The Yale Student Protests: Closer to Primary Sources In Chronological Order

Because it’s worth it to go back to the primary sources, not just the (sometimes poorly researched) editorials.

I started this reading list for myself, and a handful of friends, who were trying to learn as much as possible about the different perspectives presented during these protests.

Disclaimer: I am not here to offer my opinions, but to provide the audience with a wider range of sources that you may see in editorials. I do, however, offer some context in introducing each piece. I am disappointed with the cherry picking of research in a lot of the coverage I’ve seen so far. This is my attempt to offer more background and evidence to those who want to dig deeper than editorials.

BACKGROUND:

This was the email that students receive every year from the IAC regarding their approach to Halloween costumes. It encourages students to think critically and take responsibility for their halloween costumes.

This is the email about Halloween by Erika Christakis that sparked some of the initial conversations on campus about the role of the university in “policing halloween costumes,” protecting “freedom of speech” and several other issues that turned into heated discussions in several corners of campus. I suggest reading the full copy, rather than the quotes pulled out of context for several publications online.

The order of events in the first week of protests, as presented by a current student.

The University offered it’s first response to two separate incidents. First, the Christakis Halloween Costume Discussion and second, the “white girls only” party complaint against SAE:

This is the statement issued by the President of Yale Peter Salovey regarding their commitment to a “better Yale,” sent to students on November 6, 2015.

This was the statement sent by Dean of Yale College Jonathan Holloway on November 6, 2015.

When you read the list of demands presented by students in DOWN and at the march to President Salovey’s house, please note that their concerns extend far beyond these two initial incidents. The demands address larger structural problems.

The Students Organized:

During the early days of the media attention on campus, I kept asking current students for a better sense of what was going on. I was presented with this article describing the demands from the community at DOWN magazine (a Yale student publication) as it stands on November 11, 2015. Down is the publication that was forwarded by way by several different student groups when I inquired about the best places to find reliable coverage. This publication has been working to gather student opinions and stories about their experiences at Yale and their reasons for challenging the Christakis’s emails and structural inequality at Yale.

A new week of events kicks off…

More than 1000 students gathered on campus to support the student organizers and their peers on November 10, 2015.

This was the poster circulating on Yale’s campus about the event. I found this copy of the image on the Facebook event page for this event.

The next day, students filled Battell Chapel for Teach-Ins, which has space for 1,100 people, and ended up turning away people at the door because even the aisles were packed. This particular Teach-In was called “A Moment of Crisis: Race at Yale Teach-In” and was intended to offer students from all different backgrounds perspective and history on the student protests taking place on campus. President Salovey and Yale College Dean Holloway both attended the event.

Finally, the students marched to President Salovey’s house on November 12, 2015 and presented their list of demands at 11:50pm. This is the final list of their demands, as presented that evening.

In response to the viral video and other media that has been used to infantilize the protestors:

First and foremost, this is what the protest at Yale looked like. Language on their banners read: We are Loved. We are here to stay. The corresponding response on my newsfeed for days from other Yale Alumni was confirmation: You are Loved. We support you.

This is not the image of hostility and aggression portrayed by many of the articles claiming to understand the tone of the student protests. A video clip of a student screaming at Professor Christakis went viral and, unfortunately, was used to set the tone for so many of the articles that came out covering the events on campus.

A Resolution is reached:

Updated on November 17: President Salovey addressed Yale and the alumni network with his response. He is increasing funding to all four cultural houses, improving training to talk about diversity for students and Yale’s staff (professors and administrators), improving financial aid for low income students, providing mental health providers through the cultural houses (to provide mental health professionals versed in more of the background their students are coming from), and investing further resources into programs like ethnicity, race and migration that offer academic opportunities outside the traditional “Canon.”

Because people have been asking, as of November 18, 2015, the University has confirmed its support for Master Christakis in his appointment to Silliman College.

Alumni offered their perspectives throughout the last few weeks:

One alum offered some perspective through this piece: “The Yale Student Protests Are Campus PC Wars At Their Best.”

