Students are eagerly awaiting the publication of an external review of the four cultural centers, which began in November and has since been completed.
Members of the Asian American Cultural Center, the Afro-American Cultural Center, the Native American Cultural Center and La Casa Cultural participated in meetings with a team of consultants from other universities, including Brown and Stanford, throughout this three-month time period. Although students involved in the cultural houses were initially anxious about the review, students interviewed said the process provided them with an opportunity to bring up issues and challenges that the centers are currently facing.
“The external review was important because it shows that Yale cares and listens to its students,” Chris Dee ’15, a member of the Asian American Students Alliance, said. “It’s an opportunity for self-reflection and gives us the chance to reassess what we have and what we want to do with the resources at Yale.”
Members of different cultural houses told the News that all centers ultimately share the same main concern — the need for greater administrative and financial resources. As the chief tie to Yale’s administration for each center, the cultural center directors must single-handedly run all operations that serve thousands of students, and are thus often over-streched resources, said Sebi Medina-Tayac ’16, a former staff reporter for the News who is active at the NACC.
“We need a dean who can advocate for us, someone who can give warmth to the center,” La Casa peer liaison Israel Tovar ’17 said regarding the absence of a dean at the Latino cultural center. In the past year, the NACC and La Casa have been operating under interim directors after their deans stepped down.
Additionally, the four cultural centers have been working under drastically reduced budgets. With over $60,000 of budget cuts in the AACC alone, the centers are finding it more difficult to grow without necessary financial support, AACC Co-Head Coordinator Hiral Doshi ’17 said. Moreover, the centers are also now expanding their outreach to include Yale’s graduate students, he said. The shortage of funding will be exacerbated, Doshi added, by the opening of the two new residential colleges in fall 2017.
Victoria Chu ’15, a peer liaison for the AACC, said that along with more funding, the centers also hope to obtain more transparent information on how funding is assigned by the administration. Cultural centers need to know whether they will be able to get enough funding for the activities they want to plan in the interest of spreading cultural awareness, she said.
But La Casa Student Coordinator Benjamin Bartolome ’16 said facilities are his main concern.
“One of our largest issues is also the renovation of our space,” Bartolome said. “In the basement, if you lean on certain walls, you can get electrocuted.”
The AACC is also in need of renovations for its house, AACC Freshman Liaison Dustin Nguyen ’18 said, because it does not have a big central multipurpose room for large events.
As the report will be made public in the coming week, students said they are excited for its release. After meeting with Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway this Wednesday, representatives of the cultural houses have been reassured that the report will reflect the issues that were brought up. The cultural center deans have read the report and conveyed their approval of it as well, Co-Head Coordinator of the AACC Jessica Liang ’17.
Assistant Dean of Yale College and Director of the Afro-American Cultural Center Rodney Cohen said he thinks the review is a great show of support from the University to the cultural centers. He added that the process also comes at a good time, as the school looks to the addition of two new colleges.
“I think people are excited because this is the first time that the cultural review has ever been conducted, and it’s our one chance in 40 years in order to voice our concerns to our administration,” AACC peer liaison Austin Long ’15 said. “This external review is the first step towards bringing change to the cultural houses.”
Some students, however, are still concerned about the specific actions that the administration will take regarding the results of the report.
“The administration needs to not just share their report but to also be transparent about the actionable steps that will be taken in the months and years to come,” Medina-Tayac said.
Following the public release of the external review report, students have been told to expect a town hall meeting with Holloway and other administrators, which will be open to the entire student body, said Casey Lee ’17, who is involved at the AACC. This meeting will hopefully provide yet another opportunity for all students to give input on the status of Yale’s cultural centers, Lee added.
The first cultural center to open at Yale was the Afro-American Cultural Center, which opened in 1969.