Yale Responds to Student Demands Over Racism, Inequality


Yale President Peter Salovey declared this week that there is still much work to do regarding students’ concern over rising racial tensions on the university’s campus. Salovey proposed “a structure to build a more inclusive Yale” by adding four new faculty members to address underrepresented cultures, supplying multi-cultural training for employees, expanding cultural center resources, increasing financial aid for low-income students and creating a center to address racial issues, ethnicity, and social identity.

The Hartford Courant quoted a letter written by Salovey:

“I have heard the expressions of those who do not feel fully included at Yale, many of whom have described experiences of isolation, and even of hostility, during their time here. The conversations we are having today, about freedom of expression and the need for inclusivity and respect [are similar to] the issue Dean [Jonathan] Holloway and I addressed at the beginning of the semester, about the name of Calhoun College,”

The Calhoun College reference concerns a Yale college named for Vice President of the United States John C. Calhoun, a graduate from the 19th century from South Carolina who embraced a racist ideology.

Yale students who have marched and been part of serious campus confrontations say grievances and transgressions were ignored for years. Their campaign, entitled “Next Yale,” says sophomore Alejandra Padin-Dujon, is about “underlying systemic racism.”

Salovey says there will be an appointment of a deputy dean for diversity to help navigate diversity efforts. This same person will become a special adviser to the provost and university president.

Students, including a leader of the movement, Katie McCleary, says Salovey’s response is a good one, but that it will take time for the discussion actually to begin.

Salovey promised to add teachers and programs starting in the spring of 2016 that concern race, ethnicity and related topics. He added that Yale would begin a five year series of conferences based on the issues of inclusion, race, inequality, and gender.

Another demand made by Next Yale was the removal of Nicholas and Erika Christakis, master and associate master of Silliman College, along with the requirement that the title “master” be changed when referring to the heads of residential colleges.

Next Yale advocates opposed Erika Christakis’s criticism of an email from the Intercultural Affairs Committee that requested students be sensitive toward their choice of Halloween costumes. However, Salovey and Holloway emailed the Silliman community expressing support for Christakis.

There is also a call to name two new residential colleges after women and members of minority groups. Salovey has agreed to have Yale Corporation senior fellows meet to hear community members views about the names for the new colleges and the Calhoun renaming, writes Ed Stannard for the New Haven Register.

Students demanded the addition of more mental health professionals on staff, particularly mental health professionals of color. Salovey said the university would increase the diversity of workers, reports Allison Pohle, writing for The Boston Globe.