Re: Mizzou

1

I spent a while wondering how it was that college football players would be allowed to "strike", until I actually read the articles and saw that they were "striking" with the full support of the football coach, who also wanted the president gone.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 2:14 PM
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(Not to imply that they don't deserve kudos, it just made the situation a little more comprehensible.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 2:20 PM
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From the little background reading I've been able to do, it sounds like everyone wanted Wolfe gone by the time things kicked into high gear last month.

He must have taken Larry Summers' "piss off and alienate everyone" approach to university leadership as his model.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 2:24 PM
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Now that that's out of the way, can someone explain the ongoing fracas at New Haven Residential Inferiority Skool Yale?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 2:25 PM
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Keep your narrow, Ivy-League views out of the Big 12 thread.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 2:26 PM
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he is going to have egg on his face when he wakes up tomorrow with a surprisingly easy fix for systemic racism.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 2:34 PM
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4: As best I can tell without going down the rabbit hole of reading long article and things by awful people it went something like:

1. School administrator sends out email saying something (in a not particularly authoritarian way) like "Hey halloween is great! But let's all remember how blackface is not a good thing and try to use our best judgment about not being really, really openly racist in public."
2. Person in charge of social life/dorm stuff/something like that sends out response (campus wide) getting really huffy/objecting to this kind of interference with students and saying something about how testing boundaries is part of college and so on. (Was it as bad as "won't somebody think of the racists!?" Not quite there, but from someone involved in social life on campus it was way, way, waaaaaay too close.)
3. Students throw a really loud really angry fit. (From what I've seen of the response email I probably would have, at that age at least.) People demand her resignation, and someone gets really up in her face at a meeting.
4. The 'How Dare They Be Politically Correct' and/or 'Trigger Warnings Are A Sign Of Social Collapse' brigade get in on it in a really loud way.

My response to the last bit which is where it became big news was basically the same as the big fuss about trigger warnings a while ago, namely "Hm, I generally support the use of these kind of things but they probably do have a...no, no having read that they really don't and should be ashamed of themselves".


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 3:23 PM
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Oh - also the big blowup in (3) is something that has been brewing for a long time and this was the spark that set it off, not some free standing response. "Let's all respect the diversity of opinions on black people" in the context of a pretty fraught situation is kind of a hilarious misjudgment on the part of the administrator.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 3:27 PM
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Of course the Texan gives credit to the football players and not the grad student whose hunger strike kicked things off.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 4:00 PM
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Grad students are always starving.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 4:01 PM
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If somebody puts out food, they take it all if I don't hurry.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 4:18 PM
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4, 7: Right-wing talking point or not, part of growing up is dealing with opinions and ideas that make you uncomfortable. Also, the free exchange of ideas is not merely a fig leaf that assholes use to provide cover for asshole behavior, but actually a necessary tool for those who wish to advance ideas that afflict the privileged and upset the status quo.

Politics based on the primacy of hurt feelings are a complete dead end, because *everyone* has feelings, and even hedge-fund billionaires are capable of claiming that they are treated like Jews in Nazi Germany. While I understand the very valid point that minorities are called on to spend a disproportionate amount of energy explaining their issues to the more privileged, I'm extremely uncomfortable with the idea that racial issues transcend the realm of rational discourse, and that suggesting otherwise is a fireable offense.

This is basically left-wing cannibalism, because a lot of the issues here are ones on which reasonable people with left-wing politics can disagree, but there's a clear campus movement to turn them into black-and-white issues that provide the basis for purifying purges that eliminate those with bad ideas.

If the racial issues at Yale are so bad -- and I'm perfectly prepared to believe that the Ivy League home of "No means yes, yes means anal" is full of hideous assholes -- why are the calls to fire someone being directed at a liberal who made a free speech argument? That's the real enemy?


Posted by: Disingenuous Bastard | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 4:20 PM
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Stupid Ivy League crowds our state schools again.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 4:31 PM
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As long as there was no threat of punishment, I don't see what's so coercive and anti-free-speech about saying "remember! Don't dress up as a racist!"


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 4:39 PM
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Why do you hate the free exchange of ideas, heebie?

I think DB is referring to calls for the person who asked for people not to rush to judgment against racist costumes to resign/be fired, not to the original letter-writer. That does seem disproportionate, unless there's more to it.

AND JUST FOR MOBY: I'm surprised at the resignations at Missouri. Hopefully the replacements won't be dig in their heels dismantle higher ed as a noncommercial endeavor types.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 4:59 PM
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Is there a decent article on what actually happened at the University of Missouri (we're not close enough for me to call it "Mizzou")? The things I've read say "black students were mad" "football team and coaches were heroic" "President was corporate goon," all of which seems to be true, but I haven't seen any explanation as to just why this particular guy was so (apparently universally) hated or why students were so mad.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 5:15 PM
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The "but but free exchange of ideas!" nonsense gets trotted out every time a conservative culture war thing kicks off, especially if it lets you bitch about the young people these days and their not being cool with bigotry. But it's just standard bigoted 'how dare you not tolerate my intolerance' or 'as an administrator in a place of power I think we should try to respect all the viewpoints, like the one about how you don't belong here.'

I know that a lot of the people writing articles about this really really want to portray it as replacing thinking with people just demanding that their feelings not be hurt, but just like with the trigger warnings stuff that's really obviously not what's happening here. It's just another round of the "liberals are intolerant and hate the free discourse of ideas and demand to be protected from those views!" yelling that we got when, e.g., a bunch of people got mad about Condoleeza Rice being invited to deliver a speech at their commencement. There would need to be a hell of a lot more evidence than there is to think the students getting really mad are being unreasonable about being mad, or are being ridiculous when they act entitled to not have college administrators openly talking about the value of tolerating bigotry (in really patronizing ways) on a campus where they're faced with an uncomfortable amount of it.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 5:32 PM
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Its pretty cool that the football team basically took out the university president in a coup. They should install one of their own to fill the position until democracy can be restored.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 5:36 PM
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I think my dad did a semester at Mizzou. I can't remember exactly which school he went to in Missouri.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 5:44 PM
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If college students are going to kick up a fuss when administrators are patronizing, we are all in for a lot more stories like this.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 5:48 PM
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16: I can't find the link now but the overall picture I got from reading was

1) everyone hated Wolfe. Republican state senators who were alumni, liberals in the English department, the football program, the students...the guy must have a real talent for pissing people off. Back in January people were predicting that he wouldn't last through the end of the year.

2) the narrative "the football players threatened to boycott the games and the grinch's coach's heart grew 3 sizes that day and he rallied in support", while inspiring, is probably not true. More likely, the coaches wanted Wolfe gone like everybody else and figured that this was a handy way to do it and win brownie points at the same time.

3) I was puzzled at first because it seemed like Wolfe's response to the racist provocations was no worse than the usual mouthing of empty platitudes that's standard for administrators. It looks like his response was worse. I read some snippets from one of his speeches in response to the initial incidents and (I can't find the quote) there was a bit where the upshot was clearly "You people wouldn't be having these problems if you didn't have such a chip on your shoulder." Compared with his actual response, mouthing empty platitudes would have been a substantial improvement.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 5:48 PM
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If you run a university, you need to give 110% to your empty platitudes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 5:52 PM
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Saying "you all probably should avoid blackface" seems totally reasonable to me.

Responding "why don't we trust our young people to make their own hideously insensitive mistakes?" is pretty tone deaf and ill-advised, but not completely terrible. I can see an argument there, even if it's not the one she put forth.

Responding to the response with "Let's fire her" seems disproportionate. I can also see the argument here, but it seems pretty forced.

All three things clearly fall within the realm of things that free speech allows you to do. I found none of them to be beyond the pale, but the second and third seem like needless escalation, but I guess that's what academia is for.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 6:08 PM
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that's really obviously not what's happening here. It's just another round of the "liberals are intolerant and hate the free discourse of ideas and demand to be protected from those views!" yelling

Uh huh, sure, that's super-duper really obvious and every differing viewpoint clearly belongs to a conservative douchebag, no doubt about it. Certainly no one teaching on a college campus would ever put some sort of special value on challenging students, no sir, that's just code for "racism is wonderful!" And certainly simple issues like "is blackface OK?" would never ever expand into grayer areas where reasonable people disagree, no way, these issues clearly divide the world into good people and bad people and only the bad people try to muddy the waters.


Posted by: Disingenuous Bastard | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 6:10 PM
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Right-wing talking point or not, part of growing up is dealing with opinions and ideas that make you uncomfortable.

This is always a tense rhetorical ploy: the speaker poses as an unsympathetic adult speaking to adolescents, demanding emotional labor ("growing up") and offering none, beyond magnanimously giving a shit about the state of human souls and their society. The speaker is done growing up; the speaker has learned to deal with opinions and ideas that make them uncomfortable. I don't know what way there is to make this point as one peer speaking to another.

(You guys can infer all kinds of shit about my political beliefs from the rhetoric I'm using here, but in fact I am broadly sympathetic to the "left has gone crazy" arguments, even if chris y decided I was objectively pro-censorship because I thought Meryl Streep's shirt was idiotic. I kind of think there's no goddamned way out of the rhetorical minefield, and the way everyone has to overcorrect their speech so as not to give comfort to the enemy doesn't help.)


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 6:12 PM
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I thought what happened at Missouri was that they would lose $1 million if the BYU game had to be cancelled. Racism, free speech, etc. are all very well and good; real money made it something Important.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 6:23 PM
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23 seems reasonable and to basically get it right.

I wish when these things came up that there was more focus on teaching students how to reasonably and effectively call out other students (or teachers) who are being assholes, without themselves sounding like way overreaching whiners. This is often what the real problem is. Saying "you need to grow up and learn that not everyone shares your views!" isn't very helpful if you're not actually teaching people how to present their positions in reasonable and effective ways. Basically I feel like campus politics were always just as stupid, but that campus leaders used to be more rhetorically skilled at actually doing politics.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 6:33 PM
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27 was to the Yale thing, not the University of Mizzou thing, where the politics seem to have been very effective indeed.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 6:34 PM
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Responding to the response with "Let's fire her" seems disproportionate.

That may be a little unfair to the students' tactical sense. The obvious lesson of years of Internet-abetted Jacobean revenge plotting is that a protest has to demand a firing: requesting an apology, a denunciation, an investigation, a committee, divestment, etc., etc., isn't going to get a response (locally) or reaction (abroad) comparable to threatening somebody's job.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 6:49 PM
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Note: I'm pretty sure that at Yale they don't want Christakis (and her husband, who was the one getting yelled at) to be house masters anymore; I'm not aware that activists want them thrown out of the university.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 7:03 PM
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To be clear, nobody as far as I know is calling for the Yale woman to be fired from her professorship. They're calling for her to be fired from her job as "Assistant Master" (i.e. housemother/glorified RA as far as I can tell).

Given that pretty much the exact description of the latter role is to look out for your students' well-being, it seems pretty reasonable to say that she's no longer doing that effectively.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 7:03 PM
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Ass. Master.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 7:15 PM
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Now you've done it, Witt. I hope you're happy.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 7:16 PM
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34

23: Yeah but her statement was a lot rougher than that, as was the bit her husband added (though 30/31 are exactly right - they're calling for them to be fired from a particular position which, it's pretty clear, they shouldn't be in). I mean, this was in response to a pretty anodyne "let's all keep in mind that blackface is probably better avoided" type of email:

Even if we could agree on how to avoid offense - and I'll note that no one around campus seems overly concerned about the offense taken by religiously conservative folks to skin-revealing costumes - I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: 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. And the censure and prohibition come from above, not from yourselves! Are we all okay with this transfer of power? Have we lost faith in young people's capacity - in your capacity - to exercise self-censure, through social norming, and also in your capacity to ignore or reject things that trouble you? We tend to view this shift from individual to institutional agency as a tradeoff between libertarian vs. liberal values ("liberal" in the American, not European sense of the word).

And then she quoted her husband on the issue:
Nicholas says, if you don't like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.
That's really, really not a good response to an email about not wearing blackface on halloween. And when it's in the context of a school where a lot of minority students already feel subjected to some sketchy racist shit and that their complaints aren't being taken seriously something like: and shouldn't this be a safe space "for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience" is pretty horrifically tone deaf, at absolute best.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 7:17 PM
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Oh, I hadn't been paying that close attention. That seems reasonable, actually.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 7:20 PM
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I'm having trouble seeing anyone at all in my Facebook feed who is EVER supportive of any of these leftist campus activists in the trigger-warning controversies or the "Disinvite this speaker" controversies or the "Don't show this movie" controversies. And most of my friends from college (Pitt) were, in fact, leftist campus activists, on issues like sweatshops, labor rights, Amnesty International, vegetarian meals in the cafeterias, anti-war, etc and are similarly unanimous in favor of the Missouri football team, the Ferguson protests, the Baltimore protests, the fast-food minimum-wage battles, etc.

Is activism on elite campuses, where students generally have no real issues in their lives to worry about, getting more and more divorced from the vaguely useful activism at places like Pitt? Or is the stuff we see in the media being spread by conservative interests who want to make their enemies look as ridiculous as possible, like the anti-lawsuit industry ("Hot Coffee", that guy who sued his dry cleaner for $10,000,000,000)?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 7:21 PM
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Honestly, I hadn't read the email linked in 34 yet. I don't agree with it 100%, but it was way, way less offensive than I expected -- in fact, it's not offensive at all. At absolute worst it's slightly ton deaf, but it's not even extreme in that context. It seems totally reasonable and not crazily put -- especially if, as I assume is the case, these house advisors or whatever they are engage in similar kinds of weird musings about issues with the students in their "houses." Absent some evidence of other bad behavior, I don't think that a call from resignation as a "housemother" or whatever is remotely appropriate, and that video of the students telling the husband to "shut the fuck up" is ridiculous. I'm now on team this is ridiculous bullshit from spoiled kids.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 7:37 PM
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My impression (re:36.2) is that it's very much the latter, and that that's why it often seems plausible that the students are being ridiculous (until you dig into what actually happened/remember what "trigger warning" actually means/etc.). There's a strong market for "students these days need to shut up and they're all weenies and stupid liberals (etc.)" and a bunch of people really dedicated to serving that market in the most questionably honest and generally patronizing way, and they're usually fast enough on the draw and well read enough that they manage to characterize the events pretty substantially by the time it all becomes public news.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 7:40 PM
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Here's a link with background data on what all been's happening at UM:

http://www.themaneater.com/special-sections/mu-fall-2015/


Posted by: delagar | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 7:41 PM
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I mean if you can't handle even the possibility that you could have an earnest discussion about transgression, appropriation, and the appropriate response in connection with Halloween costumes without calling for someone to lose their job, then you probably shouldn't be in college at all. I dunno, maybe the couple had done some other, affirmatively bad stuff, but on the basis of the email alone a call for a resignation, or even censure, is a fucking joke.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 7:41 PM
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41

LEMME TELL YOU SOMETHING ABOUT MISSOURI...


Posted by: OPINIONATED LAWRENCE KANSAS | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 7:53 PM
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42

Seriously?

Look when a house master objects to an administrator saying that people should really think about not putting on black face as a halloween costume with "if you don't like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended" that is not some abstract position on the field of rational inquiry.

Is there a debate to be had about that kind of stuff? Sure! Is saying that students should just suck it up and if they're offended that's their problem part of doing that? No, it really very much is not.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 7:55 PM
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Eh, just give everybody baseball bats and let 'em sort it out themselves.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 7:57 PM
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44

Baseball bats are not mentioned in the Constitution. Ask yourself this: what would Aaron Burr do?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 8:00 PM
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45

The whole email in the link in 34 is an exercise in not even bothering to try to get it. It also sounds like a bunch of kids whined to her about the first email and rather than letting that become a debate among disagreeing students, she took a clear side. So the other students see where they stand.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 8:01 PM
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That's a willful cherry picking and misreading of the email, which is mostly a musing on whether or not ignore and look away or use peer pressure is an appropriate response to an arguably offensive student costume like dressing up like Mulan.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 8:02 PM
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I have a doorstop-thick bio of Hamilton right beside me, but there's no way I'm going to get to the end and find out.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 8:02 PM
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(Which, by the way, reminds me to ask: where are all the people in tricorner hats? Who thinks the indignities visited on these kids are somehow so different in degree from the insult visited on our former Vice President that his remedies are off the table?)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 8:03 PM
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I would think the parents paying primo dollare for their offspring to access the express on ramp to global ruling elite would be clamoring for this RA to be canned, as probably the most effective way to retaliate against a *yale* *college* *student* (so smart! so elite! so over eighteen!) who thinks it would be really swift to sport blackface for halloween would be to take lots and lots and lots of nice clear pictures. And then wait.

