Carly Wanna

When eight Ethnicity, Race and Migration professors who submitted letters to withdraw their services from the program entered Cross Campus Monday afternoon, they were met with applause from dozens of Yale community members who created a pop-up library with their works to express solidarity with the professors.

The library was put together in front of Sterling Memorial Library by the Coalition for Ethnic Studies at Yale — a student group that is calling on Yale to make the ER&M program a department. The pop-up library included two bookshelves with the works of professors who have left the program since its inception in 1997. Among the works were those of the 13 professors who withdrew from the ER&M program last Friday as well as those written by some of the 41 scholars who have departed from the program over the past decades.

The faculty members who withdrew from the program cited administrative disinterest in the program — including its lack of hiring ability as well as the University’s failure to recognize academic work conducted in the field — as their reason for leaving it. Their departure leaves the program without any tenured faculty members.

According to Emily Almendarez ’20, the group chose to station in front of Sterling to interact with a variety of students and professors and highlight the importance of ER&M and ethnic studies at Yale and nationwide.

“I think the faculty was our last push to thinking about visually how we can mobilize,” Almendarez said. “Because they did the most they could do and because their action was so brave, we have to hit with some sort of reciprocity, [and] also [with] something that demonstrates that while the University does not support and value their academic professorship, for us as students … those books that are witnessed are what make this University a part of our own knowledge production.”

The group also put up whiteboards and invited members of the Yale community to finish the phrase “We need ER&M because…” for a photo opportunity.

Associate professor of American studies Daniel HoSang, one of the faculty members who withdrew from the program and stopped by Cross Campus, said that he was moved by the ER&M majors’ dedication to the program.

“The Pop-Up library was particularly inspiring because it made visible the intellectual contributions of the dozens of faculty who have built the program over the last two decades, including the many remarkable scholars who have left Yale for other institutions,” HoSang said. “It demonstrates the students’ engagement with the research, theories and questions that animate our scholarship.”

According to Diana Saavedra ’20, who is an organizer for the Coalition, Monday’s pop-up was a “celebration and homage” to all scholars who have left the program. Students who came to the pop-up expressed support for the professors’ decisions to withdraw from the program as well as for the Coalition’s cause.

Sohum Pal ’20 –– a history major –– says that ethnic studies courses have enriched his academic studies in transnational migration, as well as those of many of his friends who study related fields.

“Without ER&M, Yale will be unlivable [because] the work that these faculty do and the work that ER&M does [promotes] the kinds of values that makes it possible [for students like me] to survive, especially at institutions like Yale,” Pal said.

According to the press release, 87 students have declared ER&M as their major.

Carly Wanna | carly.wanna@yale.edu