Yale’s Core Values Betrayal: The Case Of The Student’s Unnecessarily Provocative Philosophy Essay

It certainly appears as if U.S. higher education is sailing toward the shoals of ethics bankruptcy, full speed ahead. It also appears that Yale, although it’s part of a tightly bunched armada, is leading the way.

A law suit called Doe v. Yale tells a jaw-dropping tale that once would have been unbelievable, “once” meaning “before a large segment of the culture accepted the proposition that free expression and thought were undesirable unless they met certain lockstep requirements that will ease the way to a progressive utopia.” The plaintiff, a male student, claims that Yale punished him for the offense of writing a class essay that offended a female teaching assistant.

According to his lawsuit, in late 2013 a philosophy teaching assistant filed a complaint with the university’s Title IX office, complaining about a short paper “Doe” had written in the class she was helping to teach.  The essay discussed Socrates’ discussion, recounted in Plato’s “Republic,” of the three divisions of the soul and their relationship to justice. It applied the Greek philosopher’s ideas to rape, arguing that the crime was also an irrational act in which  the soul’s appetites and spirited components overwhelm its reason, which must have primacy for mankind to be moral and just.

The Title IX coordinator, an associate dean in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences named Pamela Schirmeister, told Doe that his essay was “unnecessarily provocative.” By daring to discuss rape, he had committed an offense against the teaching assistant. He was told to have no contact with the teaching assistant, and ordered to attend sensitivity training at the university’s mental-health center—re-education and indoctrination, in other words. “Doe” was now, he was told, a “person of interest” to Yale, meaning that that the college was now going to be watching him with a grounded suspicion that he was a potential danger to the campus.

What followed, a few months later, were two dubious accusations of sexual assault by female students, both handled with the slanted, pro-accuser, due process-avoiding  approach that has become epidemic on campuses since President Obama’s Dept of Education issued its infamous “Dear Colleague” letter in April of 2011.  Ethics Alarms has discussed some of these cases and the letter, but that is not the topic before us today.

Today the topic is the suppression of free speech, thought, and expression on college campuses.  If the facts as described in the law suit are accurate, Doe was punished for the content of his essay, because one instructor found his topic, his arguments, his words—you know, it really doesn’t matter what she found offensive—personally upsetting, and filed a complaint against him because of what he wrote in an assigned essay. If the essay was not directed at her personally, and it wasn’t, the proper response by Yale would have been to give the teaching assistant a strong lecture on academic freedom, the importance of freedom of expression, and what education means. I would add that her credentials as a teaching assistant should have been reviewed, since the complaint created a prima facie case that she was an incompetent and ideologically-addled menace. Instead, the student —he was male, after all—was treated as if he was in the wrong, because he wrote an essay on the “wrong” topic.  Taboo. Politically incorrect. Something. It upset a woman, anyway, and apparently that can’t be permitted at Old Eli.

Writes Peter Berkowitz of Stanford’s Hoover Institute—you remember Stanford: that’s the school where just writing “Black Lives Matters” as an essay enhances an applicant’s admission chances:

If Doe’s story is true, Yale is no longer satisfied in enforcing correct opinions. To utter the correct opinion, Yale also demands that you be the correct sex. Far from protecting the right to “discuss the unmentionable” …Yale is stretching the boundaries of censorship by abridging the right to discuss even the uncontroversial.

For one of the nation’s most prestigious colleges to take this tragic turn should have red lights flashing and sirens wailing.  Has the mainstream news media reported the episode at all? I’m sure readers are tired of me harping on this, but no, of course not.  Ethics Alarms will continue to point out this kind of biased and ideological embargo of important stories until the news media bias deniers (they are also news media bias enablers) write to me en masse saying, “ALL RIGHT! ALL RIGHT! We admit it! The news media is not only partisan, but selects, slants and distorts the news to tilt public opinion positively toward a progressive agenda!”

Pretending news that has happened hasn’t is also a form of fake news.

