Yale Debates: Are Offensive Costumes a Problem?

An associate master of one of Yale's residential colleges has set off a campus debate with an email saying offensive Halloween costumes may not be as terrible as some say.

On Friday, Erika Christakis sent a mass email in response to what she said were student concerns over being told not to risk offending people with costumes. She wrote, in part: “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?”

Her full email may be found here.

While some on social media are praising her, others are criticizing her for not understanding the hurt caused by costumes that are based on race and ethnicity. On Twitter, Christakis clarified that her point was not to suggest that some costumes aren't offensive, noting that “many of the same costumes offend me too.”

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Essay on being a poverty-class academic in training

Grace Cale reflects on her experiences.

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Racial tensions at Ithaca College

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College administration criticized for its response to racially charged incidents.

SUNY Plattsburgh Paper Apologizes for Cartoon

The editors of Cardinal Points, the student newspaper of the State University of New York's Plattsburgh campus, have apologized for a cartoon featuring a stereotypical image of a black person, illustrating an article on minority admissions. The cartoon (right) received widespread attention when The Daily Beast wrote an article about it titled, "College Paper Prints the Most Racist Front Page in America."

The student newspaper's apology said, in part, "To be frank, we deeply regret the use of this graphic and any offense or harm it may have caused our friends and peers. As SUNY Plattsburgh students and editors of the newspaper, we are constantly trying to represent the campus community in the best possible way, and in this case, we did not do so. Please know that we do not take this lightly and are using this as a constructive learning experience because we wish, more than anything, to remain an outlet of positivity and inclusion, where all members of our community feel safe and respected."

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Fraternity Group's Tips for Avoiding Offensive Parties

The North-American Interfraternity Conference -- whose members are no strangers to racist parties and costumes -- posted a series of Halloween tips on Friday to "ensure that member organizations make responsible decisions regarding event themes, costumes and social media that reflect their values and morals." In a blog post, Devin Hall, coordinator of IFC services at the NIC, suggested that campus Interfraternity Councils "introduce the concept of cultural appropriation" through diversity education, select an inclusive social event and require chapters to register any parties and their themes with the IFC.

"Viewed as funny, ironic, trendy or an opportunity to be retweeted by [Total Frat Move], dressing up as a Native American, painting oneself with blackface or dressing as a homeless person is not only offensive behavior, but also correctable," Hall wrote. "Our goal is for fraternities to avoid promoting concepts that reinforce historical stereotypes and mock or offend various cultures, races, ethnicities or identities."

Study finds race is growing explanatory factor for SAT scores in California

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Study finds that for applicants to U of California, race and ethnicity now influence scores more than family income and parental education levels. Could findings change debate over affirmative action?

To Prevent Bias, British Applications to Be Name Blind

In an effort to prevent racial bias, university applications in the U.K. will be “name blind” starting in 2017, Prime Minister David Cameron wrote in an op-ed in The Guardian. In his op-ed, Cameron argued that anonymized applications prevent reviewers from being influenced by the ethnic or religious background an applicant’s name might imply.

"Some research has shown that top universities make offers to 55 percent of white applicants, but only to 23 percent of black ones," Cameron wrote. "The reasons are complex, but unconscious bias is clearly a risk. So we have agreed with UCAS [the centralized application processing service] that it will make its applications name blind, too, from 2017."

Debate Over Jefferson Statue at U of Missouri

Students at the University of Missouri at Columbia are debating the appropriateness of a statue of Thomas Jefferson on campus. A petition was recently created urging the removal of the statue. The petition notes that while Jefferson is known as a proponent of equality, he was a slaveholder and held racist and sexist beliefs. "Thomas Jefferson’s statue sends a clear nonverbal message that his values and beliefs are supported by the University of Missouri. Jefferson's statue perpetuates a sexist-racist atmosphere that continues to reside on campus," the petition says.

College Republicans have countered with a #standwithJefferson hashtag on Twitter, demanding that the statue remain in place. Defenders of the statue have also draped an American flag around it (above right) for events at the site of the monument.

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Study Qualifies Finding on Gender in Faculty Hiring

A controversial study this year found that, other factors being equal, faculty members seeking new colleagues in science and technology fields prefer female candidates over male candidates. But the Cornell University scholars who did that study have now published a new analysis in which faculty members were asked to evaluate for possible hiring (based on a portfolio of materials) male and female candidates in which the male candidate received slightly higher ratings. In these comparisons, faculty members generally picked the male candidate. “Faculty apparently view quality as the most important determinant of hiring rankings,” write Stephen J. Ceci and Wendy M. Williams in the study, published in Frontiers in Psychology.

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Photographer discusses new book about Morris Brown College

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Photographer discusses new book about Morris Brown College, a historically black college that largely closed its doors after losing accreditation.


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