Yalies push for independent ER&M major

Enthusiastic about the offerings and applications of the ethnicity, race and migration major, a group of students is pushing for ER&M to become a stand-alone major, citing its importance in a multi-cultural, globalized society.

Ten students — including ER&M majors and those in other departments — met Friday to develop a game plan for strengthening the University’s ER&M program by contacting alumni, faculty and administrators involved with the major and by educating the Yale community about the need for an independent department.

Students leading the initiative said they would like to see an ER&M department capable of hiring and tenuring its own faculty — something they hope will lead to the addition of more classes, which would eventually allow the major to stand alone.

Currently, students wishing to major in ER&M must also complete a major in a primary field of study.

Director of Undergraduate Studies Patricia Pessar said ER&M was originally created as a second major with the hope that students would benefit from cross-disciplinary studies by having a grounding in another field of study. But while ER&M’s status as a second major has attracted students with diverse perspectives, Pessar said, an ER&M program offering a stand-alone major could retain an interdisciplinary focus.

“I think to bring together people with different disciplinary backgrounds can also be done in having ethnicity, race and migration be a free-standing major, because I think it will continue to attract students with broad-ranging disciplinary interest,” Pessar said.

But Elizabeth Gonzalez ’10 said at the meeting that it is impossible for her to pursue both her fields of interest — ER&M and teacher preparation — while at Yale because the former is a second major and the latter is not a major at all.

Gonzalez said she now has to choose between them.

“There is no way I could double-major … and do teacher prep at the same time,” Gonzalez wrote in an e-mail. “This is really unfortunate because teacher prep would have benefited me greatly in the long run — now I’m going to have to get certified later on, some time after I graduate, and who knows whether or not I’ll have the time or money for that.”

Pessar said she is in favor of ER&M becoming’s a stand-alone major, but only if the University takes steps to strengthen ER&M “pedagogically and institutionally.” Faculty members in ER&M, for example, have “very strong obligations to their primary department,” which often preclude them from devoting as much time as they would like to the ER&M program.

ER&M chairman Stephen Pitti said even though the University has been supportive of the program, Yale should devote more resources to ER&M.

“I am optimistic that Yale is making significant progress in faculty diversity and in the support of programs like ER&M, but we need to move faster and more aggressively,” Pitti said.

Sandy Placido ’08, a presenter at the meeting, said cross-cultural studies are more important — and more relevant — than ever because of increasing migration and inter-ethnic relations around the world.

“There is just so much we need to learn about inclusion and making a place in this country for all of us,” Placido said. “This begins at the University because this is a place that educates those who will go on to have significant amounts of power and disseminate certain types of knowledge.”

Students at the Friday meeting said another group of students pushed for a stand-alone major in the 1990s, but administrators said the major lacked student support at the time.

Ethnicity, race and migration will be up for a routine re-evaluation this academic year.

Comments