Woodbridge Hall has established “implementation groups” to oversee its initiatives combating race and discrimination on campus.
On Nov. 17, University President Peter Salovey released a campuswide announcement in which he detailed several initiatives meant to foster a more inclusive campus environment. While some of those policies have already been put in place, such as the recently formed Presidential Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, many are still in need of supervision. Senior Advisor to the President Martha Highsmith said the new implementation groups monitor a variety of areas, including increased funding for the cultural centers, University communications, improved mental health services, diversity training and the reporting of harassment and discrimination.
“We want to be very transparent about two things: one is progress toward all of those initiatives that we announced, the second is we recognize that there are many details that were not worked out by Nov. 17,” Salovey said.
Salovey added that while progress on initiatives has impressed him so far, his new presidential task force on diversity and inclusion will “keep a watchful eye on them.”
Highsmith said the groups first started meeting at the beginning of the new year and that she periodically meets with them as well. She added that, true to their name, they are focused on the implementation of broader initiatives.
“Much is still in the planning phases,” Highsmith said. “There was a pledge to increase programming funds for the cultural centers. It’s not a matter of simply ‘Here’s money,’ it’s about ‘Here is the money, how do we plan what’s next, what kinds of programs are we going to put in place?’ That’s the kind of thing we’re doing.”
Highsmith said part of the communications group’s focus is maintaining a University website that details the status of all the initiatives, while the diversity group is focused on finding more effective campus training and the mental health group is focused on offering the most effective types of services to students. Highsmith did not specify who within the University belongs to each group.
Kimberly Goff-Crews, secretary and vice president for student life and a member of the discrimination and harassment implementation group, said it was charged with streamlining related University policies.
“We were asked to work on making our current policies more accessible and determining the best way to ensure that students can report any incidents with ease so that the University can respond appropriately,” she said.
Vice President for Communications Eileen O’Connor said the focus of the communications group is to make sure the Yale community is aware of wider progress being made. O’Connor added that members of the group include herself, Deputy Chief Communications Office Michael Morand, University Press Secretary Tom Conroy, Deputy University Press Secretary Karen Peart, Woodbridge Hall Director of Communications Alison Coleman and a representative from the Yale College Dean’s Office.
“Essentially our objective is to make sure we are communicating all of the things that are being done — to communicate clearly when policies or procedures are put into place so they are crystal clear,” O’Connor said.
For example, Morand said an official website documenting progress on Salovey’s initiatives was launched in mid-December to keep the Yale community informed.
Still, all eight students interviewed said they would advocate for increased awareness of the implementation groups going forward, though they were more mixed on the need for more student involvement.
“We always need more transparency,” Anne Zlatow ’18 said. “One can always say it would be nice to have more student collaboration, but administrators are in their positions for a reason.”
Beau Birdsall ’18 said the need for student involvement in the implementation of initiatives varies from area to area, as there are some policies about which students know relatively little.
O’Connor added that another function of the communications group is to ensure that the literal announcements of initiatives are as clear as possible, citing the recent release of a new reporting mechanism for instances of discrimination and harassment as an example.
“We look at which constituencies need to know about certain things and make sure they have the opportunity to know,” she said. “So we look into what avenues people tend to look at — YaleNews, an email. It isn’t just about the words but also making sure the reach is there.”
O’Connor said her group meets once a month and is constantly communicating. She added that the group also gathers whenever necessary, such as just prior to the release of the reporting website.
Highsmith added that the communications group ensures that the University will be kept accountable.
“One of the things we were very clear about in November is we want to be accountable in the community and keep the community informed about what we are doing,” Highsmith said.
Goff-Crews announced the discrimination and harassment reporting website on Feb. 1.