The racial-justice movement exploding at Yale landed at midnight at the Hillhouse Avenue doorstep of University President Peter Salovey—who waited with words of encouragement.
A multiracial group of hundreds of students affiliated with “Next Yale,” a prime organizer of actions that have captured national attention over the past week among a wave of racial protests on American campuses, marched two block north from the residential Silliman College to the presidential mansion on Hillhouse Avenue.
The students drew up a list of demands that includes calls for renaming residential Calhoun College; increasing annual funding to campus cultural centers by $2 million each; and increasing and diversifying the ranks of mental-health professionals.
Before launching on the march, organizers urged the crowd to remain orderly and civil, to stay out of the street, to obey orders from police. That proved unnecessary as the students filed along the Hillhouse Avenue sidewalk, singing and then calmly assembling at the presidential mansion’s front gate.
President Salovey, dressed in a windbreaker, stood by that gate with his wife Marta Moret. He greeted the students, then listened as three organizers—sophomore Yuni Chang and seniors Alicia Ponce Diaz and Autumn Shone—read the demands.
“Next Yale intends to hold Yale accountable to students of color in the public eye,” Chang began. She said the students would like a response from Salovey by Nov. 18, next Wednesday. Click on the play arrow on the above video listen to the demands, which in addition to the above-mentioned items included promoting Native American, Chicano, Latina, Asian-American and African studies to program status; naming two new residential colleges now under construction and renaming Calhoun after people of color; “immediate removal” of Silliman College Master Nicholas Christakis and Associate Master Erika Chirstakis, a target of protests; and “abolish[ing] the title ‘master’” in residential colleges.
The crowd then launched into a song called “We Don’t Mind.” Harmonious voices filled the peaceful autumn darkness, after which point the crowd prepared to leave. It was now Friday morning.
Chang handed Salovey the list of demands. Salovey asked if the students would like him to “say anything at all.” Encouraged, he proceeded to address the three speakers as well as several other nearby students.
“Let me just say I feel incredibly strongly that there is no place for racism at Yale. We’ll work as hard as we can [to] get you an answer to every demand that you made,” Salovey said. “I very much respect what you’re trying to accomplish.”
“Thank you for coming,” students responded. “Thank you.”
“Stay in touch,” said Salovey.
Politics & The Personal
The respectful march and encounter offered a striking contrast to the caricature of Yale’s recent protests created by national media outlets using isolated incidents of acting out to portray hysterical, privileged, undemocratic students upset purely by a dispute over Halloween costumes and a racially exclusive frat party.
In conversations along the march, students spoke thoughtfully about why they joined the protests. No one mentioned Halloween. Rather, students spoke of enduring years of disrespect or lack of support and in some cases physical danger during their time at Yale tied to an institutional insensitivity to race. In this telling, the Halloween and frat incidents merely uncorked broader, long-simmering complaints.
Ponce Diaz, a senior who hails from East Palo Alto, California (“East Palo Alto is to Stanford what New Haven is to Yale”), spoke of being sexually assaulted in her sophomore year and being “treated more as an aggressor than a victim” and “not being heard when I expressed myself.” She spoke of males on campus hurling racial slurs at her as she walked home one night this past weekend and telling her she isn’t wanted at Yale. Asked if she reported that incident to anyone at Yale, she responded, “I don’t feel there is an undergraduate system for us to report it to that would take action.” Next Yale’s list of demands include creating a bias reporting system of racial incidents with annual report released to the public.
“As a woman of color I have experienced multiple moments on this campus when I don’t feel safe [or] supported,” Ponce Diaz said.
Shone, also a senior, spoke being “called out for the Native American view” in her classes and being asked by a professor if “the reason I wear all black is because I’m Native American.”
“Coming from Portland, Oregon, and going to an elite public high school, I felt I had to assimilate to a white norm and my voice was not valued and my experiences were not valued,” said marcher Alejandra Padin, a sophomore. “And when I came to Yale I felt the same kind of suppression. It’s been wonderful seeing such a diverse group of people come together run in order to make sure our mental health needs are met, to make sure that there’s enough ethnic studies curriculum, to make sure our peers know who we are, to make sure that students of color are taken care of on this campus.”
