About two-and-a-half months after a white Yale graduate student called the police on a black graduate student napping in a Hall of Graduate Studies common room, University President Peter Salovey on Wednesday announced a series of initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion on campus, including increased implicit-bias training for Yale Police officers and redoubled efforts to build police-community relations.
The new policies respond directly to a series of tense listening sessions hosted by Yale administrators for members of the community in wake of the HGS incident. Among other reforms, Salovey said, the University is enlisting the help of external experts to review its institutional mechanisms for addressing discrimination allegations, in response to calls for a Title VI office to handle incidents of racial discrimination and harassment. A dedicated Title VI Office was the first recommendation black graduate students and allies made in their May letter to the University administration.
“[The HGS] incident reminded us of our obligation to ensure that we all feel equally a part of the Yale community,” Salovey wrote in Wednesday’s email. “This campus has grappled, too, with other instances in which members of our community—our Yale family—have felt unwelcome, suspect, or even physically at risk. This is not tolerable; it is not who we are.”
This fall, relevant faculty and staff, including heads of college and directors of graduate studies, will receive additional training on University discrimination and harassment policies and procedures. All graduate students will also be trained on implicit bias awareness, and the University will share a new video on discrimination and harassment resources with all incoming students, Salovey said.
He added that the University is working with Lorenzo Boyd, a police-community relations consultant and criminal justice professor at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. The Yale Police Department will introduce a committee on police-community relations, as well as a Community Outreach and Engagement Team, whose officers will work directly with Yale affiliates on building partnerships to prevent situations involving the police from escalating. Yale will also strengthen implicit-bias and de-escalation training for officers, and all new students will have mandatory orientations with the YPD and watch a video on discrimination and harassment resources at Yale.
Still, the various reforms outlined in the email did not include several of the recommendations made in the May letter from black graduate students and alumni. Among these were a policy that officers be prohibited from carrying guns when responding to non-violent disputes among Yale students; a teaching requirement focused on the history of racial violence in the United States for graduate and professional students; and recognition of the Graduate Students of Color Coalition as a body on par with the school’s’ official student council.
Still, Salovey’s announcement represents Yale’s most significant effort to address inclusion on campus since fall 2015, when he announced a series of initiatives that included additional funding for the cultural centers, increased faculty hiring and policies to report instances of discrimination. The November 2015 announcement came on the heels of a controversial email from a faculty member regarding Halloween costumes and cultural appropriation, as well as an alleged “White Girls Only” party that made national headlines.
Like Wednesday’s email, the 2015 announcement committed to developing mechanisms for reporting, tracking and addressing acts of discrimination.
Under last week’s reforms, Yale will work to raise awareness of the LiveSafe app, which allows students to get information on harassment and discrimination. Additionally, a new database will track student reports of discrimination and harassment more efficiently and securely.
Salovey said University Secretary Kimberly Goff-Crews has held bi-weekly meetings with a working group, and both he and Goff-Crews have met with members of the University community to seek input.
A Student Advisory Group on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will advise University leaders on student concerns and campus climate. A joint initiative between the Office of the Secretary and Vice President for Student Life and the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration will also announce funding for events and speakers.
Those coordinating the initiatives report directly back to Salovey, he wrote, adding that administrators will provide updates on their progress throughout the coming months.
“The actions highlighted above are only a start,” Salovey wrote. “I will continue to work with you to make our campus a place where each person feels welcome as an integral member of the Yale community.”