Presumably the parents footing the bill are looking for slightly more in the ball babysitting.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 8:04 PM
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46 to 42. I haven't read anything more, so, to 45, maybe she's said something worse since but if the controversy is about that email it is dumb dumb dumb.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 8:04 PM
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on the ball!


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 8:07 PM
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42: the debate about appropriation and Halloween costumes doesn't begin and end with black face.

A straight-up debate about black face is fairly simple. Surely the energy being directed at Christakis could be very effectively brought upon people wearing black face and supporting the wearing of black face, with much more popular support. I wonder why we're having this meta-debate about the Christakis email instead? A Koch brothers conspiracy to make the left look bad, perhaps?


Posted by: Disingenuous Bastard | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 8:08 PM
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45 is right, I think. The reaction is because absolutely some students were annoyed at the email the Dean wrote politely suggesting that maybe dressing up in black face or whatever would be a bad idea and whined about it to these people. And in that context they are absolutely, openly taking a side (and very very much the wrong one to boot).


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 8:23 PM
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And, I mean, if the bit quoted in 42 is cherrypicking then here's the full bit from Nicholas Christakis: if you don't like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.

Does that somehow make it better? That's still very, very much a "if you're offended by something racist then maybe you should consider not being offended, anyway you're on your own" statement. Responding to "guys please don't wear black face" with "Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society." is not even remotely close to a pretense of innocence or standing-on-principle.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 8:25 PM
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This is an analogy and therefore banned but if an all campus email went out saying "don't use racial epithets" and you responded with "but what about free speech, isn't this just virtue signalling, let's have a debate about the issues"* everyone would think you were a dickhead and probably a racist and I think this is basically the same kind of reaction.

Also I think that more academics should be worried about losing their jobs for providing cover for racism because in reality many academics do in fact cover for racism because it's easier than confronting it and the odd job loss would be salutary.

* virtue signalling is like the posh version of SJW as far as I can tell.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 8:27 PM
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or tell them you are offended

That's a pretty broad option that would seem to include saying "Fuck Off, sexy racist" or whatever.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 8:31 PM
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Assuming Halloween traditions are otherwise respected.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 8:37 PM
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Penny for the Catholic effigy?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 8:41 PM
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Assuming it's "Sexy racist" not just "Racist".


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 8:44 PM
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Yeah, I don't see the problem with his statement. Clearly the best courses of action if you are offended by someone else's behavior in a civilized, rational society are to a) get over it or b) tell them you are offended. What third option are you promoting?


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 8:45 PM
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Wouldn't that be funny if Marianne Faithfull had a dog named "Ruslan"?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 8:48 PM
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Penny for the Sexy Romish Terrorist?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 8:48 PM
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55.1 -> 60.

He isn't giving general life advice. He's responding to someone else saying that it's bad to wear really racist halloween costumes. And he's doing it as someone whose job involves managing the social group where these interactions are happening. Context matters!


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 9:15 PM
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He's responding to someone else saying that it's bad to wear really racist halloween costumes

There was absolutely nothing wrong with the original mass email that was sent out, but it's interesting that you boil it down to simply saying "it's bad to wear really racist halloween costumes." Did the email suggest that it was OK to wear *moderately* racist halloween costumes? Or do you just feel a little less comfortable defending that position?

Should the university send out a mass email next year telling people to think twice before sending out emails invoking free speech anywhere in the proximity of racial and cultural issues?


Posted by: Disingenuous Bastard | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 9:30 PM
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I'd like yale to refrain from issuing any advice or warnings to better facilitate the untutored impulses, and documentation thereof, of those striving to be our future overlords.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 9:35 PM
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Part of living in a civilised, rational society is that you get to (or at least should get to) outsource norm-policing to other people and not have to do it all yourself, particularly if you're a vulnerable minority group.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 11- 9-15 9:40 PM
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Hang on: the athletes got someone sacked? The players of US college sports, many of whom are rumoured to be literate, get to decide university policy? I'm on team Tigre here. To call college football players "members of a vulnerable minority group" is surely to misidentify their role within the college, whatever their circumstances outside it may be.

Besides, was the original offence minstrel blackface, or dressing up as a Disney character? If the latter, it's surely absurd to penalise something so mainstream.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:41 AM
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Ah. Looking at teh NYT I seem to have got two stories confused. There was nothing about blackface in their stories. That maybe happened somewhere else. The Missouri guy seems to have been sacked for getting up everyone's noses.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 3:12 AM
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Ah. Looking at teh NYT I seem to have got two stories confused. There was nothing about blackface in their stories. That maybe happened somewhere else. The Missouri guy seems to have been sacked for getting up everyone's noses.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 3:16 AM
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I think the answer is for Halloween costumes to be banned for anyone over the age of 12.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 4:33 AM
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71

Someone on the ground at Mizzou has been saying for a while that things are fucked. Health insurance for graduate instructors was recently revoked, which has been devastating to my acquaintance, who has a debilitating disorder managed by expensive medication she can no longer afford.

As for Yale, while I totally agree that students shrieking about firings smacks of the kind of tantrum one might throw in Hermès, I'm guessing this is not the first interaction they've had with this couple. I'm remembering an administrator at a previous job who got this shrieking "FIRE HER" treatment over an email calling for fairness and listening and respectfulness on all sides because it was in response to a huge spike in rape on campus. The tactics of many of the students might look hysterical or self-indulgent from The Atlantic's perspective, but it feels different to be inside a small residential college community where everyone you know has a story about someone getting drugged and violently raped by someone who sat next to her in class and smiled for the rest of the semester. When authority figures tell you to settle down and be reasonable and fair to rapist and rapee alike, or to racist and racee, it's gaslighting, and gaslighting makes people hysterical.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 5:24 AM
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70 gets it exactly right. Fancy dress for most adults seems to be an invitation to say "My secret bad taste and poor social judgment, let me show it to you."


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 5:39 AM
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58, 62. Catholics really need to get over Guy Fawkes. The man was a member of a terrorist cell which was attempting to wipe out the entire executive and legislature of their country. If they had succeeded it would have been right up there with the WTC in the annals of political atrocities. I have nothing against Muslims, but if somebody wants to take the piss out of Usama bin Ladin, that's OK by me and it would be OK by most Muslims, at least that I know.

More intelligent Catholics like Henry Garnet realised at the time that the Gunpowder Plot was a terrible idea that would set back their cause for centuries. And it did. And it caught decent men like Garnet in its web. So fuck Guy Fawkes, fuck Robert Catesby, and all the rest.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 5:48 AM
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Regarding the Yale incident, my take is,

1) The president's email was totally unobjectionable. Given how often blackface stories turn up on campuses (and how much of a douchebag I'm prepared to believe, based on pure prejudice, the median Yale student probably is), it was completely reasonable to say "We don't want another embarrassing newspaper story written about us this year, so please just knock that shit off already."

2) The RA's (or whatever she is) email was pretty poor. I think that the ritual temper tantrum over Halloween (Oh no! Someone's wearing a sexy costume! Oh no! Horror movies are violent!) that's become an annual event in some corners of progressiveland is tiresome. Maybe there's an interesting piece to be written about that, but the email wasn't it.

3) The students were justified in complaining, but I do hope that the girl in the video gets the professional help that she clearly needs. Having and epic shrieking meltdown was...excessive. I know we're never supposed to mention class in situations like this, but please, this is a fucking Yale student, not exactly one of the wretched of the earth.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 5:48 AM
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Certainly there are parallels between how commemoration of Guy Fawkes' terrorism was used as a rallying point for anti-Catholic persecution, and how post-9/11 Never Forgetism that is used for stoking the fire of Islamophobia. Or there would be, in analogies were not banned.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 6:11 AM
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this is a fucking Yale student, not exactly one of the wretched of the earth.

THAT'S ARGUABLE.


Posted by: OPINIONATED HARVARD | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 6:13 AM
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Obviously yes, in fact the best response to someone wearing a racially insensitive costume is to tell them they're offended and then deliver the cut direct. Going to that as your direct response to a politely worded and anodyne request that people not wear racially insensitive costumes that explicitly mentions blackface is blisteringly stupid to the extent that I assume some of you are being, as they say, disingenuous bastards. We can all sit around the faculty club smoking our pipes and talking about the fascinating history of minstrel shows, but I think the impulse to immediately complicate the request (not threat; there were no consequences being bandied about other than the implication that you would look like an asshole) that a bunch of college students think twice about their clever Ben Carson or Sexy Pocohantas outfits is pretty damning in a glorified RA.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 6:14 AM
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If I had told someone in my freshman dorm that he was a sodomite and going to burn in the fire eternal, I would have hoped that my RA told me to keep it to myself rather than use it as the opportunity to launch a gassy inquiry into Roger Williams and the history of religious tolerance in the New England colonies.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 6:16 AM
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||

NMM2 Allen Toussaint

|>


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 6:52 AM
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re: 79

Oh, no!


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 7:23 AM
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"Sexy Pocahontas" is a bit problematic, considering that the poor girl was very young when Whitey showed up to ruin everything and kill everybody.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 7:23 AM
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"Sexy Dean of Students"?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 7:34 AM
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Sexy Facilitator for Sexual Harassment Training.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 7:35 AM
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"Sexy Dean of Students (who happens to be African American)" is well out of line.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 7:43 AM
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Is anything sexier than university administration? Sure, maybe Sexy Internet Commenter, but let's try to be realistic.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 7:58 AM
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I'm with 74(1) and (2) (not 3, because critiquing how excited someone looks in a video without a really complete understanding of all the context, both personal and in the larger situation, seems pointless to me), and with 77.

Really, I can look at someone who's said or done something unambiguously racist, and think that in context of their knowledge or upbringing or whatever, while that doesn't make it not racist, there might be reasons why a harsh reaction was over the top. But someone whose thoughtful reaction to an email encouraging college students not to be thoughtlessly racist is "Wait, aren't we stifling free speech?" is enough of a mess on these issues that they shouldn't be in a position where they're speaking for anyone but themselves.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:09 AM
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80: Didn't get to finish?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:11 AM
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I assume that part of the job of "house master" or whatever these faculty are is to spark gassy undergrad-level conversations on "issues" as part of some make-Yale-more-like-Oxford plan. If the ONLY similar email this person sent out was on this topic, it's weirder and maybe speaks to some broader issue. But, it's just not an email that's offensive. It's just not. It might be something that's slightly pompous and one could disagree with (and I do) but it's not even knocking on the door of the entrance way to the hallway of things that are legitimate on their own to protest about, unless your view is that college students should be insulated from all but the one true position on Halloween costumes. I do think people have lost their minds on this one.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:18 AM
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re: 85

Sexy Librarian.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:21 AM
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The players of US college sports, many of whom are rumoured to be literate, get to decide university policy? I'm on team Tigre here. To call college football players "members of a vulnerable minority group" is surely to misidentify their role within the college, whatever their circumstances outside it may be.

I think you're confusing the two events at the two colleges. Also, African-Americans are a vulnerable minority group.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:24 AM
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But, it's just not an email that's offensive. It's just not.

"Offensive" maybe has the wrong connotations, but the email is freakishly wrongheaded. Someone who responds to a suggestion from the administration of a college that the students should not wear racist Halloween costumes by burbling vaguely on about how the administration shouldn't have done that because 'free speech', and the importance of transgression, and all that, is an idiot who is doing a terrible job of being a public face of Yale.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:25 AM
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How did this get public anyway?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:29 AM
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I, personally, am the height of discernment and discretion when I send an email, but it's pretty obvious that sending an idiotic email isn't exactly uncommon at universities.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:32 AM
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It was sort of innately public, in that she sent it out to a dorm-wide mailing list: a couple of hundred people.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:34 AM
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(But yeah, if it had been sent to an individual, I would still have thought it was wrongheaded, but not anything to take action over. The nature of it as something sent out to a broad audience from a person in an official position is what seems to me to indicate that she's not good at being in that kind of official position.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:36 AM
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Slate thinks the Yale protests are "Campus PC wars at their best."

I think I have to recuse myself from the discussion as it tends toward the question of whether the college master and his wife created the proper domestic environment for students, because I get nauseated by words like "home," "community," "family," "safe," etc., etc. I am sure this has nothing to do with my childhood.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:39 AM
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91 is right. "But what about free speech!" is a thing with the Christakises.

Is a satirical flyer distributed a few days ago at Harvard with joking references to anti-semitism, "coloreds," and sexual assault worth defending? We think so.

Maybe they're right on the merits, but it does seem that they're particularly ill-suited to be house masters. If a minority student comes to you because she's been offended and you want to turn the conversation into a teaching moment about free speech, that's the opposite of being supportive. Whatever you think of the "shrieking" woman, this is precisely the point she made, and she's right.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:44 AM
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A couple hundred people is a lot, but it's not exactly "public face" territory if they were all internal.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:44 AM
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Does anyone have a copy of the original email sent out by the Yale administration?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:46 AM
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Probably everybody at Yale.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:46 AM
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the original email sent out by the Yale administration?

Here.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:50 AM
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re: idiotic university emails

We are releasing a sekrit thing, later today, and the emails rattling back and forth about an obscure punctuation change in a piece of metadata has been ...


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:51 AM
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Here you go:

Dear Yale students,

The end of October is quickly approaching, and along with the falling leaves and cooler nights come the Halloween celebrations on our campus and in our community. These celebrations provide opportunities for students to socialize as well as make positive contributions to our community and the New Haven community as a whole. Some upcoming events include

• Haunted Hall Crawl & Costume Ball at Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History

• Grove Street Cemetery Tours, Grove Street Cemetery, New Haven

• YSO's Halloween Show, Woolsey Hall

However, Halloween is also unfortunately a time when the normal thoughtfulness and sensitivity of most Yale students can sometimes be forgotten and some poor decisions can be made including wearing feathered headdresses, turbans, wearing 'war paint' or modifying skin tone or wearing blackface or redface. These same issues and examples of cultural appropriation and/or misrepresentation are increasingly surfacing with representations of Asians and Latinos.

Yale is a community that values free expression as well as inclusivity. And while students, undergraduate and graduate, definitely have a right to express themselves, we would hope that people would actively avoid those circumstances that threaten our sense of community or disrespects, alienates or ridicules segments of our population based on race, nationality, religious belief or gender expression.

The culturally unaware or insensitive choices made by some members of our community in the past, have not just been directed toward a cultural group, but have impacted religious beliefs, Native American/Indigenous people, Socio-economic strata, Asians, Hispanic/Latino, Women, Muslims, etc. In many cases the student wearing the costume has not intended to offend, but their actions or lack of forethought have sent a far greater message than any apology could after the fact...

There is growing national concern on campuses everywhere about these issues, and we encourage Yale students to take the time to consider their costumes and the impact it may have. So, if you are planning to dress-up for Halloween, or will be attending any social gatherings planned for the weekend, please ask yourself these questions before deciding upon your costume choice:

• Wearing a funny costume? Is the humor based on "making fun" of real people, human traits or cultures?

• Wearing a historical costume? If this costume is meant to be historical, does it further misinformation or historical and cultural inaccuracies?

• Wearing a 'cultural' costume? Does this costume reduce cultural differences to jokes or stereotypes?

• Wearing a 'religious' costume? Does this costume mock or belittle someone's deeply held faith tradition?

• Could someone take offense with your costume and why?

Here is a great resource for costume ideas organized by our own Community & Consent Educators (CCEs) https://www.pinterest.com/yalecces/

We are one Yale, and the actions of one affect us all..., so in whatever fashion you choose to participate in Halloween activities, we encourage everyone to be safe and thoughtful during your celebration.

Sincerely,

The Intercultural Affairs Committee-


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:51 AM
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99: Here. I think we can all see that writing [i]n many cases the student wearing the costume has not intended to offend, but their actions or lack of forethought have sent a far greater message than any apology could after the fact is clearly the first steps towards the re-education camps that we all knew were coming; who would have thought that it was Elis who would lead us there?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:52 AM
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Everybody but me knows people who applied themselves in high school.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:53 AM
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Does this costume mock or belittle someone's deeply held faith tradition?

I guess the "deeply held" is there so that kids can still dress up as Unitarians.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:56 AM
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(If Vox has a virtue, they're reliably the place to go for links to the background on whatever the latest internet flap is.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:56 AM
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Maybe they were in fact bad house supervisors or whatever and unsupportive of students. That would be a legitimate reason to not be a house master, I guess, if being supportive of students is part of the job. But whether they are or not is not even a little bit evident from the face of the email, which was not (apparently) sent in response to any actual claim of not being supported and was (apparently) part of trying to ise the position to muse on broader issues, etc.

