The Yale College Dean’s Office has postponed a proposed pilot program that would have made major changes to the ethnic counselor program next year, and will instead use a newly convened subcommittee to re-evaluate the system.
The proposed program would have made one ethnic counselor responsible for counseling all ethnic minority students in each residential college. Under the current program, there is an ethnic counselor in each college. Every freshman who self-identifies as a member of a particular minority group is assigned an ethnic counselor who is from that group but not necessarily in the same college.
Pamela George, the director of the Afro-American Cultural Center and an assistant dean of Yale College, said she met earlier in the year with current ethnic counselors who approved the pilot program, and consulted several residential college deans who also agreed. While Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg originally announced the pilot program would begin next year, she said she came to realize that more time and research was necessary before implementation.
“There was some confusion about the pilot and when it would be implemented,” Trachtenberg said. “I suggested we adopt the pilot next year — that was an ill-considered suggestion. When people heard that the pilot would be adopted next year, they were understandably confused. Because of the confusion and my error, we decided to stick with the original plan and convene the subcommittee of deans, talk to students and other people, and go with a new version for the following year.”
Rosalinda Garcia, an assistant dean of Yale College and the director of the Latino and Native American Cultural Houses, said the subcommittee will meet with focus groups of students and talk to various members of the community to change the program to better serve ethnic minority freshmen and the counselors.
The subcommittee will be made up of several members of the Yale College Dean’s Office and will meet after spring break to discuss the program’s structure along with related issues such as counselor orientation, George said.
George said she and the majority of ethnic counselors are in support of the pilot and see this structure as possibly creating a stronger base of solidarity and power within communities of color. She also believes it will create more visibility and cultural relevance for students of color within each residential college.
Garcia said another advantage of the proposed program is that the counselors would only have to report to one residential college dean.
Ezra Vazquez-D’Amico ’03 said he was upset that the pilot program might begin without significant student input, especially because he had already applied to be an ethnic counselor next year before the announcement was made.
“I think we could design a better pilot program with student input,” Vazquez-D’Amico said. “I don’t think it would be as effective in helping other students with their ethnicity and transition to Yale as, for example, having a counselor of your own ethnicity.”
Garcia agreed that it is important for students to have a counselor of the same background that they can relate to, but said she sees some positive attributes in the pilot program, too.
“It’s a valid concern that not being assigned to students of your same ethnicity might be more challenging or not as effective,” Garcia said. “[But] I think it alleviates one of the major problems that ethnic counselors are well aware of and that is just of time — Being assigned to one [college] would be easier.”
Garcia called a meeting Tuesday night at La Casa to explain the program and the evaluation process to students. She said Saveena Dhall, an assistant dean of Yale College and the director of the Asian-American Cultural Center, held a similar meeting on Monday night which she attended and found informative.
Amanda Scott-Williams ’02, the Native American peer adviser, said she feels very strongly that freshmen should have access to a counselor of their own ethnicity.
“My experience with my residential counselor was strictly I would have her sign my schedule,” Scott-Williams said. “There was once or twice she tried to talk to me, and I felt she didn’t try much harder because she didn’t understand me or where I was coming from, so I ended up spending most of my time with my ethnic counselor who was considered a peer adviser. If he wasn’t here, I probably wouldn’t have stayed at Yale.”