A new class of social-justice warriors is graduating from Yale—and to celebrate, the university honored two students who led a Halloween witch hunt against administrator Erika Christakis in Fall 2015.
If you recall, Christakis had sent students an email defending free speech and asking, “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?”
In response, students vehemently protested, accusing Christakis of racism and cultural insensitivity. When Christakis’ husband, Nicholas, a professor at Yale, defended her, students shouted him down, screaming at him that he was “disgusting” and demanding that he and his wife resign. Both ended up leaving their Yale administrative roles that spring. Ms. Christakis also left her teaching role, while her husband continued on as an endowed professor.
Now, Yale has awarded its Nakanishi Prize—given for academic achievement and racial activism—to Alexandra Zina Barlowe and Abdul-Razak Zachariah, graduating seniors who were “two of Yale’s most prominent Christakis critics,” the Wall Street Journal’s James Freeman reports.
In an interview with Democracy Now!, Barlowe said Christakis’ email was “not just… discomforting and upsetting, but actually really deeply harmful and actually creating a space for violence to happen on campus.”
Honoring Barlowe, Yale quoted classmates who commended the student activist for a “moral imagination” that “operates with the knowledge that issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. are all interconnected.
Zachariah also received praise for his student activism. In addition to denouncing Christakis, he also pushed for Yale to stop using the title “master” for some administrators, saying it made him “extremely uncomfortable.” Zacharias said that when he used the title on campus, “I kept thinking I was degrading myself.”
Nicholas Christakis’ had been “master” of Yale’s Silliman College (a kind of glorified dorm) when he was attacked. The master is a coveted and prestigious role for a tenured professor involving lavish on campus housing and other perquisites. Last year, Yale caved to protesters such as Zachariah and changed the “master” title to “head of college.”
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.