In the early hours of Wednesday morning, a large poster calling attention to the lack of racial diversity among Yale’s faculty members — particularly when compared to the makeup of the student body — was posted on a Cross Campus bulletin board.
But the poster was removed before 9 a.m. on Wednesday and soon replaced with small, lollipop-laden cards advertising Founders Day, a celebration of Yale’s 314th birthday, which took place that afternoon. Alex Zhang ’18, who shared a photo of the poster on the Facebook group “Overheard at Yale,” said he came across the poster between 2 and 3 a.m. on Wednesday. Zhang posted the photo later that morning after he noticed that the sign had been taken down. By late Wednesday night, Zhang’s post had received 18 comments and nearly 1,000 likes.
The poster drew attention to the current disparity between undergraduate and faculty racial diversity. A bar graph on the poster showed that undergraduate minorities comprise 42 percent of the student body, while minorities make up only 17 percent of the faculty. Pie charts illustrated the ethnic compositions of the current student body in comparison to ladder faculty members within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In large, bold letters, the poster highlighted that historically, Yale has seen a 1 percent average increase in black faculty per century. “The students are waiting,” the poster said, prompting the University to action with the challenge, “Your move, Yale.”
“I think it should have been left up,” Lily Engbith ’17 said. “It’s not slandering anyone and it’s not offensive, it’s just calling for change. It was posted on a bulletin board and I see nothing disruptive or violent about it. If people are feeling marginalized, that message needs to be heard.”
Though the poster has received widespread support on Facebook, it remains unclear who was responsible for creating it — and who was responsible for taking it down. Twelve students interviewed said they were only aware of the poster after seeing it online and did not see it in person before it was taken down.
Heather Calabrese, director of university events, said she received no instructions to take down the poster. During the Founders Day event, Calabrese said she had not even heard of the poster’s existence.
“We’re not aware of who displayed this poster, or who might have taken it down,” Deputy University Press Secretary Karen Peart wrote in an email to the News.
The poster highlighted aspects of the University that many say are in need of improvement. Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies DUS Inderpal Grewal said faculty diversity has been a consistent problem at Yale, adding that she thinks there has been no improvement in this area in recent years.
Political science professor Frances Rosenbluth, who served as deputy provost for social sciences and for faculty development and diversity, said ideally, the faculty body would resemble the student body in terms of diversity. This would allow students to see a wider assortment of backgrounds and identities in leadership positions, she said.
“Many of us have worked hard to push for the hiring of excellent scholars who are also underrepresented minorities or are in underrepresented fields of study in the Yale curriculum,” Timothy Dwight College Master Mary Lui said. “It’s really been a tough issue that is made difficult with faculty departures and budget concerns.”
Of 12 students interviewed, 11 agreed with the poster’s message, and all 12 believed the University administration was responsible for the poster’s removal.
Liana Murray ’18 said she thinks the poster made an impact by being displayed on Founders Day, noting that it highlighted the lack of progress made in increasing faculty diversity.
Shyamala Ramakrishna ’17 agreed, stating that it was a good idea to capitalize on the crowds brought to Cross Campus on Founders Day.
“I’m sure that a lot of people will talk about timing of this — why would they put it up now for Founders Day?” Ana Barros ’18 said. “Someone took it down with the intention of not having it up during Founders Day, and that’s significant.”
Abdul Zachariah ’17 said the lack of faculty diversity is a problem that affects the entire campus. There are constraints on the types of classes Yale can offer because of the limited amount of ethnic experiences represented by professors, he said.
But, while Magdaleno Mora ’17 said he agrees that the University lacks faculty diversity, he said it is unreasonable to demand an immediate solution, as there are many factors at play.
“I think it was a great time to post it because Founders Day is celebrating the history of Yale, and if you want to point out a flaw in Yale’s history, now is the time to do it,” Mora said. “As students, we should inspire movements, but we shouldn’t be upset if they don’t come to fruition immediately.”
Still, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Tamar Gendler cited heartening figures for incoming faculty members.
Gendler said of the 28 FAS faculty arriving in 2015–16 or hired during the 2014–15 hiring cycle, three are of African descent and six are of East Asian or South Asian descent. Together, these nine new hires are working in a wide array of departments at Yale, including fields in which minorities are traditionally underrepresented, such as biomedical engineering, computer science and molecular biophysics and biochemistry.
“An excellent faculty is a diverse faculty,” Gendler added.
In 1989, Sylvia Boone became the first black woman to receive tenure at Yale.