After a tense year of racially charged debate, the Graduate and Professional Student Senate released a report Monday documenting racial disparities in graduate and professional students’ experiences at Yale.
The GPSS’ Report on Race, Diversity and Inclusion represents the first publicly released survey of graduate and professional students’ opinions on those topics since the racial protests that gripped Yale’s campus last fall. The report — based on a survey distributed last spring to the nearly 7,000 graduate and professional students at Yale, of whom roughly 17 percent responded — examines the impact of race on issues ranging from faculty mentorship to bias and discrimination on campus. Over the course of 102 pages of statistics and tables, the GPSS report offers detailed recommendations designed to address racial disparities in those areas, calling for clearer antidiscrimination policies and sustained attention to issues such as faculty diversity.
“This is not simply a question of increasing the numbers of historically underrepresented minorities who attend Yale,” the report states. “It encompasses a widespread concern that the individuals and resources designed to assist these students when they arrive on campus are not sufficient based on presently articulated needs.”
The GPSS sent the report to University President Peter Salovey and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews at the end of last week. Salovey told the News that he planned to read the report on Monday and expects that the GPSS’ “reflections and recommendations are going to be quite helpful.”
The origins of the GPSS report date back to the same racially fraught discussions that captivated and polarized undergraduates last fall. In November 2015, the GPSS held a community forum devoted to race on campus that was attended by about 400 graduate and professional students.
“The overwhelming sentiment expressed at that forum was a recognition that racial disparities continue to exist in our community, and negatively affect a considerable amount of students in a variety of ways,” the report states.
The GPSS report is organized into four sections focusing on bias and discrimination, community experiences, antidiscrimination resources and student relationships with faculty.
In the bias and discrimination section, the report notes that a full third of respondents, “an unacceptably high rate,” said they have experienced such abuse at Yale. It also points out stark racial disparities among the students who said they have faced discrimination. For instance, 72 percent of black and African-American respondents said they have experienced racial bias or discrimination in the classroom, compared to just 26 percent of white students.
That disparity carries over to the community experiences section, where the report indicates that 30 percent of black and African-American respondents said they disagreed with the statement “I belong at Yale.” Approximately one white student disagreed for every three black and African-American students that did, according to the report.
Moreover, many of the respondents said they were unaware of the campus resources available to victims of racial abuse, including various Yale websites and the University’s official handbook on diversity, according to the report. More than half of all respondents said they would not know whom to contact if they were subjected to racial discrimination. Even among blacks and African-Americans, the group that the report identified as most likely to know how to report discrimination, 44 percent of respondents said they were unfamiliar with the resources available.
“There needs to be more communication to what the resources are, and maybe the resources need to be improved,” said former GPSS President Elizabeth Mo GRD ’18, who reviewed a draft of the report. “We need to have more open communication about what the resources are and how they can be better.”
The report also shows that racial disparities at Yale extend beyond the realm of discrimination in the classroom to shape other aspects of academic life as well. In the faculty section, 40 percent of all respondents, a total that includes 57 percent of black and African-American respondents, said they lacked a faculty mentor.
Sameer Jaywant LAW ’18 — chair of the GPSS’ Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, which compiled the report — said professional students often look for mentors who share their racial or socioeconomic background.
“If you’re in a professional school, where you’re not tied by the nature of your work to a particular faculty member, that’s where you start to see some deviations or some problems,” Jaywant said. “I don’t necessarily think that the solution to this faculty mentoring issue is just to assign every student a faculty mentor. That sort of relationship is often one that should be more organic.”
Jaywant described the recommendations in the GPSS report as “not especially controversial or ground-breaking.” For example, the report does not demand that the University rename buildings or erect campus monuments, nor does it request ambitious new projects.
Instead, the report suggests that Yale administrators do more to promote pre-existing resources, such as the “A More Inclusive Yale” website and the Diversity Handbook. It calls for the University to establish a clear, standardized discrimination policy akin to its regulations on sexual misconduct.
“We really wanted to focus on a concrete set of actions that if taken would really substantially increase resources for students and hold both the administration and GPSS accountable to working on these issues, even when the topic of diversity and inclusion may no longer be at the top of the agenda,” Jaywant said.
GPSS President Will Culligan GRD ’20 said he hopes that in the coming years the GPSS will continue to study race, diversity and inclusion, regardless of whether students are vocally protesting University policies.
“I think it’s something we should’ve done before and something that we should continue to do,” Culligan said. “It’s unfortunate that it took such a volatile atmosphere to create the impetus for it.”