention. This seems to be the administration’s approach. The issues of free speech have always been contentious and subtle, and, with inclusiveness now brought onto the table, continue to be so. Discussions like this are what it is all about.

  • Pete Cohen

    Most of my thoughts about all this reinforce my pride in Yale as an institution of learning and my appreciation of its leadership and faculty. Still, President Salovey’s letter adds to a nagging concern that Yale is missing something in its role to help its students learn some fundamental principles of what it means to be productive and responsible members of civilized society, including how to make good choices. I have a sense that a paradigm has developed at Yale that “free speech”, as the singular justification and defense for any spoken behavior, is all that matters. I fully agree with Yale’s unequivocal support of free speech as a bedrock principle regardless of what offense or affront may result, and I hope and trust that will always be. But that should not preclude Yale from challenging on-campus utterances that disrespect other foundational values, such as civility and respect for others, that I believe are also part of what Yale represents. Such challenges would also be free speech, consistent with Salovey’s “remedy”. He has also has pointed to “teachable moments” as a rationale for some recent controversial decisions, e.g., the Calhoun College name. I agree that the perspective of history can enrich understanding. But to dismiss, shy away from, or avoid shining a bright light on abhorrent speech, e.g., Ms. Luther’s, squanders opportunities for real-time “teachable moments”. I believe those can be as meaningful as history in stimulating thought, self-reflection, personal growth and even greater respect for Yale.

  • Greg Schmid

    Thanks for all the thoughtful comments. They’re important during a time of social and political change we are going through. I’d like to add a personal comment. I’ve been on the City Council of a moderately-sized city with a reasonably diverse population for almost a decade. The basic rule of the game is that at any Council meeting anyone can come to address any issue that is in the city’s purview. Most of the time comments are informative and helpful. Every so often, someone will come with comments that are emotional, nasty, personal, and vituperative, enough to upset everyone in the room. But the ability of anyone to come and speak frankly on an issue that is critically important to them is fundamental to any democratic community making common decisons. It can be done effectively with a few basic rules and guidelines on time and place. Isn’t that what we learned from Dahl and Lindbloom in government class? Isn’t that what Yale is all about?

  • tom triplett

    I have mulled over each of the comments and see no clear path to the future. Like many, I would hate to see freedom of speech falter upon the alter of political correctness. I am also sufficient naïve to think that labels of a persons diversity, are an anathema to our future wellbeing. Why cannot all of use live under the unifying word ” American”. Correspondingly, yes there are limitations upon the First Amendment. Words, not actions are protected. Thus pure speech is protect, but not necessarily picketing , or other actions accompanied by verbalizations. And, in the public arena, “penalty boxes” have been created, to avoid close proximity between a street preacher and the passing public, thus avoiding physical confrontation.
    I do fear for the continued existence of the Socratic method of education, in which many of my treasured room mates and friends took the devils advocates approach to an issue. Out of the conflagration of respectfully exchanged thoughts, each of us came to a clearer understand of the issue and its solution. Is this iterative process to be foreclosed by Yale? How can it survive Salovey politically correct, bureaucratic salve to justly concerned alumni? Like many of us, I will await further elucidation before adding to or deleting my codicil.

  • Lee Bolman

    It’s good to see that our class can maintain a tone of civility even as we disagree, particularly in the light of the rhetorical tone of the election just finished. I see Salovey’s letter as a good one in the context of the challenges he faces in dealing with tensions on campus. The society is deeply angry and polarized, and those divides are inevitably imported into Yale with each new class. Yale freshmen are at least as talented and probably much harder working than we were back in 1958. They are also much more diverse in terms of gender, culture and race. That’s a good thing, but it complicates life on campus. Many adherents of Black Lives Matter literally see it as a powerful issue of physical safety, A 2015 case in point is the son of New York Times columnist Charles Blow, a Yale junior, who was accosted at gunpoint and told to drop to the ground by a campus policeman. (He was heading to his room from the library; it was a case of mistaken identity). Black students are much more likely than whites to know many stories like that. In that context, her outburst strikes me as worthy of free speech protection, even though I’d prefer that undergraduates not hurl f-bombs at faculty. But an educational intervention designed to encourage her and others to use more mature forms of expression than we sometimes saw in presidential debates sounds like a good thing; I hope that’s part of what President Salovey has in mind.

