Anonymous parties wrote derogatory anti-Native American slogans on posters and sidewalks around Cross Campus this week, coinciding with the Columbus Day holiday on Monday and a week-long series of events sponsored by the Association of Native Americans at Yale marking Indigenous People’s Day.
The posters, some which began appearing on bulletin boards Tuesday, contained phrases such as “By now squaws and braves know what is wrong from right. World not always fun and games. Religions = group therapy.” A chalk message that appeared Monday next to the Women’s Table read “Savagery: No, Imperialism: Yes, Happy Columbus Day” and was later washed off by ANAAY members. A second chalk message, modeled after the popular “Priceless” advertising campaign by MasterCard, praised Christopher Columbus and appeared Monday on the pathway between Berkeley and Calhoun colleges.
ANAAY moderator Shani Harmon ’06 is planning to meet with members of the Minority Advisory Council today to discuss the week’s incidents, MAC member Michael Smith ’06 said. Harmon said she was “shocked” when she discovered the messages.
“I personally don’t see the point in celebrating Columbus Day, but I don’t have a problem with it,” Harmon said. “But when you start using slandering words and words that are racist, I have a problem with that.”
Harmon said ANAAY will decide how to take action at a group meeting Sunday. She said she was surprised by the lack of response from the administration.
“We’re not necessarily interested in finding out who’s behind it so much as making people understand that racist events shouldn’t be tolerated on campus,” Harmon said. “I would like to see the administration acknowledge that it happened, and that it is a big deal.”
Yale College Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg said Wednesday night the slogans were “cowardly,” and called upon those who wrote them to step forward. Yale President Richard Levin said Thursday he did not know about the week’s incidents, but was quick to condemn them.
“We’ve kept the right to free expression here, but I think making disparaging comments about people based on their ethnicity is really out of line in a place like ours,” Levin said.
MAC members have not yet decided how to respond to the situation, Smith said.
“A situation like this is really new to us,” Smith said. “MAC will respond in a tangible way.”
Smith said MAC’s power lies in its ability to give recommendations to Levin.
“Potentially if we make a steadfast recommendation, he will theoretically go ahead with it,” Smith said.
In a Thursday e-mail to Levin, former ANAAY member Ezra Vazquez-D’Amico ’03 said the administration’s lack of response is “troubling.”
“The administration’s silence condones this type of activity,” Vazquez-D’Amico wrote in the e-mail, which he copied to Yale College Dean Peter Salovey, among other administrators.
As of Thursday night, Vazquez-D’Amico said he received no responses to his e-mail. In a telephone interview, he cited earlier incidents of racist activity to which he said the administration responded slowly, including an April 2003 incident in which an anti-Muslim message was written on a student’s dorm room door.
“It seems a lot of times it’s students who take the initiative,” V‡squez-D’Amico said. “It takes pressure from them to make the administration acknowledge what’s going on. It’s a little discouraging that the University doesn’t take a lead in this.”