Also, the rhetoric is just way out of control. It's not a "freakishly wrongheaded" response, at worst it's an unnecessary one. This really does look like the manifestation of bullshit Twitter freak-out activism in real life, and it's ultimately discrediting to actual activism. I mean, fuck Yale. The University of Missouri kids apparently had a legit grievance against their administration for a host of reasons and effectively mobilized action. That we're even talking about that in the same thread as people who get freaked out by arguably excessively abstract email about Halloween costumes is ridiculous.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:57 AM
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Very late to this because I sometimes so do not give a fart about Yale undergrads, but as some have pointed out, the college master is supposed to be the friendly sort of in-loco-parentis who can be the advocate for the student if necessary. E.g., if a student were acting depressed in class, and the TA noticed, she'd contact the master of the college and ask him/her to look in on the student and make sure everything was okay/help the student get help/etc. Not launch into a debate on the social construction of mental illness! So the role is more of confidant/protector than facilitator of classroom and academic discussions.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:58 AM
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I'm always nervous when I agree with Halford, but he's right.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:59 AM
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Ok, now I think I'm on the side of the Ass Master that bristled in response to this email. There is almost no possible Halloween costume that could run through all the tests laid out in 103 and pass. The email might as well just say: "Thinking of wearing a costume this Halloween? BAD IDEA."


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 8:59 AM
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Oh, don't be silly. It's not "Don't wear a costume" it's "Think about whether it's going to be offensive, here's a checklist of things to think about."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:02 AM
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I'm so old I can remember when the main job of the House Master was to host dorm parties for undergraduates featuring grain alcohol punch, so no one had to worry about being carded, or stagger home more than a few hundred feet.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:04 AM
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OK, the email in 103 really does read like every conservative's stereotype of a humorless PC commissar. I still think that reading between the lines, the real message was "Please don't pull some racist shit that ends up featured in the New York Times".


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:05 AM
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OK, the email in 103 really does read like every conservative's stereotype of a humorless PC commissar.

Wait, really? Like, human beings in this thread actually think there's something wrong with the original email? (I wasn't counting urple, because I never know when he's kidding.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:06 AM
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If this costume is meant to be historical, does it further misinformation or historical and cultural inaccuracies?

I still say that if you put some thought into it "Sexy Holocaust Denier" would work just fine.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:07 AM
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Academic Lurker -- is the problem sending out an email saying "please don't wear an offensive Halloween costume, although you definitely have a right to express yourself" at all? Or is there something specific about it that seems problematic?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:10 AM
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Like, human beings in this thread actually think there's something wrong with the original email?

Not really wrong in spirit. More like wrong in the sense that the writers sound like insufferable prigs who you want to punch in the face even if they have a point.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:11 AM
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115: I am honestly incapable of not mocking that email. I think 18-year-old me would have been worse, but he didn't even have an email.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:12 AM
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Oh, jesus christ, if that's the only problem, can I point out that it's an email from the administration of an Ivy League college, and if you're expecting them not to sound facepunchably priggish I don't know where you built up that expectation. There is no way to tell people not to be assholes that doesn't make you sound like a prig, but that's not a reason not to tell people not to be assholes if it needs to be said.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:12 AM
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Trying to tell kids how to behave like civilized adults, you don't get to be cool all the time.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:13 AM
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110: I'm always nervous when I disagree with you, but I think you're probably wrong here (I don't really know what you're arguing, so it's hard to say). Regardless, halford is certainly not right. He's ignorant of the facts and wrong on the merits. But at least he's committed enough to his position that the performance art is worth the price of admission! It's still free to come here, right?


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:14 AM
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120,121: I don't know, maybe I'm wrong here, but I do think there is probably a less priggish way to say "don't be a racist dick" than the email in 103.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:15 AM
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On second thought, 116 makes me think you're right about everything. Phew!


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:16 AM
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Less priggish, probably, anything can be improved. But priggishness, in that context, is a seriously, but seriously, venial sin. Some priggishness is baked into the situation, and someone determined to be an asshole is going to perceive any admonishment as priggish.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:17 AM
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Not really wrong in spirit. More like wrong in the sense that the writers sound like insufferable prigs who you want to punch in the face even if they have a point.

Hate them for their priggishness, then. Nobody's stopping you. As long as you don't actually punch anyone in the face, you're in the clear.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:18 AM
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I think maybe if they had a few more signatories on the email, it would have been better.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:19 AM
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Hey, VW, do you want to explain yourself a bit more, because you are truly verging on "go fuck yourself" territory for me here.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:19 AM
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But priggishness, in that context, is a seriously, but seriously, venial sin.

I agree, but wouldn't that apply to both the first email and the Ass Master's reply?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:22 AM
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As long as you don't actually punch anyone in the face, you're in the clear.

What if punching administrators in the face is an essential part of my self expression? Why do hate free expression VW?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:23 AM
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In any case, the priggishness of the first email doesn't in any way justify the badness of the response.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:26 AM
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I applaud the juggling between "why even have Halloween at all if some knob in the administration building wants us to consider whether our costumes are offensive?" and "people who got mad about the Ass. Master's response are humorless whiners who need to stop freaking out at every little thing".


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:26 AM
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When I talk to my students about this stuff, I do actually tell them "Look, don't be an asshole," but I'm sure at least some of them take me to be a priggish, humorless feminist, ultra-PC type anyway. They might not be wrong.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:26 AM
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Any other white dudes on this thread read this Atrios post? I dug it!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:27 AM
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I'd like to thank Moby for 32, which is at least one nice thing from this.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:27 AM
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I'm with MHPH and A. Lurker in 74 et al.

Silly sanctimony is, with luck, a stage that kids pass through and I'm not inclined to be too hard on the ones who complained about the original e-mail, or anybody who got theatrically overwrought about Erika Christakis' response.

But Christakis is a grownup and ought to know better than this:

And this year, we seem afraid that college students are unable to decide how to dress themselves on Halloween.

Well, no. The original note offered an opinion that it's a bad idea to wear a costume including "feathered headdresses, turbans, wearing 'war paint' or modifying skin tone or wearing blackface or redface."

Common sense, no?

Christakis characterizes the original memo as an "exercise of implied control over college students." Even if we're going to stipulate that The Intercultural Affairs Committee is a feared Big Brotherish organization - such that its suggestions actually constitute threats and commands dressed up as advice - what are they commanding the students to avoid that, in fact, shouldn't be avoided?

Nicholas says, if you don't like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.

Don't fret about being offensive, Christakis advises. Anyone who takes offense ought just look the other way - or say something. But Christakis doesn't explain why The Intercultural Affairs Committee ought not say something. Probably something about "implied control."

Buck up, you politically incorrect Yalies! The committee is just engaging in free speech, and if you don't like it, maybe you should consider looking the other way!


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:30 AM
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133: Sure. I suppose I'm just saying that "incorrigible assholes will interpret any admonishment to not be an incorrigible asshole as priggish" doesn't naturally or necessarily lead to the conclusion "therefore aim for maximum priggishness at all times".

As I said, I think the actual "please don't be a jerk" message of the email is fairly clear, despite the unfortunate fact the university administrators are constitutionally incapable of expressing themselves in a way that doesn't make you want to punch them in the face.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:31 AM
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Man, reading this thread it's truly a mystery to me why we don't have more people of color commenting here.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:34 AM
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What is it with the Yale people and their stupid long email missives? Are academics really that incapable of tersely delivering a focused message?


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:35 AM
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Setting aside what institutional reaction may be appropriate, I read the reply email as pure concern trolling, if moderately well-disguised, and nothing like an abstract or nuanced meditation on issues. "Oh my stars, where do we draw the line? It's so confusing!"


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:36 AM
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Right. I thnk there's pompous emailing across the board by Yale academic administrators, and of course that's fine to criticize or not take seriously. The first one sends a perfectly fine message in perfectly annoying garb; the second makes some reasonable points but maybe in a missing the point way. It's the jumping from the second email to "totally unacceptable message, let's remove people from their positions" that seems completely nuts to me. Now, there may well be other grievances -- maybe these particular faculty members, or maybe Yale in general -- are horrible to black students in other ways, and of course that's (if true) a legit protest subject as well. But the goimg from the second email alone to "this person should not have a position on an undergraduate campus" is way way way over the top.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:40 AM
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136: Right, the translation of a softly admonitory email into "OMG SOCIAL CONTROL!" is classic white fragility.

"You can't even step on people's feet without them crying out in pain! It's madness!"


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:41 AM
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128: you first used the rhetoric of "overreaching whiners" (wrong on the merits and dickish to boot, but whatever, I know where you're coming from, and your virtual lawn is pretty big). You then admitted that you took a strong position before reading the e-mail in question (wrong on the facts and should be disqualifying for everything else you later say in the conversation, because, after this admission, it's clear that it'll be confirmation bias from you for the remainder of the thread -- but I'll keep going). You don't know what a house master's job is (wrong on the most pertinent facts). You call the kids spoiled (perhaps wrong on the facts; last I checked, given the discount rate, it was cheaper to go to Yale than to a UC). You apparently think that this represents some broader episode of something or other (very likely wrong on the facts, but you're not clear enough for me to know for sure). You accuse people of tendentiously misconstruing the e-mails (wrong on the merits, in my view, but this is certainly arguable). You insist that the offensive e-mail wasn't offensive (wrong on the merits, but again, we're in agree-to-disagree territory here).

Okay, I just got bored. I'm happy to be told to fuck off. I like you a lot, as you know, and think you're a genuinely good person. But your internet tough-guy persona wore thin for me a long time ago. It's not the biggest deal at all, because I spend almost no time here, but it does mean that I'm not too fussed when you tell me to fuck off.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:42 AM
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last I checked, given the discount rate, it was cheaper to go to Yale than to a UC

I'm not sure that's relevant as long as the preferences for children of alumni remain so important for admission.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:46 AM
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129: The difference is that the first email was reasonable and productive in substance ("Hey kids! Don't be assholes!") albeit priggish in tone.

The second email was kind of insane in substance ("Doesn't telling college kids to think before they act like assholes raise some troubling questions about free speech, and shouldn't we restrain ourselves from saying that sort of thing?" These are questions to which the perfectly obvious answers are "No it doesn't, and no we shouldn't," and someone who doesn't get that is not a good spokesperson for a university) and also priggish in tone. The priggish tone actually saves it from being more offensive than it might otherwise have been -- the problem with it is all substance.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:48 AM
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141: I'm not sure if you're unclear about this, but as Ogged said in 30, I don't think anyone is saying that Christakis should be canned by the sociology department. People are saying that perhaps people whose apparently consistent response to complaints about racist speech is to point out that we live in a society that has norms about free speech* maybe shouldn't be the RAs in charge of the social functioning of one of the we're-Yale-we-cant'-call-them-dorms.

* Which is true! Indeed, if the fuckwits at SAE want to have an off-campus Bin-Laden-and-Bojangles-and-Elizabeth-Warren-only-in-a-headdress-get-it? party and join in a happy circlejerk to the arousing strains of "Dixie" at the end, that's their right as privileged American fuckwits.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:48 AM
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131 is where I am. And for what it's worth, I also don't care very much about any of this -- except the totally disproportionate reactions (not so much here) to the young woman who got shouty. People who insist that video provides some window into her mental health, or into the state of campus culture around the United States, are either misguided or conservative assholes. Either way, yuck (especially for her). Beyond that, meh.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:49 AM
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144: you think the kids involved in this controversy are children of alumni? I'm guessing you're wrong, but I don't know.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:50 AM
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I suppose I'm unfairly focusing on the annoying tone of the first email and not given enough credit to the RA's email for being the ideal type of another kind of annoying tone: the self-congratulatory "come, let us reason together" tone that you often get from Bell Curve trolls and related types. "Shouldn't we be willing consider the possibility that some groups just have lower IQs?"

It's probably no accident that that same "now now, let's be objective here" tone was being used to complain about an email whose basic point was "don't be a racist dick".


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:51 AM
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I have no idea, but I think that Yale is effectively cheaper than U Conn is more likely evidence of privilege (and the vast cuts in public support that used to be there for state school) than a counter to it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:52 AM
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150 gets it right. By being chosen for Yale you're not only chosen to enter the ruling class, you're chosen to not have massive student debt!


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:54 AM
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It's probably no accident that that same "now now, let's be objective here" tone was being used to complain about an email whose basic point was "don't be a racist dick".

Well, yeah. And about a calm, measured, priggish email that doesn't make any threats about punishment and actively recognizes that students have a right to free expression in this context. It's hard to imagine a less aggressive way the admin could have asked the students not to be racist dicks. (It could have been more winsome, but it could hardly have been less threatening.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:55 AM
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150: I don't disagree. But calling the particular kids "spoiled" seems pernicious to me. We don't know a thing about their backgrounds. So call them strivers, if you want, but fuck you if you think young people of color shouldn't try to enter the corridors of power through whatever door is open to them.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:57 AM
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I shouldn't even respond to 143, which seems weirdly directed at me personally. I was much more inclined towards the pro-protestor position, as I said, before I actually looked at the emails in question, which (surprisingly to me) seemed to very much support the anti-protest side. The house master's job at Yale, on my understanding, is to serve both as a residential administrator and as the host of social-ish academic-ish discussions on campus hot topics. That's the position these folls are being called upon to resign from. Is that wrong? I guess it's true I don't know how spoiled the individual protestors are, but in the context of the protests they certainly appear to be, and run the risk of, coming off like spoiled whiners. I know that your general mode is reasonable fact-driven historian of facts but just because someone disagrees with you doesn't mean that they are ignorant.

Of course the first email wasn't a violation of free speech, but the second isn't close to a fireable offense for any position, including "house master" and, while it can be disagreed with, doesn't call for anything like the response it got. Here the context is OUTRAGE and I think I'm on the opposite of the overheated side.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:58 AM
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I don't fault people for trying to enter the corridors of power, but to imply that people attending state schools have more money because the school costs more is absurd.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:58 AM
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Thinking about it a bit more, I seriously must be misunderstanding some part of 150 or 151. I'm just not getting how these comments suggest that we can know that the students in question are spoiled or entitled or whatever rhetoric halford used. I'd be grateful if you'd explain what I'm missing.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:58 AM
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154: You directly and explicitly asked for 143. How can it be weirdly directed at you personally?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:59 AM
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155 to 156.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:00 AM
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I think I'm on the opposite of the overheated side.

Who are you and what have you done with Halford?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:01 AM
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I want to object to the overuse of the word bully, this post being a great example. This isn't "bullying." Harassing? Assaulting? Sure, but these are professional journalists not kids, and they're not being systematically harassed by someone more powerful than them. At some point recently everyone became obsessed with bullying and now it's used in weird ways.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:01 AM
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Curious, who is making an organized demand for firing? Not this open letter, which is just a comprehensive rebuttal of the email. Not this (pulled-down op-ed, which just says Christakis is failing at his job as Master. Vox says "some were reportedly drafting a letter calling for [them] to resign as masters".


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:02 AM
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which seems weirdly directed at me personally

In 128, you asked me to elaborate (presumably on what I wrote in 122). Is it weird that I complied with your request? Maybe! But nowhere near as weird as pretending you didn't make that request in the first place!

Seriously, dude, you're aces at dishing it out and absolute shit at taking it. I think you've admitted as much in the past. Regardless, this disjuncture seems to be at odds with the basic tenets of halfordismo.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:03 AM
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The spoiled-ness comes from the assumption that someone's maybe not-apt but certainly not offensive musing on a topic in a way that is disagreed with calls for a response that goes to 11 and includes calls for firing. I understand that these folks aren't being asked to leave a tenured position but some level of dealing with ideological disagreement is pretty fundamental to university life, even if you feel like the people you're disagreeing with are wrong or don't get your situation.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:03 AM
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112: what costumes could a student wear? No Donald Trump. No Hillary Clinton. No ninjas. No sexy nuns. No sexy anything. No athletes. No animal costumes. I guess everyone could dress up like fruits and vegetables. Sounds like fun.