This is another piece on the broader context of the protests by an alum. It is particularly powerful and going viral through the Yale alumni network that appears regularly in my facebook newsfeed (11/11/2015). The Yale Daily News also followed up with several members of the alumni to gather and present their reactions.

Also available on my Medium page.

What’s Going On At Yale? A Reading List.

What you should see: First and foremost, this is what the protest at Yale looked like. Language on their banners read: We are Loved. We are here to stay.

This is not the image of hostility and aggression portrayed by most of the media. One video clip of a student screaming at Professor Christakis went viral and, unfortunately, was used to set the tone for so many of the articles that came out covering the events on campus.

Updated on November 17: President Salovey addressed Yale and the alumni network with his response. He is increasing funding to all four cultural houses, improving training to talk about diversity for students and Yale’s staff (professors and administrators), improving financial aid for low income students, providing mental health providers through the cultural houses (to provide mental health professionals versed in more of the background their students are coming from), and investing further resources into programs like ethnicity, race and migration that offer academic opportunities outside the traditional “Canon.

The students marched to President Salovey’s house on November 12, 2015 and presented their list of demands at 11:50pm. This is the final list of their demands, as presented that evening.

BACKGROUND:

This was the email that students receive every year from the IAC regarding their approach to Halloween costumes.

This is the email about Halloween by Erika Christakis that sparked some of the initial conversations about communities on campus. I suggest reading the full copy, rather than the quotes pulled out of context for several publications online. As of November 18, 2015, the University has confirmed its support for Master Christakis in his appointment to Silliman College.

I kept asking students for a better sense of what was going on and was presented with this list of demands from the community at DOWN magazine (a Yale student publication) as it stands on November 11, 2015.

The order of events in the last week, as presented by a student.

This is the statement issued by the President of Yale Peter Salovey regarding their commitment to a “better Yale,” sent to students on November 6, 2015.

This was the statement sent by Dean of Yale College Jonathan Holloway on November 6, 2015.

This is another piece on the broader context of the protests by an alum. It is particularly powerful and going viral through the Yale alumni network that appears regularly in my facebook newsfeed (11/11/2015). The Yale Daily News also followed up with several members of the alumni to gather and present their reactions.

I keep hearing from students still on campus that they are afraid and that the organizers face regular threats. That campus no longer feels safe. Today (11/11/2015) the Yale Daily News published a story about racist signs that appeared on campus… apparently from non-students. It doesn’t describe the atmosphere in the same ways that students have described it to me, but we need to keep paying attention.

Maybe the hardest part is reading the headlines every morning. Some are reflective of what the students are saying and asking for… others are clickbait or trying to place the story in a quick context for what else is going on in the US around race relations. This means… the headlines are clunky at best.

For example, this Slate headline, “The Yale Student Protests Are Campus PC Wars At Their Best” is terrible and sounds like it’s going to be a frustrating read, but ends up giving some good perspective.

The Atlantic is being inconsistent (and sometimes needs to do better research before it writes about subjects outside of context). For example, we started with this from them: This article published Monday claims this is all a meltdown about a single email. They followed up with this article on Tuesday to add more context and adding that it was less about the specific email and more about the long overdue conversations about race, class and privilege that were missing on campus.

Those that read only the articles about the isolated email incident have taken to calling Yale students “children” and asking “where the adults are.” Several Yale alumni have published pieces about their own experiences at Yale and their concerns with speakers invited to campus, but their own “restraint” in interacting with these speakers… which again, doesn’t bring the larger context of race and class etc. on campus.

The authors from these particular articles need to read this older piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates and think about the experiences he describes so well here.

I will continue adding to this as I find decent sources.

Balancing Human and Activist

I have many thoughts about what is happening at Yale this week and how alumni can be supportive of students and the community… but I want to start with this Talk.

Roxane Gay’s message applies to all sorts of activism. Without space to be human, make mistakes, edit, fumble, and grow… how do we participate?

I also remember struggling with this so much when I was a student & activist in college. The balance… sometimes so difficult. Especially when it came to arguing for a cause and building out a community.

