Two years after the re-establishment of the Minority Advisory Council and nearly three weeks after Yale President Richard Levin updated students on the council’s activities, cultural groups have expressed concern about what they characterized as a lack of communication between the MAC and the student body.
In a recent letter, Levin outlined the MAC’s recent activity with the administration, including three issues identified by MAC for “further study”: proposed changes to the structure of the Yale College Dean’s Office, a restructuring of grievance procedures, and strengthening mentoring programs for junior faculty and faculty of color. Still, during a Wednesday meeting between the Yale College Council and leaders of various cultural houses and organizations, representatives from cultural groups said they have doubts about MAC’s transparency as well as fair student representation on the council.
Yale College Dean Peter Salovey, who recently met with MAC, said their recommendations are in line with the University’s thinking.
“We’re discussing approaches to organizing diversity initiatives in the Dean’s Office that I think are quite compatible with their recommendations,” he said. “I suspect by the end of the semester we’ll be ready to discuss those ideas in more detail and publicly.”
But many cultural groups on campus criticized this letter as a reflection of the administration’s reluctant attitude to making MAC more responsive and transparent to students.
“It gives a general sense of MAC’s proposals on grievance procedures and faculty of color, but is very vague on ‘improving racial climate’,” Chinese American Students Association President Aaron Meng ’08 said. “I would guess that it’s because the studies are still in their early stages.”
Asian American Students Alliance Co-Moderator and Yale College Council Representative Priya Prasad ’08 said she also felt the letter gave an indistinct picture of MAC activities.
“People want to know what [MAC] is doing, and this makes people feel like there has been no tangible action,” she said.
But MAC member Tiffany Lu ’06 said the language of the letter was deliberately vague because the council operates under a veil of confidentiality and the proposals discussed have not yet been finalized.
“Whatever was in the letter was just supposed to make the items of our agenda known by the student body but not necessarily to get feedback at this point,” she said.
Meanwhile, Black Student Alliance at Yale President Christina White ’07 said she is generally disappointed that MAC does not work more closely with cultural groups on campus.
“If MAC is representing the interests of students of color on campus, it should at least be in close contact with cultural group leaders,” she said.
Yale College Council Representative Priya Prasad ’08, who is also a co-moderator of the Asian American Students Alliance, said at the meeting that cultural organizations have made no attempts to engage MAC in a meeting because few people understand what the council is doing.
“We need to know what they are doing before we make suggestions,” she said. “If the students on MAC were to make themselves known to us, then we could contact them directly.”
But YCC President Steven Syverud ’06 said he feels MAC is effecting positive change on campus, despite the fact that it is a newly reformed organization that was not designed to have an active role.
“MAC is doing a lot of good things,” he said. “I think everyone on the council is giving a long, hard look at aspects of minority life at Yale.”
Afro-American Cultural Center publicity director Adrian Hopkins ’06 said he understands that MAC is in a difficult position because it has not yet figured out where it stands, but that he thinks the council should act on what is most important to students.
Lu said she realizes why some students may be frustrated with the closed-door system under which MAC operates. She said MAC is trying to make itself more transparent to students concerned about minority issues, but it was not set up to promote the causes of all the cultural groups on campus.
MAC will hold an open forum in the second week following spring break to allow all students to voice their concerns about MAC and any other issues concerning minorities, Lu said.