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posted by: Bill Saunders on November 13, 2015 5:07am
posted by: robn on November 13, 2015 9:10am
The NHI writes of “a dispute over Halloween costumes and a racially exclusive frat party.”
1) The rest of the country views the Halloween costume argument as petulant because it is; they acknowledge that there is such actionable thing as hate speech, but don’t believe that asinine decisions WRT Halloween costumes rate burning the 1st Amendment.
2) There is yet no confirmed evidence that there was a “racially exclusive frat party.” We have a Facebook accusation of someone who heard someone retell a story about something that might have happened. We also have written response from the frat noting that POC were attending that party and that the three racially diverse men controlling their door were metering inflow to prevent overcrowding and an jibe orange visit from the fire Marshall (source YDN). Is it likely that a drunk student said something dumb or misheard something at a frat party; chances are good yes. Is it likely that a frat had an official “white girls only” party; probably not.
3) Being offended by things that may-or-may-not have happened is not the same as having a shit swastika painted on your dorm room door as happened at Missou (a place with a history that rightly should send chills up the spine of everyone.)
posted by: Adelaide on November 13, 2015 9:51am
As we all know, perception is reality. If I perceive I am in a hostile environment then I am. I do not need another’s acknowledgement to confirm it. If a situation makes me feel uncomfortable or threatened or frightened then it needs to be taken at face value not compared to other incidents as though this has any bearing on my incident. People deserve to be heard not devalued because of other similar incidents.. I admire the students who went out of their way to enlighten and support each other. To stick to the non violent assembly and impact is wonderful! No tempers got out of hand and the President of the university seems to have treated the students with the respect they deserve. I hope the powers that be address the students’ demands. They don’t seem outrageous or impossible to achieve.
posted by: anonymous on November 13, 2015 10:14am
Robn: Talk to any non-white person. Harassment of racial and ethnic minorities happens frequently, everywhere in the United States and even in New Haven. I can’t comment on what may or may not be happening at Yale, but in general I wouldn’t minimize the hardships and feelings that many students are expressing here.
posted by: jayfairhaven on November 13, 2015 10:17am
“no one mentioned halloween”.... except for the part where they called for the removal of two professors over an email about halloween costumes. that was one of the 7 demands in the protest.
posted by: christopher desir on November 13, 2015 10:24am
robn, you are so often playing the “devils advocate” on issues of race it makes me wonder if you might suffer from an undiagnosed case of “color arousal syndrome”. I also wonder if you even read this article. You comment on the points that the article says ARE NOT motivating the mobilization at Yale, and you ignore the ones that the article says are in fact motivating the mobilization.
What about the callousness with which Ponce Diaz recounts being treated when she sought help after being sexually assaulted? I’ve spoken with other women of color at Yale who have had similar experiences. The racial rules about who can be a victim of sexual assault and who cannot are at work here.
You also ignore her other story of harassment.
The Afam department at Yale has extra security patrols today due to a racist message received last night. New Haven has a history that sends chills up my spine. It has a present reality that does the same.
The devil has enough advocates. Perhaps you should listen and learn instead of being propelled into conversations by your ignorance.
In 1971 Brooklyn College was about 98% white Jewish students. About 1000 of the 22,000 students thee at the mostly white and Jewish campuses on the City of New York [CUNY] campuses, demonstrated with Open It Up or shut It Down and succeeded in changing the policies that changed the demography of the campuses. Twenty years later when I returned to my mother’s graduation I saw a very diverse student body. I realized we had accomplished a good thing for the city. I can’t speak for others but as “lieutenant” in the effort I never though I was part of the Civil Rights movement – it just seemed wrong.
Today Brooklyn College and the CUNY is a hotbed and breeding ground for Anti-semitism.
By background I have to support the students. But I would like someone to clarify what the song If “You Want Us To Sacrifice” means. - who is asking the students to sacrifice and what sacrifice are they making.
Many in this group came to America on a 737 from wealthy families, they are not descendants of the 400,000 slaves that came to what is now the US. I understand life is tough and not all people are nice and many are racist - it is right in this country to be a racist. Many i this March came from countries that are predominantly racist and have virtually no diversity. as Asian countries or European countries have very few blacks Many claim Germany is diverse but it has 80 million people and 500,000 Blacks.
