Letter to President Salovey: A Better Ivy League

Dear President Salovey,

We, as the Yale delegation for the Latinx Ivy League Conference, write to inform you of our concerns regarding our experiences at Brown University earlier today. We acknowledge that you are a partner in creating a cultural shift at Yale, and being an agent of change in improving the experiences of students of color. However, after what we witnessed and felt today at Brown, we are further reassured that this is a problem beyond Yale.

Last night, a Latino student delegate from Dartmouth College was the victim of assault at the hands of law enforcement hired by Brown’s Student Activities’ Office. The incident was deeply concerning not only to the victim, but also to the the Brown community, the Dartmouth community, and other university communities represented in the Latinx Ivy League Conference. Student delegates were compelled to abandon the schedule of events and act to mobilize their collective efforts to bring immediate attention to the incident at hand.

While students engaged in discussion about the incident, the Brown delegation quickly mobilized students of color and allies in the broader campus community to join in a forum to address this incident. The forum revealed that this was not an isolated event on Brown’s campus. Students of color at Brown University have been actively voicing their traumatic experiences with law enforcement on campus to the administration. These concerns, according to the students, have been received with a dismissive and invalidating response.

Coincidentally, Brown University’s president Christina Paxson had been invited to speak at the conference to welcome the Latinx Ivy League delegates in the early afternoon. Faculty and administrators present at the meeting contacted her and informed her of the situation. They encouraged her to enter the forum and focus her effort on listening to student grievances.

Prior to President Paxson’s arrival, the head delegates of each Ivy League delegation had met to compose a letter outlining the situation and vocalizing demands. These demands included concrete suggestions from students aiming to establish preventative measures against future law enforcement aggressions towards students of color. Such demands included a public acknowledgment of the incident along with an apology on behalf Brown’s administration, a bias reporting system, and a partnership between student event organizers and campus security.

President Paxson’s response was initially promising, as she openly recognized that this incident indicated what she described as “the second wave of the Civil Rights movement”. She also acknowledged the importance of student of color leadership, and condemned any form of “brutality” on Brown’s campus. However, as the conversation proceeded, President Paxson failed to fully engage with the students in not validating their lived experiences. The incident was extremely reminiscent of the recent exchanges between students and administrators at Yale, most notably the encounters between Dean Jonathan Holloway and students of color at Cross Campus and Silliman Master Nicholas Christakis and students of color at the Silliman College courtyard. Students of color at both Yale and Brown are visibly hurt, frustrated, and disillusioned with the manner in which their administration has failed to foster an inclusive and welcoming university climate for all.

Our hope is that, in bringing this incident to your attention, you will reckon with the reality that recent events at Yale are part of a larger institutional issue affecting students of color across the Ivy League. We, the Latinx Ivy League Conference delegation, trust that you and the broader Yale administration will act to ensure that Yale is at the forefront of implementing solutions to these systemic issues of racial and ethnic inequality in institutions of higher learning.

Con fuerza y con fe,

The Yale Delegation, 2015 Latinx Ivy League Conference

Karen Lazcano, SM ‘16
Ivonne Gonzalez, ES ‘16
Brenda Calderon, SY ‘17
Alejandra Estrada, ES ‘18