The Yale College Council on Nov. 14 voiced support for a Coalition for Campus Unity proposal that would formalize the creation of student diversity coordinators in all 12 residential colleges but declined to become directly involved in the proposal’s implementation, YCC officials told the News this week.
Although the Council’s president said she fears some students would view the proposal as “reactionary,” CCU members decided Wednesday night to continue collaborating with the YCC in the effort to promote awareness of diversity in residential colleges, said Shruti Gupta ’08, who authored the CCU proposal.
The CCU made a similar proposal to the Council of Masters last year, Gupta said, but the masters did not endorse the idea, arguing that individual colleges’ efforts to promote appreciation of diversity should be more organic and individualized.
The proposal — which would have mandated that each residential-college council appoint two students to coordinate cultural activities and diversity awareness in the college — comes on the heels of ostensibly racist and homophobic graffiti discovered on University buildings earlier this month. But CCU members said their decision to reintroduce the proposal this year was unrelated to those incidents.
CCU member Robert Sanchez ’08 said the idea was originally introduced to the Council of Masters because CCU thought most Yale students lacked sufficient cultural awareness.
“Sometimes when we have these forums and panels we are preaching to the choir because only a certain demographic of students attend the event,” Sanchez said of discussions that campus cultural groups have organized in the wake of past instances of hate speech. “It does not affect the general Yale community, and we wanted to make events of diversity important to every student.”
YCC Secretary David Narotsky ’09 said the idea of appointing two people in each college to coordinate cultural activities and Master’s Teas and to raise awareness of diversity was in line with the Council’s priorities. But he said the YCC did not endorse the CCU proposal because members did not want to promote such steps through mandate.
“We said we’d help CCU because we thought this was more a residential-college issue, less a YCC thing,” Narotsky said. “As YCC reps we said we would bring it to the residential-college councils, facilitate discussion and see if they want to run it.”
At the Nov. 14 YCC meeting — scheduled specifically to address CCU’s concerns before the Thanksgiving break — the Council debated whether to become involved in organizing the application process for the diversity coordinators, authoring a letter to the Council of Masters in support of the idea and sending an e-mail to the entire student body about the new position.
The YCC voted down all three actions.
Council members instead voted to facilitate direct communication between CCU and residential college councils, according to the Nov. 14 YCC meeting minutes.
Sanchez said the intention of the proposal is to institutionalize the importance of diversity-awareness efforts at Yale. CCU members said they think the YCC may have viewed the proposal as reactionary in light of the graffiti.
YCC President Rebecca Taber ’08 said while Council members themselves do not think the proposal is reactionary, they think the proposal could have been interpreted as reactionary by the larger student community — a perception that would undermine the initiative’s effectiveness.
“I think a lot of times there’s a lot of backlash from people who feel that groups might capitalize on recent events with something that might lose steam,” Taber said in an e-mail. “The main concern was that if YCC and CCU come in with this proposal it might seem very reactionary and not as stable as we hope it to be.”
Gupta said CCU members’ next step will be to collaborate with current YCC reps in encouraging residential-college councils to create some kind of diversity-awareness position or board. She said the CCU still hopes that the administration will take more concrete steps in the future to address diversity issues on campus, and the group’s work on the issue is far from over.
“We are disappointed in the YCC’s decision, and we wish they could participate to a greater extent, but we understand their reasoning,” Gupta said.
Council of Masters Chair Judith Krauss said the masters decided not to implement the program last year because they prefer that action begin within the residential colleges.
“The Masters did not think it advisable that the CCU appoint coordinators and assign them to the colleges,” she said. “We thought it very important that the structure for cultural affairs be more organic to each of the colleges, as part of college council and activities, and that the CCU be more a source of ideas for people in the colleges interested in promoting cultural affairs and events.”
The colleges already organize a fair number of diversity-related activities, but coordination between the CCU and college councils would be a welcome addition, Krauss said.
Gupta said some residential colleges have already started implementing diversity programs. The Saybrook College Council and the Silliman College Council are both in talks to create diversity action committees, she said.