MAC sets goals for third year

Yale’s Minority Advisory Council will focus on University grievance mechanisms, the administrative structure of Yale College and fundraising and faculty development as it enters its third year, MAC chair and law professor Drew Days LAW ’66 said.

The committee, which has faced calls from student groups to play a more visible role on campus, examined policies at Yale’s peer schools when formulating the council’s goals, said Days, who was an assistant attorney general for civil rights in the Carter administration. MAC was founded in 2004 after students discussed racial incidents on campus with Yale President Richard Levin, who gave the group a mandate to examine University policies and how they affect minority students, faculty and staff.

The $3 billion Yale Tomorrow capital campaign has provided an opportunity to address the third goal of faculty development, Levin said, as the University has already solicited money to fund professorships and other endowments. Last month, the School of Music announced the Willie Ruff endowed professorship in jazz, which was donated by composer Mitch Leigh ’51 to celebrate Ruff, an African-American jazz professor.

The University is making a continuing effort to name important endowments and campus landmarks in ways that reflect the contributions of minority alumni, Levin said.

“Obviously, given our history, most of those names don’t represent the diversity of the student population we have today,” Levin said. “It is a great time to be seeking funding for a whole host of initiatives.”

Students have criticized the council in the past, citing the vagueness of its mandate, goals and procedures. Representatives from the Chinese American Students Association and the Black Students Alliance at Yale, among others, said MAC needs to seek the opinions of minority student groups more actively.

BSAY co-president Christina White ’07 said she hopes the council works to change its approach over the coming school year.

“If they are going to be in a position to have the President’s ear in terms of issues that are of consequence to minorities, then they need to have more contact with minorities on campus,” White said. “It’s surprising to me that as a president of BSAY I have not been contacted by MAC.”

Days said he agrees that MAC has not made itself available enough for outside suggestions and scrutiny, although it has hosted open forums for graduate and undergraduate students. When the council held its first meeting of the year earlier this week, Days proposed the formation of a sub-committee to address the issue.

“The overwhelming view [during the meeting] was that MAC needed to do a better job of establishing transparency,” he said.

When the council first convened three years ago, members criticized the University’s method for allowing students to formally voice their concerns about discrimination to administrators. The present method is still complicated and poorly explained, Days said, although it satisfies the University’s legal obligation to respond formally to complaints of discrimination.

A sub-committee of MAC has worked with Information Technology Services and the General Counsel’s office to develop a grievance Web site that they hope will be available in the near future, he said.

“People are unlikely to work themselves through this maze to find with whom to speak,” he said. “We need to develop more user-friendly access.”

Days said he also hopes the council makes further progress on a proposal to consolidate responsibility for overseeing diversity and grievances into one position at the Yale College Dean’s Office. Columbia University, for example, has a vice provost for diversity initiatives.

Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said he has been open to the suggestions the council has made on this front so far.

“[The MAC] has allowed me to think about the organization of the Yale College Dean’s Office, particularly the parts dealing with the cultural centers and diversity more generally, and we’re going to make some adjustments in the office later in the year that reflect some of the advice that [the organization] recommended,” Salovey said.

The council is comprised of five undergraduate and five graduate and professional students, as well as members of the faculty and staff.

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