  • Breaux Castleman

    I harken back to the Kingman Brewster years, the trials, the admission of women, the campus unrest at Yale; these activities were occurring at other elite universities at the same time. Despite my libertarian views, I came to understand that Brewster was leading a 200+ year old institution that had at least another 200 years to go. He had a different perspective than I. The events of the late 60s and early 70s were but a blip in Yale’s history, and Brewster seem determined not to let the blip do permanent damage to the school. By contrast, Columbia’s reaction to and handling of it’s problems during that time significantly damaged the institution, its image, even its excellence, for several decades.

    In this context Salovey’s letter was inoffensive and had a “this too shall pass” feel to it, and no real damage was done. Changing the names of Yale’s 90 year old college honoring one of the nation’s foundational statesmen, as he seems to be rethinking the Calhoun College decision, seems a very minor thing in the great scheme of things, particularly if he thinks the school is dealing with an existential issue. He obviously does as he committed substantial funding and university management time to restructuring the faculty to have more blacks, and the curricula to have more courses of interest to black, female and the modern student body.

    I disagree that these trendy micro aggression issues need to be addressed by the university hierarchy by a wholesale rethinking of the university: Mr. Salovey’s letter was pandering in that he addressed the issues in the same letter. For I agree that race has become a hot issue in the last few years (along with gender, same sex marriage, police killings…), and at times it seems to threaten the stability of society. It is worthy of the school’s attention. In thinking of the next 200 years for the school,for example, I would support reducing the number of white faculty if the administration thinks the situation warrants it, as the tide of change sweeps over the nation; but with the caveat that the quality of the education should not suffer. To the extent such moves reflect a bias against the teachings of dead white men and western civilization, I would oppose them.

    I agree that the overly passionate young woman should not be disciplined nor discharged; nor did the school discipline the juvenile boys whose sophomoric chanting under the windows of the women’s dorms that offended us all. It’s the kind of thing students do, especially today. The real issue of the affair is the light it shines on Yale, the quality of the education, the ambiance of truth and light in a great international university, and the freedom of the students (and faculty) to express themselves and grow as humans and take their place as responsible citizens.

    I think the administration was wrong not to overtly support the college master and his wife. They were left dangling and unable to perform their duties without the support of the administration. Freedom of expression should not be confined to the children. They are the kind of casualties the social change creates as the university bends with the wind to avoid breaking.

    Several years ago I ceased my giving to Yale for several reasons: One was to increase my support of another school I admire; Another was my perception of a lack of leadership in the administration and trustees to nurture and enhance my perception of the core values of western civilization and historical Yale in the liberal arts schools.

  • Jan Greer

    This discussion puts me in mind of Woody Allen’s pithy locution – “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” King Canute might have been onto something, after all. Perhaps Yale should take a leaf out of his book and recognize the difference between lofty aspirations and realistically achievable objectives, which I fear they have not even begun to consider – all to the detriment of a previously extraordinary institution. As far as free speech goes, for it to mean anything the speaker, repeat, THE SPEAKER, has a responsibility to ensure his or her message is delivered in a manner that invites reception – i.e., that it will be listened to. Otherwise, it is just noise. Check out some of William F. Buckley Jr.s’ old televised debates for archetypal examples of this skill. Finally, when Yale comes to the belief it is bound to provide for thin-skinned students “safe spaces,” where they will not be subjected to “microaggressions,” what world, exactly, is it preparing them to enter? None, certainly, with which i am familiar.

  • Dudley Taft

    Quite simply the administration has turned the asylum over the inmates. Excessive political correctness is ruling academia these days. when my son graduated some 25 years ago it was the seventh straight generation that went to Yale. That party is over.

  • Steve Buck

    Spot on Peter. I find it sad that so much attention is paid by some classmate to the female student’s “outburst,” and so little to real issues Peter raises such as criminal justice reform, housing inequities and in inequality, with non-blacks in the Washington DC area having a net worth 81 times that of blacks. These are not issues to be dismissed with the phrase “politically correct.”

  • Peter Clark

    Count me among those who think President Salovey has defined the issue well and has searched for a reasonable recognition of the value of free speech, even when extreme, and especially in light of working with a diverse collection of young people on passionate issues. I feel that we are not acknowledging the depth of concern among minority students who are (and must be) a part of our globally-recognized institution. Because they have the privilege to have been admitted does not require that they loose their outrage about the conditions that their peers face in the United States or world-wide. I remember pressing the boundaries of civil or polite discourse over the Vietnam war. I believe that the issues of criminal justice reform, for instance, or housing inequities, must be given the same level of concern now.

