An Open Letter From 50 Black Yale Alumni

The leafy older part of the campus with traditional New England brick architecture.
The leafy older part of the campus with traditional New England brick architecture.

We, the undersigned Black alumni of Yale University who work in multiple fields pertaining to racial justice and Black culture, write with deep frustration, concern and offense over the hostile and violent racial conditions that your students recently brought to national attention.

Having lived through experiences like this at Yale and been made painfully aware of similar environments elsewhere, we applaud and are inspired by the students' assertion that they are unstoppable; we raise our voices in solidarity with theirs in order to further bring light to the systemic violation facing students in institutions of higher learning across this country, and indeed, around the world.

We know that Black students at Yale are underrepresented, as are Black faculty. We know that the university's resistance to organized labor negatively impacts those who work at Yale as well as all those living in the New Haven community. We know that departures by Black faculty and other faculty of color are treated unceremoniously, with those lines left to languish. We know that the calls for recognition by graduate and undergraduate students -- organized or not -- are treated as a nuisance and ignored.

We know that Black and of color staff, faculty and administrators are made to bear the greatest burden of accountability for the university's faults. We know that the university's investments compromise the integrity and sustainability of communities of color and the environment. We know that Yale police have a long and appalling history of targeting community members, students of color, and staff on and off campus.

We know that the debt burden for working class and students of color too often lasts longer than the prestige of the Yale degree. Because we know all of these things (and more), we call on Yale University to enact the following steps in order to begin a process that mitigates against the individual and community damages caused by the racist structures of education:

  • Implement and complete the 50 million diversity initiative within three years with student and alumni of color oversight. The current plan further casualizes academic labor by proposing to hire "as many as ten visiting professors each year," funneling people of color into temporary, unstable positions and in so doing undermining the stated commitment to diversity. Instead, Yale should hire permanent tenured and tenure-track faculty of color across the University in areas that contribute to interdisciplinary understandings of racial inequality and take real measures, with faculty input, to retain professors currently in their employ.

  • Develop and implement a yearly required anti-racist training for incoming freshman to Yale College and new administrators with supervisory positions over undergraduate and graduate students. Adopt a zero tolerance policy for racist incidents in Yale educational and workspaces.
  • Set aside an annual budget of at least $500,000 that is made available to student groups interested in programming around issues of race and racism.
  • Provide budgets for African American Studies and Ethnic Studies departments equal to those provided to traditional humanities and social science disciplines.
  • Write and widely circulate a University-specific position on structural racism and other intersectional regimes of discrimination to be implemented by all administrative staff.
  • In recognition of the fact that precarity in graduate teaching and research disproportionately impacts people of color, recognize the Graduate Employees and Student's Organization (GESO) -- who have demonstrated a majority of graduate student support -- and negotiate a contract in good faith for graduate teaching assistants and researchers.
  • With the guidance of a student and alumni oversight panel, enact a 2-year plan to cut the University police force in half and end patrols in the broader New Haven community.
  • As per the calls of the Black and Latino caucus of the New Haven Board of Alders, prioritize New Haven residents, especially those from Black and Latino neighborhoods, in hiring for all University staff positions. Create real measures for advancement in these positions rather than the racialized job compression and segregation that exists currently.
  • Retain the stable, union jobs that currently exist in order to preserve the rights of women of color at Yale who are concentrated in clinical positions.
  • Signed,

    Dana M. Asbury / GSAS (M.Phil. 2012)
    Herman Beavers, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 1990)
    Marcellus Blount, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 1987)
    Lori Brooks, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2001)
    Yasmin Cader, J.D. / Yale Law (1992)
    Erin D. Chapman, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2006)
    Matthew J. Countryman, Ph.D. / Yale College (1985)
    Margo N. Crawford, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2000)
    Karilyn Crockett / GSAS (M.A.R. 2006, M.A. 2009), Yale College (1995)
    Prudence Cumberbatch, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2001)
    Shari B. Ellis / Yale College (1992)
    Cheryl Finley, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2002)
    Martina Forgwe Fongyen / GSAS (M.A. 2004)
    Nadine George-Graves, Ph.D. / Yale College (1993)
    Adom Getachew, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2015)
    Mercer (Monte) Givhan, J.D. / Yale Law (1994)
    Stephanie Greenlea, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2014)
    Sarah Haley, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2010)
    Saidiya V. Hartman, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 1992)
    Robin J. Hayes, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2006)
    Brandi Hughes, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2009)
    Nicole N. Ivy, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2013)
    Sara Johnson, Ph.D. / Yale College (1994)
    W. Chris Johnson, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2014)
    Dalton A. Jones, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2008)
    Sara Clarke Kaplan, Ph.D. / Yale College (1996)
    Victor A. Kwansa, Esq. / Yale College (2008)
    Ferentz Lafargue, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph. D. 2005)
    Jennifer S. Leath, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2013)
    Adriane Lentz-Smith, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2005)
    Uri McMillan, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2009)
    Sochie U. Nnaemeka / Yale College (2009)
    Ivy Onyeador / Yale College (2011)
    Jessica Peterson / Yale College (2011)
    Sandy Placido / Yale College (2008)
    Leigh Raiford, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2003)
    Shana L. Redmond, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2008)
    Robert F. Reid-Pharr, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 1994)
    Besenia Rodriguez, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2006)
    Melvin L. Rogers, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2006)
    Martin Simpson / Yale College (1995)
    Holly Smith / GSAS (M.A. 2003)
    Jeffrey Stewart, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 1979)
    Melissa Stuckey, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2009)
    Michelle Ann Stephens, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 1999)
    Calvin Warren, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2010)
    Eva Wilson / Yale College (2010)
    Ivy G. Wilson, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 2002)
    Cynthia Young, Ph.D. / GSAS (Ph.D. 1998)
    Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Ph.D. / Yale School of Drama (M.F.A. 1975), Yale College (1972)

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