What if the Minority Advisory Council held a forum on minority affairs, and — almost — nobody came? Faced with that test Monday night, the Minority Advisory Council seemed to simply make the best of it.
For the few students who attended the MAC Town Hall meeting Monday night, the hour-long forum offered a chance to meet the graduate and undergraduate members of University President Richard Levin’s advisory board for minority issues on campus. Among the myriad ideas raised by audience members at the forum was a suggestion that the MAC take a leadership role in facilitating campus cultural dialogue, in part by uniting the various cultural groups in their responses to incidents such as the hate speech of the past several months.
Even after two campuswide e-mails advertising the event, just 13 students filled seats in a Linsly-Chittenden Hall classroom when the forum started at 8:45 p.m., 15 minutes past the scheduled time. But, despite the limited attendance, the five undergraduate representatives on the council still gave the open forum a positive verdict, emphasizing that the evening’s dialogue shed light on avenues through which MAC could strengthen its relationships with cultural groups and enhance its relevance to the greater student body.
“Big groups are great for information distribution, but we’re not at that stage,” MAC Representative Daniel Fierro ’10 said. “We’re trying for the first time to generate interest, and we’re really at that information-gathering phase, which works best in small groups.”
After the group slipped off the campus radar for several years, the MAC was re-established in the spring term of 2004 as a result of student support sparked by a string of racist incidents. The body, which is composed of graduate and undergraduate students as well as faculty and staff, convenes once a month in closed meetings and makes recommendations to the administration on issues of diversity and minorities at Yale. The recommendations, which address subjects such as police reporting of hate crimes and faculty diversity, are relayed to Levin through the MAC Chair and law professor Drew Days LAW ’66.
One audience member raised the possibility that because MAC’s publicity for the event emphasized minority issues, the group may have turned off some students from attending. MAC Representative Shruti Gupta ’08 and Fierro agreed that in the future the MAC should make efforts to emphasize the forum’s relevance to all students at Yale, regardless of race, ethnicity or background, to avoid “preaching to the choir.”
But the group’s small size did not reflect its engagement. Of the 13 students in attendance, several of whom were representatives of campus cultural groups, all but three voiced an opinion or suggestion for MAC at some point over the hour-long forum.
Students in attendance suggested — given the multitude of cultural groups on campus — that the body assume a larger leadership role, coordinating the efforts of myriad organizations and informing groups of the ongoing efforts of both MAC and other groups.
“There’s so many groups working on these issues of diversity and cultural affairs, there’s always overlap,” said Adrian Latortue ’10, who was one of three students who stayed to the very end of the forum. “Tonight helped me put a student face on the council. That’ll make it easier to pass ideas between groups.”
Other feedback ranged from requests for greater transparency in MAC meetings to a suggestion that the body specialize in learning the ins and outs of Yale College’s grievance policies in order to act as a resource for students or student groups seeking redress for public or private incidents of bias.
“The hope and drive that keeps us bringing these things up is maybe students won’t have to respond to these [bias] incidents alone,” said MAC Representative Robert Sanchez ’08 of MAC’s work to solicit suggestions from the student body. “We’re saying, ‘We’re not just going to wipe the snow off the tree, or cover up the graffiti, or take the photo off Facebook.’ We’re going to do more.”