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Asked why Yale conservatives feel unwelcome on campus, dean says they say ‘stupid’ things

When administrators talk to the student press and then regret their statements, they sometimes try to stop their comments from being published at all.

It was too late for a Yale official to do that, so he simply gave an unconvincing explanation that his plain words don’t mean what they plainly say.

As we noted yesterday, the Yale Daily News said 75 percent of students in its new survey on campus political attitudes believe that Yale is not “welcoming” to conservative students who want to share their political opinions. Even two in three liberal students say it’s not welcoming to conservatives.

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Asked to comment, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway gave a strange response:

Holloway attributed conservative students’ discomfort at sharing their views partly to the pervasiveness of social media.

“So much of your generation’s world is managed through smart phones. There’s no margin anymore for saying something stupid,” Holloway said. “People have been saying dumb things forever, but when I was your age word of mouth would take a while. Now it’s instantaneous, now context is stripped away.”

Conservatives say “stupid” things? Law professor Jonathan Adler at Case Western Reserve University wrote at The Volokh Conspiracy:

Whatever his intent, I can’t see how equating the expression of conservative views with “saying something stupid” is supposed to be at all reassuring to students with right-of-center views.

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Holloway apparently got enough immediate flak (also see the comment section of the News story) that he later told the News that he didn’t mean what he clearly said. It added a same-day “clarification” at the end of the story:

Describing the statement he initially provided the News as unintentionally unclear, Dean Jonathan Holloway issued the following: “In no way did I intend to imply that the views of any student or faculty were stupid or should be dismissed. I meant to lament the fact that meaningful conversations were too often reduced or misconstrued in the shortened messages of social media, leading to a lack of understanding. I apologize if my words were misconstrued and taken to mean anything otherwise.”

Right, “misconstrued.” Holloway was specifically asked why conservative students might be reluctant to share their views on an oppressively liberal, intolerant campus, and he responded as a paternalistic liberal: “There’s no margin anymore for saying something stupid.”

Liberal students don’t feel inhibited from speaking: 85 percent said they are “comfortable” or “very comfortable” sharing their views. Of course. There’s no social cost to it.

So who exactly is suffering or most likely to suffer “for saying something stupid”?

Unless the News misrepresented what it asked Holloway – and there’s no indication that it did from Holloway’s “clarification” – this top official at an Ivy League school had a rare moment of candor, telling Yale students of a rightward persuasion exactly how little he thinks of their perspectives.

Read the story with Holloway’s new explanation.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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