University News

This Week in Higher Ed: Nov. 4, 2015

By
University News Editor
Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Costumes and cultural appropriation

Controversy over cultural appropriation in Halloween costumes at Yale erupted over the weekend. Silliman College Associate Master Erika Christakis sent an email defending the exercise of free speech through donning possibly offensive costumes for the holiday, spurring community backlash, the Yale Daily News reported Monday.

Christakis’ Friday email was written in response to a Wednesday email from the Intercultural Affairs Council, which asked students to consider whether their costumes would possibly offend or diminish others on campus, citing turbans and blackface as examples of inappropriate costumes, the Yale Daily News reported.

Christakis’ email “asserted that imagination should be encouraged and not constrained,” the Yale Daily News reported. “Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious … a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?” it read.

Students and faculty responded by signing an open letter rebuking Christakis’ email. The letter argues that her “email equates old traditions of using harmful stereotypes and tropes to further degrade marginalized people, to preschoolers playing make believe” and fails to acknowledge the harm of using culture as a costume. Over 740 people have signed the open letter, the Yale Daily News reported.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon party

In a separate Halloween incident, Yale’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity was accused of admitting female students to a party on a “white girls only” basis, according to a Facebook post by sophomore Neema Githere. Her viral post stated that a group of women of color were not admitted due to their race, the Yale Daily News reported. Members and leaders of the fraternity have denied these allegations, stating that party admission was not based on race, according to the Yale Daily News.

Other students have said they witnessed the alleged discrimination. Dean of Student Engagement Burgwell Howard was in contact with a student waiting to get in the party, who wrote in an email to Howard that a friend heard a fraternity member say “white girls only” to a woman of color also waiting in line, the Yale Daily News reported.

Calhoun College renaming debate

Deans at Yale have established that the dispute over the name of one of its 12 residential colleges, Calhoun College, will be resolved by the end of the academic year.

Yale has come under scrutiny and made headlines in recent months for the residential college, named after proslavery and white supremacy ideologue John Calhoun, who graduated from Yale in 1804, the Yale Daily News reported.

Calhoun College Master Julia Adams spoke on the issue for the first time last week, advocating the college be renamed Calhoun-Douglass College, after Frederick Douglass, a black abolitionist. “As the most important black American intellectual of the 19th century, Frederick Douglass is a formidable, indeed towering, complement to Calhoun,” Adams said, the Yale Daily News reported.

Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway supported the new name, adding that a decision would be made “this academic year,” the Yale Daily News reported.

Many students have suggested naming the college “Calhoun-Bouchet, after Edward Bouchet, class of 1874, Yale’s first African-American graduate,” according to the Yale Daily News.

Free SAT in NYC

New York City will begin offering free SAT tests to public school students next year, the New York Times reported Oct. 26. This is part of a larger initiative to enable more students to go to college, the Times reported. Not only will students not pay the $54.50 fee, but signing up will be easier, and the test will be taken during the school day.

This adds New York City to a short list of school districts and states that provide college admission testing as a way of encouraging students to apply to college. Kentucky, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Connecticut all require college admission tests as part of their high school curricula, the Times reported.