After a year of student demonstrations about race and inclusion that reverberated across campus, the class of 2020 arrived at Yale during a special time: Students are still recovering from the past year’s upheaval while looking forward to the promise of a new school year. Chosen to help Yale College’s youngest members acclimate to a campus undergoing numerous changes, freshman counselors have this year, in particular, been trained to prioritize diversity and inclusion in program.
FroCos are among the first people freshmen meet when they first arrive and they often serve as main points of contact throughout the school year. When student protests shook the University last year, FroCos played important mentoring roles in guiding Yale College freshmen who did not know Yale in any other context.
This spring, the University decided to expand FroCo training sessions and include more collaborations with the cultural centers. Those collaborations build on an expansion made two years ago, when FroCo training grew to incorporate sessions over weekends in April that focused on diversity, inclusion and other issues that might affect first-year students.
“Given the events of last fall and the feedback we received from last year’s FroCos, we added materials and sessions to provide both a framework for understanding those issues, as well as practical advice to make it easier for FroCos to navigate difficult topics or situations,” Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarríbar said.
For example, FroCo training this year included a session on how to handle socioeconomic differences among students, as well as one on free expression at Yale that discussed the 1974 Woodward Report, formally titled the “Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression at Yale,” which detailed the University’s free speech policies and was written by a committee of students, faculty, administrators and alumni.
According to Davenport FroCo Alison Levosky ’17, FroCo training that took place in the spring strongly emphasized inclusion. In one of the exercises, statements about cultural identity, socioeconomic status and other aspects of diversity were read aloud, and FroCos who identified with these statements would stand up in the room. Pierson FroCo Stephanie Siow ’17 told the News this spring that the exercise was “super powerful.” Levosky also said that exercise was among the most memorable moments of FroCo training for her.
Levosky added that the implication of last year’s student protests was so important that she dedicated one of her first FroCo meetings with her group of Davenport freshmen to inclusivity.
“One of the topics we discussed in that meeting was community,” she said. “I decided to share what I had learned from this past year — namely, the importance of listening to my friends who were emotionally and mentally impacted by everything that was going on, and, more broadly, the drive to be intentional about making Yale an inclusive space where students truly feel like they belong.”
To further emphasize diversity during freshmen’s transition to college life, Mosaic — an activity similar to the spring FroCo exercise — was created and implemented last year as part of Yale’s orientation for all freshmen. During Mosaic, FroCos read statements aloud to their freshmen. Students then took a step in any direction if the statement applied to them. These statements ranged from “I belong at Yale” to “I receive financial aid,” and covered other topics including family background; cultural and racial identity; and academic experiences and goals. Following the activity, FroCo groups convened to share what they had learned or found surprising.
Among seven freshmen interviewed, most said they enjoyed the Mosaic activity.
“While I knew that Yale was a diverse community, doing the Mosaic activity with the FroCos was able to show me the extent of that diversity while reminding us that we were all a part of Yale,” Nadia Irwanto ’20 said.
Kassandra Boos ’20 agreed, adding that the activity helped put into perspective how diverse the class was through the lens of a small group activity.
Luwei Xiong ’20 said there could have been a greater focus on cultural sensitivity, but most freshmen interviewed said they appreciate their FroCos’ efforts to encourage inclusive interactions and discussion.
Natalie Wright ‘20 added that her FroCo asked students for their preferred gender pronouns during the first meeting, making for an especially welcoming environment.
“Perhaps the most important aspect is that we underscored the unifying principle behind all of these conversations, and that is that we are a community that shares a set of values,” Lizarríbar said. “While we all bring different backgrounds and opinions to the table, we have a common goal and responsibility to each other.”