If You Had To Guess Which Campus Produces More Open-Minded Mature Young Adults, Which Do You Think It Would Be?
[guest post by Dana]
Last month I posted about associate master at Yale’s Silliman College, Erika Christakis, whose email response to the Intercultural Affairs Council, a campus group concerned about culturally insensitive Halloween costumes, dared to challenge students to think critically for themselves about the consequences of institutional decision-making instead of individual decision-making. Christakis, refusing to kowtow to the campus scolds, pointed out the dangers:
“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.”
This proved too much for the pampered students of Yale as her challenge resulted in a demand for her resignation, as well as that of her husband, master at Silliman College Nicholas Christaki who had defended his wife.
Last week Mrs. Christakis announced that she will no longer be lecturing at Yale:
“I have great respect and affection for my students, but I worry that the current climate at Yale is not, in my view, conducive to the civil dialogue and open inquiry required to solve our urgent societal problems,” she said in an email to The Washington Post.
Ironically, Mrs. Christakis taught the popular class, Concept of the Problem Child. The irony, of course, being lost on the problem children of Yale.
After Mrs. Christakis sent her controversial Halloween email, offended administration, faculty, and alumni voiced their disapproval of her in a letter of complaint, which read in part:
The contents of your email were jarring and disheartening. Your email equates old traditions of using harmful stereotypes and tropes to further degrade marginalized people, to preschoolers playing make believe. This both trivializes the harm done by these tropes and infantilizes the student body to which the request was made. You fail to distinguish the difference between cosplaying fictional characters and misrepresenting actual groups of people. In your email, you ask students to “look away” if costumes are offensive, as if the degradation of our cultures and people, and the violence that grows out of it is something that we can ignore. We were told to meet the offensive parties head on, without suggesting any modes or means to facilitate these discussions to promote understanding. Giving “room” for students to be “obnoxious” or “offensive”, as you suggest, is only inviting ridicule and violence onto ourselves and our communities, and ultimately comes at the expense of room in which marginalized students can feel safe.
While Yale administrators chose to indulge hurt and offended students, Dr. Everett Piper, President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, did anything but when confronted by an offended student on his campus. Dr. Piper’s letter is so uplifting and spot-on, that I’m publishing it in its entirety so you can read it and take hope that there are men and women of sound mind doing right by young people today:
This past week, I actually had a student come forward after a university chapel service and complain because he felt “victimized” by a sermon on the topic of 1 Corinthians 13. It appears this young scholar felt offended because a homily on love made him feel bad for not showing love. In his mind, the speaker was wrong for making him, and his peers, feel uncomfortable.
I’m not making this up. Our culture has actually taught our kids to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic. Any time their feelings are hurt, they are the victims. Anyone who dares challenge them and, thus, makes them “feel bad” about themselves, is a “hater,” a “bigot,” an “oppressor,” and a “victimizer.”
I have a message for this young man and all others who care to listen. That feeling of discomfort you have after listening to a sermon is called a conscience. An altar call is supposed to make you feel bad. It is supposed to make you feel guilty. The goal of many a good sermon is to get you to confess your sins—not coddle you in your selfishness. The primary objective of the Church and the Christian faith is your confession, not your self-actualization.
So here’s my advice:
If you want the chaplain to tell you you’re a victim rather than tell you that you need virtue, this may not be the university you’re looking for. If you want to complain about a sermon that makes you feel less than loving for not showing love, this might be the wrong place.
If you’re more interested in playing the “hater” card than you are in confessing your own hate; if you want to arrogantly lecture, rather than humbly learn; if you don’t want to feel guilt in your soul when you are guilty of sin; if you want to be enabled rather than confronted, there are many universities across the land (in Missouri and elsewhere) that will give you exactly what you want, but Oklahoma Wesleyan isn’t one of them.
At OKWU, we teach you to be selfless rather than self-centered. We are more interested in you practicing personal forgiveness than political revenge. We want you to model interpersonal reconciliation rather than foment personal conflict. We believe the content of your character is more important than the color of your skin. We don’t believe that you have been victimized every time you feel guilty and we don’t issue “trigger warnings” before altar calls.
Oklahoma Wesleyan is not a “safe place”, but rather, a place to learn: to learn that life isn’t about you, but about others; that the bad feeling you have while listening to a sermon is called guilt; that the way to address it is to repent of everything that’s wrong with you rather than blame others for everything that’s wrong with them. This is a place where you will quickly learn that you need to grow up.
This is not a day care. This is a university.
UPDATE BY PATTERICO: That’s the kind of email you want to quote in its entirety. Maybe even twice!