I get that this overly restrictive list isn't really the *intent* of the email, which was *trying* just to say "don't be an asshole". But instead of just saying "don't be an asshole," they gave students an insufferable and nearly impossible to satisfy list. No wonder people bristled.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:04 AM
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155: I think you missed my implication, which was that it's impossible to know if these particular kids are spoiled. I honestly thought that was clear. If not, my bad.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:04 AM
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Oops, wrong thread.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:05 AM
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166: I never noticed. I think it works in either.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:06 AM
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Let me be the first to say that if the result of the original letter had been that every student at Yale dressed as a fruit or vegetable for Hallowen that would have been hilarious and awesome.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:08 AM
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164: But it didn't say "Don't wear any costumes arguably on this list". It said that students should ask themselves some questions first. Like, why would a Hillary Clinton costume be off-limits?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:09 AM
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165: I agree with that implication, but just because of the ecological fallacy. I maintain it is completely obvious that the average Yale student is more spoiled that the average U Conn student and part of the evidence I would cite to defend that is exactly that the Yale kid and his or her family don't have to worry about how to pay for school because it's close to free unless they are wealthy. Many of the U Conn kids will have great difficulty paying.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:09 AM
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I guess everyone could dress up like fruits and vegetables.
Hey now.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:10 AM
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162 -- let's just drop it. I'm happy to "take it" but the rhetorical move of claiming to be attentive to the facts while not actually looking at them and arguing either ad hominem or from authority is straight-up bullshit. If you're going to bullshit, fine, but don't be so fucking sanctimonious about it.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:10 AM
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I'll concede that 168 is true.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:11 AM
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But for sound reasons related to basketball, I can't actually manage any sympathy for U Conn kids either.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:11 AM
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I'm happy to "take it"

Pfahahaha.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:15 AM
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NMM to Helmut Schmidt, a man who managed to live to 96 in relative good health, despite having a long, high stress career, and chain smoking since childhood.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:23 AM
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Man, reading this thread it's truly a mystery to me why we don't have more people of color commenting here.

Person of color here. Also an Ivy League grad from a poor family who had mental health issues in college. Presumably suffering from false consciousness.


Posted by: Disingenuous Bastard | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:29 AM
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claiming to be attentive to the facts while not actually looking at them

Huh? I mean, seriously, I don't know what you're talking about.

arguing either ad hominem or from authority is straight-up bullshit

I don't know what to say. I'm arguing from authority? I don't think so. I think you're reading things into what I've said that aren't there. As for ad hominem, come the fuck on.

don't be so fucking sanctimonious about it

I don't have a clue if this is directed at me. If it is, whatever.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:29 AM
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Presumably suffering from false consciousness.

Oh come on.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:31 AM
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Let's just drop it and go back to arguing about the topic at hand. I could say more but who gives a fuck.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:32 AM
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112: what costumes could a student wear? No Donald Trump. No Hillary Clinton. No ninjas. No sexy nuns. No sexy anything. No athletes. No animal costumes. I guess everyone could dress up like fruits and vegetables. Sounds like fun.

Um it's HALLOWEEN dude, students could be vampires or skeleton persons or whatever.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:36 AM
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Anyhow, the rhetorical trap that's always present in these kinds of things is that if you call out a bullshitty protest as being bullshitty you risk giving aid and comfort to actual minority-hating assholes. On the other hand, in the long run bullshitty protests themselves give aid and comfort to actual minority hating assholes. It's a real dilemna, but fortunately this one is at Yale and is about Halloween costumes, so we can just call it overheated Ivy League nonsense and leave it at that.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:37 AM
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Also, why would animals be off the list? I mean, there really isn't a prohibited list (like, I don't see any reason to think that email discourages Sexy [PROFESSION] costumes), but I don't see animals referenced at all.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:41 AM
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students could be vampires

Oh, and further tarnish the good name of the Fifteenth Century's democratic socialist?

His nickname is Vlad the Impaler because he did like to impale his enemies on wooden sticks. But that said, some Romanians are on a mission to show he had his good side. There's a recent museum exhibit in Romania that argued Vlad the Impaler was a victim of a Western European smear campaign. So yes, he was cruel, but so was every other ruler at the time. Plus, this I liked - Vlad was sort of, like, a medieval Bernie Sanders. He wanted to reclaim the country from the corrupt aristocracy. He was fighting the 1 percent.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:50 AM
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I believe, based on 172, the putative weirdness mentioned in 154 regarding 143 is that if you start by saying "you are ignorant of the facts about this", then if you respond to a request for explanation by saying "you're ignorant of the facts about that and the other", then that's a pretty bad explanation from the point of view of the requestor, who might have thought you'd come back with something like "you appear to believe X but in fact Y".

I don't know if it's sanctimony exactly but it is high-handed, dismissive, and aggravating in a way that Halford, for all his annoyingness in this thread, hadn't thitherto been, and one wonders what the point of it was. (<-- could also be said about this comment probably)


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:52 AM
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To divert things back to this week's other university kerfluffle, I'm surprised at how much play the "Witness the awesome power of student football players!" angle is getting in the stories about Mizzou.

Dude's, do some background reading. The president had no supporters! State senators were calling for his head! How do the writers of these stories honestly think that players who didn't have the tacit support of the Athletics department would fare if they threatened to skip games?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:56 AM
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This thread is certainly a perfect example of how a significant subset of the people who engage in free speech about contentious issues will inevitably escalate to ad hominem attacks.

It seems like a big part of the problem is that everyone's speaking in code, but everyone has a different codebook. We've become masters of talking about race in ways that can be interpreted in vastly opposite ways. So things that at face value shouldn't be offensive (and may or may not be meant to be offensive) become offensive when translated in a certain way. And some (many?) people choose to translate these things in the least charitable way, either because they are sick and tired of dealing with systemic coded slights, or because they are oversensitive conflict-seekers or some combination of both.

It's just so irritating, I can totally understand why no one wants to talk about. If you're arguing in good faith, you are basically guaranteed to have your intent misconstrued (partially because so many people are not arguing in good faith, but that doesn't really help).



Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:59 AM
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This thread is certainly a perfect example of how a significant subset of the people who engage in free speech about contentious issues will inevitably escalate to ad hominem attacks.

That's what your face said.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:02 AM
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Plus, this I liked - Vlad was sort of, like, a medieval Bernie Sanders.

If only. There are people in this country who badly need impaling. Bernie is just talking about taxing 'em.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:02 AM
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NMM to the recently-elected right-wing Portuguese government.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:06 AM
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How do the writers of these stories honestly think that players who didn't have the tacit support of the Athletics department would fare if they threatened to skip games?

If a large enough group of them stuck together and wouldn't back down to threats? That could be interesting!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:07 AM
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188

Oooh. Face!


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:11 AM
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It's just so irritating, I can totally understand why no one wants to talk about.

Its true, we should change the subject.

Hey! Who do you guys like: Israel or Palestine?


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:12 AM
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Which XTC song is better, "Making Plans for Nigel" or "That's Really Super, Supergirl"?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:16 AM
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If people so morally bankrupt and wretched that they recline their seats on airplanes think that Israel is more likable than Palestine then, well, they've got another thing coming.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:16 AM
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Looking at the thing linked in 146, are people now arguing that adhering to the (roughly speaking) FIRE position in campus speech codes is by itself inherently disqualifying from serving in a residential position on a college campus? Because taking such a position is inherently crypto-racist? That seems to be where people are going and I just can't get on board that train.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:16 AM
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No one is arguing that. If Christakis had advanced that position as part of a debate on the value of free speech on campus or something people would (and should) probably argue with her, but that's very much not what she did. She responded to (and this is probably the most relevant part) an email saying that blackface was probably not a good idea and the committee on whatever encourages people to choose less offensive costumes as if they were literally cracking down on anything they thought was offensive with severe sanctions, openly said she was taking the side of students who felt hurt at being reminded of that, argued in favor of those costumes, and quoted her husband as (agreeing with her) saying that anyone who was offended by blackface should just get over it and/or resolve the issue on their own. That's really, really different.

Taking an extreme position on the 'free expression VS non-exclusionary community' debate is one thing, and isn't necessarily crypto-racism (though, you know, often it is). But in the context what she's doing is something else entirely, and something that is inconsistent with doing that particular job well. Doubling down on it when students pressed them on the whole "wait a minute this is ignoring what's actually going on here with us" instead of taking what the students were saying more seriously only makes that clearer.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:25 AM
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194: The latter.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:26 AM
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193: What's the point spread?


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:31 AM
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193: What's the point spread?


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:31 AM
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as if they were literally cracking down on anything they thought was offensive with severe sanctions

Could you support this with references to the text please?


Posted by: Disingenuous Bastard | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:31 AM
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138 is exactly right.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:35 AM
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I don't know if it's sanctimony exactly but it is high-handed, dismissive, and aggravating in a way that Halford, for all his annoyingness in this thread, hadn't thitherto been, and one wonders what the point of it was.

I was trying to answer his question. And then I was responding to his threat that he was going to tell me to fuck off. That was really it.

But yeah, the whole thing, as ever, was totally pointless.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:45 AM
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201: Could you support this with references to the text please?

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. And the censure and prohibition come from above, not from yourselves! Are we all okay with this transfer of power?

I don't see 'prohibition' in the original email. I see an explicit recognition of students' right to self-expression, and advice not to offend people thoughtlessly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:46 AM
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this is the letter about costumes she was responding to. It was more than just blackface:

http://pastebin.com/TLGSdaTg


So, if you are planning to dress-up for Halloween, or will be attending any social gatherings planned for the weekend, please ask yourself these questions before deciding upon your costume choice:

• Wearing a funny costume? Is the humor based on "making fun" of real people, human traits or cultures?

• Wearing a historical costume? If this costume is meant to be historical, does it further misinformation or historical and cultural inaccuracies?

• Wearing a 'cultural' costume? Does this costume reduce cultural differences to jokes or stereotypes?

• Wearing a 'religious' costume? Does this costume mock or belittle someone's deeply held faith tradition?

• Could someone take offense with your costume and why?


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:46 AM
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She responded to (and this is probably the most relevant part) an email saying that blackface was probably not a good idea and the committee on whatever encourages people to choose less offensive costumes as if they were literally cracking down on anything they thought was offensive with severe sanctions, openly said she was taking the side of students who felt hurt at being reminded of that, argued in favor of those costumes, and quoted her husband as (agreeing with her) saying that anyone who was offended by blackface should just get over it and/or resolve the issue on their own.

That seems like a willful misreading of the evidence. But, putting that aside, I think the distinction you're drawing between expression of views and what actually happened here is one without a difference. If she'd published the article linked in 146, or made the points in that article a few days before Halloween after the administration sent its email, would that be grounds for termination (from her role as a residential house master)? If so, it seems pretty clear that publicly or vocally holding a FIRE, anti-speech code position is itself grounds for disqualification from an on-campus residential position.

I do agree that the couple's reaction after this became a controversy is also relevant -- e.g., being extremely dismissive of the response to the issues she's raised. It doesn't seem like that's happened, though, unless you'd require a retraction of the email in order to demonstrate non-dismissiveness. Vox quotes the husband as saying ""We understand that many students feel voiceless in diverse ways and we want you to know that we hear you and we will support you."


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:46 AM
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201: See 136.

If The Intercultural Affairs Committee wasn't twisting peoples' arms, what's the point of Christakis' complaint? Surely she isn't arguing that free speech requires that the committee not air its views. Absent coercion, there's no sense in her argument at all.

And Christakis understands this. That's why she talks about the committee's letter as an "exercise of implied control over college students" by a group that thinks "college students are unable to decide how to dress themselves on Halloween."

That's the actual text.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:47 AM
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already posted I see


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:47 AM
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Read with even a modicum of charity, or attention to the actual text, what the email is saying is that there are issues in having the censure of or prohibition of transgressive speech be imposed top-down by adult campus authorities as opposed to bottom-up from student norms, not that the administration was in fact "literally cracking down on anything they thought was offensive with severe sanctions."


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:51 AM
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The open letter to Christakis is actually very good on why her email was troublesome.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:55 AM
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My take is that if you wear blackface as a costume at Yale something something something now your life is ruined. which is at least clear cut and everybody understands.

An email that there are a bunch of other costumes that can be a problem is unsettling. Can I dress like jesus or a priest? Can't make fun of "real people"? even donald trump?


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:55 AM
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209: What makes me think the email is indicative of being wildly wrongheaded is exactly that it's a response to some very anodyne advice not to be a racist dick. Noodling in the abstract about how maybe college students should be free to be transgressive? Eh, might be wrong, but not a huge deal.

Responding specifically to an email that said "You have the right to self-expression, but please think before you wear a costume that's offensive along this list of lines" as if that were an offense against free speech makes her sound like she's got a hardline commitment to protecting the tender sensibilities of assholes from any implication that people might think they're assholes, at the expense of the people they're actually being assholes to.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:56 AM
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An email that there are a bunch of other costumes that can be a problem is unsettling.

Wait, it's possible to offend people other than through wearing blackface? (a) Who knew? and (b) This explains so much of the rest of my life: I thought as long as I stayed away from blackface, everything else was fair game.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 11:58 AM
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Responding specifically to an email that said "You have the right to self-expression, but please think before you wear a costume that's offensive along this list of lines" as if that were an offense against free speech

But that's not, in fact, what the email says, nor, without reading an enormous amount of background assumption into it (cf 187) do I think you get even close to "a hardline commitment to protecting the tender sensibilities of assholes from any implication that people might think they're assholes, at the expense of the people they're actually being assholes to," as opposed to an apparent belief that these kinds of issues are not best handled through campus speech codes imposed by university administration.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:00 PM
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To be clear, "the email" there refers to the email from Christakis.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:01 PM
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apparent belief that these kinds of issues are not best handled through campus speech codes imposed by university administration

But the email she's responding too isn't a campus speech code! Or a prohibition on anything! It's advice to be thoughtful!

If she thinks advice to be thoughtful is troubling and too much, she's very strange.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:03 PM
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lots of costumes are offensive- blackface will have severe consequences


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:03 PM
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What campus speech codes imposed by the university of administration was Christakis interrogating, precisely?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:04 PM
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"Code" was probably the wrong word there. "Strongly officially-emphasized but not obviously binding through sanction effort by the University administration" seems more accurate. And she's not saying that the message itself violates free speech, just that it raises questions about on-campus administration and regulation of speech, which it surely does.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:05 PM
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"Modicum of charity" is starting to sound a lot like "carefully avoiding the fact that it was a direct and specific response to something that someone else said", which I think is very relevant indeed. It's especially relevant since she also (1) starts out by saying that some students were bothered by the email and (2) endorses that feeling and (3) talks about how things that involve "a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience" aren't necessarily a bad thing at all and maybe we shouldn't think they're bad.

And, mostly just repeating the first sentence, in isolation this isn't necessarily bad, but when you're directly responding to someone talking about "feathered headdresses, turbans, wearing 'war paint' or modifying skin tone or wearing blackface or redface." then it very much is not an abstract musing about liberal values in general, and "transgressive" has a pretty specific referent.

And she doesn't just do that - she actively argues against norms about this kind of thing

I don't know the answer to these questions [when these things are impermissible]; they seem unanswerable. Or at the least, they put us on slippery terrain that I, for one, prefer not to cross. Which is my point. I don't, actually, trust myself to foist my Halloweenish standards and motives on others. I can't defend them anymore than you could defend yours.
And
I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: 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?
When that "little bit inappropriate" is blackface, then yes "let's have some room for that" is pretty bad.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:06 PM
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213: oh, come on. The email says you can't even dress like a pirate. It's just too much. I'm coming around to the idea that her response was also too much, but the initial email was ridiculous.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:06 PM
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220 -> 209, as LB wrote a much more concise version while I was writing the long drawn out one saying the same thing.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:08 PM
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The email says you can't even dress like a pirate.

No, it really, really, really doesn't.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:08 PM
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I'm... not seeing the bit about pirates there. Is it this bit?

• Wearing a historical costume? If this costume is meant to be historical, does it further misinformation or historical and cultural inaccuracies?

That seems like exactly the sort of costume where if you asked yourself that the reasonable answer (barring some ... odd choices) would be "Oh, no this is fine." These are pretty obvious "take a moment to remember that your costume may literally be a direct insult to someone else. It doesn't mean that anything that meets that list of "things where stopping for just a second to double check might be a good idea" is actually bad. In fact the way the email talks it sounds exactly like what they're saying is that some things in that category are (and they obviously are), so maybe don't just jump in under the assumption that because you know you mean well and are a good person that means everyone will interpret your Sexy Mongolian Warlord costume that way if you use scotch tape to make your eyes kind of squinty.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:13 PM
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The email says you can't even dress like a pirate.

Because it would offend the future IP lawyers.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:14 PM
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210: that letter is good, but the real action is in the comments posted on that page.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:16 PM
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220, again, is such a willful misreading that it doesn't really seem worth arguing. She doesn't reject having norms on the issue (indeed, she says just the opposite); she just notes, accurately, that these issues are complex that maybe, given complexity, officially-ordained positions aren't the right route. Even if you disagree, and I basically do, that's completely within the legit zone of argument or professorial provocation.

