Multifaith Council to set a ‘New Tone’

Students have had enough of hate speech for one year, members of the Yale Multifaith Council believe. So the group is out to prove it by uniting student voices through a postering campaign set to begin Friday.

Responding to yet another appearance of controversial anonymous markings on campus discovered early Saturday morning — a swastika and an SS insignia formed with snow on the trunks of two Old Campus trees — student leaders of the MFC are organizing a “Set a New Tone” campaign to channel campus frustration toward positive ends. The effort, spearheaded by MFC Community Liaison Stephanie Goldfarb ’11, will formally kick off Friday, when posters go up across campus denouncing bigotry and asking students to reaffirm their faith in the importance of Yale’s diversity.

At an undetermined point in the future, the MFC will bring the posters together, creating a collage to demonstrate the united support of Yale students and student organizations for campus diversity, she said.

“We’re not pushing a platform,” MFC Senior Coordinator Jeremy Avins ’10 said. “We wanted to give the entire community the chance to respond and have the chance to — instead of saying something negative like ‘We hate hate’ — do something positive and reaffirm the community at Yale.”

Beginning Friday, students will see large posters displayed across campus bearing the campaign’s official statement.

“We, the organizations and individuals representing the vibrant diversity of Yale, proclaim our support and love for all members of our community,” it begins. “Rather than let these events polarize us, we take them as an opportunity to … commit to setting a new tone on campus: one of mutual respect, genuine dialogue, and peaceful coexistence.”

Organizations co-sponsoring the campaign will be listed below the statement, Avins said. The Council, Goldfarb said, is courting groups that, at first blush, have little to do with issues of intolerance or hate speech: The Berkeley College Orchestra, the Freshman Class Council and Pierson College’s “C Hoops” intramural basketball team are a few of the nearly 50 organizations that have signed on to co-sponsor the drive.

“The idea is that this swastika doesn’t just affect Slifka, and the word ‘fags’ doesn’t just affect the LGBTQ groups,” Avins said. “It affects the entire community.”

Following the list of groups will be a list of the names of faculty and staff members supporting the campaign. Students can expect to find at least a few familiar names on the list; Goldfarb said the MFC is working to enlist the aid of residential-college masters and deans, many of whom have already sent out e-mails to their students responding to the appearance of the swastika.

“When a response comes from the president or the dean, it’s sort of like they’re delivering the message from on high,” Goldfarb said, referring to a message from Yale College Dean Peter Salovey’s to the entire undergraduate community Monday. “But if the message comes from your own master or dean, it’s like it’s coming from within your own college family.”

So far, the MFC’s initiative represents the only formal student response to Saturday morning’s incident. Within the Jewish community, condemnation of the act has been forceful, but student groups have yet to articulate public plans for a response.

Amid the outcry, many have noted that these acts are anomalous at Yale. University Chaplain Sharon Kugler echoed that sentiment in an e-mail to the News on Tuesday evening praising Yale’s diverse and generally supportive community and expressing hope that the campaign will “unite people with an understanding that we really do want to be our best selves.”

—Raymond Carlson contributed reporting

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