APAC Forum 2016 keynote speaker Nicholas Christakis will continue his several leadership roles within Yale University, despite stepping down as the head of one of its residential colleges.
Professor Christakis resigned from his role as “Master” of Silliman College last month. His wife and fellow Silliman College administrator Erika Christakis sent an email to their students about their choice of Halloween costumes last October.
Responding to an earlier communication from other members of the university administration, advising students to avoid potentially offensive costumes, Professor Christakis tells Ko Awatea that Erika Christakis “questioned whether Yale students really wanted or needed college administrators to act in this sort of paternalistic fashion.”
Professor Christakis says he publically supported students’ rights to express themselves and to resolve disagreements or offense-taking through communication amongst themselves.
He confirms he will remain at Yale University as Director of the Human Nature Lab and Co-Director of the Yale Institute for Network Science.
He tells Ko Awatea “he has been on the side of students his entire career, from the University of Chicago, to Harvard, to Yale.”
“I am totally committed to defending the rights to free expression at our universities, but I also realise that this principle poses special challenges in an era of increasing ethnoracial, religious, and socioeconomic pluralism. Still, I have respect for students’ judgment, and I do not think Yale students need guidance when it comes to Halloween costumes”
He directed Ko Awatea to a recent story published in The Economist and another one in The Atlantic both of which noted his defence of free expression at universities, even if he himself might also oppose the content of that expression.
“If we can’t this right at our elite universities, we’re doomed,” Professor Christakis was quoted in the story. “The answer to speech we do not like is more speech,” Christakis elaborated, “not censorship.”
“Bad ideas, when they see the light of day, are more effectively contravened,” he says.
Professor Christakis, an internationally renowned scientist, has published and presented widely on the phenomenon of social contagion and how it can be used to positively influence population health and other phenomena.
He will appear at the APAC Forum 2016 in Sydney this September.
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