  • Chris Cory

    Re the screaming girl. First, people on campus have told me that she is, or was, if graduated, one of the best students on campus in many other ways. Probably, like many Yalies, somewhat high strung. Which leads to the time I lost my undergraduate temper in public.

    I think of myself as reasonably low-strung (or, perhaps, high-repressed), but whatever I am, during freshman year, after a long evening rehearsal of the Freshman Glee Club, one of the club’s officers made some inconsequential announcement. For whatever reason, I disagreed — and blew it. I hurled my music to the floor, threw the F word at the guy, and stormed out.

    Now, admittedly, the fellow student I screamed at was neither the leader of a residential college nor a professor. For those to whom rank matters in such things, I was but a lowly first bass. Per some of the comments in this discussion, shouldn’t I have been disciplined? Or as someone said in an earlier part of this discussion, “spanked?”

    As things turned out, I got halfway down the stairs in Hendrie Hall and thought better of my outburst, went back, grabbed my music, and walked to Vanderbilt to, I presume, finish the usual heavy load of Yale homework and get some apparently-needed rest. Unless some of you guys recall the incident, it faded fast and, to my gratitude, no one said anything about it. But in recent months I have found it giving me a bit of empathy toward the screaming girl. She may have been exhausted from protest activities, or gnawing at built-up outrage over who knows what, or just exhausted. Do we know, or have we thought, whether after her outburst, anyone spoke to her, either sympathetically, to say whoa, calm down, or to say screaming at a faculty member is rude or unproductive or both? Has anyone found out? She was, after all, somewhere around the age of young adulthood, where emotions are still surging. Are disciplinary spankings in order?

  • Chip Neville

    Kudos to Steve Susman for the most perspicacious comment yet. To condense his comment slightly, “The First Amendment restrains Yale disciplining a student for ranting and screaming” so long “as it does not create a clear and present danger of violence or physical harm.” By the way, my own experience teaching at a state university agrees with Steve’s interpretation.

    So apparently, under the law, college professors have no protection from public personal verbal abuse. Steve, I’m respectfully asking the following two questions for information, NOT to be argumentative: I wonder what you think about this, and I wonder how you think it can be corrected?

  • John Carr

    I propose that we set up a public forum, and invite all Yale to hear Fred Appell and Bill Boyer read their comments. Any guesses who would be allowed to finish?

  • Boyer Willis B.

    Hey folks, shouting obscenities at your college master is never acceptable, 1st Amendment be damned. There is such a thing as “right & wrong.” Somewhere, we draw the line. All of us do.

    So, get real. We all know some behavior is unacceptable.

    Salovey isn’t “drawing fine lines.” He’s hiding behind his psychspeak.

    Let’s ignore Salovey. How is Yale producing leaders? Where are the MacArthurs, Pattons and Wild Bill Donovans?

    Yale is so focussed on its Kumbayah, that is has lost its sense of mission.

    “Diversity” is not an educational goal or a leadership quality. Yale is squandering its talents and treasure in chasing this mythic goal. Yes, we applaud diversity in backgrounds, when groups reach success.

    But, let’s get back into the leaderships business.

  • I think Salovey’s letter and WSJ article got it right. Justice Hugo Black, for whom I clerked, believed strongly that the First Amendment protects even obnoxious speech from Government interference as long as it does not create a clear and present danger of violence or physical harm. As Salovey says, the remedy for evil speech is more speech. If Yale was a private club and did not accept any public funds, then it could remove the Silliman student. But the First Amendment restrains Yale disciplining a student for ranting and screaming.

    • Ken Merkey

      I agree that the First Amendment assures free speech. But just like you cannot yell fire in a theater, you should not be able to lob f-bombs at a professor. There must be consequences.

      Today Yale, like most institutions, is accepting some students who have very little education, training, or life values. Without a moral compass they are lost at Yale and act out just like they did at home. There were no consequences there either.

      On CNN last night, Van Jones (ex-liberal Yalie) asked what he should tell his children about the loss in the election. What he should tell them is that no one should ever under-estimate the power of the American citizen. We will always have bumps and bruises but in the end – we survive and right and good generally succeed.

      The pendulum has probably swung too far to the left. We are now coddling students rather than educating them. Yale, just like most institutions of learning, is run by left leaning, narrow minded, well-meaning folks. Why would Yale appoint a naming committee and not include some outside voices? What is next? Is Yale going to offer certificates of attendance to failing students rather than degrees?