So I want to be with the students, but now that i’m an old white man I’m finding that I need some help. I don’t want another campus to end up in Hate like the one I helped change.
posted by: CharlieOnline on November 13, 2015 10:39am
A fantasy: In a display of leadership rare on American campuses today, Yale President Peter Salovey responded to the student demands with a set of his own. 1. Students embrace the university’s mission to explore, with both openness and critical eyes, the full range of ideas in the social sciences, humanities, and the sciences and other disciplines. 2. Students address everyone (including masters!) with respect, never personalizing disagreements and never, ever, ever using intimidation. 3. Students drop the infantile tactic of “nonnegotiable demands” and understand that real governance and community building is hard work that often involves compromise and coalition building and even, sometimes, acknowledging that others’ perspectives will improve the final product (see Mill, J.S., “On Liberty”). 4. Students must respect the “safe spaces” of others, not just use the word as a catch-all term of grievance. Oh heck, let’s just expand that: Follow the Golden Rule and treat others as you would like to be treated.
posted by: Elm City Resident on November 13, 2015 10:47am
1. In the video, one of the students state, “These demands supersede those published by the Black Student Alliance…” [NOTE TO AUTHOR: Could you please help readers understand what this mean precisely? I am they were not written in conjunction with the BSA otherwise they would have noted as such.]
2. Through discussion with students as well as my own experience, it appears that a handful of college/university presidents across the country are using events at Missouri and Yale to engage their deans/faculty and student populations about racial inequity, diversity and inclusion. Whether this is motivated by fear that inaction signals consent or eagerness to preempt student action or a true desire to build better universities and shape better leaders, it’ll be interesting to see to how higher education across America reacts (president-lead versus student-lead) and how deep the conversations go moving forward.
posted by: westville man on November 13, 2015 11:11am
C Desir- my thoughts exactly. Robn, as well as a few others here in NHI land, bend over backwards to deny what’s in plain sight- a daily drumbeat of racism and disrespect against people of color. This type of “dismissiveness” is part of what feeds racism and keeps it alive.
posted by: SSSS on November 13, 2015 11:13am
I’m all in favor of a dialogue on this issue. But a dialogue requires two sides. I think the demand of removing the Christakises would be a very dangerous precedent. I would argue that the initial letter (have those in unanimous support of student demands actually read the whole thing?) was a very thoughtful effort. One may disagree with the sentiment of it…however it was an honest attempt at dialogue nonetheless.
posted by: HewNaven on November 13, 2015 12:01pm
This is one of the happiest days of my life. I’m so proud of these students!
posted by: Causabonbon on November 13, 2015 12:28pm
The problem with the Yale case with respect to public opinion is that the rhetoric and actions here don’t seem reasonably commensurate with the level of harm. The lives of students at an Ivy League college in general are not considered difficult—not difficult in the sense that millions of Americans understand the word. If you add on “mental health needs not being met” or “not feeling validated” because of ethnicity or even “not feeling safe,” I still don’t think this rises to a level of suffering that would arouse the sympathy and anger of the general public, including women and people of color. (Whereas the under-reporting of campus sexual assault does, I believe.) In only an extremely subjective view would the degrading treatment of some undergrads at Yale be equivalent to the myriad daily abuses, many of them bluntly economic, that people outside universities suffer: but this is what the rhetoric implies.
I hope the University takes steps to improve the lives of the students who feel harmed.
posted by: NHGreen02 on November 13, 2015 12:34pm
Perhaps you need to consider things that aren’t evident from your perspective.
posted by: Proud New Havener on November 13, 2015 2:02pm
I am generally considered a white person and have been assaulted twice in New Haven. Once during a mugging when I was pistol-whipped by a group of young men and another time when I broke up a fight where a group of high schoolers were beating up another kid on the street. Both times they were groups of young black men, but it would be absurd for me to generalize and say “black people are violent”.
I stand with the Black Lives Matter movement because ultimately, it is arguing for a kinder, gentler society.