Song of the Twenty Something

Sometimes I think about my time in New York City and think about my life as a ribbon, like the ones from the elaborate May Day dances around May poles that I watched when I was little. My thread moves around and twists into a whole mix of different colors, sometimes weaving into and weaving out of the fabric created by the dancers.

While I lived in Manhattan, my life was woven into a steady stream of carefully planned dinners and drinks with friends who worked in Capital C for CORPORATE jobs. The timelines were clear, the hours ground them into the ground, the bonuses served as a metric for their success. Time was scarce, time to think freely and ask interesting questions at work… even more scarce. Projects they wouldn’t have dreamed of working on as undergrads were justified with just a handful of words. A tense sort of existence and interaction with time dominated our conversations… and it was hard to tell when we were doing a good/bad job taking care of ourselves.

I moved to Brooklyn in June and soon the colors I was weaving into were more forgiving. They asked questions and explored concepts that didn’t have answers yet. My friends had day jobs, and learned the most from what their did in their own time. The questions they explored over dinner tables and hours in the public library, were more in line with my own thinking and desire to explore.

With this opportunity to reflect and collect myself again, I cracked. Pausing long enough in the doorway one evening after I had fully moved in, I collapsed into the bones and flesh in my body, finally tacking stock of the two years of damage from living in Manhattan. My metrics and expectations for myself were fucked up. I had to come to terms with that. The joy I had derived from exploring new questions and developing tools for difficult academic explorations… were finally acceptable again. Not having an answer was ok. I was free to build, anew.

I started to weave my life back into a world of artists and academics and explorers. People whose day jobs explained far too little about who they were, what they thought about, and what they wanted to do with their time. I was at home, once more. ‘What do you do now?’ meant so little.

University was the last time I found this freedom. A space where my academic pursuits devoured 3/4 of the day, but the last 1/4 was for me to do as I chose… and I chose, frequently, to build things.

What I loved about the Liberal Arts program at Yale was that people had these small points of interactions with people who were completely different from them where we built teams and shared thoughtful critique to help each other improve. My natural science requirements brought me in touch with more of the pure science students than my life did normally and I learned as much from them as I did the students who were on a similar technical trajectory in my political science/sociology/latin american studies programs. It meant recognizing my stronger points and weaker points immediately, and asking for help or advice regularly.

Perhaps the best part was that we were pushed to create and innovate. To develop our own projects, learn the practical skill set of executing projects and seeing them through to the end, evaluating our own results, asking for constant feedback, building and changing teams, developing product concepts and testing them… everything that has been so useful to me post college. It was food for the mind and the senses…. and such a necessary contrast to constant work in abstraction and academia.

I think this “side hustle” in extracurricular work prepared me most for the work force. Well, maybe that and experiment design from my academic work. I learned to play by doing and I learned to think by working with my peers in seminars and team based coursework.

For me, the balance I found in college, among the builders and the thinkers, was what kept me sane. I needed to play in both spaces with time to evaluate. I lost that sense of balance in Manhattan, amid the high profile, high focus jobs and culture and regained it in the fluidity of Brooklyn.

It taught me, most importantly, that the concept of “home” is so much more about the people and the pulse of thinking that I wanted to surround myself with. And sometimes that pulse comes in much less obvious forms that I had accepted when I first moved to New York. I am thoroughly enjoying this new exploration process.

#ScholarFest

Last week I attended the ScholarFest at the Kluge Center in the Library of Congress.

Perhaps the best moment was being asked by the hostess if I would like to visit “the past, present or future?” and then, upon selecting the future, being led down a beautiful hallway in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library and settled into the beginning of a discussion about life on other planets.

The event initially came into my periphery when someone that I work with at TED sent a description of the event, highlighting their program for the “Lightening Conversations” and asked if I had time to go. I said, absolutely.

[Quick update: videos from Scholarfest are now on youtube. Here is the session cut for the Future]

First, what were the “Lightening Conversations?”

