Campus units create roadmaps for promoting equity and belonging
In the fall of 2020, Yale President Peter Salovey encouraged every school and administrative division on campus to evaluate what they were doing to create a community where equity and respect are standard for all who study, teach, and work here. As part of this, he asked each unit to develop their own five-year plan to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and create a sense of belonging.
Since then, teams at Yale — from the unit that manages the university’s treasured art, book, and natural history collections to those responsible for daily campus operations, to each of Yale’s schools — have assessed, reflected, and brainstormed to develop meaningful and achievable action plans to meet these goals.
“These unit plans reflect varying cultures and contexts and build upon work that has been under way across Yale to support faculty, students, staff, and alumni,” Salovey said. “The plans require dedicated work on many fronts, from education to research and from everyday campus operations to visionary new initiatives.”
The plans focus on six broad areas: scholarship, research, practice, and teaching; the diversity of the Yale community; equitable processes, procedures, and responses; professional and personal development of inclusive practice; acknowledgement, recognition, and respect; and communication, transparency, and accountability. Units were asked to pay particular attention to the experiences of members of their communities who are people of color.
Altogether, the more than 25 DEI action plans — reflecting the aspirations and goals of groups as small as the Division of the Senior Vice President and General Counsel (which has fewer than 50 staff members) and as large as the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (with more than 1,200 faculty members) and including those of Yale College and all the university’s graduate and professional schools — were completed in November 2021.
The effort to create DEI plans is led by Kimberly Goff-Crews, who serves as secretary and vice president for university life and leads Belonging at Yale, and School of Medicine professor Dr. Gary Desir, vice provost for faculty development and diversity. They collaborated with the Office of the Provost, school deans, vice presidents, and other administrative unit leaders.
“Most of the deans and vice presidents had small planning teams that first took stock of information they already had — from student recommendations and petitions to internal committee reports to surveys,” Goff-Crews said. “We are all building on past work. The teams helped craft the plans and made sure input represented a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. The result is wide-ranging commitments to DEI and belonging by all the schools and administrative divisions. They are starting from different places, but everyone will be improving together. And now we all have the opportunity to learn from the other communities that make up Yale, and adapt their practices.”
A commonality of goals
The plans complement a set of institutional actions Salovey announced in October 2020 to enhance diversity, promote equity, and foster an inclusive campus environment.
Those include establishing centers for research and scholarship on racial justice, racism, and equity; more funding for student financial aid; a new program to encourage diversity among Yale’s top staff leaders; transforming public safety and policing on campus; advancing alumni learning around DEI and engagement with Yale’s DEI initiatives; and enhancing the diversity of community partnerships.
And the university also pledged to assess ongoing initiatives — and asked all schools and units to do the same.
For Yale College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the professional schools, many of the action items that emerged focus on continuing or enhancing initiatives to increase student and faculty diversity. For example, some schools have recently announced they will be tuition-free (the David Geffen School of Drama); will cover full tuition for all students with need (Divinity School); or will cover tuition for students with the greatest need (Yale Law School).
Beyond increasing financial aid, many of the schools’ plans call for:
• expanding and strengthening course offerings to reflect a greater diversity of perspectives and to specifically address racism and issues of social justice;
• developing or enhancing mentoring programs to support students, new members of the faculty, and recent graduates;
• and increasing partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and tribal institutions to expand the student pipeline to Yale and to engage in shared programming and collaborative courses to broaden the learning experiences of students and faculty.
Schools and administrative divisions have also committed to developing or enhancing training and development for staff, faculty, and students on DEI-related topics, among them implicit bias, allyship, microaggressions, racism, and bystander response. In addition, the majority of units have made it their goal to strengthen staff excellence and diversity by improving upon their recruiting and hiring practices.
Moving forward, many divisions and schools, working with University Procurement, will also increase their investment in New Haven by purchasing goods and services from local, minority-owned businesses, one of the institutional priorities announced by Salovey in 2020. In addition, some units are considering ways to engage with New Haven public school students via their programming, community offerings, or by making internships available to local students. (In November 2021, Salovey announced a six-year commitment to and partnership with New Haven to foster economic growth for the benefit of all city residents.)