I respect that these students are passionate about justice, but the issues they are raising seem relatively petty. There is a lot of suffering going on in the world right now, even right here in New Haven. A lot of people are suffering, regardless of race.
I would be much prouder of these students, if they were marching to improve the lives of all people, especially their neighbors who live here in New Haven. It would be nice if they could break out of the Yale/Millenial bubble and use their passion to advocate for people who are truly disenfranchised and under-privilieged.
posted by: theNEWnewhaven on November 13, 2015 2:33pm
“Self segregation” exacerbates the “self-fulfilling prophesy” they seems to be happening more and more.
How about we all take a peek at this article before we continue on with this topic:
posted by: Bill Saunders on November 13, 2015 3:35pm
Please tell us about the hostile environment you are subjected to. I want a real story, not soft language.
The two reasonable requests from these protesters are more mental health care and a better process for reporting ‘disturbing’ campus incidents.
To me, in terms of creating ‘safe spaces’, the long-reported under-reporting of campus sexual assaults is a huge issue. Don’t get caught in a racial dialectic with that one, that is divisive.
posted by: robn on November 13, 2015 4:11pm
@ADELAIDE Reality is a collection of facts that two or more people agree upon, not subjective perception.
@ANONYMOUS Legal harassment and things that hurt feelings are two different things.
@CD The YDN quoted organizers of the first march explicitly noting “Halloween” and the “Party” as being the reason for their march which was specifically led in fronting the frat. Implying that it doesn’t matter is slippery and disingenuous. Allegations of slack treatment of sexual assault victims is a completely different subject worthy of investigation no matter what the race of the accuser.
@WVM Pursuit of justice shouldn’t start with censorship and with rumors.
@NHG02 What isn’t evident is evidence.
posted by: OhHum on November 13, 2015 4:59pm
“As we all know, perception is reality. If I perceive I am in a hostile environment then I am.” This does not exclude your perception from being fantasy.
posted by: Solsbury on November 13, 2015 5:00pm
The other context that is not stated is that the University itself has people of color (many New Haven residents), “serving” the largely white upper class students/professors… as cafeteria workers, custodians, laborers, cleaners, even clerks etc….. which is an undercurrent in the anti union sentiments often expressed at Yale and other institutions.
as does the New Haven Board of Ed, and as we’ve discussed before, even City Hall (to the dismay of some New Haven residents in Morris Cove apparently).
I would hope these students fighting so well would remember that.
posted by: NHGreen02 on November 13, 2015 5:05pm
You need evidence that racism exists?
That seems to be your problem right there.
posted by: robn on November 13, 2015 5:24pm
@SOLSBURY Taxpayers not wanting mostly suburban Yale unions to bully their way into control of New Havens government isn’t racist.
@NHG02 Nice try but that’s a pretty weak attempt to put words in my mouth. As you well know, the Holloween issue was preemptive, so there’s no evidence to be had. The Frat issue is anecdotal until Yale completes its investigation (maybe with actual witnesses and not just hearsay).
posted by: NHGreen02 on November 13, 2015 6:04pm
The students of color are telling us that they don’t feel safe and comfortable on college campuses. You said: “What isn’t evident is evidence.”
So I ask, how did I put words in your mouth? You seem to think that the students of color are being oversensitive or sensationalistic. I am telling you that you must not know people who feel comfort in telling you how they feel.
Try reflecting on that.
posted by: robn on November 13, 2015 8:38pm
You should try reflecting upon the Atlantic article linked in this thread regarding so called micro aggressions. As of this week, every Yale humanities undergrad will have an invisible but very large trigger warning on their resume that says “Don’t hire me.”
posted by: Bill Saunders on November 14, 2015 3:26am
I don’t know what a ‘biased’ reporting system is? Please Explain Terminology.
posted by: wendy1 on November 14, 2015 8:18am
The US is the most racist country in the world. At least South Africa had a Truth and Reconcilation moment.
Most of the low paid jobs at Yale are for people of color.
If I had a daughter, she’d have a black belt, a knife, a gun, kevlar, and a pitbull at home. A US soldier said it is more dangerous to be a female than to be a combatant in this world.
posted by: Brutus2011 on November 14, 2015 8:30am
I have three immediate thoughts as I read through this:
1. Perception is not reality.
2. College students seem to need to protest. I think that is a good thing. I did when I was their age.
3. I believe all students should be required to read DuBois. He wrote of the color line in America which is a good lens to look at many problems folks term as racial.
