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AAAYA Supports a More Inclusive and Diverse Yale

Today AA

AYA President Tiffany Co presented a letter to President Peter Salovey in support of his efforts to build

Stay tuned to our Facebook for updates from the 2015 Association of Yale Alumni (AYA) Assembly.

The text of the letter is below:

November 20, 2015

President Peter Salovey Office of the President 105 Wall Street Woodbridge Hall New Haven, CT  06511

Dear President Salovey:

On behalf of the Association of Asian American Yale Alumni (AAAYA), and as members of AAAYA’s National Board, we write in response to your recent letter to the Yale community “affirm[ing] and reinforc[ing] the university’s commitment to creating a fully inclusive campus where all members feel welcome and equally able to participate in the activities of the university.” We applaud your affirmation of that commitment — a commitment that is indeed necessary if the “better Yale” you seek is to become a reality, and not merely an aspiration.

Recent events at Yale highlight the systemic issues that have long affected people of color at Yale, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). AAAYA shares the significant concerns about inclusiveness raised by Black, Latino, Native American, and other students and alumni of color.

We appreciate your sensitivity to the concerns of all members of the Yale community – whether student, faculty, staff, or alumni. For too long, and across too many Yale classes, the concerns of AAPIs at Yale have been given inadequate attention. This has been the case particularly with respect to the university’s failure to provide sufficient resources to the Asian American Cultural Center (AACC), to offer Asian American Studies courses regularly and affirm the area of study as a major, and to enhance faculty diversity by hiring and retaining Asian American faculty.

Given these longstanding concerns, we applaud the university’s commitment to expand its support for the four cultural centers, including the AACC. Doubling the AACC’s program budget in 2016-2017 will help the AACC better meet the needs of its very large direct constituency — almost 4,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional school students and more than 50 Asian and Asian American student organizations. We hope the university will reassess the AACC’s budgetary needs regularly. Further increases in the AACC’s budget may be necessary in the future to accommodate increased programming needs and a growing constituency. Students of Asian descent now constitute more than 20% of Yale’s undergraduate population. The university should do its best to provide the resources necessary to ensure that the AACC continues to provide important services and support to undergraduate, graduate and professional school students of all backgrounds.

We hope, too, that the university will begin to focus more intently on the AACC’s facilities issues. Last year’s external review of the cultural centers revealed “significant perceivable unevenness in the condition and space available in the cultural centers,” and noted the physical condition of the AACC, in particular, “requires serious attention.” While limited renovations have occurred, those renovations fail to address the severe space limitations that prevent the AACC from being a truly welcoming, accommodating, and inclusive place.

The AACC’s space on Crown Street cannot meet the current needs of constituent groups. Notwithstanding the rapid growth of the Asian student population, and the breadth, scope, and diversity of the AACC’s programming, the AACC has less space per capita than any of the other cultural centers. As the external report duly noted, “[t]he disparity among the centers sends a negative message to students, prospective students, visitors and alumni.” By correcting this glaring disparity, the university will send the message that it cares about the needs and well-being of all those served by the AACC.

During Yale’s inaugural Asian alumni reunion in April 2014, a former Chairperson of AAAYA explained the pressing need for an AACC with much more space and asked you whether university support for such a facility was realistic. You agreed that expansion should be considered and added that alumni commitment would help in that regard. At that time, we informed you that AAAYA and AAPI alumni would be happy to work with Yale to find ways to expand the AACC’s physical space. AAAYA remains committed to this goal. We hope the university will make serious efforts to address this pressing concern and look forward to working with you.

We applaud the university’s commitment to create a transformative, multidisciplinary center for the study of race, ethnicity, and other aspects of social identity. Everyone has a history that should be told. Everyone has a voice that should be heard. The histories and voices of people of color are part of the story of humanity, America, and Yale. We look forward to the regular inclusion of the histories and voices of people of color in Yale’s course offerings – not only so that others can better understand us, but so that we can better understand ourselves.

Finally, we applaud the university’s $50 million commitment to increasing faculty diversity. We hope the university will use this new funding to help create a robust Asian American studies program and eventually allow the University to offer Asian American studies as a full major to students. AAAYA was pleased to see Yale take the first step toward this goal when it granted tenure to Professor Mary Lui, the first time Yale has awarded tenure to a professor of Asian American studies.

Thank you for your leadership and efforts to build a better Yale by listening to all of Yale’s many voices. AAAYA looks forward to helping you “work toward a better, more diverse, and more inclusive Yale.”


The AAAYA National Board

Tiffany Co (DC ’94) Chiraag Bains (MC ‘03) Harry Chang (SY ’84) Beatrice Chen (TD ’98) Kelly Cheng (JE ’00) Shagran Hassan (ES ’04) Kaozouapa Lee (TC ’11) So Lan Liang (JE ’97) Lawrence Ng (CC ’84, LAW ’89) Deron Quon (BR ’94) Richard Shieh (CC ’09) Karmen Cheung (MC ’13)

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