We write to respond to the editorial printed in the Feb. 2 edition of the News, entitled, “Ethnic Counseling a flawed but worthy program.”
For the past decade, the Yale College student population has seen great changes demographically. One of the goals of a student affairs office is to address the evolving needs of a changing population. While we recognize the positive attributes of the current ethnic counselor program, we also have a duty and responsibility to address the broader definition and perception of diversity. Over the course of several years, there have been extensive actions taken by the College to enhance the support we provide to freshmen. As Yale’s student population becomes more diverse with each passing year, it is important for us to assess our current programs and see how we may best enhance services that support our first-year students.
The editorial’s claim that the ethnic counselor program will be eliminated is not accurate. When the ethnic counselor program began in 1972, the number of students of color was small enough that individual ethnic counselors could be assigned to manageably sized groups. This is no longer the case. The job of the ethnic counselor has grown tremendously, and they have been asked to take on more than is effectively possible. The ethnic counselor program is a vehicle through which we have delivered a valuable service. This coming year, the delivery method is changing and the service will be strengthened as a result.
The skills that current ethnic counselors possess are essential to serving all freshmen. In addition to maintaining the essence of the ethnic counselor program, our aim is to impart these skills to all freshman counselors, and to include an awareness of the multiple identities and life experiences that we all possess (for example: country of origin, athleticism, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc.) As our perception of diversity has evolved to include more than racial diversity, our goal is to train all freshman counselors to assist a wide range of individuals, from a variety of backgrounds, and to broaden the scope of their influence to include other variations of diversity aforementioned.
The News also failed to mention that we also are implementing a peer liaison program, which will in fact increase the number of students providing support to students affiliated with not only the four cultural centers, but also with the chaplain’s office, the office of international students and scholars, and the office of LGBTQ resources.
The News questions how the current plan may influence the selection process. We respond by stating that we are confident that our masters and residential college deans will assess each freshman counselor candidate based on her or his qualifications, and more specifically her or his ability to connect with the uniqueness of each first-year student. When we roll out this plan, we will assess its effectiveness, and we anticipate that it will evolve with the changing needs of our students.
W. Marichal Gentry
The writer is the dean of student affairs and associate dean of Yale College. The cultural center directors and the dean of freshman affairs contributed to this letter.