What We Want & Need: Black Student Demands for the Administration

On Tuesday, November 3rd, members of the Black Student Alliance at Yale gathered to discuss the recent events affecting Black students and students of color on this campus, in particular the email from Erika Christakis regarding cultural appropriation and the incidence of women of color being refused entry to the SAE party, in addition to the subsequent campus response. The following is a list of possible action steps that Black students want and need in order to move forward. This by no means is representative of the entire Black community at Yale, but came from a discussion between over 60 Black students as some potential ideas. While most these are requests of the administration, Black women would specifically like to request the support of Black men in implementing and encouraging the campus to respond to these requests and others, and in directly outreaching to us to see what support we need.

There are three main areas of action we would like to see:

  • Administrative response around these particular and related events. In the past regarding events of hate speech and discrimination, there has been immediate response from the administration at the very least acknowledging that these events occurred and students may have been impacted. We expect this and more. Some possible action steps include:

    1. We would like SAE and the university to admit that these events occurred, and admit that there are harmful dynamics within their community that led to even a suggestion that something like this be said, and work to fix said dynamics
    2. An email from Dean Holloway and/or President Salovey acknowledging that these events have happened and that students may be feeling upset, at the very least, stating that they will investigate, and stating their explicit intention to support women and people of color on campus. In the future when similar events occur, we would like a much faster response, in under 24 hours.
    3. A specific administrative team to collect data and compile a report on similar instances in fraternities and other student groups at Yale
    4. The establishment of a formal space and procedure to voice concerns related to incidents and events of discrimination and hate speech at Yale. There is currently no formal reporting and censure process for this (like the UWC for sexual misconduct). Other universities have Bias Reporting and Response Teams – Yale should develop something similar.
  1. Administrative initiative for the interests of Black women, Black people, and people of color. While there are specific responses to particular incidences of racism and misogyny that we experience, there are broader issues at play that we would like Yale to address generally. Black women do not feel safe on Yale’s campus – at off-campus parties, in classrooms, and otherwise. The events of this past week stem from a simple lack of respect for Black women, women of color, and people of color in general. Possible action steps include:
    1. Mandatory diversity sensitivity trainings for all faculty, staff, and students. Faculty, staff, and students with expertise on these issues need to be involved in developing and implementing such trainings.
    2. Mental health programs for the Black community & other communities of color that are specifically funded and specific to our experiences
    3. The administration supports and encourages members of SAE and other fraternities/spaces where such offenses have occurred to read a series of Black feminist texts and report on what they have learned
    4. The administration supports and encourages members of SAE and other fraternities/spaces to host a fundraiser/do a service project related to services and support for Black women, at Yale and in New Haven.
    5. All students must be required to take a certain number of classes from the AFAM, ER&M, and WGSS departments (not credit/D). This might include more offerings of classes from these departments and commitments to retain faculty to these departments.

  • Student input on administration and faculty hiring and training practices. Professors and administrators at Yale are part of our community and must be accountable to students.

    1. Students able to give input on the hiring of professors and other programs related to hiring professors of color and the allocation of money that were outlined in Dean Holloway’s 11/3 email
    2. Open and transparent process about how masters are trained and appointed
    3. We are also calling for the immediate removal of Nicholas and Erika Christakis as the Master and Associate Master of Silliman College. A petition to follow.


  1. Regarding the administrative response action step #1:

    Forcing SAE to admit their guilt in this particular scenario is an unfair demand. The idea of forcing self-incrimination goes against the fifth amendment of the constitution and basically sets a precedent for mob rule. However, the fact that the accusations were made and the subsequent response is evidence that there are harmful dynamics at play here, and both SAE and the administration should admit that.

    Regarding Administrative Initiative action step #5:

    At the very least, students should be allowed to credit/D these courses since they are outside of most Yale students’ typical class experiences. Additionally, exceptions must be made for students with double majors who have little room as-is for elective courses. Requiring students to study classes in these particular majors seems like an overstep of administrative power. No classes are required in any other specific major, only certain skill areas.

