Nicholas Christakis, the embattled head of Yale’s Silliman College, announced this evening that he’s stepping down from his prestigious post, but will continue teaching at the university.
Christakis was mired in a widely publicized controversy last year after his wife Erika, also a professor at Yale, sent out an email to students saying they should feel free to dress as whatever they wanted for Halloween. Her email was written in response to an official Yale email admonishing students against wearing costumes symbolizing cultural appropriation.
A firestorm followed. Many Yale students were outraged by Erika Christakis’ e-mail, and demanded that she and her husband be fired from their positions at Silliman College.
Nicholas supported his wife’s views and spoke on her behalf to a gathering of angry students, the video of which — in which a young woman screamed at him that he was “disgusting” — went viral and was viewed by millions.
The Christakises were supported by Yale’s administration. But after the incident Erika Christakis left her teaching position and Nicholas went on a semester sabbatical.
On Wednesday, Yale’s President Peter Salovey said that, “We thank Nicholas & Erika Christakis for their extraordinary service to Yale College.”
Head of college, formerly called Master, is a fairly cushy job at Yale that comes with a luxurious “house” within the college and the position is not given up lightly. Silliman is one of Yale’s 12 “residential colleges” which are glorified versions of dormitories and have their own dining halls, libraries and other community facilities.
In his announcement Wednesday, Nicholas Christakis said that Erika would also be leaving her administrative position at Silliman College.
Their departures come as Yale — which had its Commencement this week — has wrapped up a tumultuous year on the social justice front. The University recently announced it was retiring the longtime title of college “master” (a title Christakis and other administrators had held) due to its association with slaveholding. But Yale also announced it would not bow to pressure and rename Calhoun College, which is named after an unrepentant supporter of slavery.