F&ES conference addresses diversity

This February, Sex Week at Yale isn’t the only series of events on campus.

The School of Forestry & Environmental Studies is hosting a month-long celebration of diversity, featuring more than 10 talks, film screenings and lectures on topics ranging from diversity and the environment to neo-imperialism and international development.

The series is part of a University-wide goal to promote and encourage diversity on campus, said Pilar Montalvo, an assistant dean at the School of Forestry and the chair of the school’s committee on diversity and inclusion. Because School of Forestry students will be leaders on global environmental issues, they need to understand diversity and inclusion on matters such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, religion and country of origin, she said.

In the past, the School of Forestry has held mandatory diversity training for students led by Diversity Matters, an outside firm that works with environmental organizations, Montalvo said. This year, the environment school’s committee on diversity and inclusion decided to tap into the internal diversity and faculty resources at Yale and hold a series of events instead, although Montalvo said she is uncertain whether they will return to mandatory training sessions in the future. After the series, the committee will survey the School’s community, evaluate the effectiveness of the series and decide how to proceed.

Deborah Stanley-McAulay, the University’s chief diversity officer, said she welcomed the new approach and said mandatory training sometimes does not allow for freedom of expression.

“It accomplishes their goal of building awareness and creating and establishing a culture of inclusion that values, acknowledges and promotes diversity,” Stanley-McAulay said.

While School of Forestry students are a diverse group — one-third of students are international — there is still room for improvement, Montalvo said. The school could improve on regional diversity among the student body as well as increase diversity among faculty and staff.

Law professor Drew Days, the chair of the University’s Minority Advisory Council, said it was important to keep people focused on the issue of diversity so that Yale does not become complacent about the issue. Talking about issues in diversity makes them less threatening, he said.

“The more we talk about these issues, the greater the likelihood that we will have a more tolerant community,” Days said.

At the last meeting of the Minority Advisory Council, Days said council members unanimously viewed the series as one of the most impressive series dealing with issues of diversity at Yale.

So far, the events have been well attended, Montalvo said. There were about 15 staff and faculty members at closed-door brown-bag lunch events, which exceeded the diversity committee’s goal of 10 people, Montalvo said. About 25 people have been attending open events, she added.

McAulay said she hoped that the series would spread beyond the School of Forestry.

“My one hope and aspiration is that the work and aspiration in F&ES becomes infectious and interesting and stimulating to other departments around Yale,” Stanley-McAulay said.

The series will continue today at 1 p.m. with a talk at Kroon Hall about tree planting and empowering urban youth.

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