Light & Verity

Christakis steps down from Silliman

After a tumutuous year as head of college, professor returns full-time to teaching and research.

Yale University

Yale University

Nicholas Christakis ’84 has resigned as head of Silliman College but remains the Sol Goldman Family Professor of Social and Natural Science. View full image

After a tumultuous year as head of Silliman College, Nicholas Christakis ’84 is stepping down from that post. In an e-mail to the Silliman community, Christakis said he and his wife, associate head Erika Christakis, had decided “to return full-time to our respective fields of public health and early childhood education.” They will remain at Yale. Nicholas continues as a sociology professor and codirector of the Yale Institute for Network Science. Erika, a lecturer at the Yale Child Study Center, elected not to teach last semester; Yale says she is welcome to resume teaching anytime.

The Christakises came under scrutiny last fall because of an e-mail Erika sent to students in the college just before Halloween. The message questioned an earlier e-mail from Yale’s Intercultural Affairs Council, which recommended that students think carefully about whether their costumes could offend people of other races and cultures. Christakis suggested the e-mail tried to exert too much control over students. She called Halloween “a day of subversion” for young people who might want to be “a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive.”

Her e-mail, and Nicholas’s defense of it, was one of several events that triggered the fall protests about racial issues. While many students and faculty said they supported the couple’s views, others called for their removal from Silliman. President Peter Salovey ’86PhD and Yale College dean Jonathan Holloway ’95PhD expressed support for the Christakises.

The tension within the college abated during the spring, but did not disappear; a few graduating seniors declined to shake hands with Nicholas as they received their diplomas at the Silliman commencement convocation. Two days later, Nicholas announced he would step down as head, writing that he and his wife “remain hopeful that students at Yale can express themselves and engage with complex ideas within an intellectually plural community.”

Salovey released a statement thanking the couple “for their extraordinary service to Yale College.” In June, Salovey announced that psychology professor Laurie Santos will be Silliman’s new head of college.


  • William Flesch
    William Flesch, 12:34am July 06 2016 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    Another example of the perennial relevance of Lilian Hellman's play The Children's Hour.

  • Julien Aklei
    Julien Aklei, 4:50pm July 25 2016 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    Scary. Personally, I would hold Salovey responsible for not standing behind his teachers.

The comment period has expired.