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Yale assistant dean says she could ruin a Native American college student’s career over ‘stairwell’ comment


A Native American law student at Yale says he is being pressured to apologize by a former Obama aide turned diversity czar for sending a party invitation that described the venue as a “trap house.”

The Sept. 15 invitation was deemed “triggering” by Yale’s director of diversity and inclusion, Yaseen Eldik, who previously served in the Obama administration’s White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership.

The student who sent it has spoken to about his ordeal but declined to be identified due to fears for his future career prospects.

He said he continues to be prosecuted for being a member of the Federalist Society, a group of conservative and libertarian lawyers advocating an “original” interpretation of the US Constitution, whose Society itself was founded at Yale.

His invitation to a party on September 18 was sent to members of the elite school’s Native American Law Students Association (NALSA).

“Sup NALSA,” the note read. ‘I hope you’re feeling social! This Friday at 7:30 am we will be christening our own (soon to be) world famous NALSA Trap House by throwing a Constitution Day bash in partnership with FedSoc.

Planned attractions include Popeye’s chicken, basic-b**ch American snacks (like apple pie), a cocktail station, various hard and soft drinks, and (most importantly) the opportunity to attend the NALSA Trap House’s inaugural mixer ! ‘

The above invitation triggered some recipients, who said it contained racially insensitive language

The note was sent to members of the Native American Law Students Association at Yale Law School

The note was sent to members of the Native American Law Students Association at Yale Law School

A trap house is a term used to describe a place in a sketchy part of town where illegal drugs are sold.

The party’s host met with Eldik on Oct. 12, who pressured the student to apologize to allow “community healing” over the invitation after it sparked nine complaints within hours.

Ellen Cosgrove, associate dean of Yale Law School, who also attended the meeting, warned the situation could “escalate” without reconciliation.

The student told that he didn’t realize chicken would be considered an offensive dish — nor did he realize the triggering effects of “staircase” — until he heard Eldik’s explanation.

Yale's Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Yaseen Eldik, encouraged the student to apologize

Yale’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Yaseen Eldik, encouraged the student to apologize

At yesterday’s meeting, which the student recorded, Eldik said the last sentence sparked complaints from several students.

“In one paradigm, you would think about the word ‘trap’ through the lens of a crack den or crack house,” Eldik said during the taped meeting.

“The racial association with that connotation would have to do with some of the drug use historically associated with poor black communities in this country.”

Eldik added that the offer to serve fried chicken was being used “to undermine arguments that structural or systemic racism has contributed to health disparities in the US.”

But the student who sent the invitation insisted that he had no such intentions and just wanted to highlight one of his favorite snacks, which he planned to serve.

There are “awkward comments about why black communities tend to be overweight,” Eldik said. “There is a lot of racism associated with using the words ‘fried chicken’ with ‘trap’.”

Eldik encouraged the student to apologize for his language – and even offered to help draft a letter – but the student was hesitant to do so, preferring face-to-face conversations.

Yale Law School associate dean Ellen Cosgrove warned the situation could 'escalate'

Yale Law School associate dean Ellen Cosgrove warned the situation could ‘escalate’

But Eldik seemed eager to record the correspondence and warned that failure to address the matter could have consequences.

“I’m concerned about your own reputation as a person, not just here, but when you leave,” he said. “The legal community is small.”

Cosgrove adds, “In a situation like this, people start to escalate and the more it escalates, the more rigid it can become in terms of what the expectations are. Defusing is always the most effective way.’

Classmates were also critical of the student’s language.

The president of the Black Law Students Association said she objected to the event’s association with the Federalist Society.

“I think celebrating whiteness wasn’t enough,” she wrote on a student forum. “You all had to upgrade to cosplay/black face.”

The student made no apologies and said his critics are now trying to get him off the school’s NALSA board.

He said he was surprised that the invitation to the party turned into such a scandal.

“To me a trap house is now a party house,” he said. “The atmosphere was high school students drinking in their mother’s basement, or a dorm, but without the dorm.”

A law faculty spokesperson said that while Yale respects free speech, the student counselor is working to resolve conflicts within the student community.

“Yale University and Yale Law School have strong protections for free speech, and no student will be investigated or penalized for protected speech,” the spokesperson said in a statement to

‘When the law faculty receives complaints about abusive communication, the student counselor regularly tries to help students talk to each other and resolve their differences of opinion within the community. No disciplinary investigation or action has been taken in this case at any time.”


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