This article has been updated to reflect the version that ran in print on Nov. 18.
In response to campus conversations on race and diversity over the past few weeks, University President Peter Salovey announced a series of policies on Tuesday that will impact, among other things, course offerings and faculty hiring, the funding of the four cultural centers and the mechanism by which students can report instances of discrimination.
Some of the policies will be implemented immediately, some will be put in place over time and some are still in development. The majority of students of color interviewed — many of whom have been involved in the demonstrations of the past two weeks — said they felt satisfied with the steps and will hold the administration accountable in their implementation and the development of additional steps. Salovey told the News that he hopes these new policies will show students that the University has listened to their input and is taking action. Still, according to a statement from Next Yale — a coalition of Yale students of color and their allies that presented a list of demands to Salovey last week — the changes announced Tuesday do not go far enough.
“Many of these initiatives have been under consideration or in the works for some time. I am glad that we are able to act on them in a concerted manner and that they will benefit so many on campus,” Salovey told the News. “I hope students appreciate that we are listening to them and that we are now all moving forward in a collaborative way.”
In his email, Salovey separated the policy changes into four areas: “Strengthening the Academic Enterprise,” “Expanding Programs, Services and Support for Students,” “Improving Institutional Structures and Practices” and “Representations of Diversity on Campus.”
The University will strengthen its academic enterprise through a new University center on race and ethnicity to be launched this year, four new Faculty of Arts and Sciences positions for scholars whose studies focus on underrepresented communities and new spring course offerings in related areas. Additionally, the University will establish a five-year series of conferences on issues of race, gender, inequality and inclusion, as well as a new administrative position — dean for diversity in the FAS and special advisor to the provost and president — to help guide the FAS in its diversity efforts, including in its implementation of the recently announced $50 million faculty diversity initiative.
Salovey said the goal of the race and ethnicity center will be to foster more collaboration among faculty and students.
“Faculty who wish to be involved with the center’s work, and especially those whose fields are relevant, will be involved in designing it,” he told the News. “One comparable center would be the Whitney Humanities Center. Centers generally bring together faculty and students across a number of different, but related, departments, programs and fields of study.”
The University will also double the budgets for its four cultural centers, offer improvements in financial aid — including a reduction in the student effort expectation, provide multicultural training to all of Mental Health & Counseling and have professional counselors from Yale Health work with the cultural centers to schedule specified hours.
“For the AACC, the budget increase, acknowledging our staffing needs, stated commitment to continue to address our facilities issues and the addition of a mental health fellow to provide counseling hours to our students is a significant upgrade,” Saveena Dhall, director of the Asian American Cultural Center, said. “Although we will be engaged in working out the details and assessing what is quickly implementable, what we can put into place next semester and what are the areas that need continued attention, it is clear that the University is making a commitment to truly invest in the experiences of all students.”
Many of these measures respond to Next Yale’s demands, which included an increase of $2 million to the annual budget of each cultural center. Dhall did not specify the current operating budget for the AACC, but said because the increase in funding does not go into effect until the beginning of next academic year, she will spend the next six months planning for it. Tobias Holden ’17, a student of color who has been present at many of the discussions and demonstrations of the past two weeks, said that while the increase in funding for the cultural centers falls short of Next Yale’s demand, it is a step in the right direction. But Karleh Wilson ’16, a member of Next Yale who has met with Salovey on two occasions, said she is not satisfied because the increase in funding will not go into effect next semester.
The University will also seek to improve its institutional structures and practices by training its top administrators, faculty and others to recognize and combat racism and discrimination. Salovey told the News that his office is currently searching for the individuals or organizations that can most effectively provide such training.
The University will also make funds available for programs concerning diversity and inclusion, such as those offered at freshman orientation. Additionally, the administration will “immediately” work with students to communicate available pathways to better report instances of discrimination on campus. In the spring, University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews will take the lead in developing stronger mechanisms for the reporting, tracking and addressing of discriminatory actions.
The policies also aim to strengthen representations of diversity on campus. Because decisions about the potential renaming of Calhoun College and the naming of the two new residential colleges fall under the jurisdiction of the Yale Corporation, Salovey’s email said the Corporation’s senior fellow, Margaret Marshall LAW ’76, would organize meetings between the body’s members and the Yale community.
