Yale Daily News

Following the withdrawal of 13 professors from the Program of Ethnicity, Race and Migration on Friday, University President Peter Salovey — who has yet to announce initiatives in response to faculty concerns — told the News that he “regret[s] their decision to withdraw from the [program] … in this manner.” Still, he added that the University will ensure that affected students are given the resources and support they need.

The resignations — which, according to a press release from the 13 ER&M professors, was motivated by the University’s administrative disinterest in the program — leaves the Program of Ethnicity, Race and Migration without any tenured faculty members and without any of the professors who have served as program chair since its founding in 1997. While the faculty members will continue to teach junior and senior ER&M majors, first years and sophomores may not be able to major in ER&M.

According to American studies professor Matthew Jacobson, who withdrew from the program, the faculty members all read their resignation letters aloud to the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Tamar Gendler on Friday afternoon. The unanimity of faculty frustration toward Yale’s lack of commitment to the program made the meeting “inspiring and powerful,” Jacobson said. He added that although Gendler knew that the faculty members were frustrated about the program’s limited resources — such as its lack of hiring ability — she was not expecting them to withdraw.

“Friday’s meeting was the first that the ER&M faculty as a whole had invited me to have with them, and I was saddened and surprised to receive their letters of withdrawal,” Gendler said in a statement to the News.

When asked whether he thinks faculty members could have chosen a better strategy to address their concerns about the program, Salovey did not directly respond to the question. Instead, in an email to the News, he said that he “know[s] from speaking with Dean Gendler last week that she has been very motivated to address the faculty’s concerns for some time.”

But according to professor of American studies and current chair of ER&M Alicia Camacho, the faculty members’ withdrawal came “after many efforts, over multiple years, and especially in recent months, to obtain answers to [their] concerns about the program.” Per the press release, faculty members have met with upper University administrators dozens of times since 2002 to discuss the state of the program. In the meetings, the faculty stressed to the University officials that they should not be expected to “volunteer their labor to support” the program, the press release stated. Without departmental status, the ER&M program cannot hire its own faculty members.

“As chair, I have consistently sought clarity about hiring and promotion procedures, and I have raised substantive concerns about our program’s status,” Camacho said. “Our faculty have expressed unflagging commitment to ER&M and to our students, and we will continue to fulfill our commitments as teachers and advisers. We could only have taken this step out of a sense that the voices of our faculty and our students were not being heard.”

In an interview with the News, Jacobson explained that it is impossible to sustain the program only with faculty members’ “voluntary labor” without Yale committing additional resources. Associate professor of American studies Daniel HoSang added that the resignation was “among the most difficult decisions faculty members ever had to make in [their] professional careers.”

According to Gendler, the University has recently been reviewing “the structure of [its] academic organization” in ER&M and other related fields, such as American studies. The University has recently hired two scholars in the ER&M field — HoSang and professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and American studies Ana Ramos-Zayas, who both withdrew from the program on Friday — and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences is actively recruiting two additional senior scholars in the field to join Yale in the near future, Gendler said.

“That is a very high rate of growth, in keeping with the five-year, $50 million effort the university has undertaken to improve the diversity and excellence of its faculty,” Salovey argued in his email to the News.

He added that he encourages all ER&M faculty and students to share their thoughts on the status of the program in “the spirit of collaboration and respectful conversation that is a hallmark of this university.”

In the fall of 2015, during a period of heated campus discussions surrounding issues of diversity and inclusion, the University committed $50 million to diversifying its faculty. In September, University Provost Ben Polak announced a new initiative to allocate $26 million for the purposes of faculty salary adjustments and recruitment.

Serena Cho | serena.cho@yale.edu