Graduate student residents of Helen Hadley Hall protested alleged discrimination by University housing administrators at a press conference and rally yesterday.
Students speaking at the rally, which was organized by the Graduate Employees and Students Organization, claimed that managers of the dormitory discriminate against Asian graduate students in their enforcement of housing regulations. After the rally, which drew about 75 people, a petition signed by approximately 80 people was delivered to managers of the building, who declined to comment on the issues presented at the press conference.
At the rally, students voiced their concerns and dealings with the alleged discrimination.
Qian Wan GRD ’06, a GESO organizer, said a manager has discriminated against Chinese students in her enforcement of rules about posters in the dormitory. When posters with the same message in English and Chinese were posted in the building as a test of the policy, Wan said only the Chinese-language posters were taken down.
“Many Asian students, in particular Chinese, have found that the manager here is discriminating,” Wan said. “She has absolute power in the building.”
Assistant Director of Public Affairs Gila Reinstein said graduate student housing managers were prepared to meet with students to discuss their complaints.
“The dorm manager and Don Relihan, who supervises all the graduate dorms, are willing and eager and ready to meet with the students who reside in those dorms to resolve any issues and perhaps to improve the lines of communication,” Reinstein said. “Yale does not discriminate in any way against any student for any reason.”
Some students had already met with Relihan on Wednesday to discuss the complaints raised at the rally, Reinstein said.
Xiaoye Li GRD ’07 said dormitory rules prohibiting individuals from having overnight guests stay for more than three nights were applied differently to Chinese and non-Chinese residents. Li said the parents of a non-Chinese resident in Helen Hadley lived with her for two weeks without interference from the dormitory manager.
“Our Chinese students never feel this type of leniency,” Li said.
But Reinstein said because dormitory staff leave the building before 5 p.m., the rules about overnight guests are only enforced when another student makes a complaint about a violation.
“It’s not an institutional problem,” Reinstein said. “It would seem to be an interpersonal problem.”
New Haven aldermen Drew King and Ben Healey ’04 appeared with students at the rally. Healey said he was approached by the students after they met with housing administrators. Though the building is in King’s ward, Healey said his constituency includes many graduate students who might live there in the future.
“Without passing judgment on the merits of any given argument, we can still say, ‘Look, there’s a problem here, Chinese students feel they’re being treated differently because of their ethnic heritage,'” Healey said. “Sometimes it’s important to raise the public profile of these issues, and aldermanic support says, ‘The city cares about this.'”
Jeffrey McCutcheon GRD ’08, the vice-chair of the Graduate Student Assembly and chair of the GSA’s housing and transportation committee, said complaints about discrimination in dormitories have not been brought to the attention of the GSA.
“Typically these problems, especially those associated with international students, tend to get brought up with GESO representatives more so than they’re brought up with GSA representatives,” he said.