I am a mixed race (black-white) individual who came out looking white. I can’t count the times I have experienced prejudice from my darker-skinned brethren because they either thought I was not a person of color or that they thought that I thought I was better than them—there is that pesky perception thing again.
By the way, the amount of education a person has seems to have no affect on prejudice regarding skin complexion.
Perhaps we should all try to treat each other the way we would like to be treated.
posted by: NHGreen02 on November 14, 2015 10:00am
I think your ability to understand hiring managers might be as strong as your ability to understand the perspective of students of color.
Your friends, the Silliman masters, got run out of Harvard for criticizing their administration. The woman still has a bio on her blog that calls Silliman’s students “not rational.”
Time to face it, this woman is a toxic mess who can’t begin to understand how to relate to others. We have three public examples of this and I can only imagine how many hundreds of times she has obnoxiously asserted herself in situations and made them worse for students of color. And I am sure that many of her white students love her. And I am sure that feeds her righteousness.
posted by: westville man on November 14, 2015 10:59am
Really, Robn- some Yale students won’t get hired due to their exercise of free speech??
We’ve come a long way in many areas – mainly because we had been educated on a variety of topics taught to us from the people have experienced the particular issue. Some examples are: an entire month devoted to breast cancer, mainly with women, who also now have change the language from “victim” to “survivor”; the term “bullying” is now a common topic for discussion raised by the parents of children bullied; spousal or partner abuse is now something we understand – indeed, ask a few football players who lost their profession due to such actions; Jewish Holocaust survivors, and now their children, are holding seminars and making films about their history and attempts to defeat the apparent rise in anti-Semitism. But in America, we had never allowed Black people to define their own oppression and relate their own experiences without white people filtering their story at best and at worst condemning it with phrases like – race card, reverse discrimination, quotas, crying racism, etc. And now, we get a new one entering the picture – “micro – aggressions”. All of this is used to demean, diminish and discount what Black folks tell us is their common experience in our communities. And God for bid they have some money or a successful in their profession then how can they possibly experience racism? Can it be that bad? So there you have it. White people telling black people what their experience really means even though we’ve never walked a minute in their shoes. And most of us haven’t taken the time to read a single book or watch a single documentary that might help educate us on the topic. But I learned long ago that most whites don’t really care about racism. All we care about is running as fast as we can from being labeled racist. So for me, I am comforted by the knowledge that some do get it but distraught that most whites don’t and never will..
Half way through the Atlantic article I thought to myself that generation coddled will graduate with such over sensitivity and such a sense of martyrdom that they’ll be ticking time bombs in the workplace. Later in the article the author reached the same conclusion.
posted by: indabridge on November 14, 2015 9:31pm
Appalling, spoiled little Yalies boo hoo. Go to another college leave the ivy halls. Stop the home grown terrorism. I can only hope yet board of trustees and President of Yale have a very strong back bone. Don’t give in be strong. Do what right. Condem reverse racism.
posted by: Stylo on November 15, 2015 9:43pm
Political correctness to the extreme. Ridiculous.
posted by: Dwightstreeter on November 16, 2015 10:28am
Now that Yale has let all these uppity women and men of color in, a response to the demands that is respectful will show that the administration is really committed to a safe and supportive environment for those who are reporting from their experience what isn’t working. This may be hard for the privileged white male class, including Attorney Norm Pattis, but other people actually have different experiences that privileged white males cannot judge. A little humility goes a long way, not to mention some empathy. This morning a newspaper editorial attacks Salovey basically for being a wimp. I say he’s exercising his emotional intelligence in listening and acting on the demands of a peaceful and thoughtful group of students. Yale has picked the best and the brightest and has a huge investment in the students. They are the future donors to the $23 billion endowment, or so Yale hopes. I find the attacks on the women’s reports of their experiences disrespectful and typical of the response of many (not all) men when women stand up and demand change. Racism and sexism are related. Bravo to the students for standing up and voicing their demands.