On Nov. 30, the News distributed a survey to all 5,655 undergraduates on a wide range of topics, including the policies University President Peter Salovey announced on Nov. 17.
The 1,485 students who took the survey had the option of selecting one or more choices to represent their ethnic backgrounds. 67 percent of respondents identified themselves as Caucasian, 20 percent as Asian, 9 percent as Black and 12 percent as Hispanic, closely matching the ethnic breakdown of the student body as a whole. According to the Office of Institutional Research, at Yale, 72 percent of students identify as White and Other, 20 percent as Asian, 9 percent as Black and 9 percent as Hispanic.
When asked how well Salovey’s policies addressed student concerns, 63 percent of Caucasian respondents said he responded sufficiently, 19 percent said he should have taken additional steps and 18 percent said he should have taken fewer steps. Of surveyed students of color, 58 percent said Salovey responded sufficiently, 26 percent wanted more action and 16 percent wanted less. However, Black women — 58 percent of whom reported that they had experienced racial discrimination at Yale — were significantly less satisfied as compared to the larger pool of respondents. While 47 percent said Salovey responded sufficiently, 47 percent said he should have taken additional steps. Just 6 percent said he should have done less.
Karleh Wilson ’16, who is a member of the new student activist group Next Yale and who has met with Salovey on two occasions, told the News that she is not satisfied with the changes that have been made and cited specific areas in which Salovey should have gone further.
“Salovey said some things won’t start until the next academic year, like enlarged program budgets for cultural centers. I think those program budgets need to be doubled by next semester and the deans of these centers also need a lot more support from faculty — they need a full-time staff as of yesterday,” Wilson said. “There is also the diversity and inclusivity training. That needs to happen for all professors, sports coaches, and staff in the financial aid department … So, no, I am not satisfied.”
Still, Nicholas Agar-Johnson ’17 said considering that these policies are just the first step, Salovey did an “excellent job” in crafting his response to student concerns in a difficult, controversial situation.
In response to survey results, Salovey told the News that he will continue to develop additional policies to foster a more inclusive campus community.
“I think the issue is not quantity — are we doing too much, the right amount or not enough. The issue has to be: are we doing the right things,” he said. “We need to always be thinking about these issues and always be open to ways to increase inclusion, rather than assume at one moment in time we somehow got it exactly right.”
When asked the degree to which they support the content of Salovey’s policy changes overall, 33 percent of respondents said they strongly support the policies, 43 percent said they support them, 16 percent said they were neutral, 6 percent said they oppose the policies and 2 percent said they strongly oppose them. Respondents also indicated their support for specific policy initiatives. Bolstered financial aid offerings drew the most approval: 89 percent of students supported the changes that included a reduced “student effort,” although the vast majority of these responses were recorded before Monday, when administrators announced the specific details of that reduction. The next-most welcomed steps were multicultural training for all Yale Mental Health & Counseling staff, which 79 percent of respondents supported, and an improved mechanism for reporting instances of discrimination on campus, which 78 percent of respondents supported.
At least 50 percent of students surveyed supported each of the specific policies Salovey announced. However, respondents least favored the decision to establish an inaugural position for a deputy dean for diversity in the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and special adviser to the provost and president, which 41 percent either felt neutral about or opposed. Significant portions of respondents also did not explicitly favor open meetings between the Yale Corporation and the Yale community to discuss the naming of the two new residential colleges and the potential renaming of Calhoun, and the doubling of funding for each cultural center. 36 percent opposed or expressed neutral opinions regarding open meetings, and 32 percent said the same for increased funding.
In an open-response section, students of color frequently said Salovey should have taken steps such as completely eliminating the student income contribution, granting additional funding for cultural centers and implementing a distributional requirement related to ethnicity, race, gender and sexuality. Many said Salovey should have included a response to student concerns about the master and associate master of Silliman College in his email to the Yale community, rather than doing so in a message solely to Silliman students.
“Doubling the budgets for the cultural centers is not enough, they are tiny budgets,” one Black student wrote. “[Salovey] should have at least addressed the tension in Silliman caused by Master and Associate Master Christakis … It would be better to have more specifics about what Yale is going to do to improve diversity in the faculty. Above all, I wish [Salovey]had made more specific statements about the student aid contribution for low-income students.”
Still, Oliver Orr ’19 said Salovey was wise to respond to student concerns meaningfully without overstepping, because doing too much at once might encourage complacency and thus prevent a long-term solution.
Benjamin Marrow ’17 said he opposed six of the nine policy announcements highlighted in the survey, including an improved mechanism for reporting discriminatory behavior, an inaugural center on race and ethnicity and open community meetings with the Yale Corporation.
“Though the center is a perfectly good idea in theory, it will be hard for it to remain impartial or apolitical,” Marrow said. “It’s also vastly unclear what the new reporting mechanism means — I support making complaints known but fear it will unreasonably broaden the definition of discrimination … The Yale Corporation’s purpose is to balance interests of varied interest groups on campus, so the idea that the Corporation should be directly accountable to students isn’t just misguided, but also could be potentially harmful. It’s important the Corporation remain insulated from political pressures.”
Harper Keehn ’16 said while he supports the policy announcements, there is still work that needs to be done to foster a better Yale.
“These accommodations are great, but they still are based on this idea that campus climate was fixed, it was broken for a couple of weeks, but now it’s fixed again,” he said. “That’s not true. We’re not returning to something that works.”