The first part of the ScholarFest program used scholars paired based on mutual research interests, tangentially related research interests, or directly opposing research interests.

Each pair was given 10 minutes to start a dialogue intersecting their research and/or engaging with each other’s work. Speakers were not directly introduced by the initial introduction to the event, instead weaving in a quick line or two about their work in the first few minutes of each session. There were five sessions in the first piece of the program and some time set aside for town hall style Q&A. The total program ran for an hour and 20 minutes before it transitioned into a new room with a new theme.

The structure of each pairing depended on what the two speakers decided they wanted to do. Participants were informed of their pairing and introduced to the other speaker the night before the panel. For some, it seemed they had found new collaborators and conspirators, even though their topics and opinions on various subjects varied so greatly. For others, the mix could be abrasive, but also ended quickly.

Some of the structures that evolved during these 10 minute Lightening Conversations:

  • each person introduced a few key points and themes from their research,

  • each person introduced their work and then asked their partner about their specific research work,

  • they started with a thematic question that applied to both of their areas of interest,

  • they presented a question directly to the other person

  • a science historian moderated/interviewed the scientist

  • the critiqued each other’s theories/work and had a lively discussion

  • they discussed and wove themselves from each other’s work into the same discussion

I was intrigued by the Lightening Conversation format for a few reasons. First, it seems like a great way to breathe life back into Academia. It was a wonderful treat for me, as a researcher, to watch experts in their fields have an open conversation and ask each other questions. It was a chance to see how their minds worked outside of purely academic contexts and formats. The informality and speed of the conversations meant that each person had to think on their toes.

Second, the interdisciplinary themes of the Future (and some of the other conversations, in particular Freedom of Speech) meant that these experts were asked to step outside of their fields of expertise and engage in new thought experiments. It made academia feel more human. Challenging. Like a continued experiment that the audience was invited to watch and engage with… not a typical experience when attending a university lecture. A lot of ground was covered quickly.

Finally, the audience was offered a wide range of perspectives before they were offered the opportunity to reengage with the entire cast of speakers from that session. Rather than pull from a single thread of opinions or thoughts, there was a tapestry of conversation to pull from and multiple experts could respond to our questions. This was nothing short of delightful. I felt very spoiled.

I would really like to see more of this take place at Yale (and others, but I can only speak from my experience). It brought rich life back into the research I’ve seen only in very long and dense academic texts. Looking forward to ScholarFest next year!

Dear Master Hudak

I learned a few weeks ago that the Master of Saybrook College at Yale (my residential college when I was a student) died on a Wednesday night. The news was passed along through a support group that my class in Saybrook had formed to coordinate sending him a gift from all of us while he was in his final days in the hospital.

The rumors on the internet had declared him “dead” as early as last week. We knew from his family that he was still hanging on until this week, but it was really interesting to see the communities that loved him outside of Yale (the Hacker community, programmers, computer science majors, etc.) talk about him.

He was so amazing that is was celebrated through the words of talented writers and students in the pages of the newspaper from the university that he loved dearly… and was one of the top 5 hits on a major hacker discussion board, because he played a major role in developing Haskell.

To me, Master Hudak was Saybrook’s father figure. For as long as I had known him, he was fighting cancer. When I would see him in the evenings he hosted Master’s teas or events for Seniors, like my Mellon Forum on Colombia Cartels, he always had a tired, but very warm smile.

I remember talking to him years earlier when I felt really lost in the economics department. My view of the world was so far from the discussion topics and theories we discussed in my econ classes… and they showed very very little interest in the markets and worlds I wanted to explore. He told me to follow my dreams and pointed me towards funding that allowed me to do my field work and research for all four years of college.

Later, he sat in the front row during my talk at the senior Mellon Forums and took it all in stride, knowing how much it had taken me to get to this point with my research. And that meant a lot.

He was clearly very proud of the community that he had built and supported within Saybrook — and rightly so, he was very much loved by all of us.

