Several campus cultural groups are mobilizing to pressure the University to consider more minority candidates for residential college master positions, which they say have too rarely been awarded to women, African-Americans and other minorities.
Members of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan, the Black Student Alliance at Yale, and other organizations hope to meet in the coming weeks to devise an approach for taking their concerns to the administration, members said. Their effort comes as Berkeley College Master John Rogers announced on Thursday that he will not be returning as master next academic year [See story on page 3]. University officials said Yale does aim for diversity when hiring new masters, but is sometimes constrained by the requirements of the applicant pool.
MEChA coordinator Jose Rivera ’08 said having college masters who represent an array of ethnic and cultural backgrounds can help minority students feel more at home when they arrive at college. Minority masters would be able to speak to minority-specific issues in a way that others could not, he said.
“There’s proven evidence that minority students, when they come to campus — more than other students, especially when they are far away from home — feel a sense of alienation,” Rivera said. “I think it’s comforting to come onto campus and see people from similar cultural histories … or to see people like themselves.”
MEChA will likely be reaching out to other cultural groups in the next several weeks to arrange an alliance to advocate to the administration, Rivera said, and his organization will try to set up a meeting with Assistant Dean Rosalinda Garcia, the director of the Latino and Native American Cultural Centers.
Currently three women — Judith Krauss of Silliman College, Mary Miller of Saybrook College and Janet Henrich of Trumbull College — are serving as permanent masters, and one African-American — Jonathan Holloway of Calhoun College — holds the position. Krauss, who chairs the Council of Masters, said she could think of two other African-Americans who had served as masters in the recent past.
Yale President Richard Levin said the University has worked to prioritize diversity in its hiring of masters.
“I have certainly tried my best to ensure diversity within the group of masters, and I will continue to do that every time there is an opportunity,” he said. “Every time I have a search for any position, I always instruct the search committee to be especially on the lookout for exceptional candidates of color and women.”
Josh Williams ’08, the community action chair of BSAY and a founding member of the Coalition for Campus Unity, or CCU, said he thinks Yale should attempt to promote the same diversity among its college masters that it fosters in the student population. It should not be difficult for Yale to find minority candidates for masterships without lowering its standards for the position, he said.
“Yale says it’s a microcosm of the world with its students, and we think that should be reflected in the faculty and in the administration,” Williams said. “When you are applying for a job at Yale, they wouldn’t let you get to a level where they are talking about you as a potential candidate if you’re not qualified.”
BSAY and CCU will spend the next couple of weeks attempting to promote dialogue on the issue and seeking to secure positions on any panels or committees that are convened to discuss the makeup of the group of college masters, Williams said.
The University makes an effort in all major searches to appoint women, people of color, and people of various academic backgrounds, Krauss said. She said she thinks the low number of minorities currently serving as masters is partly a product of the relatively small group of people who are eligible to be considered for the position.
“Masters in general are tenured full professors in the University, so part of it is driven by the available pool,” Krauss said. “And part of it … is that mastering is not something that everyone is suited for. It takes a person who actually thinks it would be kind of neat to live with 400 undergraduates and pretty much be available 24/7.”
Levin said in an e-mail to the Berkeley community today that he will be establishing a committee to look for Rogers’ replacement within the next few weeks.