Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 met with Chinese graduate students Monday morning to discuss allegations of discrimination by the University, after administrators announced plans to appoint a committee to consider students’ complaints earlier this month.
Blumenthal’s visit came one month after a rally organized by the Graduate Employees and Students Organization, during which students submitted a grievance signed by about 300 people alleging that Yale discriminates against students who are Chinese nationals. Graduate School Dean Jon Butler said he was not aware of Monday’s meeting but said he has already begun assembling a committee to investigate the problems reported in the grievance.
Blumenthal, who said he was invited to Yale by students who wanted him to learn more about the problems allegedly faced by Chinese students, asked numerous questions during the meeting about students’ experiences. Before leaving, he told the students that he might be able to speak to Yale officials about their complaints.
“My first and next step would be to talk to folks at Yale, really to understand their view and determine what solutions there might be,” Blumenthal said. “They might simply involve better communication.”
Butler said the Graduate School Executive Committee recommended that an ad hoc committee — including both students and faculty — work to resolve student complaints.
“I expect that that will be established in the next week to 10 days,” Butler said.
Butler said he has sent students who signed the grievance a letter informing them that the committee will review departmental practices affecting funding and support for doctoral students working on dissertation research, with a focus on international students and science departments. The committee will also review concerns about discrimination, Butler said, and he hopes the committee will have recommendations ready in March 2006, either before or shortly after spring break.
“The Executive Committee expects that the ad hoc committee will meet with students and faculty to hear their concerns and to assess the effectiveness and fairness of departmental funding and advising practices,” Butler wrote in the letter.
GESO organizer Xiaoye Li GRD ’07, who attended Monday’s meeting, said the committee is a good first step but that he is disappointed that the University will not change the grievance procedure for international students. He said a third-party process is necessary because there have been several problems involving Chinese students in recent years.
“I think it’s impressive that Yale responded to our requests so fast,” Li said. “I think Yale has done a good job, but I think Yale can do a much better job.”
Local 35 President Bob Proto, who was also present at the Monday meeting, said the University responds to complaints of discrimination only when such grievances are made public, as at the GESO rally.
“They hide the discrimination first,” he said. “Then, when it gets exposed, they deal with it.”
The seven Chinese graduate students who attended the meeting said they had a number of concerns about their Yale experiences, from visa problems to disputes with dormitory managers.
Leidong Mao GRD ’07 said he had difficulty finding an adviser early in his Yale career and nearly lost his stipend as a result. Funding for science graduate students comes primarily from research work in advisers’ labs.
“My case is not very unique in the Electrical Engineering Department,” Mao said.
The grievance petition submitted in October centered on the case of Xuemei Han GRD ’09, who was asked to leave the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department in August. Several days after the rally, University officials told Han she would be allowed to keep her Fan Fellowship and transfer to the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies for the remainder of her doctoral program.
“I think they should do more to prevent such things from happening,” Han said. “I don’t know who holds the responsibility for all the wrongdoings.”
At the end of the meeting, several students told Blumenthal they hoped to return to China after finishing their education at Yale.
“I think the domestic market in China will become more and more appealing for people who work here,” said Cong Huang GRD ’09, GESO secretary-treasurer and president of the Association of Chinese Students and Scholars at Yale.
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