The Yale Police Department is investigating reports from Yale students who witnessed two masked people post racially provocative flyers on bulletin boards around Cross Campus on Tuesday night, according to Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews.
Yale students took photos of the posters, removed them from the bulletin board, replaced them with messages of support for people of color and reported the incident to Yale student life staff and the YPD on Tuesday night. The flyers depicted the symbol of a “White Student’s (sic) Union of Yale” and quoted slavery advocate and class of 1804 graduate John Calhoun — the former namesake of what is now Grace Hopper College. The quote reads, “In looking back, I see nothing to regret, and little to correct.”
YPD officers are currently reviewing camera footage to identify the perpetrators, Goff-Crews told the News. However, they have not yet concluded whether the masked people were members of the Yale community. The department has also stepped up its patrols in “sensitive areas on campus,” including the center of Yale’s campus, where the incident occured.
“I find the sentiments signified by these flyers deeply troubling, and I want to be clear: hate is not welcome on our campus,” Salovey wrote in a campuswide email. “As I have said in the past, the answer to speech one finds repugnant is more speech. I have no doubt that the members of the Yale community will respond to expressions of hate, racism, and exclusion on this campus with even stronger affirmations of our values—and a renewed commitment to creating a diverse, inclusive community where all people are welcomed.”
In the email, Salovey confirmed that the perpetrators violated a University policy which only permits registered student organizations to post flyers on campus.
Yale has notified the Southern Poverty Law Center — which monitors hate groups in the U.S. — and the Anti-Defamation League — a Jewish group that fights anti-Semitism and bigotry — about the incident, according to Salovey’s email. In an email to the News, Goff-Crews added that the University is monitoring similar efforts executed by white nationalist groups on other college campuses. In 2018, the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented 178 incidents of hateful postering on campuses, according to Goff-Crews’ email.
On Tuesday night, a student posted a photograph of the flyer on the popular Facebook group “Overheard at Yale,” prompting heavy backlash against the perpetrators among commenters.
Students and alumni interviewed by the News condemned the flyers. Prior to Salovey’s email, at least two individuals told the News that they contacted Salovey’s office calling for the University to respond to the incident.
On Wednesday morning, Gene Lyman ’92 also emailed Salovey’s office calling on the University to investigate the situation thoroughly, discipline any current students involved and “reassert Yale’s values as an inclusive and intellectually honest community.”
“Even if this should prove a hoax, or someone’s sick idea of a joke, I cannot emphasize enough how unacceptable the sentiment expressed in these flyers is,” Lyman wrote in the email to Salovey.
Lyman said he received a response from Joy McGrath, Salovey’s chief of staff, as well as Salovey’s email to the Yale community.
Sohum Pal ’20 sent an email about the incident to Salovey, Goff-Crews and Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun on Tuesday night. In his email, Pal called for the establishment of a Title VI office, which would enforce the federal law that prohibits discrimination based on race, ethnicity, color and national origin at educational institutions, and for a systematic change in University responses to grievances around racial discrimination. Pal said that the University should create a “mechanism for change” instead of releasing emails to “reaffirm its commitments.”
“Tonight, people put up these fliers around campus,” Pal wrote in his email. “I felt vulnerable — is it any surprise? My time at Yale has been many things — sometimes empowering, but more often I’ve been struck at how expendable students, faculty, and staff of color must be to the university.” Unlike Lyman, Pal said he received no direct response to his email.
Ashtan Towles ’19, a former peer liaison for the Afro-American Cultural Center, told the News that while the perpetrators remain unknown, the act was “done in cowardice,” comparing the masked individuals to Klu Klux Klan members who don masks to protect their identities.
“This incident is merely one of thousands through which white nationalists have attempted to stoke fear in Black communities, but I am always in awe of the resilience and pride that exists in the Black community at Yale,” Towles said in an email to the News.
According to Simon Ghebreyesus ’21, the sentiments of white pride in the flyers are a “sinister presence” for students of color to grapple with at Yale and across the country.
Epongue Ekille ’21 told the News that she had generally viewed Yale as a racially inclusive place but the flyer incident “negates it all.”
“It was both surprising and not at the same time. Although Yale is proud of its diversity, the matter of the fact is that the student population is majority white and wealthy,” Ekille said. “I’m not surprised that people who have these opinions exist at Yale, I’m just surprised that they would publicly advertise it.”
While the University ruled out the possibility of instituting a separate office to address Title VI complaints this October, it created a new website called “Belonging at Yale” that outlines policies, reports, initiatives and resources that address diversity and inclusion at Yale.
Despite student calls for instituting a separate Title VI office, Chun said that the University already has existing procedures to address instances of discrimination. These policies include the “President’s Procedure for Addressing Students’ Complaints of Racial or Ethnic Harassment,” the “Provost’s Procedure for Student Complaints” and the “Dean’s Procedure for Student Complaints.”
Goff-Crews told the News that students should seek out support within “environments where they feel connected,” whether that is their respective school, residential college, chaplain’s office or cultural center. She added that deans and deans’ designees are trained to respond and provide such support.
Director of the Asian American Cultural Center Joliana Yee stressed the importance of community support in her email to the Asian and Asian-American community at Yale.
“The work of social justice is and should be a daily obligation of all of us, not just a one-off response to acts of ignorance and hate,” Yee wrote in her email. “In the face of hate I urge you to be mobilized by the ethic of love to build solidarity within and across communities. Please also remember to take care of yourselves and to show up for one another as we push through these days.”
Yee also encouraged students to work toward building anti-racist coalitions across campus and in New Haven. She cited the success of such coalitions at peer institutions, such as the University of California, Berkeley’s Asian American Political Alliance, “as evidence that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can affect meaningful change.”
Students can report additional information about the incident to the YPD at 203-432-4400.
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