Both campus-wide change and individual accountability key to achieving diversity, says panel

Increasing diversity is not just an ideological goal, it is a practical one as well, said Professor Marvin Chun, speaking at a town hall on diversity in the workplace held Feb. 22.

Studies have shown that homogenous groups of scholars perform more poorly in predicting outcomes than heterogeneous ones, Chun told the audience, noting that Yale can only be stronger by bringing to campus individuals with a variety of viewpoints and experiences.

“At Yale, diversity is not separable from excellence,” said Chun. “Diversity is important because the world is diverse. If we want to contribute to the world, we need to come from a place of diversity.”

Chun, a member of the Yale president’s Minority Advisory Council, was one of six panelists at the town hall, which was sponsored by the LGBTQ Affinity Group, Future Leaders of Yale, Working Women’s Network, and Yale Latino Networking Group.

In addition to Chun, the Richard M. Colgate Professor of Psychology and professor of neuroscience, the panelists were:

  • Dr. Carl Baum, a member of the Provost Advisory Committee on Resources for Students & Employees with Disabilities and professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine;

  • Richard Bribiescas, deputy provost for faculty development and diversity and professor of anthropology;

  • Joan Channick, deputy Title IX coordinator and associate dean at the Yale School of Drama;
  • Valarie Stanley, director of the Office for Equal Opportunity Programs; and
  • Maria Trumpler, director of the Office of LGBTQ Resources and senior lecturer in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program.

Craig Canfield, co-chair of the LGBTQ Affinity Group and assistant university registrar, moderated the discussion, which ranged from the importance of creating an inclusive climate on campus, to the assets and challenges Yale brings to the effort, and what individuals can do to make the campus a welcoming place to all.

The panelists agreed that while Yale has made great strides in building a more diverse student population, it still needs to increase efforts to diversify its faculty and staff.

“This is really a community challenge,” said Bribiescas, who is overseeing the university’s $50 million initiative to increase faculty diversity. “Diversity is not going to happen by accident.”

In particular, “we need to create opportunities to give voice to the staff,” said Trumpler, noting that historically Yale has not included students, staff, and faculty in conversations about diversity.

“This is definitely a time of change at this university,” said Baum. “Those who’ve been here awhile know that these changes have been a long time coming,” he added. “Now they’re coming at such speed” — a result of the student activism in the fall.

Channick noted that the School of Drama provides diversity training to its students, staff, and faculty. “It’s a necessary aspect of leadership in today’s world,” she said.

Education is a big part of the work at the Office for Equal Opportunity Programs, said Stanley, noting that sometimes individuals truly don’t understand why their behavior was offensive.

Stanley also said that one of the benefits of a community as large as Yale, which includes individuals from around the world, is that it’s likely “you can find someone like you.” One difficulty, she noted, is that because of its size, the university tends to be divided into “little silos.”

Asked what staff members at Yale can do in their everyday lives to further the goal of inclusivity, the panelists said that it is important to keep diversity at the forefront in all their workplace decisions — from hiring new people to interacting with colleagues to challenging acts of discrimination you witness.

Bribiescas said that sometimes those who experience discrimination are not only upset at the injustice itself, but at the silence of those who witnessed the encounter.

“You should hold yourself accountable, and, when possible, hold others accountable as well,” he said.

Chun also expressed that sentiment: “We need to make this a place where we can all flourish and learn from each other.”

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