    Regarding student input #1:

    Allowing for student input should not be confused with allowing students to make the final decisions on faculty hiring. While it is important to consider student feelings when choosing faculty, the tenure of a professor often lasts well beyond the graduation date of a given student. Therefore, the administration should listen to student input but ultimately have the final say in these matters, even if it is in opposition to student opinions.

    Student input #3:

    The removal of the master and associate master from Silliman must be justified by a reason other than just expressing an unpopular opinion. If the email sent by the associate master is used as justification to remove them from the college, it will set a precedent for other masters to be removed for holding similarly unpopular opinions. For example, the master of Calhoun who argued in favor of keeping the name Calhoun College could be removed on the basis of this opinion. Additionally, a college master who speaks in favor of retaining the title of “master” could also be removed based on the unpopularity of this opinion.

    Everything else looks pretty good though

  2. I agree with the above.
    1) The university doesn’t have the power to make a fraternity do certain activities or study certain topics.
    2) While it’s super frustrating for a group to not even admit that an event happened, the university can’t force them to do so. The people who experienced this event should write statements, collect witness statements, and document everything ASAP. Ideally get a lot of witnesses when this happens in the future.
    3) It’s not really reasonable to require students to take courses in ERM/AFAM/WGSS, given that this isn’t how the Yale curriculum works. If we had a core like Harvard does, it would be reasonable to argue for a section like this. But we don’t.
    4) University hiring is super byzantine. I think student involvement is pretty reasonable, but you probably can’t expect to have much power. Possibly a good approach would be to establish support for junior women and minority faculty members. Mentoring is very important for young faculty and getting tenure.
    5) I think the master situation should be resolved on good terms if this is in any way possible. It’s not fair to remove a master for having unpopular opinions. I feel that it’s frustrating to have an important authority figure who you feel does not represent you. But that shouldn’t be enough to remove a master. If there are reasons to pursue this beyond the original letter, they should be overwhelming and documented thoroughly. It’s pretty serious to force a master out.

  3. So, despite the fact that departments such as Computer Science are criminally understaffed, you want to divert a ton of money to this stuff? That’s not even including the ridiculous “core classes” requirement that’s on there.

    And you want SAE to be “forced” to apologize for something that probably didn’t happen, and be treated like a bunch of middle schoolers by having to write an essay?

    I agree that Yale can improve on some of this, but most of this list is completely insane.

  4. There are a few core issues here, and it’s mostly based in the inefficient and bureaucratic administrative policies at universities. There’s just no way you’re going to get a response in 24 hours from the President on issues as sensitive as these. However, if you can establish a race issue- centric body within the administration similar to the UWC, then perhaps you have a place to start. Keep in mind: the UWC is part of Yale’s slow, bureaucratic administration that makes its moves slowly.

    Just some more background on what previous comments have pointed out: the university lost its control over fraternities and other off campus organizations when it cut ties and removed these organizations from campus. Translation: Yale has no power over an organization they are not affiliated with, especially when they can only work with allegations rather than fact.

  5. I absolutely agree with these demands. I personally have not taken any class in the AFAM or ER&M departments, and it’s about time that I did. It’s an absolute shame that it’s taken me until this many hearts have been poured out before me for me to realize how important it is that I am educated in these subjects. If all of Yale were required to take classes in these departments, I think that the awful events of this past week may have been avoided.

  6. You know, I think what it comes down to is it feels a lot worse to be black in America than a decade ago with what has happened and what you see on mass media. Even with a black POTUS, you see the Republicans disrespecting the Presidency like never before. I can’t imagine what it does to the psyche of these kids. This is the “divide” between what I think the reactions should be and what the reactions actually are in terms of the proposed solutions. I can’t claim to understand the pain, even as a gay Asian alum who loved my experience at Yale.
    But, I’d encourage the students to have empathy, even for those who we believe have wronged us. Every generation produces great thinkers who rise above “human nature.”
    Helping the administration understand the “pain” as a minority student is important. Let’s be creative, rather than making heads roll.

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