Yale dean keeps job after superficial apology for online disparagement of ‘white trash’

Is there any racial group other than Caucasians that could be openly disparaged by an Ivy League dean without the dean being fired?  An astonishing drama is playing out at Yale University, where a diversicrat dean, June Chu, Ph.D., caused an uproar when students noticed and saved screenshots of her Yelp reviews that revealed a deep need to disparage lower-class whites, in particular because their tastes are not as sophisticated as hers.

Samantha Schmidt of the Washington Post summarizes the kerfuffle:

The posts ... referred to customers as "white trash" and "low class folks" and to some employees as "barely educated morons."

"If you are white trash, this is the perfect night out for you!" Chu wrote in a review about a Japanese restaurant, which she said lacked authenticity but was perfect for "those low class folks who believe this is a real night out."

"Side note: employees are Chinese, not Japanese," added Chu, who identifies in one review as Chinese American. In another restaurant review she said, "I guess if you were a white person who has no clue what mochi is, this would be fine for you."

In a 2015 review, she called a movie cinema's employees "barely educated morons trying to manage snack orders for the obese and also try to add $7 plus $7."

The reviews drew a backlash from Yale students and alumni, who called the posts demeaning and offensive and elitist.

Chu reveals that disdain for certain kinds of people animates her conscious life.  To feel that disparagement of others is a normal way to review a restaurant or other business, one must feel that such disdain itself is not only normal, but both desirable and important – so much so that there is no reason to apply the standards of exquisite sympathy for the sensitivities of other demographic groups.  In fact, this disdain for principally the white working class is a badge of honor.

Chu was so proud of her Yelp writing that when Yelp gave her Yelp Elite status, she broadcast the good news via email blasts.  That was her fatal hubris, for it was her own publicity efforts that brought her incriminating reviews to the notice of people who do not share her bigotry.   

There are few positions more fully invested in the formation and perpetuation of the ruling class than that of residential college dean at Yale.  Make no mistake: this is not the same as a dean of a faculty.  There is a lot of counseling and guidance, and even residence hall supervision.

The position of a dean in one of Yale's residential colleges is described by Yale this way.

Residential College Deans provide academic and personal counseling to undergraduates; administer and participate in residential college functions, including housing and extracurricular activities; serve on Yale College committees; and teach one or two courses per year. The Dean resides in an apartment within the college, has an office in the college and receives a meal plan in the college dining hall. Living quarters will be suitable for families, if applicable. The dean must have an advanced degree and be qualified to teach courses in Yale College. 

Chu's own background reveals a lot of emphasis on diversity and sensitivity.  In announcing her appointment as Pierson College dean a year ago, Yale described her qualifications:

Prior to coming to Yale, Chu was the director of the Pan Asian American Community House at the University of Pennsylvania for seven years and most recently served as assistant dean of undergraduate students at Dartmouth College.

"In these various teaching and administrative roles she has sought to help students not only succeed academically but to expand their understanding of themselves within and beyond their campus environment," said Holloway. "She is eager to combine her enthusiasm for academic administration and her love of teaching in the role of residential college dean."

Chu has published articles and presented papers on a range of topics, from the advising of first-year college students to family, cultural, and psychological dimensions of the experiences of Asian American and Asian adolescents. Her extensive research background has involved work with ethnic families, autistic youth, and best practices in higher education advising. The University of Pennsylvania honored her with a Distinguished Service Award. At Dartmouth College she turned her talents to a wide array of liaison work with other college constituencies, including the First Year College Writing Program, the Office of Visa and Immigration Services, the athletics program, the crisis management team, and the Title IX Coordinator.

The apology she issued via email to students was bizarrely generic and impersonal

"I have learned a lot this semester about the power of words and about the accountability that we owe one another," Chu wrote. "My remarks were wrong. There are no two ways about it. Not only were they insensitive in matters related to class and race; they demean the values to which I hold myself and which I offer as a member of this community."

So, her big problem – the one she puts up front – was that she didn't understand the power of words!  Who knew that words could be "insensitive in matters related to class and race"?  Surely a scholar attuned to the psychology of youths understands the wounding power of words.

No, the problem is very different.  So far, I see no sign that Dean Chu has admitted to herself that she is a bigot.  Nobody else at Yale wants to admit that they are bigots, either, so there would not exactly be a lot of support for deep introspection.  In fact, even before all of Chu's disparaging reviews were made public, her boss announced that her job was safe, despite having disparaged a swath of the students she is supposed to counsel.  The Yale Daily News reported:

According to [Yale College dean Jonathan] Holloway, Chu, Davis and other administrators together decided that Chu should email Pierson students about the incident on Saturday after "wrestling with how to do the right thing." Holloway praised Chu's email for being "very honest" and said he hopes students will be able to recognize that people make mistakes and can learn from them.

"I've not asked for her resignation, and neither has Head Davis," Holloway said. "She's terribly sorry, and I think she's doing exactly the right thing by saying 'I've learned from this, I want to stand by all of you and I hope that you'll stand by me as well.'"

Face it: the ruling class hate us.  Their self-worth depends on being better than us.