In a preliminary statement provided to the News, Next Yale said the policies represent progress but fail to address the majority of the needs of students of color.
“Next Yale is cautiously optimistic about President Salovey’s announcement of the upcoming institutional changes. We still need time to process the message and communicate as a group to determine a substantial collective response,” the statement reads. “But this movement is by no means over. The letter only addresses a small fraction of our needs as students of color. For example, despite the budget increase, the cultural centers remain under-resourced for the functions they serve. The proposed academic changes make no mention or room for tenured faculty in ethnic studies, who are of paramount importance as we work to implement these commitments and sustain the progress we have made.”
Sebastian Medina-Tayac ‘16 — a staff reporter for the News, an organizer with Next Yale and the president of the Association of Native Americans at Yale — said he believes the policies are a good start and that he appreciates the work the administration put in to making these changes happen.
Austin Johnson ’16, a student of color who has been involved with recent cultural center events, said the policies are steps in the right direction and that he is proud to be a part of an institution where administrators respond to the genuine needs of its students.
Still, many students interviewed stressed that there is more work to be done, noting that some of Next Yale’s demands were not met. For example, in Tuesday’s policy announcement, the University did not put in place an ethnic studies distributional requirement for undergraduates, raise the Ethnicity, Race and Migration Program to departmental status or increase the budgets of each cultural center by the requested $2 million.
But Wilson said that just because certain demands were not met on Tuesday does not mean they will not be met in the future, as Next Yale continues to work with Salovey and Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway.
She added that though she is excited about the new faculty positions and courses, she remains unsatisfied, as many of the announced policies will take too much time to implement. Wilson said two important pieces were missing from the email: an acknowledgement that recent events at Yale are part of a national movement against institutional racism, and a promise to consult with students about the distribution of the new faculty who will be hired through the diversification initiative. Wilson said while powerful figures at Yale, such as Corporation members, the provost and alumni donors, are preventing the implementation of some of Next Yale’s demands, Salovey is on the movement’s side.
“[Salovey] understands he has a responsibility to fix things and is on our side, but the problem is he doesn’t have as much power as students think he does. He needs the support of other people who have more power — the people who pull the strings he can’t pull,” she said. “Salovey is not our antagonist — he is our ally. More than our ally: a member of this movement. I know it’s hard to conceptualize someone we’ve attacked and felt attacked by as a member of our movement, but he is. That is something everyone needs to know — all people at Yale in general.”
Akinyi Ochieng ’15, a former peer liaison for the Af-Am House, said she was extremely pleased with the policies. However, she said her one disappointment was the exclusion of a distributional requirement in ethnic studies. Although she understands the difficulties behind making such a change in a short period of time, she said Salovey could have mentioned the potential requirement in his email to foster public discussion.
Holden said it is understandable that the University is not adopting the distributional requirement right now because related departments do not have the resources to provide so many students with quality educational experiences. Holden said it would be unrealistic to expect the administration to meet all student demands in such a limited amount of time, adding that he views the action steps as compromises for the time being in an ongoing effort to establish a more tolerant campus community. He also said students will continue to hold the University accountable to its proposed changes and future policy developments.
In explaining why such a requirement was not installed, Salovey told the News that changes in distributional requirements are decided upon by the Yale College faculty and would likely require a lengthy period of study.
“The requirements of the Yale College curriculum are set by the Yale College faculty itself. I would suspect that changes to the curriculum would take serious study over a good bit of time, as they did the last time the curriculum was changed,” he said.
Salovey also said giving programs such as ER&M departmental status is a long process with multiple levels of approval. He added that departmental status might not always be advantageous for an interdisciplinary field, citing programs in Cognitive Science and American Studies as examples.
In developing these policies, Salovey said various portions of the Yale community contributed opinions and expertise. He said he met with the University Cabinet and held conference calls with the Corporation, as well as alumni leaders. Salovey also said he and members of his office reached out to the deans of several professional schools, students across the University, residential college masters and cultural center directors.
Salovey’s email said these are the first steps Yale will take to create a more inclusive and diverse community, and that he hopes the policies will help guide universities across the country in addressing similar issues of inequality.
“In a time when universities and communities around the country are coming together to address long-standing inequalities, I believe that Yale can and should lead the way. Many of you have proposed ideas for constructive steps forward, and my hope is that our collective endeavors can become a model for others to emulate,” the email read.