      I am frustrated and annoyed but I feel powerless to make a difference. I received a great education at Yale and developed friendships that last a lifetime. But I grew up in a very modest, conservative environment and I learned that actions have consequences. I still cry when the national anthem is played. I am beside myself when an ingrate cannot at least stand for the anthem. There must be consequences.

  • Richard J. Howard

    While President Salovey gave a defense of free speech in the WSJ, I was disappointed of the administration’s reaction to the response to the Christakis’s email about the Halloween costumes. There was virtually no defense of the faculty at the time (at least that appeared in the press – for those of us old Elis who still read newspapers) and nothing was said about the discourteous student who in an extremely uncivil demonstration, yelled and cursed Professor Christakis. It does seem curious that despite what Salovey said was a long-planned effort, it was only during this time that Yale announced a $50 million effort to create a more diverse faculty. I was hoping that Yale would not fall into the trap that so many administrations have of pandering to students latest politically correct wants and feelings. I was disappointed. I would suggest that you also post and that many college presidents read the statement of the President of the University of Chicago (also in the WSJ) about safe spaces (or lack thereof), trigger warnings, and all the other politically correct thoughts.

    Still, I appreciate the difficulty any administration has with the diversity of backgrounds and cultures on today’s campuses. It must be a fine line they are treading in many cases.

  • Chip Neville

    Please Bill (that’s Bill Boyer), read Frederick Appell’s post before taking my old roomie Steve Buck to task. You don’t have to agree with Frederick that we white guys have three strikes against us when it comes to having a conversation with black people, but surely you can understand that the count at least stands at 1 ball and two strikes. The enormous disparity between white and black net worth in the DC area is completely relevant, because even though most black students at Yale come from middle class families, they learned at their parents knees the sad history of our repression of their grandparents and great grandparents. And so long as the black community as a whole is so enormously disadvantaged, we won’t be able to forgive one another and live as brothers and sisters.

    And please Bill, understand that comments about the “Black Lives Matter mob on Hillhouse Avenue” are just not constructive. There was an interesting story in the Times this fall about a white woman from, I believe, South Dakota, who took her campaign to get justice for a white neighbor, who had been unjustly shot and killed by the police, to Black Lives Matter protests in places like Detroit. Her white neighbors wore horrified and thought she would be murdered right then and there on the street. Instead, the black people at the protests welcomed her and her “Justice for …” sign because because they understood her grief and anger. And in fact, I personally know of white friends of friends who have been shot by nervous cops with no justification. And I have heard Black Lives Matter leaders say that “All Lives Matter,” but, they say, the point is that black people, and especially black men, are far more likely to be shot by the police than white men. And that, sadly, is the truth.

    What does all this have to do with free speech and President Salovey? I must admit that I read President Salovey’s letter to Yale Alumni with great skepticism. I do not regard him as a prominent defender of freedom of speech. But in one respect he is dead on right. To quote the prophet Isaiah, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18).

  • Frederick Appell

    “Our President at Yale is setting the necessary ground rules for constructive dialogue.”

    Yes, President Salovey got it right. Yale as an institution is not an agent of censorship; it exists to educate and that includes promoting rational, constructive, and civil dialogue, which may involve more than a little pain on both sides.

    But there is a caveat. It is imperative that intellectual dialogue take place with a full recognition of the emotional realities of all participants. Sensitivity training, cross cultural awareness, minority hiring, all do not fully address the enormous wrongs blacks and mixed race people have had to endure at the hands of my people, the mostly white majority. I didn’t come to this perspective easily.

    After leaving Yale I worked in the black community as a “white guest” for ten years. I ran a guesthouse for dislocated, mostly black men, “men in transition,” and did community organization seeking to empower the inner city community. I was a founding member of the black community center and served as secretary of its board. I worked at the Urban League in job training and creation. I came to realize that if I was going to work constructively in the black community I first had to accept an unquestioning attitude of acceptance of the black perspective. If I was to work alongside blacks the double standard, the accommodations blacks adapted traditionally to survive in the white world, no longer would function to protect me from the raw anger of members of the black community. It’s different when you are the minority.

    Sensitivity is a start, but true dialogue requires what most find unimaginable — that whites acknowledge that they have three strikes against them at the onset: the enormous economic exploitation of blacks which benefited whites, the cruel regime of fear and oppression which was and is used to maintain the benefits which whites enjoy, and the fundamental assumption of superiority which supports discrimination.

