University President Peter Salovey’s response to Next Yale’s demands does not go far enough, according to the New Haven Educators’ Collective — a group made up of 10 core members and hundreds of supporters that advocates for social justice reform in Elm City schools.
Next Yale, a coalition of Yale students advocating against institutional racism, presented Salovey with a list of demands last Thursday evening, requesting increased cultural house funding and the removal of Nicholas and Erika Christakis from their positions as master and associate master of Silliman College. Though Salovey responded to many of these demands in emails to the Yale community and members of Silliman College on Tuesday, he did not acquiesce to all of them.
Metropolitan Business Academy teacher Nataliya Braginsky, who is a core NHEC member and co-author of the NHEC’s statement of solidarity with the racial justice campaigners at Yale, said if the University is not meeting all of Next Yale’s demands, it is not sufficiently combating racial injustice.
“Until all of the demands of Next Yale are met, the work is not done,” Braginsky said. “Even after all demands are met, the work is still not done.”
In a statement the NHEC released last Wednesday, in solidarity with the Black Student Alliance at Yale, the group acknowledged Yale students’ personal accounts of on-campus racism and urged Yale’s administration to “take steps immediately” to address the problems.
Braginsky said the NHEC shares Next Yale’s concern about the underrepresentation of educators of color, adding that NHPS also suffers from a lack of proportional representation of ethnic minority teachers and faculty members.
While around 42 percent of NHPS students are Black, only 13 percent of teachers are Black, Braginsky said, citing 2013 statistics. Similarly, she said, less than 7 percent of NHPS teachers in 2013 were Latino, though Latinos made up 41 percent of the student body that year.
“In NHPS, the staff and teachers don’t reflect students,” Braginsky said.
NHEC member Monica Bunton, who teaches second-graders, said the lack of male teachers of color in NHPS is particularly problematic because male students do not have enough role models who look like them.
Bunton said she chose to voice her support of Yale’s movement for racial justice because systemic racism is perpetuated when educational institutions do not address it.
“What these systems tend to lead to, in my experience, is a lack of cultural competency in regards to curriculum, classroom environments and interactions with students and their families,” Bunton said in an email to the News.
In addition to calls for more faculty of color, Braginsky said the NHEC believes training on cultural competency is “critical” for students, teachers and school administrators.
Braginsky said she teaches a high school course on identity and justice that explores how different groups experience oppression because of their race, gender and other components of their identity.
“Because of this class, I think our students are more open-minded and critically conscious,” Braginsky said.
Braginsky added that cultural sensitivity training — one of the demands included in Next Yale’s letter to Salovey — would also benefit all New Haven teachers and, in turn, enhance the learning experience of students.
NHPS spokeswoman Latrice Hampton said she was unaware of the NHEC’s letter in solidarity with BSAY. She said NHPS had not released an official position on Next Yale’s list of demands as of Tuesday evening.
Braginsky said the country and its schools have a long history of racism and so positive change, though long overdue, requires a multifaceted approach.
“NHEC believes there is an interconnectedness to the issues of economic, racial and social justice,” Braginsky said. “Whether they’re happening as micro-aggressions or structural racism, on the streets of New Haven or on Yale’s campus, they’re interconnected.”
Correction, Nov. 18: A previous version of this article misrepresented the size of the NHEC.