Some of the students demanding change from the University this year have learned a tough lesson: how to be patient.
Four months after racist graffiti was found on a wall near Pierson College — the first of many hate-speech incidents that have rocked campus this year — members of the Coalition for Campus Unity are still pushing a proposal for a bias grievance board, which they first proposed to administrators last November. Meanwhile, Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry said administrators are in the process of developing a new protocol to address complaints of race bias.
And while he declined to offer a concrete date for the roll-out of the protocol, Gentry said in an interview last week that the administration is close to “finishing up” the protocol and hopes to have it implemented as soon as possible.
In the months since the graffiti incident, group discussion led the CCU to pare down what began as a host of requests to a single proposal — the creation of a grievance board comprising students, faculty and staff to hear student complaints of bias targeting various demographic groups on campus.
“This is about institutionalizing something that will transcend the few years that we’re here — this is about making something more permanent,” CCU member Robert Szykowny ’08 said.
But four months since the graffiti appeared, Szykowny, who soon afterwards fostered discussion of the grievance board, is still working — and still waiting for the administration to sign off on the CCU proposal so they can move toward launching the board in the fall. After receiving initial encouraging responses from University administrators, Szykowny said “nothing happened.”
But there are signs that new policies may be on the way. In last Monday’s campuswide e-mail from Yale College Dean Peter Salovey in response to the appearance of anti-Semitic markings formed from snow on Old Campus trees, students read — many for the first time — of a new bias response protocol being developed by Gentry.
The administration began discussing the protocol shortly after students voiced concerns in the wake of the November graffiti, Gentry told the News in past interviews. While details of the protocol remain under wraps pending final approval by University general counsel, Gentry has said in the past that the document will clear up vagaries as to how students targe†ed by discriminatory or hateful speech should seek University redress in the future.
So far, the University’s public response — a series of panels examining hate in modern society through the lens of academic disciplines — has garnered mixed reviews.
The talks earned praise from those attending for their fresh approach to a tired subject, and students leaving Sudler Hall after each talk could be heard discussing the issues raised with animation. Szykowny also lauded the panels — terming them “important” and “a great first step” — but raised concerns that their audiences were self-selective.
During each panel’s question-and-answer period, one question repeatedly arose — what action has the University taken to address these issues, beyond mere talk?
That query frustrates Gentry, who said he is and has been doing all he can to improve intercultural communication and cultural literacy on campus.
“Good change does not happen overnight,” he said. “And sometimes people are impatient. They don’t realize how many people we have to check with to make sure changes are legal or OK to do.”
The CCU’s proposal calls for the board to hold the power to recommend cases for further disciplinary action as it sees fit.