I’m generally a Jonathan Turley fan—for one thing, he makes almost as many typos on his blog as I do— but the George Washington Law School constitutional law professor is the master of equivocation, and this often obscures important facts. Writing about Yale’s Dean June Chu, recently put on leave by the school for online posts showing her to be a racist, a bigot and a hypocrite, he writes that she
“has been a successful academic and administrator at Yale University. However, that stellar record came to a halt — and Chu was put on leave — after it was discovered that she had written reviews on Yelp deemed offensive.”
“Deemed offensive” is classic Turley mild-speak, and it misleadingly suggests that the Yale dean has been another victim of campus political correctness because someone “deemed” her words “offensive.” Here is a sample of what she wrote on Yelp in various consumer reviews:
- In a review of a Japanese steakhouse, Chu wrote, “I guess if you were a white person who has no clue what mochi is, this would be fine for you . . . if you are white trash, this is the perfect night out for you!”
- She described a theater as having “sketchy crowds (despite it being in new haven)”
- She said a movie theater had “barely educated morons trying to manage snack orders for the obese and also try to add $7 plus $7.”
- Chu said of a fitness employee that “seriously I don’t care if you would ‘lose your job’ (I am sure McDonalds would hire you).”
- She called another gym class instructor ” frail and totally out of shape.”
Interestingly and tellingly, these and other nasty posts by Chu were discovered by students after she sent a campus-wide email in which she proudly announced that she had become “Yelp Elite,” meaning that she had been recognized by Yelp for “well-written reviews, high quality tips, a detailed personal profile, an active voting and complimenting record, and a history of playing well with others.” Some students decided to see what she had written. That wasn’t an unpredictable response, so Chu obviously didn’t see anything wrong with the attitudes she had projected. Stunned and disillusioned by what they found, the students circulated some of the most remarkable of her comments. These sparked anger from Yale students and alumni, who deemed the posts offensive because, Prof Turley, they were offensive. They were arrogant, elitist, classist and racist, reflected poorly on the institution, and were not the kinds of expression that supported Yale’s trust in her.
Chu quickly deleted her Yelp account and sent an apology by e-mail to students at Pierson, Yale’s largest residential college, where she is dean. She wrote:
“I have learned a lot this semester about the power of words and about the accountability that we owe one another. My remarks were wrong. There are no two ways about it. Not only were they insensitive in matters related to class and race; they demean the values to which I hold myself and which I offer as a member of this community.”
This is the Pazuzu Excuse.( other examples here). Chu is saying, apparently, that she was possessed by a malign entity, and the words she wrote were not her own. If those posts didn’t express her values, where did the bigotry and class bias come from? What she is really admitting is that those words and sentiments shouldn’t be uttered by someone responsible for molding young minds, so she is disowning them. The devil made her do it, as the late, great Flip Wilson used to say.
Not to pick on Turley, but he also argues that the dean’s non-Yale-related consumer bigotry might not be a legitimate concern to Yale:
Yet, there still remains the question of whether faculty should be subject to discipline for their exercise of free speech outside of this academic work. As we have previously discussed , there remains an uncertain line in what language is protected for teachers in their private lives. The incident also raises what some faculty have complained is a double or at least uncertain standard….Chu was not speaking as a Yale employee or using school resources. She is not accused of improper conduct at the university. Do you believe that Chu should be subject to discipline for expressing her views on social media?
No, Chu should be subject to discipline because in a public forum she expressed sentiments that disqualify her as a trustworthy role model, teacher, and Yale employee,embarrassing her employer, Yale, and undermining her credibility and respectability on campus.
This is not a case—Ethics Alarms discussed one recently, also flagged by Turley— where a high school or middle school student is disciplined for statements on social media made far away from school. Student isn’t an employee. A student doesn’t have a 24-7 obligation to not bring bad publicity and distrust to a school. Students have parents, and it is they, not school officials, who are responsible for non-school related discipline. Students are also not adults. Chu is not only an adult, but an adult who is supposed to display exemplary qualities, since she is charged with, and paid for, making young adults better and more admirable adults. Yale, like other elite colleges, has been traditionally vulnerable to the charge that it educates their graduates to be arrogant, self-adulating, condescending, elitist jerks.
Gee, I wonder how that happens?
Even Chu seems to comprehend what Turley does not, writing to the Yale Daily News,
“I am concerned about the shadow that my actions have thrown on my efforts to create an environment in Pierson that respects everyone. I am especially concerned that it could prevent anyone from coming to me for the support that I offer to all Pierson students.”
What is particularly damaging to Chu is that her reviews reveal her to be a hypocrite and a phony, espousing values that she neither possesses nor lives by.
One student noted article Chu wrote for Inside Higher Ed regarding the importance of cultural sensitivity, not usually a prime concern of those who deride “what trash” and mock McDonalds employees.
“When we advise students about their academic pathways, we must understand diverse students’ practical concerns as well as their distinct cultural value systems. Many studies continue to indicate differences between white American college students and those from ethnic minority groups,” Chu wrote. “Thus, when we as advisers only advocate following one’s passion, we should ask of ourselves if we are microaggressors, telling students that is the only right way to engage in education.”
Wise words, dean. Too bad we know that you are just giving them lip service. Oh, right, that wasn’t really you writing those things on Yelp.
Of course Yale should discipline Chu. The real question is how people like her get appointed dean in the first place.