The contrary position seems to be, de facto although apparently people are unwilling to commit to it formally, that if you take a speech-protective position, you are inherently disqualified from serving in a residential life position, because even interrogating norms about costuming, or their appropriate regulation on a college campus, is evidence that you're a crypto-racist.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:17 PM
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224: pirates hit at least three of the prohibited costume categories, including that one, yes.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:18 PM
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224: pirates hit at least three of the prohibited costume categories, including that one, yes.

NOT PROHIBITED! "Think first" is not a prohibition!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:19 PM
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There are no prohibited costume categories!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:19 PM
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Yes, in direct response to something that was not actually making officially ordained positions other than "this is a complicated issue but please take a moment to double check that you aren't doing something hideously offensive", which, again, makes a difference.

You keep talking about reading it but it's getting hard to miss that only one side in this discussion is actually pointing out and quoting specific things she said. And, no, that that second bit is still not the position people are taking.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:21 PM
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But, then, I wonder what is the statute of limitations on dreaming of dressing as Tiana the Frog Princess if you aren't a black girl from New Orleans? Is it okay if you are eight, but not 18? I don't know the answer to these questions; they seem unanswerable.

Nope, no rejection of norms on the issue here!

(Aside: Jesus Christ, she should die of shame for having written that last clause.)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:23 PM
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229/230: ok, come on, not technically "prohibited", but the crystal clear message of the email is that the university considers these categories to be poor costume choices.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:23 PM
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You know what is fascinating tome, now that I've read the original letter? If you wanted to offend people on Halloween -- or at least wanted to make sure that people understood that you didn't care about giving offense -- that list would be a super helpful reference! Like, whatever you think about whether it's a good idea to wear costumes that offend people on Halloween, surely everybody can agree that it's good to have a prior sense of what people might be offended by, right? But nooooo how dare you oppress us by helpfully noting costumes that people might find offensive. My ignorance is my most precious resource you must not take it from me.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:24 PM
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I mean I feel like I need to just excerpt most of the actual email here.

When I was young, adults were freaked out by the specter of Halloween candy poisoned by lunatics, or spiked with razor blades (despite the absence of a single recorded case of such an event). Now, we've grown to fear the sugary candy itself. And this year, we seem afraid that college students are unable to decide how to dress themselves on Halloween.
I don't wish to trivialize genuine concerns about cultural and personal representation, and other challenges to our lived experience in a plural community. I know that many decent people have proposed guidelines on Halloween costumes from a spirit of avoiding hurt and offense. I laud those goals, in theory, as most of us do. But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students.
It seems to me that we can have this discussion of costumes on many levels: we can talk about complex issues of identify, free speech, cultural appropriation, and virtue "signalling." But I wanted to share my thoughts with you from a totally different angle, as an educator concerned with the developmental stages of childhood and young adulthood.
As a former preschool teacher, for example, it is hard for me to give credence to a claim that there is something objectionably "appropriative" about a blonde-haired child's wanting to be Mulan for a day. Pretend play is the foundation of most cognitive tasks, and it seems to me that we want to be in the business of encouraging the exercise of imagination, not constraining it. I suppose we could agree that there is a difference between fantasizing about an individual character vs. appropriating a culture, wholesale, the latter of which could be seen as (tacky)(offensive)(jejeune)(hurtful), take your pick. But, then, I wonder what is the statute of limitations on dreaming of dressing as Tiana the Frog Princess if you aren't a black girl from New Orleans? Is it okay if you are eight, but not 18? I don't know the answer to these questions; they seem unanswerable. Or at the least, they put us on slippery terrain that I, for one, prefer not to cross.
Which is my point. I don't, actually, trust myself to foist my Halloweenish standards and motives on others. I can't defend them anymore than you could defend yours. Why do we dress up on Halloween, anyway? Should we start explaining that too? I've always been a good mimic and I enjoy accents. I love to travel, too, and have been to every continent but Antarctica. When I lived in Bangladesh, I bought a sari because it was beautiful, even though I looked stupid in it and never wore it once. Am I fetishizing and appropriating others' cultural experiences? Probably. But I really, really like them too.
Even if we could agree on how to avoid offense - and I'll note that no one around campus seems overly concerned about the offense taken by religiously conservative folks to skin-revealing costumes - I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: 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. And the censure and prohibition come from above, not from yourselves! Are we all okay with this transfer of power? Have we lost faith in young people's capacity - in your capacity - to exercise self-censure, through social norming, and also in your capacity to ignore or reject things that trouble you? We tend to view this shift from individual to institutional agency as a tradeoff between libertarian vs. liberal values ("liberal" in the American, not European sense of the word).
Nicholas says, if you don't like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.
But - again, speaking as a child development specialist - I think there might be something missing in our discourse about the exercise of free speech (including how we dress ourselves) on campus, and it is this: What does this debate about Halloween costumes say about our view of young adults, of their strength and judgment?
In other words: Whose business is it to control the forms of costumes of young people? It's not mine, I know that.

Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:25 PM
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231.a: I know I came to this with prior beliefs, but the fog of "please don't make us look like assholes in the New York Times again with your hillbilly/pimps and hos/Cinco de Mayo themed parties" from the original email blots out what I'm sure are the very visible reeducation camps just fifty yards down the slippery slope.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:25 PM
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229/230: ok, come on, not technically "prohibited", but the crystal clear message of the email is that the university considers these categories to be poor costume choices.

No, the message is that there are things in these categories that are poor costume choices, so have a think about it before you plunge in. Check yourself! DON'T BE A FUCKING ASSHOLE AND MAKE US ALL EMBARRASSED!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:26 PM
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233: Seriously, no. It's a list of questions, and the message is we hope you won't pick something offensive, and going through these questions will help figure out whether it might be. But a yes answer to one of the questions isn't a poor costume choice if there's no plausible way it's going to be offensive, as in, say, pirates.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:26 PM
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233: dude, how much of a blind rule-follower are you? Speaking personally the number of things I did while I was a college student that the University considered poor choices vastly outnumbered the things that the University would have considered good choices. You know what else the university considers a poor choice? Drinking! BEER IS FREE EXPRESSION, MAN.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:26 PM
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and I'll note that no one around campus seems overly concerned about the offense taken by religiously conservative folks to skin-revealing costumes

Man, I feel terrible about the lack of interpretative charity with which I've been reading Christakis' letter.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:27 PM
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232: My children went as Cinderella, an angel, and Catwoman, though the last regrets that a bit and wishes she'd stayed true to her heart and been Batman again. Tiana's not a particularly in princess right now but I saw two Latina and one white ones of the 700+ trick-or-treaters and there were plenty of black Elsas and white Doc McStuffins outfits as well as Minions of all shapes, sizes, and colors. I'm a little scared to think what her preschool teaching experience must have been like, because there was definitely no weird racial stuff going on at Selah's and I'm very grateful!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:27 PM
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Or what foxtail said.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:27 PM
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I mean I feel like I need to just excerpt most of the actual email here.

So much for your commitment to intellectual property.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:28 PM
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"Before you go ahead with your historical/cultural/whatever-y based costume, maybe think "is this horrifically offensive to someone?"" is like the least potent "don't make costumes in those categories" suggestion ever. I mean, unless you really want to argue that literally nothing in those categories could sit around the "oh shit no please no" level then it's a totally reasonable thing to say.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:28 PM
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Wait, I feel like 239 agrees with my point (and I agree with it), but it's set up as if it disagrees.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:30 PM
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Also, looking at her email, she's talking about the importance of a transgressive experience. Is it really a transgressive experience if no one's stating norms for you to transgress against? Someone wants to know what it feels like to be an asshole? As Sifu said in 234 and 239, the initial email from the admin is very helpful in that regard. Without that sort of statement of norms of polite behavior, someone looking for a transgressive experience might be lost.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:30 PM
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Surely, "would I be embarrassed wearing this costume in front of an actual member of said group?" is the best criterion? Though it sadly seems that the ability to embarrassed is not evenly distributed.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:32 PM
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245: I was really just making fun of you. They aren't rules!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:33 PM
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247: Well see that's why you turn the black girls away at the party. Problem solved!


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:35 PM
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Though it sadly seems that the ability to embarrassed is not evenly distributed.

cf. the various (white) people who dress up as Mario Balotelli "to support him".


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:35 PM
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University: This Halloween, please consider the feelings of other people who may be different from you.

Christakis: Early childhood development says it is important that you nineteen-year-olds not consider the feelings of other people. Also, I am responsible for the place where you live with other people.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:35 PM
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"Would I be embarrassed to wear this stupid eye patch and fake hook in front of real pirates?"


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:35 PM
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But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students.

Really, I mean, this just makes MHPH's point. Sure, probably it is a good idea to reflect transparently as a community about all this stuff. But why are you taking this opportunity to bring this up? "Don't be a dick"—"You know, it's actually a thorny issue what would constitute dickishness in a community with many members; how we should negotiate these issues, and the form of our shared life, merits sustained reflection"—sure, ok, but, also, "don't be a dick" remains sound. Just ask yourself: WWTMBD (what would Tim Burke do)? Probably not this! It comes off as, at best, really weird.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:37 PM
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246: yeah, I mean, I feel like every time there's a pimps 'n hos or blackface or whatever blow-up at a college, the students involved say "we didn't know anybody would find it offensive". So, okay! Now they have the tools to figure that out, and can proceed as they wish.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:37 PM
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Also, the analogy ban has been thoroughly crushed throughout everyone's tendentious and creative "summarizing" of both messages. This blog used to have standards, man.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:37 PM
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Kids shouldn't be worried about this. They should be worried about the real danger, the counterflow bus lane. I hope he or she is O.K.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:38 PM
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The failure mode of transgressive is "asshole".


Posted by: Opinionated John Scalzi | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:38 PM
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I mean, 251 is clearly the twitter-level summary of the debate, but it's just such an incredibly tendentious summary what was said. It's right up there! I guess nobody gives a fuck, because OUTRAGE.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:38 PM
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I don't get the reading in 237/238 at all. Look at the email again:

Yale is a community that values free expression as well as inclusivity. And while students, undergraduate and graduate, definitely have a right to express themselves, we would hope that people would actively avoid those circumstances that threaten our sense of community or disrespects, alienates or ridicules segments of our population based on race, nationality, religious belief or gender expression.

Emphasis added.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:39 PM
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115: I am honestly incapable of not mocking that email. I think 18-year-old me would have been worse, but he didn't even have an email.

19-year-old me would have been terrible! And 41-year-old me finds it a trifle eyerolley. And neither of us is responsible for a group of people from different backgrounds living together in a place where this kind of shit happens over and over and over.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:41 PM
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251 is tendentious but the paragraph about play and imagination is such mealy-mouthed shit. Maybe we can differentiate between different ways of wearing a costume that originates in a culture not the wearer's—who knows! Maybe! The more you read the email the less substance is discernible behind its veneer of thoughtfulness.

WWTBD???


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:41 PM
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253 - I don't see anything in the actual message that's at all inconsistent with "don't be a dick." At worst, it's "university administrators shouldn't be the ones to tell you how not to be dicks, because it's complicated."

I guess the complaint is that sending even that message itself out is "dickish" because it fails to adequately reflect the scope of potential dickishness out there. But then we really are at the point where just publicly expressing not-entirely-agreeable-to-me views about this issue=you get removed from (part of) your job.


Posted by: Roebrto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:41 PM
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we would hope that people would actively avoid those circumstances that threaten

Right: please don't be an embarrassing asshole.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:42 PM
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263: you don't think they are intending to strongly discourage the costumes? ( Not prohibit, I'll concede. )


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:44 PM
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55.1 -> 262


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:44 PM
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259: Right! "actively avoiding circumstances that threaten our sense of community" is the same as "actively avoiding offensive costumes". But you'd have to be very weird to think that the list of questions meant that any yes answer to them meant that the costume was per se offensive, stop thinking about it. Pirates (unless there's something particularly weird going on) really are okay.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:46 PM
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266 also to 264.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:47 PM
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The message is not "think about your costume and then wear whatever you want." It's "think about your costume and if you think it might offend someone, don't wear it." Followed by a ridiculously overinclusive list of costumes.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:47 PM
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eg dressing up as the Nubian pirate from Asterix (esp. if you're white) - probably not.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:47 PM
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But 266 is exactly what I see Christakis saying, albeit in an especially tone deaf and ill-timed way.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:48 PM
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At worst, it's "university administrators shouldn't be the ones to tell you how not to be dicks, because it's complicated."

Well, all she should really say is "university administrators should tell you being a dick is", because being a dick is uncomplicatedly bad. (But I don't think the advice the university promulgated is bad at all, when it comes to assessing potential dickishness!) And it's true: she doesn't suggest being a dick is not bad. But the whole thing is so pointless, so wishy-washy, and it does, I think, tend in a "but isn't it more complicated than that?" direction that seems reasonable and insightful but is in fact without content and unhelpful. Which, given her role, strikes me as bad!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:48 PM
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Followed by a ridiculously overinclusive list of costumes.

It's not a list of costumes! It's a list of questions to ask yourself about your costume idea that will help you figure out if it's offensive! But there's no implication that any yes answer to any of the questions necessarily means that the costume is offensive!

(I believe that the exclamation points in the above are an important part of making it clear and convincing. Why I believe this? Beats me.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:51 PM
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Followed by a ridiculously overinclusive list of costumes.

Categories of costumes that call for thinking, in case you're planning on wearing an offensive version.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:52 PM
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But, then, I wonder what is the statute of limitations on dreaming of dressing as Tiana the Frog Princess if you aren't a black girl from New Orleans? Is it okay if you are eight, but not 18? I don't know the answer to these questions; they seem unanswerable.

It's okay if you don't use blackface! Ask me another.

P.S. I know Tiana's name because she is featured, with the other princesses, on Φ's "Make Your Own Magic" toilet seat.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:53 PM
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Look, Christakis is very clearly saying that she's on team You're All Coddled Whiners.

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.

And there's something to that! But when you say it in response to "don't be racist," you've severely misjudged the situation.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:55 PM
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I mean, I agree that something like 272 is the message the email was intended to convey. I acknowledged back in 164 that the basic intent of the email seems clear enough, and unobjectionable. But it was very poor execution--poor enough to be deserving of mockery.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:56 PM
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"Make Your Own Magic" toilet seat

Ewwwwwwwwwwww.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:57 PM
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"Make Your Own Magic" toilet seat

It's certainly essential, but I never thought it was magical.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:57 PM
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D'oh.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:58 PM
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poor enough to be deserving of mockery

Yes. And in a plural society, you mock it among your friends. You probably also mock it in the Yale Free Press. And you might mock it to your house master, who then has a really important job to do, which is have the sense god gave a goose and not mock it in an email to the community she's responsible for.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 12:59 PM
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I don't disagree with 280.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:01 PM
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This is where the magic happens.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:02 PM
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The email she sent doesn't mock the original campus email. It (sort of) disagrees with it, and questions it as an approach. Firing offense?


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:04 PM
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275 seems to me to be hitting the exact point being made here about why this is bad.

If you write a lengthy "but shouldn't there be a safe place for some transgressive stuff here in college?" response to an email from the dean that says "Guys I know we're having the trustees meeting in the ground floor room with the big bay windows again but please don't take that as an invitation to go streaking again*" then it's pretty clear what the "transgressive stuff" that you're saying should have a place at the college is. And the same goes if it's in response to the committee on please don't be racist and/or otherwise awful sending one out saying "I know it's halloween but please don't go out of your way to be racist (again)."**

*um, "hypothetically".
**And a lot moreso if the word "regressive" gets thrown in there as well.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:07 PM
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One useful exercise in situations like this is to ask oneself: What would the world be like if what I say were true?

So let's suppose that readers of the committee's note correctly interpreted it as a credible effort to prohibit pirate costumes.

Here are the possible results:

-People were intimidated into eschewing pirate costumes or
-People were penalized in some fashion for wearing one, or such a penalty was sought.

Which of those do we think happened?

And what about the people who really do believe that pirate costumes ought to be banned? If this was the intent of the Yale committee, did they receive praise from the pirate-banners? I haven't heard of any.

But maybe you think nobody wants pirate costumes prohibited. If so, then nobody distributed a memo suggesting such a prohibition, and the whole talking point is a frivolous straw-man.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:10 PM
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285 has lost me completely, but utterly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:12 PM
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283: Maybe! I think 29 is smart about this.

If the power were in my hands, it would depend a lot on my reading of students of color's experience in the residential college, and whether this was part of a pattern of downplaying expressed grievances.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:13 PM
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Firing offense?

