Review committee for ethnic counselors formed

With the formation of a review committee, changes to the ethnic counselor program may be on the way.

Current ethnic counselors announced plans for the committee at an information session Wednesday. The committee, which will report directly to Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead and be chaired by a residential college dean, will be charged with gathering input and feedback from undergraduates and making recommendations for change. Committee members will include Pamela George, director of the Afro-American Cultural Center and an assistant dean of Yale College, ethnic counselor Ingrid Fuentes ’03, a freshman counselor and five undergraduates.

“It is not set in stone what is to be done,” ethnic counselor Richard Nobles ’03 said. “The goal of the committee is to make a recommendation, and Dean Brodhead will make the decision.”

For a spot on the committee, students will have to submit applications, which are currently pending approval from the Yale College Dean’s Office, Nobles said. The committee is scheduled to last one year, with its meetings open to the public.

During the session, ethnic counselors addressed several problems of the current program.

Wizipan Garriott ’03, the Native American peer adviser, said there is a definite need for a Native American ethnic counselor. Currently, Native American students are referred to the peer adviser, whose position the Association of Native Americans at Yale funds.

Garriott said because Yale only funds 12 ethnic counselor positions, it is difficult to add a counselor without reducing the number of counselors from another ethnic group.

“Why isn’t there [a Native American ethnic counselor]? We don’t know,” Garriott said. “We just know that the administration is very stuck on the number 12.”

Logistical issues such as lack of access to entryways and large numbers of counselees also present difficulties, the ethnic counselors said.

“We are also not as institutionally recognized as the other counselors,” Fuentes said.

Ethnic counselors are assigned to freshmen of the same ethnic group, meaning they have far more counselees — who are affiliated with different residential colleges — than freshman counselors.

“It is challenging trying to make sure you’re in correspondence with all your students when you’re spread out among four different colleges,” ethnic counselor Lori Stewart ’04 said.

“Year after year we keep asking the administration for more counselors, because we are exhausted,” ethnic counselor Leonora Anzaldua-Burke ’03 said.

George said the committee will commission the Office of Institutional Research to conduct in-depth studies on Yale’s program, minority student retention rates at Yale, and models of ethnic counselor or peer counselor programs at other universities.

Fuentes said the Yale community is generally unaware about the ethnic counselor program because of a lack of information. She said the ethnic counselors are trying to raise awareness by proposing to send out summer informational mailings to all incoming freshmen, not just minorities.

“One of the really amazing things [about the ethnic counselor program] — is that every student of color who comes here has the opportunity to use that resource,” Fuentes said. “[But] we’re not just here to serve students of color — [The program] is a resource by which freshmen can get to know other resources on campus.”

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