MAC’s effectiveness remains open question

Just over one year after Yale President Richard Levin reinstated the Minority Advisory Committee, its members say they are hard at work at improving Yale policy to best suit the concerns of minority students, faculty and staff. Yet some members of Yale’s active minority community say that the MAC’s work has had little effect on the lives of minority students.

The council, which is made up of 18 faculty members, staffers and students and advises Levin on University policy, has been meeting regularly over the past academic year to address various issues confronting minority groups at Yale, said MAC chairman Drew Days, a professor at the Law School.

“We are in the process of preparing a report and set of recommendations to President Levin,” Days said. “We hope to have that accomplished by the end of the semester.”

Days said the MAC has chosen to focus on issues related to faculty advancement, security and the grievance procedures at the University.

Levin said he looked forward to seeing the results of the report, which he said he hoped would lay out “constructive steps” for the administration to take in policy that affects minorities.

He said he had been satisfied with MAC’s work so far after re-instituting the council — which originally was formed in 1980 and was disbanded by the University in 1995 — last year at the behest of students and minority organizations. Escalating racial tensions on campus brought on by the Iraq war led many students to call for the council’s return.

“During that semester, the spring of 2003, there were concerns expressed by a number of minority students,” Levin said. “I haven’t sensed a deteriorating climate since that time. If anything it seems like there’s probably been an improved climate.”

But, one year later, some members of Yale’s active minority organizations say they have yet to see evidence of MAC’s involvement with campus race issues.

“I have absolutely no idea what MAC has been doing. They have not had any public reports on their work,” Afro-American Cultural Center Director Pamela George, an assistant dean of Yale College, wrote in an e-mail.

Levin’s move in January to reinstitute the council was met with controversy, however, as members of the Concerned Black Students at Yale — which had originally proposed bringing back the MAC in 2003 — were angry that no CBS undergraduate member was selected to serve on the MAC. They also complained that the administration did not solicit their involvement and comments during the committee’s creation.

George said last January that CBS input was crucial to creating a committee that is suitable to address race issues on campus.

A few months later, in April 2004, Levin appointed three additional members to the MAC, saying the additions were due to the success of the committee to that point. Many interpreted the move as an effort to make the committee more representative of campus diversity.

Abbas Hussain ’07, president of the South Asian Society, said he appreciated the MAC’s resurrection last February but admitted he was not aware of any of its current priorities.

“I just know, briefly, that they advise the president,” said Hussain, who acknowledged that the council’s work mostly takes place in a context not visible to most students. “I’m sure they’re doing a lot, but I haven’t seen any public changes coming from them, especially where the South Asian Society is concerned.”

Hussain said that many minority organizations at Yale have had trouble finding venues for important cultural events this year, a problem he said he would like the administration to address.

MAC member Dora Cudjoe GRD ’05 said the council has reached out to students this year through two open forums held at the Afro-American Cultural House last fall.

“These [forums] were to enlighten students of the responsibilities of the MAC and then to gather information on student welfare issues,” Cudjoe wrote in an e-mail.

She said MAC’s work to abridge the University grievance procedures would allow minority students to more easily express their concerns to the administration.

Levin said he was optimistic about the future of the MAC but declined to say definitively whether it would remain active in future years.

“I think as long as there are specific issues that need resolution, having the council serves a useful purpose,” Levin said. “I think we’ll make a judgment after seeing that report.”

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