Panels to discuss class issues | IAC hopes to make change, but goals unclear

The University’s newly created body for fostering cultural dialogue met for the first time this week, as students and faculty comprising the Intercultural Affairs Council convened in the Dean’s Office to lay out goals for the coming year. The IAC — conceived and developed over the last 11 months — has been created to “support an inclusive and diverse campus environment that engages in community dialogue,” while promoting cultural awareness and challenging social identity biases, as an August e-mail announcing the body’s creation described it.

“I see the IAC as a group committed to trailblazing this territory, shedding light into the dark murky corners of misunderstanding and promoting more than mere tolerance across diverse communities,” said University Chaplain Sharon Kugler, who serves on the council.

But the IAC met for the first time as a body Monday, and exactly how the IAC hopes to pursue its goals on campus is very much up for discussion. Assistant Dean of Yale College Pamela George, the director of the Afro-American Cultural Center, coordinates the IAC, and wrote in an e-mail, “We want to be innovative in our approach.” But George said concrete future plans had not been ironed out during the IAC’s first meeting.

“It’s not possible for us to have met one time with 24 people and have finalized plans or made decisions about next steps,” she said.

The IAC’s first initiative will be a series of panels addressing social class bias planned for the coming weeks, but George said the Council will not limit itself to panels and discussions. Kirk Hooks, special assistant to the dean of student affairs for intercultural and intergroup relations, said part of those efforts would come through student outreach.

“We hope to effectively contribute to the creation and maintenance of an exemplary social climate at Yale,” he said. “We can do this directly, through our own activities and indirectly by supporting like-minded student organizations and other groups.”

Other Council members include Hooks, several assistants and members of the Yale religious community. Additionally, 12 students — selected from a pool of nearly 60 applicants — will serve on the Council. Though no other concrete events have been planned, student members said they have ideas for reaching beyond the self-selecting population of the University that has attended cultural events in the past.

“People who attend things like informational sessions are already aware of the problems. We need a way to reach students who may not know about what’s going on,” said Jeremy Harp ’10, who serves on the council.

One of Harp’s ideas is to bring students together with popular movies based on stereotypes, such as “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle,” and then break down the film’s presumptions in discussion afterward.

“The goal is not to just discuss things, but to actually do tangible things on campus,” added councilmember Samuel Helfaer ’12.

Aala Abdelgadir ’12 said she wants the Council to sponsor celebrations for cultural and religious events and holidays. “The atmosphere would make people more comfortable to ask questions about the groups,” she said.

The Council may also work closely with residential colleges to provide what council member Katrina Landeta ‘10 called “multicultural opportunities.” The Council could offer “institutional support” while residential colleges would provide comfortable, open space for discussions, she said.

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