Yale University was the scene of a student protest Monday as hundreds of students at the prestigious Ivy League school demonstrated against racial insensitivity at the school, MSN is reporting.
Dubbed the “March of Resilience,” the protest sprung up in response to a couple of racially-charged incidents to take place at the school in the past few weeks.
— Victor Wang (@vz_wang) November 9, 2015
Although the Yale students are protesting several recent incidents of racial insensitivity around campus, two specific instances have been the focal point of the protests. On Halloween weekend, according to the Washington Post, several women of color were turned away from a frat party at Yale’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) house. Reports said that a frat brother, acting as a bouncer, repeatedly told women that they were looking for “white girls only,” according to student Sofia Petros-Gouin, who was at the scene.
“I was shocked. I was disgusted.”
SAE described the incident as “mischaracterized,” saying that a long line had formed and that bouncers were turning people away in order to keep the building from becoming too crowded. A frat brother, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that one African-American woman responded to being turned away by screaming, “It’s because I’m black, isn’t it?”
In a second incident, also around Halloween, Yale faculty member Erika Christakis, who is also an administrator for a Yale residence hall, responded critically to a request from the school’s Intercultural Affairs Committee that students avoid wearing “insensitive” Halloween costumes, such as turbans or blackface. Christakis, in an email that has since been made public, suggested that “offensive” Halloween costumes inspire dialogue and should be allowed.
“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? American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition.”
Yale student Aaron Lewis, via the Huffington Post, opines that the protests erupted because Yale administrators waited far too long to respond to students’ concerns. On the Monday following Halloween, Lews says, students were forced to reschedule a forum about “cultural appropriation and the power of language” due to “threats” (Lewis did not specify what those threats were), while Yale President Peter Salovey remained silent. Salovey’s silence continued, says Lewis, until protests began erupting around campus.
“It’s disheartening to feel like so few people in power have your back… We feel like we have to yell in order to make our voices heard. While the stories in the press are about this one particular week at Yale, we’ve been working toward solutions for years.”
Some observers, Lewis notes, have responded to the Yale protests with something approaching bemusement, considering that wealthy, Ivy League scholars have found something to complain about. But Lewis says that Yale’s problems with racial insensitivity extend beyond New Haven.
“I’ve heard a lot of people dismiss this situation out of hand because Yale is a ‘place of privilege.’ But if racial discrimination of any kind can happen at a place like this, then it’s certainly happening elsewhere in this country.”
For Lewis, he’d like to see the Yale protests bring reconciliation to a divided campus and, in a larger sense, to a racially divided country.
“We should all strive for a future where, at the very least, people feel physically safe and confident in their own humanity. Let’s focus on the goals we share, not the unproductive debates that divide us.”
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