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Blatant Racism At One Of America’s Oldest Institutions? Yes, You Heard Right

Posted on November 18, 2015 in Campus Watch

By YKA Staff:

Editor’s Note: ‘Why Don’t My Professor’s Look Like Me?’ 

Why aren’t America’s campuses racially inclusive? From Missouri to Yale to John Hopkins, students are protesting against the racism on campus through protest marches, questioning Deans, and bringing out memorandums.

However, racial tensions have been elevated at Yale University this year due to a number of concerns, some of them being the paucity of black faculty members and recent attention of the school’s historic ties to slavery. The problem came to national light when some women of colour weren’t allowed to enter a party because it was a ‘white girls only’ party. Last year too, after African-American youth Michael Brown’s brutal death, Yale Medical School students protested against discrimination of black people in medical treatment and its access.

yale protests
Image source: Black Student Alliance at Yale/Facebook

Yale School of Medicine students have now brought out a memorandum outlining their demands for inclusion and diversity at their school, and have also written an open letter to the administration, urging them to make the curriculum more sensitive to medical exploitation of people of colour, under-representation of people of colour in lectures, etc.

Dear Dean Alpern and Members of the Yale School of Medicine Administration,

Incited by long histories of injustice exemplified by recent events at Yale, we, students of colour and partners in solidarity, write to demand sustainable reforms that will foster an environment at the Yale School of Medicine (YSM) in which all identities are valued.

Our concerns arise from manifestations of oppression in our intellectual, social, and physical environment. Our formal curriculum treats the medical exploitation of communities of color as historical rather than ongoing, reinforces harmful stereotypes in cases and with standardized patients, underrepresents black and brown bodies in our lectures and medical texts, and remains silent on systemic issues that create health disparities and the way medicine is complicit in propagating them. Our hidden curriculum forces us to bear micro-aggressions perpetrated by peers and instructors, experience underrepresentation of people of color and women in the faculty and student body, and accept deficient support for students from marginalized backgrounds. Our very physical environment, with buildings baptized after and populated with portraits of white males, is a constant reminder of our historic exclusion as people of colour and women.

Image source: Black Students Alliance at Yale/Facebook
Image source: Black Students Alliance at Yale/Facebook

The mission of YSM aspires “to produce physicians who will be among the leaders in their chosen field,” “to alleviate suffering caused by illness and disease,” and “to provide outstanding care and service for patients in a compassionate and respectful manner.” Much of the illness and disease that afflicts our community, both domestically and globally, directly links to historic injustice, racism, and gender- and sexuality-based oppression. Many of our sister institutions have already acknowledged this reality and are making strides to counteract its harms. In order to fulfill our mission, YSM must create institutional reform such that students are prepared to address the diverse challenges confronting both the field of medicine and our global community.

We uphold the right of all members of the YSM community to thrive in their living and learning environment. To create this atmosphere of inclusion, we assert the six demands linked below.

We request a response from Dean Alpern by Friday, November 20th, in the form of a school-wide email stating the intention of the administration to fulfill these demands. With this response, we expect the formation of a joint ad hoc faculty-student committee to begin implementation. We expect this committee will provide transparent, quarterly updates to the YSM community.

These demands are intended to initiate a conversation on actionable reform to end oppression and promote inclusion at YSM. We ask you to please appreciate the intention with which these demands were written. Together, we hope to build a more supportive and unified YSM community.

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