The University’s four cultural centers — often described as understaffed and underfunded — will each gain a new full-time assistant director next academic year.
All four cultural centers are currently searching for assistant directors, and a job posting for the positions went online Thursday morning. The posting states that candidates should be “student-centered” and motivated individuals who can assist in the implementation of services supporting underrepresented students and who can increase engagement with the broader campus community. Dean of Student Engagement Burgwell Howard said the Yale College Dean’s Office hopes to hire candidates in the next six weeks.
According to Howard, part of the funding for the new positions will be drawn from the doubling of each cultural center’s budget, a pledge announced by University President Peter Salovey on Nov. 17 as part of the University’s efforts to work “Toward a Better Yale.”
Under the current structure, directors of the cultural centers must split their time between the centers and the Yale College Dean’s Office. Students interviewed said an assistant director will result in a more constant administrative presence at each of the centers. In February 2015, an external review board recommended the addition of increased financial and administrative resources to the cultural centers, citing deficiencies in their organizational structures. Howard said the new positions come partly in response to the recommendations that came out of last year’s review.
Saveena Dhall, an assistant dean of Yale College and director of the Asian American Cultural Center, wrote to the AACC community on Thursday celebrating the announcement.
“This is something we have been requesting for a very long time so this is welcome news,” she wrote on the AACC’s Facebook page. “You, and those before you, have been pushing for this increase in staffing so this is a joint victory for our community.”
Students affiliated with cultural centers expressed unanimous support for the creation of the position, and many said that because the current directors have to split their responsibilities between the centers and the Yale College Dean’s Office, they have become overworked.
Alejandra Trujillo-Elizalde ’18, a student coordinator for La Casa Cultural, also said an assistant director will provide each center’s director with much needed support. Likewise, Haylee Kushi ’18, a house manager at the Native American Cultural Center, and Kodi Alvord ’17, who is the president of the NACC-affiliated performance group Blue Feather, said the recent expansion of the NACC’s programming has created the need for a full-time administrator at the center. Alvord added that a new assistant director will expand the NACC’s capacity to run events.
“We’re at a point where we have more events planned and run than ever before,” Alvord said.
Edward Dong ’17, a co-head coordinator for the AACC, said students do not see Dhall as much as they would like to, partly due to the fact that she has two offices: one at the center and one in Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall, on the other side of campus. He added that he did not think an announcement like would come during his time at Yale.
Kyle Ranieri ’18, a house manager for the NACC, said the cultural centers have needed additional administrative support for some time.
“Currently, the full-time deans are also tasked with a huge amount of responsibilities,” he said. “The addition of an assistant director would allow the cultural centers to continue expanding and providing resources, and most importantly they create a home away from home for many students.”
The creation of a permanent, full-time assistant directorship will also add institutional memory previously lacking at the AACC, as student leaders eventually graduate, said Jessica Liang ’17, the other student coordinator for the AACC.
Pedro Regalado GRD ’20, a graduate assistant for La Casa, said he is most excited about the fact that the director will have more administrative support. He added that he would like to see the assistant director focus on facilitating the vision of the director at the “ground level,” giving the director space to focus on broader initiatives.
“I think there are possibilities for what the full-time director can do for the [AACC] that we haven’t even been able to imagine,” Dong said.
Sukriti Mohan ’17 said she was excited about the new position, but she wondered whether the centers would also receive full-time mental-health professionals in the near future. In Salovey’s November email, he promised the Yale community that professional counselors from Yale Health’s Mental Health and Counseling would work with cultural center deans to provide mental health services at each center.