My 20th reunion at Yale University is coming up this Memorial Day weekend, and friends have been asking if they will see me in attendance. The answer is no. The reason is not only that I’ve never been big on these kinds of forced, superficial exercises in nostalgia (if I want nostalgia, I’ll read Proust), but also, and more fundamentally, because within the past few years, the goings-on at Yale — unfortunately reflective of what is happening at many universities — have disgusted and alienated me to the point where, unless major changes occur, that institution isn’t getting a dime of my money or a moment of my time.
First, there was the notorious case of Jerelyn Luther, the Yale shrieker, who, on November 5, 2015, insulted, screamed, and cursed at professor Nicholas Christakis, a college administrator, when he was trying to reason with students. The topic was a mass e-mail sent by a Yale lecturer, his wife, that dared to suggest the decision of what Halloween costumes to wear should be left to Yale students’ discretion rather than dictated by politically correct clowns. Despite overwhelming public sentiment condemning the shrieker, it was Nicholas and Erika Christakis who were forced to resign.
That Was Just One of Many Insanities
Next came the spate of whitewashings and re-namings. After facing concerted pressure from hordes of protesting peons, in April 2016 Yale President Peter Salovey agreed to change the official title of the type of administrative post Christakis had occupied from “residential college master” to “head of college.”
The term “master” apparently reminded some free-associating students of the days of slavery, sort of like the way the term “niggardly,” uttered by a DC mayor’s aide in 1999, had reminded some poorly educated people of the N-word. At the same time, Salovey had ruled against changing the name of one of Yale’s dormitories, named for notable American vice-president, statesman, senator, and slavery proponent John C. Calhoun. But a further spate of protests followed, and “Spineless” Salovey started squirming.
In August 2016, he appointed a Committee to Establish Principles of Renaming, staffing it with representatives of all the races of the globe and expecting it, no doubt, to reach a foregone conclusion: the name “Calhoun” had to go. That kangaroo court’s verdict came down in February 2017, whereupon, no surprise, Salovey predictably turned tail. Calhoun was unceremoniously shown the door and replaced by Grace Murray Hopper, thereby trading a proponent of slavery for a trailblazing woman in STEM, killing two birds with one stone, as it were.
Even this much capitulation was not enough for emboldened student activists, however, as they proceeded to lambaste Yale for choosing a white woman for the new name rather than a woman of color. This especially because students of color should have, in their view, been rewarded for spending so many hours (that they should have been spending educating themselves into half-decent human beings rather than reactive ignoramuses) protesting the legacy of white supremacy at Yale.
No Surprise: It’s Struck Again
Most recently, just this month another manufactured incident occurred on campus, this time with a Yale official by the name of Jane Chu. Her crime was to post insensitive Yelp reviews of New Haven businesses, in which she, among other things, spoke of a Japanese restaurant as being a perfect night out for “white trash,” critiqued The Mochi Store’s mochi as being good only “if you were a white person who has no clue what mochi is,” and mocked a movie theater as being staffed by “barely educated morons trying to manage snack orders for the obese and also try to add $7 plus $7.”
I found the reviews a bit tasteless but also kind of funny, in a cathartic, acerbic sort of way, and honestly couldn’t understand what the big deal was or what those reviews had to do with her job. Sensitive Yale students, however, saw the matter differently and began to act traumatized, stating, under cover of anonymity, that they “will never be able to look at her in the same way” and the like.
Although Chu apologized profusely, Chu’s superior Stephen Davis, following “Spineless” Salovey’s example, allowed students to dictate Yale’s response, stating that he welcomed thoughts from all students “about what you’d like to see as next steps.” The next step, of course, was putting Chu on leave. The message is clear enough: every private and public action will be intensively scrutinized, with the sensibilities of the most brittle among us serving as the measuring stick. Vent your frustrations at annoying business practices or inferior products or services in a harsh Yelp review, and you might be censured, disciplined, or worse.
One Man’s Stand Against Intellectual Corruption
I’ve had about enough of this kind of nonsense, which is in no way unique to Yale. These goings-on reflect both the racialization of absolutely anything and everything in our society and the increasing worldwide consumerization of education, in which the customer is always right, no matter how immature, knee-jerk, and entirely bereft of perspective about the customer’s reaction to a given incident.
It is time to show the oleaginous technocrats running the roost that the special snowflakes on campus are not the only ones capable of protesting. Concerned alumni of Yale and the other education institutions bending over backwards to upend themselves and abdicate their educational missions for the sake of pleasing students need to stop giving, stop visiting, and start speaking up. If there are calls for resignations to be made, the resignation of “Spineless” Salovey should be at the top of our list.
So, no, I won’t be attending my 20th Yale reunion. For me, it is a matter of integrity, both my own and Yale’s. The bottom-line reason is simple: college reunions are an expression of fondness and loyalty. But Yale’s conduct keeps forcing this question upon me: why should I feel loyalty to an institution that feels no loyalty to itself?