Native American Yale law student pressured to apologize for using ‘trap house’ in party invite

A Native American law student at Yale says he’s being pressured into apologizing by a former Obama aide turned diversity tsar for sending a party invite that described the location as a ‘trap house.’

The September 15 invite was deemed ‘triggering’ by Yale’s director of diversity and inclusion Yaseen Eldik, who previously worked 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 did not wish to be identified over fears for his future career prospects. 

He said he is being further persecuted for being a member of the Federalist Society, a group of conservative and libertarian lawyers who advocate for an ‘originalist’ interpretation of the US Constitution, with the Society itself founded at Yale.  

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

‘Sup NALSA,’ the note said. ‘Hope you’re feeling social! This Friday at 7:30, we’ll be christening our very own (soon to be) world-renowned NALSA Trap House by throwing a Constitution Day bash in collaboration with FedSoc.

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

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

The note was sent to members of Yale Law School's Native American Law Students Association

The note was sent to members of Yale Law School’s Native American Law Students Association

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

The party host met on September 16 with Eldik, who pressured the student to apologize to facilitate ‘community healing’ over the invite after it triggered nine complaints in a matter of hours. 

Yale Law School associate dean Ellen Cosgrove, who also attended the meeting, warned that 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 ‘trap house’- until hearing Eldik’s explainer.

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

During yesterday’s meeting, which the student recorded, Eldik said the latter phrase resulted in 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 recorded meeting.

‘The racial association with that connotation would be bound up in some of the drug use that has been historically associated with poor black communities in this country.’

Eldik added that the offer to serve fried chicken was used ‘to undermine arguments that structural or systemic racism have contributed to health disparities in the US.’

But the student who sent the invite insisted he had no such intentions, and merely wanted to highlight one of his favorite snacks, which he planned on serving.  

There have been ‘offhanded comments about why black communities tend to be overweight,’ Eldik said. ‘There’s a lot of racism tied into the using the words “fried chicken” with “trap.”’

Eldik encouraged the student to apologize for his use of language – and even offered to help draft a letter – but the student was reluctant to do so, saying he’d rather have face-to-face conversations.

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

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

But Eldik seemed keen to have the correspondence on the record, and warned that failing to address the issue could have consequences.

‘I worry about this lingering over your own reputation as a person, not just here, but when you leave,’ he said. ‘The legal community is a small one.’

Added Cosgrove: ‘In a situation like this, people start to escalate and the more it escalates, the more rigid it might get in terms of what the expectations are. Defusing it is always the most effective way to go.’

Classmates were also critical of the student’s language.

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

‘I guess celebrating whiteness wasn’t enough,’ she wrote in a student forum. “Y’all had to upgrade to cosplay/black face.’

The student has not issued an apology, and said his critics are now trying to have him kicked off the school’s NALSA board.

He said he was surprised the party invitation snowballed into such a scandal.

‘To me now, a trap house is a party house,’ he said. ‘The vibe was high school kids drinking in their mom’s basement, or a frat house but without the frat.’

A law school spokesperson said that while Yale respects free speech, its Dean of Students works to resolve conflicts within the student community.

 ‘Yale University and Yale Law School have strong free speech protections, and no student is investigated or sanctioned for protected speech,’ the spokesperson said in a statement to 

‘When the Law School receives complaints about offensive communications, the Dean of Students routinely tries to help students talk to one another and resolve their disagreements within the community. At no time was any disciplinary investigation launched or disciplinary action taken in this matter.’

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