Dear Members of the Yale Community,
Last October, I announced a set of actions—based on your input and the recommendations of the President’s Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging—to advance our university in ways that are essential to its excellence and to our mission of improving the world. Our efforts cover many fronts, including our own operations, because changing what we do day-to-day is vital to the transformations that address longstanding challenges and injustices in our society.
I write to update you on the progress we have made for each initiative:
- Understanding Yale’s history
- Building on past and current efforts to assess our campus culture, increase financial aid, and identify areas for collaboration among centers for research and scholarship that address racism, injustice, and inequity
- Making Yale more welcoming by increasing the excellence and diversity of faculty and staff, transforming public safety and policing, working with the alumni community on sustaining an inclusive culture, and enhancing the diversity of our community partnerships
UNDERSTANDING YALE’S HISTORY
To address racism and anti-Black hate and violence and to ensure that our teaching, research, and scholarship will serve all sectors of society well into the future, we need a clear-eyed view of the past. I formed the Yale and Slavery Working Group last October. Since then, the group, under the leadership of Sterling Professor of History David Blight, has been studying Yale’s historical entanglements and associations with slavery, the slave trade, and abolition. In December, Yale joined the Universities Studying Slavery consortium, a group of about 80 institutions across the country engaged in similar work.
Members of the Yale and Slavery Working Group are sharing their progress regularly through a website and public presentations. This year’s annual conference of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition (taking place online October 28-30) will highlight the working group’s efforts to date. I look forward to speaking at the conference and announcing some preliminary actions to address their findings. Next year, members of the group will publish their research in book form.
BUILDING ON CURRENT ACTIVITIES
Assessing our campus culture and the effectiveness of ongoing initiatives
The excellence of our university depends on being able to recruit individuals from all backgrounds and experiences to our campus and to support them once they are here. Therefore, I am grateful that Yale’s schools and administrative divisions are finalizing five-year action plans to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). We are coordinating “local-level” efforts with the Belonging at Yale action plan.
One hundred fifty Yale community members are developing unit plans and considering more than 230 separate activities. The unit plans reflect varying cultures and contexts and will build upon work already under way to support faculty, students, staff, and alumni. Implementation of the plans begins on November 15, and progress will be reviewed annually and adjusted as needed. Later this semester, we will share more information and post summaries of the plans on the Belonging at Yale website.
Shoring up financial aid for all students with need
We are committed to welcoming to Yale exceptional students from every walk of life. Over the past year, Yale has created opportunities and participated in more targeted programs than ever before to expand our outreach to prospective students with a variety of backgrounds, interests, and perspectives.
As I wrote last October, we will address the high levels of debt among students graduating from some of our professional schools. In June, I announced a tremendous investment in Yale that will support the drama school in a transformative way. Starting this semester, the David Geffen School of Drama is tuition-free for all present and future students. I will work to secure even more resources for financial aid, which is one of the highest priorities of our fundraising campaign.
The Eli Whitney Advisory Committee is expanding the Eli Whitney Students Program for nontraditional students, and we are increasing the size of First-year Scholars at Yale (FSY), the summer bridge program for low-income, public high school graduates entering Yale College. Over the past five years, we nearly doubled the number of new Eli Whitney students matriculating in the fall, and we more than doubled the number of FSY participants. We also doubled the number of entering student veterans in the last five years.
Yale is participating in the Transfer Scholars Network, launched in January 2021 by the Cooke Foundation and the Aspen Institute, to increase socioeconomic diversity on our campus further. Yale, Princeton, MIT, and nine other highly selective colleges and universities are part of this effort to engage with talented students at community colleges to increase the likelihood that they will matriculate at one of our universities.
New centers for research and scholarship
Members of Yale’s faculty are at the leading edge of scholarship that addresses racism, justice, and equity. Gary Desir, vice provost for faculty development and diversity, has convened the faculty directors of Yale’s academic centers that focus on these areas. They have identified opportunities for collaboration and will initiate joint efforts that will complement each center’s strengths.
Phillip Atiba Goff joined the Faculty of Arts and Sciences as the Carl I. Hovland Professor
of African American Studies and professor of psychology, bringing to Yale the Center for Policing Equity, an internationally renowned research and action organization on evidence-based interventions for public safety, community trust, and racial equity. Among the center’s many accomplishments in the past year, it launched the Justice Navigator in collaboration with Google to help communities and law enforcement agencies streamline access to public safety and policing data and analyses. In addition, the new Center for Law and Racial Justice, headquartered in the Yale Law School and directed by J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law James Forman Jr., will launch in spring 2022, following consultations with faculty, students, and the New Haven community.