    So we don’t start off as equals. When we come to dialogue, or as one black prisoner said, “when we come to sit in the fire together,” white people start off three down and real honesty requires we admit it. When I discussed these comments with a mixed race friend he said, “At least that would be a start.”

    Being in the black community I also came to know the truly admirable family structure, decency, and emotional expressiveness of many African American families. I came to be proud of the survival of strong family values, hardened perhaps by adversity, which I felt made African Americans the most American of Americans.

    But I also learned that the hurt my people had caused was indefensible and inexcusable, to the extent that I could never expect to be fully accepted except as an act of charity by those who had suffered discrimination.

    So I accept with admiration the leadership of our President at Yale who is setting the necessary ground rules for constructive dialogue. And I hope we can all honor the emotional realities of our own lives and those of others as we “sit together in the fire.”

  • Bill Stork

    I may be seeing things through different lenses, having lived in Asia for the past 20 years, in Hong Kong where free speech is in peril and in Singapore where free speech is commonly not allowed so as not to create racial tensions among the very diverse ethnic communities that make up Singapore. [Unlike the situation in Malaysia where Muslim v. Chinese is used for political purposes. I will not comment on the pre-election rhetoric in USA].
    But being on the AYA’s Board of Governors in the era of Kingman Brewster, I look back to earlier histories of ‘free speech’ on the Yale campus, and this took me to a re-reading of former Pierson Master (and Pulitzer Prize-winning) John Hersey and his book, LETTER TO THE ALUMNI. Also I went back to the WOODWARD REPORT by the eminent historian C Vann Woodward which defines the University’s role in dealing with matters of ‘free speech’. I suggest that these be re-read by others having concerns for or against Salovey’s actions and comments.
    Were I in Salovey’s shoes, as regards the Silliman imbroglio, I think I would, too, want to overlook the shouting of an immature student and focus efforts on resolving the situation. To pillory that student would only have served to inflame tensions already present. And for the Master and Assoc Master of Siiliman, they were not subjected to any criticism by the University, and their departure was only a result of the media attention to that one widely-covered event. Laurie Santos has done a fabulous job as Head of College [a term I despise] at moving Silliman past that event, having this year a trouble-free Hallowe’en.
    When talking with Rick Levin, he was always able to mention his concern about ‘free speech’. For Salovey, he was soon dealt with the DKE initiates shouting, on Old Campus, some VERY vulgar expressions. [Email me if you do not know about this] The male students were given a ‘drubbing’ but not officially charged.
    For me, living in Singapore, how can free discussion be used to inform and overcome prejudices? This is what Yale is, in part, dealing with.
    I advise fellow classmates to put any otherwise intended donations into an escrow account, and wait and see how all this plays out.

  • Bill Boyer

    My my, Steve. now if we dislike or disapprove of Yale’s actions, we’re “ranting.” Actually, the “ranting” was mostly performed by Ms. Luther last year.

    Steve, Yale’s job is to educate, not to try to correct all the world’s evils. Your statistics about the net worth of blacks around the District have nothing repeat nothing to do with Yale’s job. So let’s look at what Yale and Salovey have actually said about the situation, and draw our conclusions.

    Last year, Salovey announced a $50 Million “suite” of initiatives to train Yale staff to be more politically correct and to promote diversity. As Chris asks above, what is that all about? If Salovey can squander alumni donations on such foolishness, how can any responsible person ask his classmates for money? I certainly could not, so I resigned as a fundraiser. But that wasn’t “ranting.”

    I asked then, and again now, what does Yale think it is training its students to do? Is Yale producing strong, tough-minded leaders, or is Mother Yale just a wet nurse for whiners discomfited by a demanding education? Yale is busy creating “safe spaces” for every self-described victim class. We read that Yale now accepts unqualified students, then gives them a free five-week summer course to try to coach them on how to survive Yale’s educational rigors, then primps them with special counseling for four years — if they make it that far. Maybe some of these come from the poor black families Steve describes. Interesting experiment.

    Meanwhile, around the country, colleges are forcing male freshmen to endure films about “toxic masculinity,” where they learn that “be a man” are the worst words a boy can hear. Thus, colleges are not breeding leaders who can rise to direct our nation’s destiny with strength and determination. They are encouraging and comforting LGBTQs, metrosexuals and overstocking their student rolls with victim groups. They are trying to undo American slavery of 200 years ago, while disregarding ongoing slavery throughout the world, including, even, indentured immigrants right down the road in New York City, for example.

