Yale Daily News

As part of its commitment to bolstering diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging on Yale’s campus, Belonging at Yale is hosting an anti-racism speaker series this year.

Belonging at Yale, an initiative led by the Office of the Secretary and Vice President for University Life, launched last fall. According to the Belonging at Yale website, the initiative has the stated mission of supporting the Yale community’s “ongoing and long-term efforts to increase diversity, ensure equity, and enhance a sense of inclusion and belonging for everyone.” The new speaker series, which launched virtually on Oct. 26, is part of the Belonging at Yale initiative and aims to bring authors and scholars who work on anti-racism efforts to the University to engage in conversations with the Yale community.

“We are committed to Yale being a place where everyone can thrive and freely participate,” Secretary and Vice President for University Life Kimberly Goff-Crews wrote in an email to the News. “And in a scholarly community, intellectual inquiry and discussion is an essential activity. The antiracism speakers series presents opportunities for faculty, students, staff, and alumni to engage with leading thinkers and with one another and to enhance their understanding of racism and how to address it.”

According to Goff-Crews, the speakers series is aligned with the recommendations of the President’s Committee on Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging — a committee focused on examining the ways the University could create a more inclusive culture —  as well as President’s Salovey’s recently announced commitments to action in response to those recommendations. The President’s Committee is chaired by Goff-Crews and Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity Gary Desir.

Goff-Crews explained that when the President’s Committee was finalizing its report, which was released this September, the conversations that were already happening both at Yale and on a national level regarding racism in the United States were amplified by the deaths of individuals like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police. In light of this, Goff-Crews decided to launch this speaker series as part of the “action plan.”

Four speakers are currently planned as part of the speaker series — two this semester and two next semester. Although the events are open to the public, each event will focus on reaching an audience of staff, faculty, students or alumni by way of the subject matter of the talk or promotional outreach.

Each speaker event in the series will be co-hosted by Belonging at Yale and another Yale organization.

The first speaker event occurred on Oct. 26 and featured Dolly Chugh, a social psychologist, associate professor at the NYU Stern School of Business, and author of “The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias. Nearly 600 people — mostly Yale faculty and staff  — attended the Zoom event, in which Chugh spoke about the content of her book and gave actionable advice about how listeners could address their own biases.  

Head of Silliman College Laurie Santos facilitated the conversation with Chugh. Santos knew Chugh from her work and her book, and Santos previously interviewed Chugh for her podcast, “The Happiness Lab.”

“In terms of the attendees, I hope people left with specific strategies they can use for fighting bias in the future,” Santos wrote in an email to the News. “I really hope listeners heard Dolly’s lesson that we need to have a growth mindset about becoming better allies, and the importance of being a ‘good-ish’ person who’s constantly thinking of what more they can learn to fight racism.”

The speaking event with Chugh was co-presented with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which according to its website collaborates with departments and individuals across Yale’s campus to create a “respectful, accessible, and inclusive community for all Yale employees.” 

A video of the event is posted on the Belonging at Yale website.

According to Heather Calabrese, director of communications and university events for the Office of the Secretary, the speakers for the anti-racism series are chosen in consultation with Yale faculty. While Calabrese said there is value in bringing in experts from outside of the University, she explained that there is also great expertise within the University that the Belonging at Yale initiative hopes to tap into by hosting speaking events with Yale faculty.

In addition to producing events, Belonging at Yale also aims to amplify and support the work on belonging, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism already happening at the University. From promoting the events that other professors or departments are hosting to allowing students to display their own events related to anti-racism or belonging issues on the Belonging at Yale calendar, the Belonging at Yale initiative aims to connect the Yale community with as many anti-racism resources as possible.

“We particularly want to promote the work being done by our own faculty and staff, such as the Department of African American Studies Endeavors Colloquium,” Goff-Crews wrote.

The next speaker event will take place on Dec. 2 with Ibram X. Kendi, author of “How to Be an Antiracist. The event will be hosted in conjunction with the Yale Alumni Association.

Julia Bialek | julia.bialek@yale.edu

Julia Bialek currently covers student policy and affairs for the Yale Daily News. Previously, she covered campus politics. Originally from Chappaqua, New York, Julia is a rising junior in Saybrook College studying political science and history.