Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, is quite satisfied that Erika Christakis—the Yale University professor who mildly defended offensive Halloween costumes—has decided to quit teaching. On Twitter, he wrote:
Yale faculty member at center of protests will leave teaching role https://t.co/vums1UlRAl Free speech is good. Respecting others is better
— Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) December 5, 2015
Christakis explained her decision to quit in a statement to The Washington Post:
"I have great respect and affection for my students, but I worry that the current climate at Yale is not, in my view, conducive to the civil dialogue and open inquiry required to solve our urgent societal problems," she said in an email to The Washington Post.
And Dean thinks that's a good thing?
Look, "respecting others" is a perfectly noble goal, but it's entirely subjective. I would argue that Christakis was showing respect for her students when she opined that perhaps they were mature enough to make their own judgments about Halloween costumes without administrative guidance. There's nothing respectful about the regime of emotional coddling and feelings-protection some students want administrators to create on their campuses; infantilization is not dignifying.
When "respecting others" is a higher priority than defending free speech on campus, administrators are given license to punish students and faculty for the stupidest things. They also wall themselves off from legitimate criticism. People with institutional power—like campus administrators—simply have the most to gain from restricting speech rights. Is that what Dean wants: more coercive power for the powerful?