Strengthening Yale’s community of learning

Date: 
Wednesday, August 1, 2018

To the Yale Community,

Diversity and inclusion are fundamental pillars of both our university and our country. They are sources of pride and strength. Yale’s mission to educate aspiring leaders who serve and contribute to all sectors of society depends upon a community of faculty, staff, students and alumni drawn from all backgrounds and walks of life. We are unwavering in our commitment to foster a community in which all individuals can encounter every possible point of view and can achieve their highest potential.

Unfortunately, recent events have reminded us that university campuses are not immune to the acts of racism that afflict our society. Against a backdrop of similar occurrences around the country, an incident, in which a white student called the police on a black student resident of the Hall of Graduate Studies who was asleep in a common room, struck a chord. This incident reminded us of our obligation to ensure that we all feel equally a part of the Yale community.

This campus has grappled, too, with other instances in which members of our community—our Yale family—have felt unwelcome, suspect, or even physically at risk. This is not tolerable; it is not who we are. In recent months, I have met with and read letters from groups and individuals, including students, faculty and alumni, to gain perspective on these experiences and learn how we can best take action to strengthen our campus community. I write now with an update on those efforts.

A working group of faculty and staff convened by Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews has met bi-weekly throughout the summer and will continue to meet to evaluate short- and long-term actions. Secretary Goff-Crews has met extensively with students, as well, to seek their input. We engaged and are working closely with nationally respected police and community relations consultant Lorenzo M. Boyd, Ph.D., who is an authority on community policing, race, and criminal justice. We have received and closely reviewed recommendations from hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. The team of university leaders coordinating these projects reports directly to me and regularly updates me on its progress.

Today, I share with you the actions we are taking immediately. Please know that every level of university leadership is engaged on this critically important issue. We view this as an ongoing conversation within the Yale community, and we are eager to continue to hear your viewpoints and perspectives. I and other senior leaders will share updates with you as plans develop throughout the coming months.

Combating Discrimination and Harassment

Many students have expressed concern that the systems and resources for resolving incidents of discrimination and harassment are opaque. We appreciate these concerns and are working to bring greater transparency to these resources.

  • As a result of numerous conversations Secretary Goff-Crews has held with students across campus, this fall we are launching a Student Advisory Group on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to advise her and other university leaders on student concerns and ways to create a more welcoming campus community. If you are interested in serving on this committee, please click here.
  • Additional training for relevant faculty and staff, such as deans’ designees, heads of colleges, residential college deans, directors of graduate studies, and student life staff, is in place for the fall semester to ensure that all those who work with students understand university policy and procedures. This complements a multitude of training programs already in place in Yale College and the graduate and professional schools.
  • The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is providing training for all incoming graduate students on implicit bias awareness. The school also is educating all Ph.D. students in teaching an inclusive classroom either as part of “Teaching @ Yale Day” or in the “Fundamentals of Inclusive Teaching” workshop offered by the Center for Teaching and Learning.
  • We are redoubling efforts to raise awareness about the LiveSafe app, which allows students to connect with staff in relevant university offices about issues of harassment and discrimination. Students can communicate with the SHARE Center and Yale Police and submit confidential messages to the Title IX Office and the Office for Equal Opportunity Programs. The LiveSafe app is just one way for students to seek guidance and help; students are always welcome to connect with staff in university offices by phone or in person.
  • A new video on discrimination and harassment resources at Yale will be shared with all incoming students beginning this fall.
  • We are redesigning and consolidating our websites to ensure that students know where to go and what the process is when they have concerns about discrimination and harassment.

Some students and others have recommended establishing a dedicated office, analogous to our Title IX office, to address discrimination allegations under Title VI, the federal law that prohibits discrimination based on race, ethnicity, color and national origin at educational institutions. In response to this suggestion, we are reviewing policies, procedures, and institutional structures, including the Office for Equal Opportunity Programs, to enhance our ability to support students and employees and respond to concerns about discrimination or harassment.  This fall we will ask a group of external experts to assist us in furthering this review so that we can strategize and implement a plan.