MAKING YALE MORE WELCOMING
Reaffirming our commitment to develop and retain an excellent and diverse faculty
The excellence of our faculty defines Yale. Our future depends on being able to recruit and retain exceptional educators, scholars, and researchers who bring diverse experiences, expertise, and viewpoints. As a result of the Faculty Excellence and Diversity Initiative (FEDI) launched in 2015, recruitment of eminent faculty, including those from historically underrepresented groups, in the past year has been stronger than ever—with 15 percent of new tenure-track faculty coming from underrepresented groups (compared to 7 percent in 2014).
Our progress is a catalyst to future success in faculty recruitment, and we will soon be able to enhance our efforts to retain faculty informed by two data-gathering initiatives. Later this month, we will be launching a university-wide climate survey of faculty, and beginning in November, we will conduct exit interviews of faculty members leaving Yale. These two initiatives will help us identify areas of strength and opportunities for improvement in our campus culture.
We have focused on expanding educational programs and mentorship for postdoctoral scholars at Yale, so that they can be even more competitive for careers on college and university faculties throughout the country and around the world. Lynn Cooley, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, has taken on the added responsibilities of vice provost for postdoctoral affairs. In collaboration with university leaders across campus, Dean Cooley is expanding the Office for Postdoctoral Affairs to offer a suite of career and professional development workshops and to collaborate with faculty members on ways to enhance support for postdoctoral training programs in departments.
Transforming public safety and policing
Yale is out front among our peer institutions in evolving an inclusive, community-driven approach to campus safety, as exemplified by the “fit-for-purpose response” we have been piloting since 2020. We are leveraging the right resources to respond to safety needs. So, instead of sending police officers to every call, we may offer a consultation with a clinician or help in other ways, depending on the situation. Our focus remains on ensuring the safety of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors, and our police officers will respond to all calls reporting criminal activity.
Last year, I appointed the Committee on Policing to solicit input from members of the Yale and broader community and to analyze data from our police department and how others have approached police reform. I asked the committee to determine how we can continue to help Yale Public Safety improve its service and to implement the recommendations of 21CP Solutions, a consultancy that comprises academic and civic experts in policing and public safety. The committee is finalizing its work and will send recommendations to me in December.
Increasing the diversity among top staff leaders
To develop further the pipeline for staff leadership positions at Yale, I asked Human Resources to create a staff leadership initiative, with a focus on historically underrepresented groups. We will strengthen participants’ qualifications for leadership roles and enhance their visibility at the university. This program will ensure we can recruit and retain the most talented and committed staff members.
In partnership with the School of Management, members of the Human Resources team have designed the program, leveraging existing systems, and will launch it as a pilot in February. Vice President for Human Resources John Whelan will be announcing details soon. We expect participants to complete the pilot in September 2022, and achieve positive career outcomes (e.g., a stretch assignment or job change) within six months of completing the program.
Working with our alumni community
Our university benefits from an alumni community that is increasingly diverse, and the Yale Alumni Association continues to be a resource for alumni, a community that encompasses many generations, identities, and Yale affiliations. Over the past year, the YAA has created powerful forums for advancing learning and promoting understanding of DEI and belonging. It has produced a toolkit to support alumni volunteer leaders in planning events. In March, the YAA hosted IMPACT 2: Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, a series that included more than thirty panels, lectures, and personal stories. For Black History Month, the YAA curated a collection of documents, virtual tours, and video recordings on African American Civil Rights: From Reconstruction to Right Now and Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and organized a webinar, Daughters of the Movement. Additionally, alumni groups around the world, supported by the YAA, explored DEI issues in thoughtful discussions. I encourage all alumni to engage with the YAA on this and its other important priorities.
Increasing diversity of contractors, vendors, and business partners
Yale has launched a Supplier Diversity Program, which includes comprehensive efforts to identify and encourage New Haven minority-owned businesses to bid to work with Yale. As a large purchaser of goods and services, Yale can support local economic growth and meet the needs of the university community by connecting organizations run by individuals from historically underrepresented groups with Yale’s contracting processes for services, supplies, and business professionals. I have asked all parts of the university to consider how to reach out and support the local community in this way.
I am grateful to all who have contributed to our DEI and belonging initiatives. Addressing systemic racism, inequality, and injustice is crucial to improving the world today and for future generations. We have much to do, and together, we will continue to make progress.
Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology