Yale teacher resigns over Halloween costume controversy

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- A Yale University faculty member who sparked protests when she said students should be free to push boundaries with Halloween costumes, even to the point of offense, resigned from her teaching position, the school announced Monday.

Erika Christakis chose not to continue teaching in the spring semester, the university said on its website.

"Her teaching is highly valued and she is welcome to resume teaching anytime at Yale, where freedom of expression and academic inquiry are the paramount principle and practice," the school said.

Christakis came under attack in October for her response to a request from the Intercultural Affairs Committee that students avoid wearing racially insensitive costumes, such as Native American headgear, turbans or blackface. She wrote in an email to students living in the residence hall where she's an administrator that they should be able to wear any costume they want.

"Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious, a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?" she wrote. "American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition."

The email was one of several incidents on campus that prompted hundreds of students and faculty members to march in protest on Nov. 9 of what they see as racial insensitivity at the Ivy League school.

The school also has been dealing with criticism over a residential hall named after John Calhoun, a prominent slave-owning politician, questions about how minorities are treated on campus and allegations that a woman was turned away from a fraternity party because she was not white.

During the march, CBS affiliate WFSB spoke to some students who were upset about racially charged incidents on the campus.

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Students protesting at the Yale campus on Monday, Nov. 9, 2015.
CBS affiliate WFSB

"A lot of people here on campus, especially people of color, women of color, feel they're discriminated against or sometimes their voices are not heard," said Abby Johnson, a Yale senior.

"We would like to see an improved climate on campus. Specifically improving diversity in the faculty, uplifting ethnic studies and also have sensitivity training for all Yale students and faculty," said student Katie McCleary.

After the march, dozens of faculty members contributed to an open letter showing support Christakis, taught courses on child development and psychology.

"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," Christakis said in an email to The Washington Post.