    As to Salovey’s recent letters, do they actually say anything? Or are they just more of his psychobabble and equivocating. Nothing new there to discuss, except . . . oh, yeah, unable to take a firm stand on keeping Calhoun College, he passed the buck to a committee of diversity specialists called “Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming.” Can’t make this stuff up, folks. That’s where our money goes.

    Salovey also said, in his most unkindest cut, “In the course of all the events and discussions of the past year, the Yale administration did not criticize, discipline or dismiss a single member of its faculty, staff or student body for expressing an opinion.” Yep, that’s right. Yale failed to punish Ms. Luther, the “screaming woman,” thereby sacrificing two fine and admired faculty leaders (Silliman’s master and his wife) who recognized Yale’s abject failure and promptly departed, declaring that Yale is unsafe for free speech.

    Yale missed its chance for leadership in this forum, unlike the University of Chicago, which has taken a firm stand against the stifling of free speech by the politically correct crowd. Salovey is too busy mollifying all parties at hand to provide clear leadership in any particular direction. To my classmates, I suggest reading Salovey’s letters again. Is there any decisive clarity there? Intellectual or institutional leadership?

    Perhaps Psychologist Salovey imagines his role is not to lead, but to “facilitate,” as in the expression “facilitate a meeting.” Got a problem? “Well bring it to our group discussion. We’ll listen, then appoint a committee to review it,” he seems to say. Salovey is a good listener. But, can he lead anything grander than a therapy group? One wonders.

    Salovey may know the difference between right and wrong, but he is at pains to express it. So eager is he to be inclusive, that he fails to discriminate in any common sense manner. A tough football coach once said, “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.” Salovey has lost, lost his way, lost a sense of clear purpose, lost the mind game with the screaming woman, lost the debate with the Black Lives Matter mob on Hillhouse Avenue, lost some fine educators, and certainly has lost any claim to Yale’s leadership on this issue among American universities. Yes, he is cheerful, a good loser. He writes hopeful letters to Yale’s alumni. But friends, he is still a loser, not a leader. Maya Angelou wrote “When people show you who they are, believe them.” Our vaunted president has shown us who he is, over and over. Let’s just get used to it.

  • Chris Cory

    Thanks, guys. I happen to know more comments are coming.

  • Steve Buck

    Salovy’s letter is a diplomatic way of covering some treacherous ground. On the race/diversity question I would urge that Yale adopt a policy of assigning a mixture of roommates, particularly insuring that AFrican -Americans room with non African Americans.
    Today’s Washington Post covers an in-depth report showing that the net worth of African-Americans in the Greater Washington DC area (DC, Maryland and Virginia suburbs) is 81 I repeat 81 times less than white Americans – i.e. $284,000 for whites, $3,500 for blacks. Let’s face it, many students at Yale come from privilege, as do faculty. The way to heal division is to get to know each other, not to rant about a “young screamer.”

    Let’s face it classmates, our 99.44 % all white, all male Yale is eons away from Yale today. We need to learn more about it, rather than ranting about it.

  • Henry Clay Childs

    I agree with the two Bills above about the lack of disciplinary action taken against the young screamer (does that pigeon hole us as “out of touch”?) and would like to know, as Chris does, what action is under consideration for future problems. However, as an old Japan hand, I am delighted that our university is leading the way toward establishing closer relations with Asia, both resuscitating elements of Yale in China and creating the university campus in Singapore. Asia is where the future lies for all our heirs and the decision to be as inclusive as President Salovey has shown to be on general issues may well serve us all better in the long run.

  • Bill Leckonby

    Count me among those who are cutting back my support of Yale to protest Salovey’s too soft approach on the protestors who got way too far out of hand and got away with it. Bill

  • Bill Weber

    I thought the letter and also the WSJ letter oped was pretty good w/e of his belief that no actions in the free speech venue are punishable. The young lady screaming at the Master of Silliman should have been expelled or at least disciplined. There must be some limits to “free speech”, what I do not know, but what if an individual came to campus with the intent of organizing some “storm troopers” to create havic on our society?

    Bill Weber

  • Chris Cory

    I wish the President or the administration or the Alumni Magazine would tell us what is happening with the expensive and still murky “previously announced initiative to promote faculty diversity and excellence.” There’s been talk and skepticism about both sensitivity training and important scholarship. I haven’t heard details of either. At least one of us has a pipeline to the faculty– George Evans, whose son is the head of Berkeley College. Does anyone know anything more?

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