From the particular job of making sure that a community of kids from different backgrounds can live together peaceably? Maybe. In any case, if the university actually fires her, that's a debate one can have. But do protesters calling for someone to be fired as an expression of their outrage actually have to make the case that this firing is legally justified?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:13 PM
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I want authentic pirate costumes prohibited but the ones that are mostly corsets with scabbards allowed. Thanks for asking.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:13 PM
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ARE YOU CALLING MY CORSETS INAUTHENTIC, YE SCURVY DOG?


Posted by: OPINIONATED GRACE O'MALLEY | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:16 PM
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Right, 29 and 287 to 288. I don't have much to add.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:16 PM
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Well obviously if she's actually a shitty residential advisor then she's a shitty residential advisor. But the sending of the email alone doesn't seem anywhere near sufficient to conclude "shitty residential advisor."


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:22 PM
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This isn't specific to Silliman, but it adds some context to the protests.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:24 PM
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294

Would being removed from Ass Mastery be a significant cut in effective pay? I assume it comes with free room and board and that people in New Haven who don't live in Yale not-dorms have to pay considerable rent. Asking that somebody lose a position that is responsible for a considerable portion of their compensation isn't really very different from asking that they be fired. If my assumptions are reasonable, of course.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:25 PM
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287 - It seems like a lot of the initial response from the minority students to Christakis took the form of "no seriously let me tell you about my experiences here", and escalated from there when he continued to want to debate free speech. That (and the party thing, and the complaints students were making to the dean, and so on) seemed to me to indicate that this really was hitting a very sore spot very very hard. Even without that being true I think the response was at best so tone deaf that the Master* should have had to do a bit of public groveling and treat it as a learning experience, but given how much the students had to say about their own grievances/experiences (and the fact that knowing what those were and being part of advocating for them is exactly his job as Master) I think it totally extends to a firing-on-grounds-of-incompetence.


*Still having trouble taking this title seriously.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:29 PM
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286: I'm trying to posit a universe in which urple's statements make sense. I grant that framing the issue that way is confusing, because urp's position is gibberish.

But in the alternate universe proposed by urple, Yale folks put out a memo that prohibits pirate costumes. Seriously, that's what he said:

oh, come on. The email says you can't even dress like a pirate. It's just too much.

Really, he said this:

pirates hit at least three of the prohibited costume categories, including that one, yes.

So what is urple-world like, and do we live there?

285 is my effort to examine that question. I conclude that we do not, in fact, live in urple world.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:37 PM
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Not for lack of trying.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:39 PM
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To be clear, when I said "should have to do a bit of public groveling" I didn't even mean "morally" or "as a punishment" or anything. I mean, if you want to be able to do your job at all, because at this point I'm guessing that being trusted to help the students under your supervision as a sort of informal dorm life manager and/or life adviser is absolutely never going to happen with any of the current minority students.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:39 PM
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we do not, in fact, live in urple world.

I thank God for this every morning when I use the bathroom.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:45 PM
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I would bet that basically all pirate costumes are based on historical inaccuracies. I wondered why historical inaccuracy was on that list, because there are whole bunches of historical inaccuracies that don't offend anybody except maybe historians.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:49 PM
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I'm guessing "cultural" is also carrying a fair bit of weight in there: maybe some sort of horrific "native american warrior" costume? Sexy Squanto, or something?


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:52 PM
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Probably "Somali pirate" could get a bit tetchy, costume-wise.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:52 PM
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One could offend to all fields in a "Sexy Loving v. Virginia Dare" costume.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:55 PM
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You don't think someone whose family was killed by real pirates might be upset that you were dressing up like a fun cartoon pirate joke?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:56 PM
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Like maybe a ninja?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:56 PM
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Christakis should have addressed the hypothetical in 304 alongside her plea for consideration of those religious Yalies offended by Sexy Pizza Rat costumes.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:58 PM
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Also when double checking the (historically inaccurate but absolutely what the costume would be called) spelling I ran across this article where I learned that he had possibly the greatest name possible.

More than likely Tisquantum was not the name he was given at birth. In that part of the Northeast, tisquantum referred to rage, especially the rage of manitou, the world-suffusing spiritual power at the heart of coastal Indians' religious beliefs. When Tisquantum approached the Pilgrims and identified himself by that sobriquet, it was as if he had stuck out his hand and said, Hello, I'm the Wrath of God.

I have never regretted my name more than right now. I absolutely would trade it for "Wrath Of God [Lastname]".


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 1:58 PM
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307: I've always liked that Nelson Mandela's middle name -- "Rolihlahla," but pronounced not quite that simply because of Xhosa's tones, I think -- meant "troublemaker."


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 2:03 PM
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Is that really such a big deal? My name means "He who is like God." It's always seemed a little bit too close to blasphemy if I took it seriously as anything but a proper noun.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 2:06 PM
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... Clapton?


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 2:13 PM
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except maybe historians

Not offended! I speak for the trees discipline.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 2:23 PM
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<movie trailer voice>In a world where people were prohibited from dressing up as pirates, ONE MAN . . . dressed up as a pirate!</movie trailer voice>

Urple World. Coming to a theater near you. October 2016.


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 2:26 PM
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Next Halloween I'm going to dress as an inaccurate starfield and offend astronomers.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 2:26 PM
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313: Wouldn't a Han Solo costume achieve the same end?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 2:30 PM
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movie trailer voice>In a world where

I thought I was very funny when I was teaching spherical coordinates. They work out very nicely if you liken them to latitude, longitude, and then radius of your globe. So for a specific example, I intoned "In a world...of radius = 2..." but they just sighed.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 2:30 PM
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Astronomers are offended by Han Solo?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 3:18 PM
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316: They're still mad at him for misusing the word "parsec".


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 3:21 PM
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I thought it was for using "light year" as a measure of time.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 3:21 PM
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embarrassed to wear this [...] fake hook

When my girlfriend's 6yo daughter met my dad, we prepped her ahead of time, telling her that StanleyDad has a prosthetic arm and describing it to her. To which she responded, "Just like Captain Hook!"

Which just goes to show: kids can be terrible without ever going to Yale.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 3:37 PM
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We were all thinking it, Stanster.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 3:38 PM
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Early childhood development, Stanley. Maybe you shouldn't have coddled her by saying anything about your dad at all.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 3:46 PM
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At my reunion, my son meet a friend with a prosthetic arm. My son asked if he was a pirate. It was adorable.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 3:48 PM
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I hope when Notre Dame banned the Stanford Marching Band for various offenses, like having a drum major dress in a nun's habit and bang the drum with a cross, the anti-PC police defended them in the spirit of the free exchange of ideas.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 3:51 PM
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Was 305 in response to 304?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 4:37 PM
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Yes. I understand they're mortal enemies.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 4:38 PM
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204: I was responding to "as if they were literally cracking down on anything they thought was offensive with severe sanctions." I do not believe the Christakis email is written in a way that expresses any concern about severe sanctions -- this is a pretty willful misreading of it on the part of MHPH.


Posted by: Disingenuous Bastard | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 4:43 PM
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326: Fair enough. The key for me is that pretty much everyone agrees that Christakis regarded the original e-mail as coercive - as a manifestation of the authority of Yale, an exercise of control over students. Christakis' argument evaporates if we're just talking about moral suasion.

If MHPH was engaged in some unhelpful hyperbole there, then it still doesn't have any impact on the actual point MHPH is making. It is frivolous in this instance to talk about a "prohibition" from the university or "implied control" of students' behavior. And without that, what legitimate gripe is there about the committee's missive?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 5:36 PM
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I don't think there is anything wrong with the committee's missive. I also don't agree that Christakis regarded the original e-mail as coercive -- the email quite clearly takes the tone of "I'm going to patronizingly suggest that we not be a bunch of babies" as opposed to "let's fight to protect our freedoms against boundless tyranny."

Beyond that everything seems to be a proxy battle for another set of debates, so it's probably best to leave it at that.


Posted by: Disingenuous Bastard | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 6:05 PM
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Probably "Somali pirate" could get a bit tetchy, costume-wise.

Certainly if the party is at a marina or something.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 6:05 PM
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Beyond that everything seems to be a proxy battle for another set of debates

Alt text!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 6:19 PM
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There's probably some Yalie whose distant ancestor had his rum and slaves business disrupted by the Barbary Coast pirates. But I'd wage he would be the one dressed like a seaman, making jokes about booty and trying to get a threesome with sexy Pocahontas and sexy Mulan (both white).


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 6:21 PM
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In the spirit of this thread, I'm going to call myself out for heternorming 331 and presuming that a Yalie is a white male. But as a feminist, I stand by the threesome part.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 6:23 PM
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"Norm N. Hetero" would be a bad pseud.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 6:24 PM
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I read "Fuck Off, sexy racist" and for some reason cannot stop the next line that comes into my head from being "who can hang a name on you?"


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:00 PM
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"I'm offended, sexy racist. Count the headlights on the highway."


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:03 PM
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"And sexy racist sang his songs of darkness and disgrace."


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:08 PM
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Or, lengthier Bowie:

"And so the story goes
they wore the clothes
They said the things
to make it seem improbable
The whale of a lie
like they hope it was
And the Masters named Christakis
Had their feet in the ruckus
And their heads of Brawn
were nicer shorn
And how they bought their positions with saccharin and trust
And the world was asleep
to our latent fuss
Sighing, the swirl through the streets
Like the crust of the sun
The Sexy Racists"


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:20 PM
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time to get some sleep, self.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 9:20 PM
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"Hold me closer, white Tiana"


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-10-15 10:02 PM
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340

Tim Burke's piece about this was good (intelligent, thought provoking, not all opinions shared by me), on the very off chance that anyone wants to read a long blog essay and then come back to have another go at these questions.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 12:15 PM
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Tim Burke's piece linked in 340 is really excellent.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 12:30 PM
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342

WWTBD????


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 12:32 PM
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342: Write a long thoughtful blog post.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 12:33 PM
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344

Exactly!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 12:35 PM
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If only he'd applied himself to welding.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 12:44 PM
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345: That's not how welding works, you monster. Metal-to-metal only!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 12:45 PM
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340 is great, but really I want praise for 339. Since no one will give it to me, I will praise myself.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 12:51 PM
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348

This is good too.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 12:58 PM
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349

I think 337 is probably better than 339, but I can't figure what song it's supposed to scan to.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 1:06 PM
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But I have to admit that most of my thinking, over the course of this thread, has been about Margaret Cho's "Ass Masters" routine, and how much of it I am ever allowed to quote out of context.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 1:15 PM
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I'm so curious!


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 1:17 PM
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352

Try it and see?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 1:20 PM
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349: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/davidbowie/thebewlaybrothers.html


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 1:20 PM
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||
Etiquette question! How many times is it polite to ask someone for a Christmas or birthday list before going shopping without it? Is it polite to badger the person four or five times before each holiday, every year, about not having sent the list yet when you really need to get started on your shopping?

I find this ritual so endlessly stressful. I can't come up with a list of ten reasonably-priced gifts I want, plus a list for my husband and daughter, twice a year every year, on cue. Is it such an offense to the giver to make them risk giving an unwanted gift that they choose themselves? Have gift lists always been mandatory like this?
|>


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 2:05 PM
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My family has proclaimed that socks are a fine default present. We're all walkers in a damp climate, which makes it actually true. Is there something else that would work better for you? Hard cheese? Bath soap? Nuts and fruit?


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 2:12 PM
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Maybe I need to reframe the listmaking as an odd form of gift-giving that takes place 4-6 weeks out from the holiday, and send out the lists as one would send a yearly fruit basket or subscription. I can put "list day" on the calendar twice a year (household birthdays are clustered).


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 2:25 PM
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I realize this sort of thing is typically gendered but is it something your husband could do, especially if it annoys you? (I mean, don't ask me. It's entirely likely I'll get no Christmas presents and I'm fine with that.)


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 2:27 PM
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Are gift lists like this common? I've never heard of them before now.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 2:30 PM
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They're common among economic rationalists, certainly. Tick marks in the Montgomery Ward catalog were a cliché in poorish farm families a long generation ago, and the Amazon wishlist attempts to intermediate the reduction of gift dead weight.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 2:34 PM
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Huh. I would think the ultimate economic rationalist approach would just be to always give cash.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 2:37 PM
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Or not give gifts at all, which is more or less what my family does.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 2:38 PM
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That's probably because of the war on Christmas.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 2:40 PM
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Pretty much, yeah.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 2:41 PM
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361 is actually an exaggeration; we do give gifts, there just isn't much emphasis on gift-giving between adults. Not celebrating Christmas does play a role in this.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 2:43 PM
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360: My mom thinks giving cash is impersonal. But specifying a specific gift seems too grabby. So I make a wish list of stuff that I'm probably eventually going to buy anyway, and she picks something that suits her budget and gift tastes.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 2:43 PM
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I don't understand 354, because 354.1 seems to be the badgerer, while 354.2 seems to be the badgeree.

We're a wish list family, which AB bought into because she was really unhappy with her distant parents sending obligatory, but not remotely desired, gifts. But we're a small family (really the only ones involved are the four of us plus my sister and dad, although AB* needs to give kid gift suggestions to the other grandparents), so it doesn't have the high stakes feeling conveyed in 354. Oh, and also, none of us are early shoppers, so it would hardly matter at this date.

The thing about the Roth family wish list convention is that it's overlong and not precise, so that the gift giver has choices, a variety of price points, and the chance to extemporize from a starting point.

*she is almost always the one who goes to non-food stores with the kids, so she knows which things they covet. But I was the one who knew Iris was disappointed not to get any candy corn this year, so I grabbed a bag on clearance.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 2:46 PM
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357: He does a lot of the emotional and household labor, but this is usually a particular family member of mine who isn't especially annoying otherwise. In fact this might be my family's weirdness, the horror of getting someone something unwanted. Huh -- maybe if lists are relatively uncommon I can use that as leverage, though.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 2:46 PM
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358: I know them from my youth (birthdays and hanukkah). Nowadays I mostly neither give nor receive gifts except from a few people, such as my mother, who just asks me what I want.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 2:47 PM
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Or 365, more or less. There's often a mix of fairly practical (if you don't buy me this tool, I'll get it for myself in the next few months) with the more whimsical/aspirational (I'd love X, but will never buy it for myself).

We used to do an O Henry exchange, but it got too hard to coordinate once we had kids.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 2:48 PM
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It's a balance between the ideal of generosity in both money and affectionate attention ( the best present is something I didn't know I needed, from someone I want to be that well known by ) and the accommodation to most of us wanting someone to be happy more than we know how to make them so.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 2:49 PM
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I wonder how well my count of emotional labor correlates with how others count my efforts. I'm not about to ask, but I'd hope l hit at least .4.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 2:51 PM
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We used to do an O Henry exchange

Poignantly ironic gifts?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 2:54 PM
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370: Right, I just find it interesting that some families seem to strike that balance by being relatively explicit about what they want, whereas in my family we focus more on the affectionate attention part with the understanding that not every gift will have the desired effect.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 2:55 PM
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The best was probably the year I sold my old Porsche for the antique crib for the baby that she sold to buy a new engine for the car. We kind of petered out after that one.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 3:07 PM
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Definitely selling the baby was taking it too far.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 3:15 PM
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She should have pawned it. You get less money for a baby that way, but you can go get it back if something like this happens.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 3:18 PM
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Unless your pawn broker has has a mandatory arbitration clause in his tickets.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 3:21 PM
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375: Well, we like the two we ended up with, so that part's a wash, at least.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 3:25 PM
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I'm feeling very envious of the people who don't have to do gift giving crap. I have been trying for years to convince my parents that I really do not no sincerely I do not why are you not listening when I say that I do not care one little bit about getting gifts on my birthday. Usually they call mentioning in a sort of coy way that there's a special day coming up and asking if there's anything I've been looking at recently that I wanted and so on, and years of answering "there really isn't or I would have bought it I genuinely do not care one way or the other we really could just let this go" has had precisely zero effect. I'd also be excited if I could make this the rule at Christmas as well, but I know there's precisely zero chance of that ever happening.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 3:26 PM
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For the adults, relentlessly send the same lust every single time and they'll get the idea. On the list: preferred alcoholic beverage (eg, white burgundy or mccallans), preferred fancy chocolates or other extravagant sweet (the candied chestnuts from hédiard are really really good), and favorite cut flower of the best quality that you would never treat yourself to. Or make your own list, but it strictly comply with 3 requirements. Every item has to be perishable/consumable to eliminate any policing of post gift display or use, obtainable without too much bother by the giver, and be an indulgence the recipient wouldn't offer themselves. And at least 3 items so the giver can cycle through them.

