Dean calls Columbus Day acts ‘disgusting’



After chalk messages and posters bearing anti-Native American slogans appeared on Cross Campus last week, sparking outrage from some students, Yale administrators have condemned the act and worked behind the scenes with student leaders to discuss possible responses.

The chalk marks and posters — which included phrases like “Savagery: No, Imperialism: Yes, Happy Columbus Day” and slurs such as “squaws and braves” — coincided with the Columbus Day holiday and a week-long observance of Indigenous Peoples Day events sponsored by the Association of Native Americans at Yale.

The acts led ANAAY moderator Shani Harmon ’06 to meet with administrators and the head of the Minority Advisory Council. In e-mails last week to Yale President Richard Levin and Yale College Dean Peter Salovey, among other administrators, current and past members of ANAAY criticized the administration for what they said was an insufficient response to the incidents. Since then, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg has met with several Native American students to discuss the events.

Salovey took a stance against the messages in an interview this week, calling them “bizarre and disgusting.” In an Oct. 15 e-mail to some students and alumni, Salovey condemned the messages and promised that appropriate actions would be taken. Salovey said he plans to meet with ANAAY leaders as soon as possible.

“Before we take the next steps, we want to know what kind of action they want us to take,” Salovey said.

Shortly after she learned of the incident last week, Trachtenberg met with ANAAY leaders and Yale College Assistant Dean Rosalinda Garcia, director of the Latino, Chicano and Native American Cultural Centers. They discussed possible responses to the situation during the meeting, such as making the campus more open to productive dialogue, and also made plans for a follow-up meeting, Trachtenberg said.

“These kinds of statements come out of ignorance,” Trachenberg said. “They are not the statements of an educated person.”

Calling the events “an affront to the entire community,” Trachtenberg criticized the anonymity of the acts.

“I think that’s the height of cowardice,” Trachtenberg said. “If you have something to say, you should say it, identify yourself, and engage in a dialogue.”

In his e-mail, Salovey said he believes that the next step is for students and administrators to meet with the MAC.

Harmon said she had a productive meeting last Friday with MAC chair Drew Days, a law professor.

“He basically wanted to know what happened,” Harmon said. “He seemed sympathetic and was obviously concerned.”

Days said he is planning to meet with the other MAC members in the near future. He said that he is more concerned with preventing future incidents of racism on campus than investigating last week’s acts.

“We won’t be investigating so much as trying to identify ways we can foster greater dialogue on campus,” Days said.

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