It takes me time to process this type of information. Usually, I hear it and feel nothing. And then, it seeps into me slowly and I feel it. While I was walking home yesterday, I felt it as a series of memories slowly replaying in my head. Snapshots of my freshman year through the senior dinner, when he came to support me when I was nominated for the Nakanishi Prize, and later when he handed me my diploma. By the time the cycle of images was done moving through my imagination… I felt it in a wave of overwhelming sadness.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the voice we leave behind when we write or produce art (or in Master Hudak’s case, an original coding language). One of my next longer entries will be about managing memories… and the filters our loved ones use to explain the person they loved and knew us to be (sometimes, these views of a person might be in conflict). I’ve been exploring this theme deeply in my own work and memories. Looking forward to sharing it with you. But for now, Rest in Peace, Master Hudak.

Yale Tech Conference: Yale Looks To Boost Entrepreneurial Community

Yesterday, Yale Tech kicked off its first New York City based conference. The first Yale Tech event was a sold out 200 person conference in San Francisco with attendees coming all the way from Shanghai for the event. Yesterday was another nearly sold out event with ~100 people. Not bad for a school known for investing heavily in arts and humanities… and struggling with some of its science programs/attracting students interested in the sciences. [I should add that Yale is making a concentrated effort to reach out to STEM students and improve its programs.]

The content throughout the day was very strong. The morning kicked off with speakers from Yale Entrepreneurial Institute and Yale’s Computer Science Department, urging alumni to be more involved with some of the great projects happening on campus. One of the speakers pointed out that students (and alumni, myself included) frequently complain that Yale does not offer many programs that focus on “real world applications.” I know, at least for me, this was an issue when I was working through proposal for my thesis and looking for faculty support/editors to advise my work.

What started with HackYale‘s efforts to improve access to hard skills for our student body is now happening on a larger university level (we hope). HackYale started in 2012 as an effort by students (Will Gaybrick YLS’12, Bay Gross YC’13 and Miles Grimshaw YC’13) to introduce a programming curriculum into Yale’s offerings. The students working in the program originally taught programming skills to their classmates for free, but as the program grew, Yale started to pay student teachers for their time. Yesterday at Yale Tech, Gaybrick was speaking on a panel about investing (he is now a partner at Thrive Capital) and he added that more students had signed up for HackYale in the first two weeks than had graduated from the Computer Science Department in several years. In 2015, Yale and it’s alumni have decided to step in and make further improvements.

Yale’s Computer Science Department is also underfunded and staffed compared to many of the other schools within our network. Luckily, the university is making some efforts to grow this department and offer more immediately applicable programming courses for students. Alumni support for this move appeared during the conference under #YaleTech.

The conference hosted a series of industry leaders, including Henry Blodget [CEO and Co-Founder of Business Insider], Jennifer Fleiss [CEO, Rent-The-Runway], Kevin Delaney [Editor-in-Chief, Quartz] and Eddie Hartman [Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer, LegalZoom]. I have to applaud the content and conference director, Victor Wong, for getting nearly 50/50 male to female speakers for the event. I know from my own work at TED and formerly at TEDxYale that this is hard to do. [For many reasons, as June Cohen explained at TEDGlobal 2013]. The speakers were all very candid and shared valuable insight from their respective industries. During the course of the day, we covered everything from data driven sizing recommendations for high end women’s fashion to war stories from investing and mergers and acquisitions.

It was good to see the conversations go beyond technology and programming into other fields, like journalism, legal support, and finance. I think the conference staff did a wonderful job presenting many different projects coming out of the Entrepreneurial Community at Yale, which is not an easy task. The audience was equally diverse — I spent time talking to alumni now working in local and city government, architects, engineers, developers, professors, digital designers, teachers, and writers. It is promising to see alumni from so many different backgrounds coming together to support Yale Tech’s efforts. Overall, the conference sends an important message to current students about other options out there beyond the jobs and recruiters that actively chase recent grads. The alumni encouraged students to be creative and look for new opportunities. As we all know, I think this is a really important message to share with students.

I’ll be following Yale Tech’s growth in NYC and abroad… can’t wait for more.