*of course* the best gifts are the ones you didn't even know you wanted but totally adore but that is highly advanced gift giving that realistically is only possible with your most dearly intimate loved ones. Reserve thus ambition for lovers and relish the extraordinary delight when you hit the mark. For everyone else, provide luxurious fleeting pleasure and relax.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 3:39 PM
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Ha! List not lust but I kind of like the way my phone thinks!


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 3:40 PM
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If you do manage to give someone a gift they didn't know they wanted and that they totally adore, you should try to sleep with them even if you aren't their lover already.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 3:46 PM
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Someone sold the baby what a precious thing to sell
Someone sold the baby for an engine running well
It was a heartfelt thing to do if only we'd kept the Porsche too
I simply can't imagine who would go and [ka-ching!] sell the baby


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 3:46 PM
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373: seems like a sensible response to limited resources + pride. If we all want to be helpful and not dependent, we need some double effect as cover. Giving cash is maximally helpful but makes any dependency explicit. (Possible example: traditional Chinese presents as explained to me: rigorously top-down obligatory money gifts, socially guided amounts, lovely wrappings, occasional symbolic fruit.)


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 4:23 PM
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I've been bummed that no one has stepped up to buy me really good bourbon; I feel as if it's such a no-brainer that I don't put it on my list, but maybe that ends this year.

I recognize this is kind of silly, but I feel as if it's pretty low-hanging fruit for those who know me.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 4:30 PM
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Shifting back to the more controversial topic, and broadly supporting the theses of Tim Burke in 340 and 348, I just got out of a business development meeting today in which the paid corporate facilitator began the meeting by saying, and I am quoting verbatim,

"This is a safe space ... to talk about business development. I want everyone to feel that they can talk about business development today without criticism or feeling disrespected."

Neoliberal dystopia is real!!!


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 4:38 PM
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386: I'll expect a draft of your sitcom pilot script with that as the opening line by COB tomorrow. Working title: "Arbitration Claws."


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 5:12 PM
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I'm frankly relieved by the clear implication that talking about business development is usually met with criticisms and disrespect.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 5:52 PM
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Unfogged: not a safe space to talk about business development.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 5:59 PM
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"Safe Space".... Tuesdays on CBS!


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 6:18 PM
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When lawyers say "business development," they mean finding an ambulance to chase.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 6:32 PM
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354: Our family uses lists, because our track record of shopping without isn't the best. Or because 7 people can think of only three things that you want, so you get two items--one three times and the other four--and everyone says, "Oh, I assumed someone else would get [other thing] for you."

It's annoying to make lists. Per JRoth in 365, the list should be long enough that you won't get it all, so there's variety and varying price points, but it's even more annoying to shop without them. Since I hate shopping without them, I try to chalk up the writing of the lists for others in a timely way as an early gift. (I do grumble, but only to myself.)

I hate shopping, so I'll never "just happen" to come across something that would make you happy. If you're into electronics, I don't know enough to know which sensor you want and which is crap or which won't fit in the chassis you're building. Clew's 370 is ideal... but hard to do, even when you do know someone. (The other hard part is getting them to NOT buy the thing in November, so there's something they actually want under the tree.)


Posted by: Mooseking | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 6:50 PM
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340 is excellent and conveys much of what I thought was wrong about the students' response.

348 was really good too, and offers the defense of the "look away or talk to each other" line that I wish I had given. It also ends up going in a slightly unexpected direction. It is interesting that he makes a lot of good points about how students should take control of their lives and stop deferring to authority without mentioning the now-classic explanation of helicopter parents. I'm not sure if that's because he doesn't buy that explanation or if he hadn't thought of it or if he thinks the underlying cause is irrelevant.

I also think the second essay nails one of the things that bothers me with some of the quote-unquote PC things that are happening on college campuses. It's not so much that people are asking others to be more considerate of a wide range of issues. That seems totally reasonable. It's that it is all too often (not to say always though) accompanied by demands for official organizational retribution and/or the establishment of rigid rules for dealing with these situations. That seems dangerous and counterproductive.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 9:30 PM
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393.3 is mildly annoying in implying that the people driven to PC haven't tried milder arguments and requests. Unless I've recently been trying to be reasonable and suffered for it, in which case it makes me furious.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 9:53 PM
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393: I'm tentatively willing to speculate that the type of student we're talking about--much more in the Yale case than the Mizzou--is so ensconced in, for want of a better term, procedural liberalism, that they can hardly imagine a punishment other than "official organizational retribution and/or the establishment of rigid rules for dealing with these situations."

There's a strong sense among the bien pensant that everything should go through channels, that e.g. confronting another parent directly over bullying or accosting a teacher without an appointment is tantamount to assault, and that's an easy lesson for kids to pick up: there's conflict, so the solution is administrative. Apply caveats as necessary, but as a parent of kids now in middle and elementary schools, I can't imagine unmediated confrontations with problematic parents or teachers, and that's a constant lesson for kids, because kids (mine at least, but I assume many/most) are attuned to conflict.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 9:54 PM
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394: As 395 surely makes obvious, I didn't read 393.3 as blaming victimized students for availing themselves of forceful solutions; I read it as questioning the instinct of mildly discomfited students for going right to official sanction as the only appropriate response to inappropriate behavior.

I should probably note that my reference to Yale vs. Mizzou in 395 isn't meant to imply that the Yale students are groundless in their complaints, but rather that my speculation about the background of their preferred solution is applicable to them, because I think I understand their background more than I do that of the aggrieved Missourians.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 9:59 PM
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394: As 395 surely makes obvious, I didn't read 393.3 as blaming victimized students for availing themselves of forceful solutions; I read it as questioning the instinct of mildly discomfited students for going right to official sanction as the only appropriate response to inappropriate behavior.

I should probably note that my reference to Yale vs. Mizzou in 395 isn't meant to imply that the Yale students are groundless in their complaints, but rather that my speculation about the background of their preferred solution is applicable to them, because I think I understand their background more than I do that of the aggrieved Missourians.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 9:59 PM
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So many dammits.


Posted by: Jroth | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 10:00 PM
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Yawn. I'm getting pretty sleepy. I think I'm gonna turn in, just wake me up when someone mentions the water buffalo insult.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 10:13 PM
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For the record, I was not trying to imply 394.1 at all and 396.1 is more of what I was getting at.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 10:23 PM
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Hmm, sleepiness must be contagious. I think I'll also turn in. Maybe when I wake up someone will have lmgtfy-ed the water buffalo thingy for me.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 10:27 PM
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But, if People These Days can only understand top-down procedural liberalism, People includes the blackface partiers and they won't stop for anything else. Though they will pause to feel assaulted, which they *do*. So that's not useful as a strategy to stop blackface parties and No Means Yes chants. So it still comes across as a sort of bien-pensant tone or slippery slope argument that rules out anything changing.

You didn't come across as ill-meaning, it's more that I've been the toad on this one as often as the butterfly. Well, sometimes the toad.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 10:44 PM
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But, if People These Days can only understand top-down procedural liberalism, People includes the blackface partiers and they won't stop for anything else. Though they will pause to feel assaulted, which they *do*. So that's not useful as a strategy to stop blackface parties and No Means Yes chants. So it still comes across as a sort of bien-pensant tone or slippery slope argument that rules out anything changing.

You didn't come across as ill-meaning, it's more that I've been the toad on this one as often as the butterfly. Well, sometimes the toad.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 10:45 PM
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I also will blame contagion and go to bed.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 11-11-15 10:46 PM
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I feel like I have a bunch more to say about this but am also sleepy. But -- the desire that mild discomforture by students who are jerks be suppressed/condemned by University authorities is fundamentally tied to a view of the University -- -- and life itself -- as a consumer experience. Or so says this pompous blowhard.

The complaint from the Yale protestors is not really "I'm suffering serious harm that no one is recognizing." I don't think so anyway. I think it's more like "why should I have to put up with listening to a non-maximally supportive residential faculty member when I'm in a space that's supposed to be providing a comfortable embracing home-away-from home and youthful good times for me."' It's not even so much a complaint about unfairness for other students -- I don't think the issue really is that the stupid racist frat guys are benefiting more from Yale, and surely everyone knows that the stupid racist Yale frat guys who are stupid enough to show up as stupid Yale racist frat guys on Instagram are risking being expelled from the world of conventional and comfortable privilege which they went to Yale to obtain. It's outrage driven by being impliedly promised one thing -- a life of relative ease, a relative "safe space" -- and delivered another, a place where the residential faculty are tone-deaf libertarians and at least some of the students seem not to have gotten the memo (literally) about how the world works these days.

It's hard to fault the protestors for that basic belief, because elite colleges in general, and Yale in particular, have been extravagantly promising their students a life of safety and ease from which they can emerge as confident elite-approved world-beaters for some time now. I think, quite rightly, students view this as the actual reason to go to an elite college. And the administrators basically agree, particularly when these kinds of protests risk losing them their jobs. So you can bet that folks like the Christakisis will never take similar positions, even if the Cs themselves aren't fired or demoted, and the University will keep issuing basically reasonable but HR-department-like memos like the one it initially sent out, for eternity.

And maybe it's not a big deal and that's just how elite Universities work now. And certainly if elite Universities are on a consumer model for undergraduates they should treat their black or minority students well, at least as well (in fact, probably better) than their white undergrads. That seems inarguable.

But it's hard (for me) to feel like having a cosy and well-curated and protected and relatively stress-free life as an undergrad at an elite school is a civil rights issue worth getting worked up about, and it does feel linked, obviously inadvertently but still, to a general transformation of the elite university into, basically, what I think of as the Stanford model -- incredibly comfortable, easy, pleasant, supportive places to spend several years, where you can get a broad but not exactly challenging general education, while developing the plan for your start-up and meeting alumni with venture capital at networking events. I mean, what else produces the ROI on all the craziness it took to get into the damn college in the first place?


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:02 AM
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With that ill-advised comment, and inexplicable capitalization of "university," off to bed.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:16 AM
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This is a safe space ... to talk about business development.

The title of the classic memoir of the post-crash era, surely. To go with We're Listening to the Silent Majority, The Tribes are On the March for the Bush years.

future project: Grunt! My Catfood!, ditto for the Trump era.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 3:32 AM
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405: Our differing reactions are explained by our differing readings of the email. What it looks like to me is "Hey, undergrads in my dorm who I'm supposed to support? I am such a strong believer in what I think of as "free speech" that I am troubled by the administration's taking a public position on what kind of offensive Halloween costumes they hope students don't wear. I think colleges are a place for young people to experiment with being transgressive, and am worried that encouraging them not to be assholes to each other will stifle that." And it seems like a fair conclusion for the students to draw that there's an implicit "If you come to me with a conflict with someone who's being a racist asshole to you, I'm going to tell you to suck it up, Buttercup. I'm not stifling anyone's transgressiveness or even exhorting them not to act that way." And that seems like a really unfortunate principled position for someone supervising undergraduate living space to take.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 5:54 AM
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At least they probably won't have to deal with a poop swastika at Yale.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 6:25 AM
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In an ideal world, I'd put up a link to explain that, but we've had just too many links to Slate this week.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 6:26 AM
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408 Buttercup hasn't commented on this thread yet, until she does I think it's best to leave her out of it.

409 Don't give them any ideas.

Who's up for a sexy ass master costume?


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 6:29 AM
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Many years ago, I read something that noted how "don't hit back, go tell a teacher" sounds like fine advice, but has the effect of teaching kids that only authority figures can be true agents. And lo it has come to pass.

So I'm sympathetic to the college as country-club-plus-classes explanation for some of this, but I think we also need to see it as part of Patriot Act/death of collective action culture. On that reading, I guess it's not surprising that effective protest is coming from black students, who have been less steeped in a proceduralist culture.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 6:41 AM
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Let the toddlers in daycare bite each other, for America.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 6:48 AM
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I think the 'students appealing to authority figures to settle things' really only works as a complaint if (1) they were trying to get the college to literally put policies about what people can wear, rather than objecting to what two of the college administrators had done (which amounted to suggesting a policy of their own, namely that those costumes should be thought of as fine) and, more importantly, (2) if anyone could say with a straight face that a bunch of students at Yale, mostly minorities, deciding to just go ahead and take things fully into their own hands wouldn't end up with the kind of Conor-Friedersdorf-hand-wringing-hysteria stuff we're seeing now. And, seriously, one of the biggest reasons Yale has people like Christakis (the Christakes?)* is to keep that kind of thing from having to happen. I mean, if the black students had just shrugged and gone "Ok then we will personally go out in groups and take up the issue with every single white person acting potentially racist/sexist/etc. this halloween!" I'm guessing you would have seen a truly magnificent administrative reaction - far more than they're getting now anyway.

*The other ones being versions of, I guess, concierge service or whatever. But it's not like having a particular social atmosphere isn't exactly what every single smallish college and plenty of big ones tout as part of their appeal. And they're not wrong to do it, either, because that is absolutely relevant to what/how people learn.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 7:44 AM
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But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students.

Maybe this is another cultural thing, but, setting aside possible first amendment issues, what is unusual or objectionable about a university bureaucracy exercising control, implied or explicit, over college students? Isn't that what a university bureaucracy does?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 9:03 AM
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Am I the only person here who enjoys creating Amazon wish lists and is bummed that relatives don't consult them?


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 10:00 AM
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I haven't done that kind of thing since we got the Montgomery Ward catalog.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 10:04 AM
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409: Not a swastika, no.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 10:07 AM
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questioning the instinct of mildly discomfited students for going right to official sanction

It wasn't the students who started out by being "mildly discomfited" and trying to bring official pressure to bear.

Christakis (like a segment of the Unfoggetariat here) is so steeped in top-down procedural liberalism that she can't imagine a memo with suggestions from "the Intercultural Affairs Committee" as anything but "implied control," and she wanted to convey her discomfort with that.

The original memo from the committee was just a bunch of obvious suggestions from some earnest administrators. But Christakis, seeing it as coercive, wanted to push back and make sure that everybody understands that Official Yale (which she also represents) isn't going to go all PC on everybody.

In that context, if you disagree with her, the perfectly logical next step is to seek some kind of official sanction. It's Christakis who first framed the debate in those terms, not the committee or the students.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 10:16 AM
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The 'poopetrator' is a great word.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 10:17 AM
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Actual threat to academic freedom in Missouri.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 10:41 AM
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This bit from Christakis was interesting:

And the censure and prohibition come from above, not from yourselves! Are we all okay with this transfer of power?

This is Christakis explicitly denying that, to this point, discomfited students were seeking action from the university.

The "you" in "yourselves" is interesting here. Who is the "you" that isn't concerned about offensive costumes? Who is Christakis defending against the "prohibition" that came from the university?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 10:46 AM
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I'm guessing the people who aren't concerned about it, or concerned very much, are the people she uses to start her email (and whom she's pretty clearly on the side of throughout it):
Nicholas and I have heard from a number of students who were frustrated by the mass email sent to the student body about appropriate Halloween-wear.
It's probably not hard to guess which people were complaining about the email.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 10:57 AM
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Since this is the academic freedom thread, more or less, what do the lawyers here think of the Salaita settlement?

$875,000, $275,000 for the lawyers and $600,000 for Salaita. Low? High? Just right?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 11:04 AM
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425 -- Seems pretty low, though I'm well outside my area of actual expertise and knowledge. Didn't he have a strong claim to a tenured ie permanent position, for his life and then a pension, that paid at least 100k a year? And $875k is probably pretty close to a cost of litigation settlement for the University, I'd guess. Either his claims were worse than they'd looked or my damages analysis is way off or he just needed some money, fast.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 11:12 AM
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A tenure-track position, not a tenured position.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 11:18 AM
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I'm pretty sure it was actually a tenured position - otherwise he would have been leaving tenure for a chance at tenure, which pretty much no one does.

It does seem low to me, especially since he only has a temporary position at the moment. Hopefully he has a reasonable offer or at least very strong prospects of one somewhere at the moment, though. If not my guess is that there was a "we will seriously go after you with everything the Israel lobby has for the rest of your life if you don't settle out now" threat and he decided that letting things go now was the best choice.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 11:23 AM
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I think he was being hired to a tenured position, not tt. Seemed low to me, too, but then I figured that the publicity has probably been pretty lucrative for him, and he can get another academic job, so it's not like he's lost lifetime earnings. But I do wonder just how easy it will be for him to get another tenured job now that he's that anti-semitic guy.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 11:26 AM
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The settlement money doesn't seem like a particularly real deterrent for the University (I mean, aside from the publicity), since it's likely not close to the biggest settlement they'll pay out this year from their litigation budget. Not does it seem like a particularly good result for Salaita. After tax he probably takes home $400k, max, which isn't nothing but probably doesn't come close to his real damage. The foregoing analysis is mostly based on hunches, so don't take it too seriously.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 11:30 AM
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425 - The article I just read noted that the salary was $85,000. (And it was a tenured position.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 11:33 AM
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Wow, this whole time I thought he was a guy who had his one chance at winning the academic lottery taken away from him. Apparently he was well established beforehand.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 11:33 AM
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It was my impression as well that it was a tenured position.