For many years, the Office for Equal Opportunity Programs has provided support for community members with complaints that may fall under Title VI and other federal laws and regulations. Each school at Yale has a grievance procedure by which a student can bring a complaint of discrimination or harassment to the attention of the dean of the school, and the President’s Committee on Racial and Ethnic Harassment has also been available to students who experience incidents of discrimination and harassment. Recently, the dean of each school has designated a faculty or staff member to work with students who experience discrimination or harassment, whether they choose to follow up informally or as they access more formal grievance processes. We are also developing a new database that will allow us to track student reports of discrimination and harassment more efficiently and securely.

Improving Police and Campus Community Relations

Yale takes pride in its nationally recognized campus police department. Based on discussions with students, faculty, staff, and our police and community relations consultant, we have taken several important steps to foster even closer relationships between the Yale Police Department (YPD) and the campus community.

  • Under the leadership of Chief Ronnell Higgins, the YPD is developing a Community Outreach and Engagement Team whose officers will be assigned to work with student groups, residential colleges, the athletics department, and others to respond more effectively to the needs of the campus. This team will seek to engage with community members on an ongoing basis and to be seen as trusted partners, to solve problems jointly before situations escalate.
  • We have strengthened mandatory implicit-bias and de-escalation training for officers, incorporating role-playing exercises that cultivate understanding of all perspectives in a police interaction.
  • Yale public safety staff, including Chief Higgins, will conduct mandatory student orientations for incoming first-years and new graduate and professional students. These presentations will highlight the YPD’s inclusive policing approach and will explain the role of police on campus.
  • Students will be invited to join faculty and staff on a committee to assist officers in strengthening cooperation between the campus community and Yale Police. If you are a student who wishes to be considered for this committee, please click here.
  • A revised public-safety video, explaining the police’s role and describing how officers work with the community to ensure a safe campus, will also be shared with new students this fall.

Supporting an Open Campus Dialogue

I have also received requests for more programs on campus related to these issues. Central to achieving Yale’s educational mission is the process of creating deeper understanding through honest and open dialogue.

Yale is an ideal place to convene leaders and hold conversations about issues of contemporary importance such as discrimination and race relations, leading across differences, and building a more inclusive society. This year’s Poynter Lectures, for example, focus on social inequality and racial discrimination. The series features a symposium on how media stereotypes can drive negative views of people of color. The President’s Women of Yale Lecture Series, which showcases the accomplishments of women who graduated from the university—particularly women of color—and whose leadership reflects on the success of coeducation at Yale, will feature Patricia Nez Henderson, 1994 M.P.H., 2000 M.D., in fall 2018 and Quiara Hudes, 1999 B.A., in spring 2019.

Secretary Goff-Crews is working with students, faculty, and staff across campus to design additional programs, which will be announced in the fall. These programs will build participants’ capacity to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in their personal lives as well as through their leadership, research, work, and service to contribute to a campus community that is welcoming to all. To support student and departmental initiatives related to these important issues, the Office of the Secretary and Vice President for Student Life and the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration will soon announce funding opportunities for events and speakers.

Looking Ahead

Scholarship of the highest caliber requires diverse strengths, open discussion and debate among many different points of view, and a climate of respect. A sense of belonging by everyone is critical to our university and the quality of a Yale education. Building and supporting a community from around the country and around the globe—including individuals with a wide range of ethnic and racial backgrounds, socioeconomic and family upbringings, viewpoints, talents, and skills—enriches our university in immeasurable ways and prepares our students to lead and succeed in an increasingly diverse and interconnected world. I want to thank all of you who have contributed your recommendations in support of this important work.

The actions highlighted above are only a start. I will continue to work with you to make our campus a place where each person feels welcome as an integral member of the Yale community. I invite you to join me as we advance Yale’s longstanding commitment to create knowledge and understanding, always searching for light and truth.

Sincerely,

Peter Salovey
President
Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology