As racial tensions simmer at campuses across the country, a Yale University event titled “A Moment of Crisis: Race at Yale Teach-In” drew more than 1,100 attendees. The event featured an invited phone-in speaker who is one of the organizer’s of the University of Missouri’s race-inspired protests.
The “race teach-in” was “dedicated to educating the community about the issues faced by people of color at Yale,” reports the Yale Daily News.
The event follows a twisted string of allegations about racism on the campus as well as protests that appear to have been generated by a warning from Yale’s Intercultural Affairs Council against wearing potentially racially and culturally insensitive Halloween costumes. Yale associate master Erika Christakis responded to the warning by defending the students right to wear the costumes they want to, and was subsequently cast as racially insensitive and offensive.
The Yale “race teach-in” was organized by the university’s four cultural centers: the Afro-American Cultural Center, the Native American Cultural Center, the Asian American Cultural Center, and La Casa Cultural. The forum featured four panels of students, professors and professionals who focused on valuing women of color, mental health in communities of color, white and male privilege, and the value of ethnic studies classes.
Ayanna Poole, a founder of the #ConcernedStudent1950 organization – which has been a major player in the University of Missouri’s racial unrest on campus that led to the resignation of the school’s president and chancellor – was a phone-in invited speaker at the Yale event.
As Breitbart News reported, however, activist Jonathan Butler – the University of Missouri graduate student who led the #ConcernedStudent1950 protests, falsified his main claim – that he was hit by a car carrying the university’s president. Instead, the video of the incident shows Butler rushing toward the car.
“It was important to not only educate the larger Yale community about issues people of color face, but [also to discuss] how we can be more strategic in addressing these issues,” said Nicole Tinson DIV ’16, one of the Yale race teach-in’s organizers and moderators. “This is not an overnight process, but organizing this teach-in was a great first step.”
Some of the topics covered during the Yale panels, reports Yale Daily News, included the complaint that black women are not represented by either the civil rights movement – which is dominated by black men – or the feminist movement – which is dominated by white women.
White and male privilege was also discussed and the race teach-in featured panelists who “admitted that they had been blind to issues of systemic racism growing up,” and also those who “urged white men to acknowledge and understand that they are products of the structure of white privilege.”
In another panel, students urged Yale administration to restructure the Ethnicity, Race and Migration Program to become an actual department that would hire its own faculty members. Student Olivia Pascal said ethnic studies are essential for people who have been “steeped in white culture” to be able to understand the culture of other students at Yale.
“I want to make sure that I’m moving towards the informed camp and moving myself away from the ignorant camp,” student Molly Zeff also said. “This is a fight that’s only going to be possible if the people who most benefit from systemic racism, which include myself, are fully aware of the people who most suffer from systemic racism.”
Student Mojique Tyler, who describes himself, according to the Yale Daily News, “as a black, atheist, agender and Jewish individual with one parent who is white,” said he hopes to support women of color.
Yale student Alex Zhang said the race teach-in “showed [Yale] president [Peter] Salovey and [Yale College] Dean [Jonathan] Holloway that student activism is a force to be taken seriously, that faculty and administrators are standing behind students in support, that there are things worth listening to that have been ignored for far too long.”
Salovey – who also attended the event – said, “I want to hear the voices of our students and our faculty on these issues. I think they’re critical, especially for making Yale a better place.”
“I think there are so many voices that can be inspiring to the Yale community that we don’t hear regularly, either because they aren’t listened to or because they’re speaking from the margins, and I think it’s very much time to place them … That’s the biggest takeaway for me today,” he said.
Last week, Salovey and Provost Ben Polak announced that Yale will initiate a $50 million effort over the next five years to diversify its faculty, the New Haven Register reports.
“Yale’s education and research missions are propelled forward by a faculty that stands at the forefront of scholarship, research, practice, mentoring and teaching,” Salovey and Polak said. “An excellent faculty in all of these dimensions is a diverse faculty, and that diversity must reach across the whole of Yale — to every school and to every department.”
The two leaders cited diversity as one of the university’s most important commitments.
In a message to the Yale community on Tuesday, Salovey and Holloway wrote:
We cannot overstate the importance we put on our community’s diversity, and the need to increase it, support it, and respect it. We know we have work to do, for example in increasing diversity in the faculty, and the initiatives announced last week move us closer toward that goal. At the same time, we are proud of the diversity on our campus and the vibrant communities at the Afro-Am House, the Asian American Cultural Center, La Casa Cultural, and the Native American Cultural Center. We are proud to support our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students, staff, and faculty. We are proud to support women. And we are proud to attract students and scholars from around the world, of all faiths and traditions, and with all levels of physical ability. We are committed to supporting all of these communities not only by attending to their safety and well-being but in the expectation that they will be treated with respect.
The two also noted, “We expect thinkers, scholars, and speakers, whether they come from our community or as invited guests, to be treated with respect and in the expectation that they can speak their minds fully and openly.”
“By preventing anyone from bringing ideas into the light of day, we deny a fundamental freedom — and rob ourselves of the right to engage with those ideas in a way that gets to the core of Yale’s educational mission,” they added.
In an interview with Breitbart News, Zachary Young, president of the William F. Buckley Program at Yale, said about the series of events that have led up to the protests, “There are real problems in the world, and I think it’s fair game to talk about all the real problems we have.”
“But this sounds to me that there are a lot of Yale kids – who are in an extremely privileged position to be here – who are not having to push out 80-hour weeks working hard at a factory, who have a quality education, who have wonderful resources that almost anyone else in the world would be envious of – ” he added. “It does surprise me that so many people seem to think this experience has let them down.”