Many of the school and division plans reflect their own particular cultures, communities, and priorities. For example:
• The School of Architecture will establish a center or lab focused on issues of spatial justice;
• Yale Athletics will create a student-athlete leadership team to give voice to underrepresented athletes;
• The Faculty of Arts and Sciences will create and assess mentoring plans that increase inclusion for all FAS students, postgrads, postdoctoral scholars, staff, and faculty;
• Yale College will triple the size of the First-Year Scholars at Yale summer program for students who are the first in their families to attend college or who are from economically underprivileged families;
• The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will develop a pilot program to track prospective students’ experiences in key recruitment programs such as the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program, Diversity Preview Days, Diversity Recruitment Days, and the Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Programs, and will make any needed enhancements to the programs to improve outcomes; and
• Yale Health will implement a patient registration process to gather demographics as part of an assessment of the quality of care among various segments of the community.
In some cases, individuals within a university unit will be asked to reflect on their own personal skills development. The plan for the Global Strategies and Academic Initiatives division, for instance, encourages each of its more than 200 staff members to develop one performance management goal that addresses professional and personal growth in DEI topics.
“Given that we are all responsible for advancing DEI issues, principles, and practices, we chose action areas where we felt staff members could connect DEI to their day-to-day work and not think of it as something ‘over there,’” said Jenny Frederick, executive director of the Poorvu Center, who chaired the division’s planning team. “Whether it’s learning something or designing a new program, this goal incorporates DEIB education, professional development, and programming development into our mission, making it part of our culture and emphasizing its value.”
Most administrative units and schools have also named or plan to name a DEI coordinator to oversee efforts and initiatives in their units. And the central administration — including Operations, Public Affairs & Communications, and the Office of the Provost — is pursuing projects that will support all schools and administrative divisions in the implementation of their plans, such as faculty and staff recruitment, communications, and measuring progress toward goals. Recognizing the increasing diversity of the alumni body, the Yale Alumni Association supports the development of a diverse pipeline of alumni for leadership positions, and learning opportunities for the Board of Governors and DEI-related programming for all alumni.
“An important focus for us in the Provost’s Office is the development and support of an excellent and diverse faculty,” said Vice Provost Gary Desir. “We provide funding to schools as they recruit faculty who enrich diversity, we are strengthening mentoring programs so faculty members can feel supported here and want to stay, and we are helping to develop the right set of metrics to track where we are improving.”
Change has already come
The Belonging at Yale initiative has sharpened the university’s continued emphasis on changing practices on campus and reckoning with past injustices. Land acknowledgments, in which speakers note that events are taking place on what were once tribal lands, are a common practice on campus. As part of the renovation of the Peabody Museum, young students from the greater New Haven area are helping rewrite the labeling for display items to make them more welcoming and accessible. In the fall of 2021, the university hosted its first public conference examining the university’s historic role and associations with slavery and how the institution of slavery continues to have deep societal repercussions. At that event Salovey announced some initial actions Yale will take to reconcile that history with responsibilities in the present.
Recognition of that history has also taken center stage at the David Geffen School of Drama, which since 2015 has required DEI training for members of its community. All first-year students, as well as full-time faculty and staff, take part in a workshop titled “Everyday Justice: Antiracism as Daily Practice,” led by faculty member Carmen Morgan. In addition, the school offers workshops on such topics as interrupting microaggressions, bystander intervention, conflict de-escalation, mitigating implicit bias, and more led by artEquity, Hollaback! and other educational organizations.
At the Geffen School, DEI and belonging had been a priority of the school’s dean, James Bundy, well before development of its unit plan, said Chantal Rodriguez, associate dean and Title IX and discrimination and harassment resource coordinator, who chaired the planning team for the school. The team’s work over the past year has helped refine and add to those objectives.
“Just because we have been engaged in this work for a while doesn’t mean we have it all solved by any means,” she said. “What I found useful was being able to crystallize a plan by year and to lay it all out to see if there are areas where we need more attention. It’s been great to contextualize for the greater Yale community what we are doing. It’s also exciting to be working with colleagues across the university to learn what other schools and units are implementing.”
Schools and divisions have been asked to implement their first-year actions by the end of August. In September, they will begin work toward goals set for the second year of their five-year plans.
“Changing what we do in our own work is vital to addressing broader challenges and injustices in our society,” Salovey said. “We can remain a great university only if we are tireless in seeking ways to improve every aspect of campus life and operations and foster a sense of belonging.
“I encourage people to look at the materials that have been posted online to really gain a sense of how our university’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging goals play out in various parts of Yale.”