When Chandler Gregoire ’17 stepped onto Yale’s campus as a freshman more than three years ago, she was assigned two peer liaisons: one from the Afro-American Cultural Center and the other from the Asian American Cultural Center. Ethnically, Gregoire explained, she is half white, one-quarter Black and one-quarter Asian, and Yale felt compelled to match her multiple identities with the appropriate cultural resources.
A well-established initiative under the Yale College Dean’s Office, the peer liaison program has functioned to connect freshmen of color with the University’s four cultural centers — the AACC, the Af-Am House, La Casa Cultural and the Native American Cultural Center — since 2008. And while multiracial students have served as peer liaisons for these houses in the past, there is currently no formal multiracial peer liaison program to which members of Yale’s growing community of multiracial students can turn for support. Faced with difficulties in navigating her own multiracial identity, especially within the spaces of the existing cultural centers, Gregoire founded the Racial and Ethnic Openness Club with other multiracial friends in the spring of 2014.
Now, REO has proposed the idea of a multiracial peer liaison program. Discussions between students and administrators are ongoing, with several other options for supporting multiracial students also being discussed.
“I didn’t know what my place was in these [cultural] centers, and I struggled with feeling a lack of authority to speak to what life was like as an Asian-American or an African-American, because I was neither while simultaneously being both,” Gregoire said, adding that her experiences led her to create REO as a safe space for multiracial students at Yale. “Multiracial peer liaisons can help fix this problem, and in their creation the University will acknowledge that multiracial students have a unique experience at Yale and need support and resources as well.”
Gregoire said each multiracial peer liaison would be officially affiliated with one of the four cultural centers and would lead his or her group of multiracial freshmen in attending that center’s events. However, multiracial peer liaisons and freshmen would also work together and participate in events specific to the multiracial community.
The exact number of multiracial peer liaisons who would be hired is still unclear, Gregoire said, as it would depend on the number of applicants and how the program develops.
The application for becoming a peer liaison is due Feb. 12. Gregoire said students hoping to serve as multiracial peer liaisons should indicate their interest on their applications.
The most important aspect of both REO and the multiracial peer liaison initiative, REO member Isabelle Rossi de Leon ’17 said, is to help Yale students realize that they have a place on this campus no matter if they identify as one, more or none of the minority groups.
Dean of Student Engagement Burgwell Howard said NACC Director Kelly Fayard, who will be taking over the peer liaison program next fall, is in charge of managing the details of the multiracial peer liaison initiative. Af-Am House Director Risë Nelson will also playing an integral part in the program’s development, Gregoire said. Nelson and Fayard did not respond to multiple requests for comment as of Tuesday night.
All four students interviewed expressed their excitement about the program. Darby Henry ’17, a member of REO who is half-Black and half-Japanese, said she looks forward to seeing how the multiracial peer liaison program could help students unravel issues related to race and identity.
“I know a lot of multiracial kids who grow up feeling like they don’t totally fit in anywhere in a country that very much sees color and not knowing what to do with that,” Henry said. “I’m really looking forward to the program because multiracial people encounter issues and questions that are relatively novel to this country, and the number of people who will be experiencing them is only going to continue growing.”
Correction, Feb. 3: A previous version of this article stated that a multiracial peer liaison program is set to launch. In fact, the program has not yet been approved, and is one of many options administrators are considering. It also mistakenly stated that students hoping to become multiracial peer liaisons would not have to be multiracial to apply.