Yale Professors Withdraw in Protest From Ethnicity, Race and Migration Program

Yale University vowed to give millions of dollars to facilitate faculty diversity, but 13 professors who teach in its ethnicity, race and migration studies program say they’ll walk, if they don’t get the resources and autonomy they were promised.

In 2015, the prestigious university promised that it would commit an astounding $50 million dollars to enhance the diversity of its staff. Approximately $25 million of those funds were to be allocated specifically for “matching individual departments’ funds to help hire targets of opportunity who would enrich diversity or contribute on another dimension of strategic importance to the university. And to hire up to 10 visiting professors a year.”

Eight of the 13 Ethnicity, Race and Migration professors, who had already submitted letters to withdraw their services from the program, were met with applause from dozens of Yale community members who created a pop-up library with the their works to show their support of their beloved professors.

According to the instructors, the university had been systematically underinvesting in the program and wasn’t giving the staff the hiring power it promised nor were they given a chance to participate in the promotion process. Ultimately, there was no clarity around its own basic resources even as the program grew. The withdrawals leave the program without tenured faculty and forces Yale to address the implications of not holding up its end of the bargain with respect to allowing the professors the autonomy to run the program appropriately.

The professors submitting their letters of withdrawal are among the leading names of the field. As the Yale Daily News reports, the professors who submitted letters are:

  • Ned Blackhawk, Professor of History and American Studies
  • Alicia Schmidt Camacho (ER&M Chair), Professor of American Studies
  • Michael Denning, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of American Studies and English
  • Inderpal Grewal, Professor of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and American Studies
  • Zareena Grewal, Associate Professor of American Studies and Religious Studies
  • Daniel Martinez HoSang, Associate Professor of American Studies
  • Matthew Frye Jacobson, William Robertson Coe Professor of American Studies, History and African American Studies
  • Grace Kao, IBM Professor of Sociology; Chair, Department of Sociology; Faculty Director; Education Studies
  • Lisa Lowe, Samuel Knight Professor of American Studies
  • Mary Lui, Professor of History and American Studies
  • Gary Okihiro, Visiting professor of American studies at Yale University, and professor Emeritus of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University
  • Stephen Pitti, Professor of History and American Studies
  • Ana Ramos-Zayas, Professor of American Studies, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Yale’s promise of diversity was a tall order considering the fact its own leadership lacks  diversity across the board. Of its 16-member Board of Trustees, 3 are Black men. And of its 30-member leadership team, there is one Black woman and an Asian man.

Allegedly, the faculty has been dissatisfied with Yale’s obvious lack of interest in the program since 2002 and had been expressing that to the administration which has, repeatedly, broken its promises.

Professor Jacobson wrote in a statement: “Yale’s inconsistent support for the study of Ethnicity, Race, and Migration is alarming given the multitude of critical issues our teaching and scholarship engage in this moment: The rise of white nationalism, a refugee crises across three continents, climate migration, and pressing matters related to immigration and detention, voting rights, policing and incarceration, and racial violence.”

Interestingly enough, student interest in diversity is increasing although the university has failed to implement permanent changes for the better in the program.

Emily Almendarez, Class of 2020, said: “I think the faculty was our last push to thinking about visually how we can mobilize. Because they did the most they could do and because their action was so brave, we have to hit with some sort of reciprocity, [and] also [with] something that demonstrates that while the University does not support and value their academic professorship, for us as students … those books that are witnessed are what make this University a part of our own knowledge production.”

Yale University President Peter Salovey said in a statement, “The university greatly values the work of faculty colleagues in the program, and regrets their decision to withdraw from it, and in this manner.”

“Yale will make sure that affected students are given the resources and support they need, and we remain hopeful that an agreement can be reached that works well for everyone,” he continued.

The school boasts a diverse student population but it is surely not indicative in the leadership.


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