As a part of broader initiatives to bolster the Yale community’s feeling of belonging, the University announced last week the creation of a new President’s Committee on Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, which will work to create recommendations for how Yale can make its community feel included.
Chaired by Vice President for University Life Kimberly Goff-Crews ’83 LAW ’86 and Chair of Internal Medicine Gary Desir, the committee will meet weekly until the end of the spring semester to develop recommendations for Yale. In an interview with the News, Goff-Crews said that while committees like the current one have existed in alternate forms in the past, the goal of the new and relatively larger group is to develop a University-wide strategy for belonging. She added that the committee represents just one stage of a long process to change Yale’s culture. The committee was announced on Jan. 29 and convened for the first time on Feb. 5, joined by Salovey.
“This isn’t a one and done kind of thing,” Goff-Crews said. “We’re going to be having a conversation about this for a very long time because it takes a little bit of time to change culture. So our goal is to really assess where we are now, where we need to go, based on what we know now.”
Goff-Crews emphasized the diversity of the committee’s membership, which ranges from Provost’s Office staff to the University’s chaplain. She added that out of the committee’s 18 members — who were selected by University President Peter Salovey in January — more than half are faculty, a feature that is “very important.”
According to Goff-Crews, the committee will develop their recommendations based on a number of reports by groups like the Yale College Council and the Graduate Student Association. Another key source of input is a 2018 report by Vice President of the Office for Institutional Equity at Duke University Benjamin Reese. In the document, Reese analyzed several racially charged incidents on Yale’s campus and recommended steps the University could take to improve its campus culture. Following several incidents — including the debate over the renaming of Calhoun College to Grace Hopper College — the University also solicited feedback from students, faculty and staff about Yale’s campus climate.
The committee will be a continuation of these efforts, Goff-Crews said. She emphasized that the committee will not be operating “from zero to 60,” as they will base their discussions on information that has already been collected.
Still, Goff-Crews told the News that the committee will also begin to draw ideas from peer institutions, many of whom have information about their policies for belonging publicly available on their websites. She added that the committee will be further broken into subcommittees that will identify and reach out to groups on campus that have not yet necessarily had the chance to submit their feedback about campus culture.
According to Executive Director of the Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning Jennifer Frederick — a member of the committee — the group is looking forward to sharing a “thoughtful and compelling” set of recommendations to Salovey.
“Excellent teaching is inclusive teaching, and the Poorvu Center pays close attention to issues of diversity, equity and inclusivity in all of our programs and services,” Frederick wrote in an email to the News. “Members of the President’s Committee are collaborating to share and study existing data, analyses and recommendations.”
The committee grew out of the Belonging at Yale initiative, a University effort to increase diversity and inclusion on campus. In November, Goff-Crews — as part of her promotion to vice president of University life — was placed in charge of the initiative.
Goff-Crews added that the University continues to take additional measures to enhance Belonging at Yale, including — at the suggestion of the Reese report — searching for an associate vice president for diversity and inclusion. Yale is now in the process of interviewing finalists for the position, she said. The University has also expanded funding for diversity at the teaching level as part of the Faculty Excellence and Diversity Initiative.
In a Feb. 5 press release, Salovey said that a culture of belonging should be, “part of who we are, rather than what we do.”
“I want each of us to feel confident that we belong at Yale,” Salovey said in the release. “I thank the committee members and look forward to receiving their recommendations about how to foster an environment where belonging is second nature to us.”
Before coming to Yale, Goff-Crews served as the vice president for campus life and dean of students at the University of Chicago.
Valerie Pavilonis | email@example.com
Correction, Feb. 14: A previous version of this article said that Goff-Crews’ said the committee aims to “assess where we are down.” In fact, she said it is meant to “assess where we are now.”