Nearly 50 faculty members at Yale University contributed to an open letter showing support for their two embattled colleagues on campus after a controversial email about students' Halloween costumes received national attention.
The letter states that "as faculty colleagues," the group expresses its strong support of Nicholas Christakis, the master of Silliman College at Yale and his wife Erika Christakis, who's an associate master at Silliman, The New Haven Register reports.
Student backlash against the Christakises began after Erika criticized an Intercultural Affairs Committee email that urged students to be careful in their choice of Halloween costumes. Her husband publicly defended her actions.
The university's Intercultural Affairs Council sent an email to students before Halloween asking them to be cognizant of the "cultural implications" of their costumes, such as "blackface and turbans," the Yale Daily News reported.
Erika's response asked if there's no room for young people to be "a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?"
Hundreds of students then signed an open letter in response, calling Erika Christakis' comments "jarring and disheartening."
"Your email equates old traditions of using harmful stereotypes and tropes to further degrade marginalized people, to preschoolers playing make believe. This both trivializes the harm done by these tropes and infantilizes the student body to which the request was made. You fail to distinguish the difference between cosplaying fictional characters and misrepresenting actual groups of people," students wrote in the open letter to Christakis.
The faculty members wrote in their recent letter that they stand by Erika's free speech rights and her reply "clearly does not constitute support for racist expressions."
“The email … did not express support for racist expressions, but rather focused primarily on the question of whether monitoring and criticizing such expression should be done in a top-down manner,” the letter states, according to the Yale Daily News.