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raceAhead: May 26, 2016

At Yale, the struggle is real. In the last few years, the elite institution and treasured talent pipeline to the U.S. State Department, has experienced waves of student protests calling for a more diverse faculty and curriculum. But students have also demanded other things: that all undergrads be required to take an ethnic studies class, that mental health support services be offered through the cultural centers for minority students, and, most painfully, that Calhoun College, named for a white supremacist and ardent defender of slavery, be renamed. The university declined to do so.

This week, Yale’s troubles bubbled to the surface again, this time with charts and graphs and from within faculty ranks. An ad hoc committee of Yale’s Senate of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences published a “Report on Faculty Diversity and Inclusivity in FAS,” a 72-page investigation that education experts have described as “devastating” and “unsparing.” The report examines four decades of diversity initiatives, hiring practices, and retention rates, and will provide diversity and inclusion officers from every sector both a rich dataset and a cautionary tale. “Rather than overt ill will,” the report states, “we see an accumulated pattern of thousands of small decisions at all levels — decisions that persistently, if largely unconsciously, have cast the diversity of the faculty as a lower priority in times of strict budget austerity.”

Yale first began to recruit faculty from diverse backgrounds in 1972, and the report does mention that the university has made some progress. Currently, women are better represented across departments and racial minorities saw an uptick in hiring from 1999 to 2007. But the economic downturn reversed the gains—by 2012, only 22 of 56 recently hired minority faculty members remained. At the heart of the issue is a managerial roundabout described in detail by the Chronicle of Higher Education (paywall, sorry) that will be familiar to many: “Form a committee in reaction to a crisis, pledge to diversify the faculty, and then fail to follow through with action and resources needed to sustain progress.”

On Point

But wait, there’s more.
The Asian-American Coalition for Education is asking the U.S. Department of Education to investigate the admissions practices of several Ivy League schools, including Yale, Brown, and Dartmouth, alleging unfair and discriminatory behavior. The group filed a complaint highlighting the capping of Asian applicants to these schools, and saying the universities “often treat Asian-American applicants as a monolithic block rather than as individuals, and denigrate these applicants as lacking in creativity/critical thinking and leadership skills/risk taking.”Fortune

Asian impact.
A new report from Nielsen highlights the growing economic and consumer influence of the highly diverse Asian American population in the U.S.  In addition to a buying power of $825 billion, Asian Americans are the fastest growing segment of business owners of any racial cohort: the number of Asian American-owned businesses grew by 24% between 2007 and 2012 and had the highest percentage of sales increase—38%—of any group.

When the rainbow is not enuf.
Professional women often have difficulty finding a suitable mentor but flourish when mentored over time with dedication and care. In a non-diverse workplace, a mentor can be especially useful: They can help you navigate the isolating experience of being the only brown face in the room. Ally Hickson makes the case for why black women in particular should seek out mentors, and how to jumpstart the process.
Refinery 29

Sunday, bloody Sunday.
A new study from Media Matters shows that during the first quarter of 2016, Sunday political talk shows were significantly less likely to discuss poverty and inequality than weekday news programs.  Sunday shows mentioned poverty only 33% of the time, compared with 55% of the segments broadcast by the evening news. PBS NewHour led all broadcast programming with the most coverage of income inequality in general and poverty in particular. In the same period, Fox News and MSNBC dedicated 32 segments to issues related to poverty, compared to 17 segments from CNN.
Media Matters

Making every effort.
Former President Jimmy Carter has renewed his quest to heal what he believes to be a worsening racial divide in the United States. “I don’t feel good, except for one thing: I think the country has been reawakened the last two or three years to the fact that we haven’t resolved the race issue adequately,” he told the New York Times. To that end, Carter plans to hold a summit this fall, bringing together Hispanic, Asian, black, and white Baptists to work on the issues of race and social justice.
New York Times

The Woke Leader

Suspension of belief.
New commentary from Robert Ross, the CEO of The California Endowment, makes the argument that California schools should include student suspension rates as a measure of their success. The good news: The state has reduced out-of-school suspensions by nearly 40%, while academic achievement has increased. Citing extensive evidence that extreme school discipline policies do more harm than good, he further points to the disparities experienced by students of color in the academic year ending in 2014: Black students were 19% more likely to face suspension than white students, and Native American students were 11% more likely. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
Ed Source

Few upcoming films based on an inspiring true story sound as promising as Hidden Figures, the tale of three African American women scientists responsible for calculating the rocket trajectories for the Apollo spaceflights to the moon in the 1960s. Though the director, Ted Melfi, is quick to reassure that the film, with its space-race-with-math-and-civil-rights theme, was not a response to the #OscarsSoWhite protest, the timing couldn’t be better to feature a diverse cast portraying overlooked historical figures who happened to be engineering geniuses. The film is slated for wide release in January 2017, and it’s based on a book by Margot Lee Shetterly due out this fall.
New York Times

#Crosslines into summer.
The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center plans to take the nation to inclusion camp this Memorial Day weekend, through a “culture lab on intersectionality”—an exploration of race, class, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality and disability at the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building in Washington, D.C.  Expect performances, guided tours, a makers lab, a “people’s kitchen” and 40+ artists and scholars “doing their thing.” The trailer looks amazing. Bonus: if you want to add overlooked talent to your speaker and collaboration binders, this seems like a good resource.  Follow #crosslines for more.


Americans never escape their history. They use their past to argue about their present and future. That is why these arguments over long-deceased white men on buildings and colleges matter. Demanding the removal of names like Calhoun and Wilson is a demand for an understanding of American history with race at its center.
—Professor Jerald Podair