Cultural Connections, a student pre-orientation program known for building community among minority students, will admit non-minority students beginning next year, Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead announced in an e-mail to students Friday.
Brodhead said the change in policy supports Yale College’s commitment to fostering personal and cultural interaction “across the whole spectrum of social difference” but said the decision also results from external considerations such as the June 2003 Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action.
“The ruling reaffirmed the value that the experience of diversity supplies as a component of education. This same ruling, however, makes it harder to justify programs that separate student communities instead of building them into an interactive whole,” Brodhead said in the e-mail.
In 1995, Yale College merged its Minority Student Weekend with Bulldog Days. Brodhead said the merging of these types of orientation programs represents a long-term trend. The Edward A. Bouchet Undergraduate Fellowship Program and the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program, which aim to serve minority students, are now open to a wider array of undergraduate applicants, Brodhead said in the e-mail.
Alexis Hoag ’04, who is the Head Ethnic Counselor this year and participated in Cultural Connections as a freshman, said Cultural Connections has served a purpose by facilitating strong cross-cultural bonds among its participants.
“This is something that happens for white students at a program called ‘Yale,'” Hoag said. “Based on my prior experience, I think the presence of white students in Cultural Connections will change participant socialization, but the goal of the program — acculturating students to Yale and its resources — will remain unchanged.”
Assistant Deans Saveena Dhall, Rosalinda Garcia and Pamela George, who direct the Asian American, Latino, Native American and African American Cultural Centers said in an e-mail to students on cultural center e-mail lists that they reiterate their full commitment to the cultural houses’ students, programs and services for students of color.
“We believe in the value of this program and are fully committed to preserving its core mission,” the e-mail said.
Alicia Washington ’05, who both participated in and worked as an aide for Cultural Connections, said she thinks the inclusion of non-minority students will strengthen the program rather than harm it.
“Non-minority students have just as much to contribute to the discourse and celebration of diversity, and hopefully it will bridge a gap between minority and non-minority students that many feel exists during Camp Yale,” Washington said.
Nicky Nole ’06 said she feels an additional program on diversity should be created instead of altering Cultural Connections.
“You cannot open up a forum that was established to help minorities and underrepresented students to others and still maintain the programs’ initial goals,” Nole said.
Hoag said she believes white students who come from ethnically diverse backgrounds will feel most comfortable attending Cultural Connections.
Brodhead said he wants Yale College to ensure it is an inclusive community.
“We understand that students can and will form whatever kinds of communities they want on campus, but we also want to make students feel that they are all part of the community of the whole,” Brodhead said.
Brodhead said changes to the Ethnic Counselor Program, which assigns minority student counselors to incoming minority students, are not anticipated at this time.