50 years: a timeline of organizing and advocacy for students of color at Yale

Originally Posted on The Yale Herald - Medium via UWIRE

This timeline was organized by Elliot Wailoo, SY ’21, and Christian Fernandez, BF ’20, with additional research by Seyade Tadele, TD ’21. It uses research and resources gathered by students in Professor Quan Tran’s Fall 2018 seminar, Comparative Ethnic Studies (ER&M 300). Those students are: Emily Almendarez, Vernice Chan, Ann Hui Ching, Shamsa Derrick, Christian Fernandez, Yuki Hayasaka, Supriya Kohli, Ben Levin, Ruhi Manek, Mariah Minigan, Matthew Motylenski, Sophie Neely, Chidera Osuji, Natalia Reyes Becerra, Spencer Shimek, Amanda Taheri, Marisa Vargas-Morawetz, and Jesús Yanez. Their full project can be accessed at https://bit.ly/2Xe4ogH; we encourage you to check it out!

1969

  • A year of strikes at SFSU and UC Berkeley lead to the founding of the country’s first Ethnic Studies programs, as well as the first Asian American studies program, the first Black studies program, the first Latinx studies program, and the first Native American Studies program. Ethnic Studies programs begin to pop up around the country, largely concentrated on the West Coast.
  • Yale’s African American Studies Program and the Afro-American Cultural Center (then called Afro-America) are created as a result of activism led by the Black Student Alliance at Yale’s (BSAY) co-moderators, Armstead Robinson, Donald Ogilvie, and Glenn DeChabert. This is the first year that Black Studies courses are taught at Yale; BSAY was formed five years earlier, in 1964.
  • Asian American Students Association (AASA) is founded.
  • Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) is founded.
  • Women are admitted to Yale College to start in the fall of 1969. Women compose 230 of the approximately 1,200 incoming first-years.

1970

  • Student leader Don Nakanishi writes a letter to then-President of Yale, Kingman Brewster, advocating for the creation of a program for “Floating Ethnic Counselors.” His idea centers on the hiring of “Third World” students to mentor first-years.

1972

  • Yale creates the Ethnic Counselors position, which still exists today in the form of Peer Liaisons.

1973

  • MEChA writes a letter to President Brewster, demanding that Yale create a Chicanx Cultural Center.

1974

  • La Casa Boricua is founded as a cultural center for Puerto Rican students at Yale.

1980

  • Students successfully advocate for the renaming of Pierson’s “slave quarters.”

1981

  • Student demands lead to the foundation of a cultural center for Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Chicanx students.

1982

  • Students coordinated with the admissions office to organize an admitted students weekend for “Third World Students,” whom they defined as Puerto Ricans, Asians, Chicanos, Blacks, and Native Americans.

1989

  • The Association of Native Americans at Yale (ANAAY) is founded.

Throughout the ’90s, Ethnic Studies programs are under assault, suffering frequent cuts or depletions of funding.

1990

  • Students protest racist acts, such as a hate letter and racist graffiti, and demand that the administration discontinue its focus on teaching and studying Western civilization.

Mar. 7, 1997

  • Ethnicity, Race, and Migration is founded as a program by a unanimous vote, but only as a second major — students must major in another discipline as well.

1999

  • “La Casa Cultural” is renamed “La Casa Cultural Julia de Burgos, the Latinx Cultural Center” as the space is expanded to include not only Puerto Rican students, but also Chicanx students and students of other Latinx heritages.

2000

  • After 31 years of existing as a program at Yale, African American Studies is elevated to departmental status.

2002

  • Students found an anti-racism group which pushes for more sustained dialogue around diversity at Yale, and spearheaded Diversity Training for Freshman Counselors and a Yale Curriculum Review.

2006

  • AASA conducts a day of silence to protest anti-Asian racist articles published in two Yale publications, Rumpus and this publication, the Yale Herald.

2007

  • In response to incidents of blackface and spray-painted slurs, students demand that Yale implement first-year reading requirements, expand the Ethnic Counselor program, and establish a cultural studies requirement.

2008

  • The Ethnic Counselor program is restructured into the current Peer Liaison (PL) structure. The LGBTQ Co-op and the Chaplain’s Office also create PL positions.

2012

  • Students are able to major in ER&M as a single major.

2013

  • The Native American Cultural Center, previously housed inside the Asian American Cultural Center, receives its own building at 26 High Street and becomes the fourth Cultural Center.

2014

  • Students revive the Asian American Studies Task Force to research and protest the lack of Asian American Studies classes offered at Yale.

Nov. 3, 2015

  • In a University-wide email, President Peter Salovey and Provost Ben Polak announce Yale’s promise to invest $50 million over the following five years in the improvement of faculty diversity.

Nov. 9, 2015

  • More than 1,000 student organizers participate in a March of Resilience and teach-in as a response to a variety of racist events, including racist incidents at fraternities, emails from Associate Master of Silliman College Erika Christakis instructing students to look the other way if they saw a racist or insensitive Halloween costume, and Yale’s refusal to rename Calhoun College, named for pro-slavery advocate John C. Calhoun.

Nov. 12, 2015

  • The alliance of students, Next Yale, presents a list of demands to President Peter Salovey, including an Ethnic Studies distributional requirement, increases in the operational budgets of each cultural center, the renaming of Calhoun, and an abolition of the title of “Master.”

Spring 2016

  • Yale commits to the creation of the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration.
  • Yale renames the position of Master as “Head of College.”
  • Yale announces it will not rename Calhoun College. In response, students hold a symbolic renaming ceremony.

Feb. 11, 2017

  • Yale reverses its decision and announces the renaming of formerly Calhoun College as Grace Hopper College.

Spring 2019:

  • MEChA and AASA each celebrate 50th anniversaries.
  • The 13 Professors appointed in the program in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration withdraw from the program, citing a lack of administrative support, funding, and hiring power, among other issues.
  • The Coalition for Ethnic Studies begins to organize for the advancement of Ethnic Studies and institutional support and departmental status for the program in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration.


50 years: a timeline of organizing and advocacy for students of color at Yale was originally published in The Yale Herald on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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