A day before the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear a case that will reshape the role of race in college admissions, some students expressed their support for affirmative action with silence Monday.
Students who participated did not speak from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in an effort to demonstrate what the campus would be like without minorities. Participants wore stickers explaining their silence and distributed leaflets listing Yale enrollment statistics by race. At the end of their silence, students gathered at La Casa Cultural to make signs for today’s affirmative action march in Washington, D.C., which several busloads of undergraduates, graduate and law students will attend.
The event, organized by the Pan Ethnic Coalition, was modeled after a similar one run by the Students Supporting Affirmative Action, a University of Michigan organization, Pan Ethnic Coalition moderator Julia Gonzales ’05 said.
“I feel like there is definitely a buzz around campus,” Gonzales said. “Students are saying, ‘Look, I don’t want to be at a university if they don’t support affirmative action.’ Yale is such an amazing place because of the people it brings here.”
Po-Ching Chen ’04 said he found it difficult to keep the silence, but said he thought it was a valuable sacrifice.
“It’s important to demonstrate what it would be like to have minority voices silenced,” Chen said. “I was kind of dismayed to not really see that many minority students do it, and I think it probably wasn’t because they didn’t feel it was important but rather that they just didn’t know about it.”
Gonzales said prior to the event that she hoped participation would not be limited to students of color. The Pan Ethnic Coalition printed stickers for white participants that said, “As a white student, I choose to remain silent today in solidarity with students of color to show that they are integral members of this community. My education would be incomplete without their presence.”
Monu Lahiri ’04 said she became involved in the event through her involvement in the Women’s Center, one of the sites where stickers and leaflets were distributed.
“We wanted people who aren’t thinking about this issue to become more aware of it, so we thought that the Day of Silence would make people more aware that without affirmative action this campus would be very different,” Lahiri said.
SSAA Undergraduate Representative Michelle Lin, a University of Michigan student, said she was pleased Yale students participated in the Day of Silence. She said the University of Michigan’s action seemed to be promoting campus discussion.
“We had some interesting reactions from students that aren’t participating, especially white students,” she said. “I think it has been really powerful — students just walking around, people just giving us weird looks. I think students are feeling really empowered.”
Lin said students at other universities, including the University of Texas, also expressed interest in a Day of Silence.