Dwight Hall released a statement Friday criticizing Chris Moeckel ’20 and Saloni Rao ’20 — whom it has endorsed for YCC president — for responding “no” at this week’s YCC debate when asked whether Yale is institutionally racist.

The question arrived during a “lightning round” at the debate in which candidates were told to respond “yes” or “no” to a series of questions. Rao and Moeckel both responded “no” to the institutional racism question, while the other three presidential candidates — Aadit Vyas ’20, Shunhe Wang ’20 and Azaria King ’20  — all responded “yes.”

The Dwight Hall statement explained that its Student Executive Committee “fully believes institutionalized racism exists in the Yale community,” citing the lack of diversity among faculty members, a scarcity of resources for students of color and “century-long resistance” to changing the name of Calhoun College, which was rechristened last year in honor of Grace Hopper GRD ’34.

“Institutionalized racism does exist at Yale, and there’s a lot of examples of that,” said Dwight Hall Co-Coordinator Matthew Coffin ’19. “This conversation needed to happen at some point … Dwight Hall wants to be part of that conversation with whoever ends up being the YCC president so that we can work on those issues together.”

Polls opened at 9 a.m. on Thursday morning and will close at 9 p.m. on Friday night.

In a statement to the News, Rao clarified her position on the issue, saying that institutional racism “undeniably exists” at Yale, and that she “[has] not and would not deny its existence.”

The statement said when she answered the question “Is Yale institutionally racist?” her first thought was of the Yale administrators she has worked with over the years, such as Yale College Dean Marvin Chun, Associate Vice President of Student Life Dean Burgwell Howard and Deputy Dean for Diversity and Faculty Development Kathryn Lofton — none of whom she considers racist. However, Rao said she does view Yale as an institution — as well as “its history and its policies” — as racist.

“I regret not pushing to further clarify or further considering my answer because I know it hurt so many of my fellow students,” Rao’s statement read. “For that I apologize. Institutional racism exists at Yale, and the best way to change it is to change who is doing the instituting and to give a voice to those who have not before been heard. This, I feel, is something which I feel is the duty of the YCC and is something that I have and continue to feel passionately about.”

Moeckel also clarified his stance in a statement to the News.

“I believe there is institutional racism at Yale, and I misspoke during the debate,” Moeckel said. “Dwight Hall has every right to issue this statement, but I will continue to reach out to everyone on campus.”

Vyas also published a statement addressing the issue of institutionalized racism at Yale on his Facebook page on Friday afternoon.

“It is the role of the Yale administration to foster a healthy community on campus,” Vyas said. “Regardless of how this election pans out, I hope that all of this publicity has shed light on this very present and real issue, and I hope this election will move the conversation forward.”  

Dwight Hall wrote in its statement that it finds Rao’s and Moeckel’s stances as expressed in the debate “harmful.” Still, the organization will not retract its endorsement of Rao — which would require reinitiating a vote among all of the members of the Executive Committee and representatives from hundreds of constituent student organizations — and hopes to work with the eventual presidential winner on facing the issue of institutionalized racism.

“I think regardless of how this whole things plays out, we’re pretty much on the same page even if our words don’t necessarily say it,” Coffin said. “And we look forward to seeing how we can collaborate in the future.”

Asha Prihar | asha.prihar@yale.edu

Asha Prihar served as managing editor of the News during the 2019-20 academic year. Before that, she covered community service, Yale's professional schools and undergraduate student life as a staff reporter. She is a senior in Silliman College studying political science.