Costume appropriation: Will Yale see a repeat of last Halloween?

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Yale University’s Silliman College, which served as ground zero for last fall’s debate over what students can and can’t wear for Halloween else they risk offending someone, will be home to a haunted house this time around.

The Yale Daily News reports that the new head of Silliman College, psychology professor Laurie Santos, has vowed to set up “a haunted house that won’t disappoint,” a move the newspaper notes harkens back to a tradition of hosting haunted houses at Silliman.

The ghosts of Santos’s predecessors, however, might want to remind her to tread lightly when it comes to costume decorum. It was just one year ago that former Associate Head of College Erika Christakis sent an email arguing that it shouldn’t be up to administrators to decide how students should and shouldn’t dress for Halloween.

Christakis in her email challenged whether students might wish to be allowed to “dress themselves.”

“As a former preschool teacher, for example, it is hard for me to give credence to a claim that there is something objectionably ‘appropriative’ about a blonde-haired child’s wanting to be Mulan for a day,” Christakis, who specializes in child development and early education, wrote at the time. “Pretend play is the foundation of most cognitive tasks, and it seems to me that we want to be in the business of encouraging the exercise of imagination, not constraining it.”

Christakis’s email proceeded to go viral, making national headlines, after students angrily protested, culminating in she and her husband’s decision to leave their posts.

A video of Nicholas Christakis attempting to hold a conversation with students and summarily being shouted down by another shrieking student later appeared online:

Incredibly, several students claimed they “no longer felt safe at Silliman,” according to the Daily News.

Recently new, previously unreleased video found its way online. The new footage purports to show exactly what happened in the moments before the shrieking student accosted Christakis:

The new videos were provided this week to Tablet Magazine, an online site that focuses on Jewish student life.

At certain points in the videos, a student can be seen calling Christakis “disgusting” to his face, while other students can be seen crying and sobbing.

As for Santos, the new Silliman College head told the Daily News she intends to “bring a sense of wellness back to the college.”