A Yale University dean who once penned an article championing cultural sensitivity has come under fire for publishing some decidedly insensitive Yelp reviews of New Haven establishments, with criticisms including describing food fit only for "white trash" and calling employees "barely educated morons." Reminder: Yelpers are bad.
Over the weekend, the Yale Daily News published screenshots of Pierson College Dean June Chu's Yelp reviews, noting that in recent months students had complained Chu used "demeaning and offensive" language to describe locals and employees. In a review of a Japanese restaurant, for instance, Chu wrote, "To put it quite simply: if you are white trash, this is the perfect night out for you!" and called the food "perfect for those low-class folks who believe this is a real night out."
In another review, this one of a local movie theater, Chu called the employees, "barely educated morons trying to manage snack orders for the obese," and lauded a different movie theater, in a separate review, for its lack of "sketchy crowds (despite it being in new haven)." She also wrote, of an employee at a fitness center, "seriously I don’t care if you would ‘lose your job’ (I am sure McDonalds would hire you)."
Students told the Yale paper they were concerned by Chu's apparent lack of respect for the University's home city. "These reviews make it clear how Dean Chu thinks about people who are different from her, and how she feels about New Haven, the city all of us call home for a few years," one student said, calling her language "demeaning and offensive."
Chu has since deactivated her Yelp account, but students say it was her very dedication to the site that enabled the current uproar. Apparently, she sent an email in January informing students that she had earned the website's coveted "Yelp Elite" badge, one doled out only to the most dedicated and active users (again, Yelping is bad). After perusing her reviews, students started to complain, and eventually the Yale College Dean, Jonathan Holloway, told her to email students and apologize.
"I have learned a lot this semester about the power of words and about the accountability that we owe one another,” Chu wrote in the email. “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." Holloway says he will not ask her to resign.
It's not uncommon for there to be some tension between universities and their host towns and cities, and certainly it doesn't behoove students or university employees to criticize or ridicule residents. And though Chu did apologize to the Yale community, some pointed out on social media that she did not reach out to the very folks she offended in her reviews:
— Mark Oppenheimer (@markopp1) May 15, 2017
It's also noteworthy that in October, Chu published an article in Inside Higher Ed that espoused academics' need to be culturally sensitive when advising students.
Yale has not responded to request for comment.