The settlement seems low to me because 1) I wouldn't remotely consider giving up a tenured faculty position for that amount, and 2) I would have liked to see UIUC get hit with a very painful settlement just on general principles, and this doesn't look particularly painful from the POV of a huge institution like the University of Illinois.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 11:35 AM
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Also, and this judgment are being made from 40,000 feet which is totally improper but still, the attorney's fees seem high. Weren't the people representing him doing so in an at least quasi-pro-bono way? They're taking basically the standard 1/3 contingency on a mediocre settlement that Joe Average plaintiff's employment lawyer would have taken. I'm all for funding civil rights impact litigation through legal fees but the whole point of doing so is that the public interest groups should push harder for big results than a standard contingency fee lawyer who wants to take his cut and go home.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 11:38 AM
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"judgment is"


Posted by: RT | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 11:38 AM
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They're taking basically the standard 1/3 contingency on a mediocre settlement that Joe Average plaintiff's employment lawyer would have taken.

Locally, there's a firm with radio ads saying their fee is only 1/4.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 11:45 AM
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After tax he probably takes home
The tax treatment of settlements and awards is pretty interesting-- physical injury excluded, anything else not, roughly speaking in my quick reading. Can settlements be structured so that the payout is spread out for IRS purposes so as not to bump recipient into a high bracket at least?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 11:49 AM
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$400,000 is enough to set up a Jimmy John's franchise.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 11:51 AM
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NPV of $85k a year for 25 years is well over $1 million.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 11:58 AM
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You need to factor in uncertainty, risk aversion, and the odds that a Quiznos opens nearby.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 12:03 PM
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Can settlements be structured so that the payout is spread out for IRS purposes so as not to bump recipient into a high bracket at least?

Sometimes, yes (see "structured settlement"), but they're generally available, and it's generally done, only in personal injury cases where the settlement recovery is itself not "income."* But it seems like increasingly there are options for non-personal injury cases (see here), so the answer is "maybe." But this doesn't come up much in my own practice and in any event I strenuously avoid knowing much about tax law or giving tax law advice.

*attorney's fees are exactly the opposite -- they are taxable in personal injury cases, but not in non-personal injury cases. Meaning that your car-crash settlement, unless structured properly, can leave you with a big tax hit on the attorney's fee portion.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 12:05 PM
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Wait, if the way the fees work is that theoretically all the money goes to you and then you pay the attorney, why wouldn't it all be treated the same way for tax purposes? Or if the attorney just takes the fees off the top before the money ever gets to you, why would you be on the hook taxwise at all? How is the flow of money conceived such that that makes sense?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 12:10 PM
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Money you pay to that goes towards producing taxable "income" is deductible from your "income," in theory (e.g., business expenses). So, say you get a settlement for lost wages, which is treated as income. You can deduct the attorney's fees paid to obtain the settlement as a cost of getting the income. Then, the balance of the income from the settlement is taxable. Personal injury damages are not "income" for federal income tax purposes (because, in theory, you're being compensated for a physical injury) and aren't taxed at all. But, money you receive that goes for the purpose of enabling you to collect that non-income financial benefit is not deductible. Thus, attorney's fees paid to you to pay your attorney on a personal-injury settlement aren't costs incurred in obtaining taxable income, and aren't deductible. Nor are they personal-injury damages, and therefore they aren't tax exempt. Therefore, they are separately taxable as income. Or so says, I believe, both the IRS and the Supreme Court. Again, well well well outside of expertise land here.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 12:21 PM
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What if you paid your attorney out of the income you receive from your job, which is taxable, rather than out of the non-income you received as part of the settlement?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 12:24 PM
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Again, well well well outside of expertise land here.

If it was in your area of expertise, you wouldn't tell us at all.



Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 12:27 PM
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What if the physical injury has caused you to be unable to work? Would part of the compensation go to the wages lost as a result of being injured, and if so, would the attorneys' fees need to be broken out into work done for recovering lost wages and work done for compensation for the injury more directly?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 12:30 PM
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443 -- then, you're paying your lawyer (generally by the hour) yourself instead of on a contingent-fee basis; you don't get any tax benefit, and you're out of pocket on your own fees, but the entire personal injury recovery would be non-taxable because all of it would be personal injury compensation and none of it would be attorney's fees. Of course, it's not worth it/possible for most people to pay their personal-injury lawyers on a non-contingent basis, even with that tax difference.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 12:32 PM
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Wait, I don't understand why the non-contingent-fee aspect makes the difference here. Why can't I pay the lawyer out of my own money even if s/he's working on a contingent fee basis? Isn't the essence of that just the determination of how much and whether I owe the lawyer?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 12:35 PM
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445 -- generally, the rule is that if the damage is caused by physical injury, you (a) can collect for lost wages caused by the physical injury, and (b) that portion of the recovery is not taxable as income. The degree to which this is philosophically defensible is left as an open question, but that's the way the code works and has been interpreted, I believe.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 12:36 PM
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447 -- you could, I guess, but you'd be foolish to do so. Say you get a $1,000,000 settlement for your car crash and your lawyer has a 30% contingent fee arrangement. Theoretically, you could tell the other side and your lawyer, "pay me all of $1,000,000, and I will separately pay my lawyer $300,000, right now, exclusively out of income I've earned on my job, so that all of the $1 million is non taxable." Now you don't owe any tax on your lawyer's $300,000 fee, but you're out of pocket $300,000. On the other hand, if you paid tax on the $300,000 fee, you'd just be taxed on it at whatever marginal rate -- so, very roughly, you'd probably pay at most $150k. That's why no one does that.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 12:40 PM
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This is how society uses its collective brain power instead of trying to kill baby Hitler.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 12:42 PM
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but you're out of pocket $300,000.

So let's say at the start I have exactly $300,000, then I pay $300,000 and receive $1,000,000, so I'm left with $1,000,00.

Or, I have exactly $300,000, and I receive $700,000, and also pay tax on the $300,000 fee, equal to $150,000. I'm left with $850,000. Right? I must be missing something straightforward.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 12:48 PM
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Ten years salary for a wrongful firing/non-hiring, in a situation where the plaintiff is relatively young and capable of finding another job with comparable pay (which would reduce his damages to zero), is an excellent result for a plaintiff.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 12:49 PM
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Also, I share neb's confusion.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 12:50 PM
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A better way of thinking about it is "how much have I paid in attorney's fees to gain additional money?" In example one, you're net $700,000 from the transaction, in example two, you're net $850,000. That you started out with $300,000 is neither here nor there, in example 1 you're always paying more to get your $1 million settlement. Hopefully that makes sense, numbers and tax law are not my strong suit.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 12:55 PM
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I don't understand why I'm not effectively paying $450k in the second case.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 12:58 PM
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Or, the initial $300,000 doesn't matter because you can always do something else with the $300,000.

452 makes sense but it seems different in this context b/c of both tenure and the publicity of the suit and the relative availability of other similar job options. Given that the salary was only $85k (I'd been thinking more like $200k) I guess the settlement is "fine" but it's hardly a big win, in context, and the fees still look excessive to me. But maybe it made sense for Salaita who wanted money now.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:00 PM
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The initial $300,000 was just to be there to be able to pay the attorney.

How are you net $850,000 in example 2? Maybe that's what I'm missing; I was assuming that if you get $1,000,000, then that's it. If it's $1,000,000 plus attorney's fees, then obviously 2 makes more sense.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:03 PM
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Or, in case 2, your total is $1,150,000, right, if you want to think about it that way ($300,000 + $700,000 + $150,000), whereas in case 1 your total is $1,000,000 (($300,000 - $300,000) + $1,000,000). Right?


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:03 PM
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Though if the amount of the award is "award + fees" then you'd also be getting $1,300,000 in case one, so you'd still end up with $1,300,000 rather than $1,150,000, so I remain confused.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:06 PM
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It's a good thing I'm not involved in any personal injury lawsuits.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:07 PM
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Why doesn't 458 work? That seems pretty straightforward and also I used arithmetic symbols.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:07 PM
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Maybe if you tried an em dash instead of a minus sign.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:10 PM
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Why doesn't 458 work?

Maybe you could tell me what the sources of the $300,000, the $700,000, and the $150,000 are in the first parenthetical.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:13 PM
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Like, if it's like this:

$300,000 — I already had that
$700,000 — award less fees
$150,000 — thin air?

Then I don't understand it.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:15 PM
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But if it's that I'm actually getting $1,000,000 in damages plus $300,000 for fees, pay out $300,000, and then pay taxes of $150,000 for a total of $850,000 net, then I don't understand why in case 2 it doesn't work like: total award of $1,300,000 (damages + funds for atty fees), less $300,000 of my own money to pay the attorney, less $0 for taxes, for a total of $1,000,000.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:18 PM
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Explain it like I'm four, is basically what I'm asking.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:18 PM
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Isn't Tigre just saying that if you take the fees as part of your award, you're only out taxes on the fees, but if you pay it out of pocket, you're out the entire amount of the fee?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:19 PM
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468

463 -- You have $300,000 in assets from somewhere not related to the lawsuit. You get a contingency fee settlement of $1,000,000. Your fee agreement with your lawyer entitles him to 30% of any recovery. So, your options are:

1) Spend $300,000 in unrelated assets on attorney's fees, and keep 100% of the $1,000,000 award. This gives you a total of $1,000,000.

2) Do not spend your $300,000 in unrelated assets. Keep it. Keep 70 % of the award, as tax-free, or $700,000. That's $1 million in current assets. Pay an absolute 50% tax rate on the remaining $300,000 from the $1 million settlement, so you take home an additional $150,000. Now, adding everything together you have $1,150,000. Isn't that better?


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:19 PM
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469

But if it's that I'm actually getting $1,000,000 in damages plus $300,000 for fees, pay out $300,000, and then pay taxes of $150,000 for a total of $850,000 net, which when added to the $300,000 I already had makes for $1,150,000.

But that correction means that actually case 1 in 465 should be:

total award of $1,300,000 (damages + funds for atty fees), less $300,000 of my own money to pay the attorney, less $0 for taxes, for a total of $1,000,000.$1,300,000.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:20 PM
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470

I thought 467 was what I was saying.


Posted by: Roberto Tige | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:20 PM
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471

When do I pay the attorney in this scenario?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:21 PM
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472

467, 470: I was somehow imagining that you had to be out the entire fee at some point anyway, since the attorney would want that money.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:22 PM
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473

Wouldn't the taxman treat your money as fungible?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:24 PM
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474

Humanities majors (you too, LB) discuss billing. 500 comments, here we come.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:25 PM
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475

Ah, I see the confusion. Yes, if you are able to just pay the lawyer out of your pocket, and the lawyer is entitled to his fee on your full pre-tax recovery, then you're better off paying him your fee out of pocket than paying his fee and then paying taxes on his fee on top of that.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:26 PM
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476

Next question. Why isn't there a business offering loans so you can do that? It sounds like a huge profit for low risk.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:27 PM
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477

Vindication!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:27 PM
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478

474: I'm majored in social science but got promoted to science-science.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:28 PM
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479

But, in that scenario, 473 comes into play, and the IRS will not be happy that you've taken the full benefit of the contingent fee arrangement without having to pay tax on it.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:28 PM
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480

So but wait, in the scenarios you were imagining, where does the money for the lawyer come from?

IRS will not be happy that you've taken the full benefit of the contingent fee arrangement without having to pay tax on it.

What the hell, it seems to be totally in-bounds based on inexpert blog commentary from someone who is neither my lawyer nor offering legal advice!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:30 PM
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Wait, I thought that the way settlements usually worked with contingent fees was that the settlement was paid to the attorney, and the attorney then paid the ex-fee amount to their client.

This way if the client has debts or likes gambling, no prob for the attorney. Doesn't that payment structure change the taxes-- the client never receives the money. Also, in that case, if the attorney's fee is after-tax money for the client, doesn't that mean that those fees get an extra layer of tax as compared to fees paid by a business, for which they'd be expenses?

Basically, Tigre's suggestion of how attorneys fees get treated seems to suggest that contingent fees paid by individual clients to attorenys for personal injuryu cases get especially severe tax treatment compared to fees paid by businesses or the portion of settlements that is not fees. That's logically possible, but pretty surprisiong for a nation whose legislators are mostly lawyers.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:37 PM
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482

What if the attorney has debts or likes gambling? Huh? What then?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 1:46 PM
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483

480.1 -- I wasn't thinking. Mentally, I was thinking that your scheme was that you'd negotiate with the other side to lower the total amount of the settlement so that the whole payment was non-taxable to you, but then pay the exactly-equivalent amount of attorney's fees to your lawyer, so as to argue to the IRS that the whole award was non-taxable and no part of it derived from attorney's fee money, while still paying your lawyer the same amount. So, e.g., instead of settling for a total of $1M, paying $300k in fees and paying $150k in taxes on those fees, you'd settle for $700,000, and make no portion of that subject to a contingent recovery, having already agreed in advance to pay your lawyer $300,000 from your pre-existing assets. In that case, you wouldn't owe any taxes, the IRS couldn't argue that you were just shifting money around, and the government would get less money, but the difference would be that you'd end up with net $550k using an ordinary contingent fee arrangement and net $400,000 using the tax avoidance scheme.

I didn't understand that you were thinking that the client could just shift $300,000 to the lawyer from some other source at the moment of settlement, with an identical settlement, to argue that the fee award portion was entirely non-taxable, while paying exactly the same contingency fee to the attorney. But then my arithmetic got messed up when I started trying to explain using my greatest enemy, math, and I just assumed away the lawyer's fee in scenario 2 without explaining that this was because of what I thought was the plan, i.e., a reduction in the settlement amount.

Whew! That was a massively value-adding comment, but now maybe I only look somewhat, as opposed to massively, dumb.

Doesn't that payment structure change the taxes

No, on my understanding.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 2:53 PM
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And, I see that I actually said "pay me all of $1M" in 449 so of course no one got it.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 2:57 PM
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485

NMM to Filthy Phil Taylor. One for Tigre.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 3:09 PM
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486

Late to the thread, as usual (in this case, I was following it more or less, but by the time I'd caught up there were 100 more comments),

As for Christmas presents and list, I'm on record as hating Christmas. There was like four years when I could have honestly said "I don't need anything" and stuck with it if I was just stubborn enough, but I gave in eventually. Now that I've got a house and a kid and my job is a little insecure (no particular news, it's just that the status quo is worrying), there's always something I want but haven't got around to yet. So someone gets an accurate answer when they ask what I want, and then I have to reciprocate. Ugh.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 3:35 PM
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And I can't even be bothered to finish writing my comments. I suck.

Late to the thread, as usual... but re: the main topic about the University of Missouri, I liked this article. I believe someone from here linked to it on the other place, but I haven't seen it in this thread yet and don't see any good reason for that, so here it is.

As for the contingency fee thing, IANAL but I'm surprised RT's plan is viable. I've read that it's illegal to structure payments to avoid getting into certain tax brackets. That was in the context of some threshold that banks have to report deposits in, for the purpose of catching money laundering or something, but I'd kind of assume it or an equivalent was relevant here.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 3:40 PM
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488

Oh no. And Lemmy's not long for this world either. Apparently, he's switched to Vodka.


Posted by: RT | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 4:04 PM
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489

Kind of hard to overstate what a big deal that guy was for metal drumming. Without him, no double bass drum, no thrash. He should be in Westminster Abbey if anyone is.


Posted by: RT | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 4:16 PM
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452 is right, IMO.

481/482 -- You're damn right the lawyer wants the settlement proceeds wired to her/his client funds account. Which, if fooled around with, leads straight to discipline.

On the tax issue, I hadn't realized that the IRS was interpreting section 104(a)(2) in that manner. But then I took Tax prior to 1996, and have tried to stay willfully ignorant since then.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 4:44 PM
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487.2 is indeed a great article. It's not necessarily directly applicable to the Yale case, I think, but "if someone is valiantly proclaiming the value of free speech against people who are angry about something, and they refuse to talk about or specify the specific speech they are defending it's because they're uncomfortable with something being off limits but they don't want to admit that" is a really great rule of thumb for whenever someone at The Atlantic or wherever starts getting all het up about college students.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 11-12-15 5:00 PM
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492

This is sort of on topic. Maybe. Anyway, nobody in Clarion is Asian.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-13-15 7:52 AM
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