Amusingly, if by amusingly one means “this is so hypocritical it makes me want to plotz,”  Yale’s president, Peter Salovey,  wrote last year  that Yale and its leadership  “adhere to exceptionally strong principles of free expression,” and reaffirmed Yale’s much-praised Woodward Report, which declared that the university’s educational mission is inextricably bound up with “the right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable.”



Pointer: Advice Goddess Blog

Facts: Luxlibertas

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts, and seek written permission when appropriate. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work or property was used in any way without proper attribution, credit or permission, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

18 thoughts on “Yale’s Core Values Betrayal: The Case Of The Student’s Unnecessarily Provocative Philosophy Essay

  1. This is truly depressing. It reminds me a bit of the Kafka novel *The Trial* although this guy knows what “crime” he is suspected of, mainly about writing about a topic that offended the teacher’s assistant. What effect this will have on his life at Yale is pretty predictable: Hopefully, he will fight this Orwellian intimidation though a student group interested in protecting freedom of expression.

  2. Let me see if I understand this correctly… He used the Classic Philosophers to show how rape was a BAD THING – in essence a CRIME against the soul. And this, THIS is considered offensive? Forget free-speech and Title IX; does anyone know how to READ at this institution of higher learning? It is seems relatively easy to view this as further evidence of the erosion of critical thinking due to the tidal wave of political correctness. I would tend to disagree in this case. Because if the facts are as stated, the TRUE ISSUE HERE is the blatant lack of EDUCATION/KNOWLEDGE being demonstrated by Yale educators. THAT would be the story the media are missing – holding up the University for RIDICULE due to basic reading incompetence…

  3. I’m less worried about the media non-reaction than what is becoming of our college-aged children. They are being indoctrinated as if our colleges, even and perhaps especially the most prestigious like Yale, were re-education camps of the now-defunct Soviet Union.

    The media’s bias has been on full display for so long that, more and more, only leftist ideologues will pay attention to them. Fortunately, there are people out there ready to pick up the stories they ignore and expose them to the light of day. At this point, that’s probably the best we can hope for.

    Somehow, it seems to me that we are sending our kids to genteel versions of the drive-in from the movie Red Dawn, where you can hear the propaganda in the background:

    Our colleges have lost their way. Perhaps the courts can motivate them with large financial penalties. What happens if they can’t doesn’t bear thinking on.

    • The only point of mentioning the media is that it’s hard for the public to make enough noise about dangerous societal developments when the media goes out of its way to keep it in the dark. And I do believe it is intentional.

      • Oh, don’t misunderstand. I think you should continue to call them out, every time. I’m just expressing my own resignation to the inevitable. No reason you should share it.

        And I totally agree with you, it is deliberate and calculated, and it is dangerous. Unfortunately, they don’t agree with the latter.

    • I take a slightly different view of the outcome. Strong conservative kids are emerging from college with razor like wits. They have been chiseled, sharpened, and highly tuned from four years or more of having their principles daily challenged.

      The liberal kids are the ones I feel sorry for – they are not receiving the education that they paid for and deserved. You can see proof positive of this in obamas debate with Romney where all Obama could do was look at this shoes. He had never been challenged before and had no idea how to react.

      Now, the liberal kids have had the media and establishment to buffer them and to protect their delicate sensibilities and underdeveloped intellect. But there are signs too this is changing.

      • I hope you’re right. Even if they are not conservative, I just hope they are not so indoctrinated that they cannot think for themselves. I don’t even care if they’re liberal, as long as they can open their minds to other things.

  4. Isn’t Yale the publisher of a book about the Mohammed cartoons that they refused to allow to contain the actual cartoons? They lost their commitment to free expression and academic freedom a while ago.

  5. I hesitated to comment on this, but I must. I have been a Teaching Assistant, so I have an idea what their duties are. They are not instructors, certainly are rarely allowed to actually teach a class. Generally, I sat over in a corner of the room, and after class, was available to answer questions to clarify a lecture or an assignment. I was once read the riot act for daring to express what I thought my professor had in mind for an assignment. I apologized profusely, even though I was right. She thought she should have been the one to tell the student, not a lowly T.A. I learned one valuable lesson…T.A.’s who earn their Professors wrath are generally unemployed. I was not, thanks to an abject apology for being right.

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