A Yale professor who argued for students’ right to wear culturally insensitive Halloween costumes and triggered outcry on campus has announced her intentions to resign from teaching at the university.
Erika Christakis made a “voluntary decision not to teach in the future,” according to a statement from the university obtained by The New York Times on Monday. Nicholas Christakis, her husband and a professor of sociology who defended her argument, also announced that he will go on sabbatical for one semester.
The issue began last October, just before Halloween, when the school’s Intercultural Affairs Committee sent an email to the student body encouraging students not to wear culturally appropriative or insensitive Halloween costumes for the upcoming holiday. Shortly after, students also received a response from an Associate Master at the school, Erika Christakis, also a child development specialist. Christakis argued that students should be allowed and even encouraged to wear costumes, regardless of whether the garb was offensive or made fun of others. It read in part:
“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?...Whose business is it to control the forms of costumes of young people? It’s not mine, I know that.”
Christakis’ email (as well as a reportedly racially charged incident at a frat party on campus) sparked protests and outcry over racial insensitivity at the school. Footage of the protests showed students having heated exchanges with Nicholas Christakis over the issue.
Yale issued a statement over the news calling Erika Christakis “a well-regarded instructor,” and adding that the university’s leadership was disappointed by her choice, and she is welcome to resume teaching at Yale at any time.
The couple will continue in their posts as master and associate master of Silliman College—positions similar to overseers of student residence halls.