Yale School of Management

Dean’s Statement on Responding to Racism

Dear SOM Community:

The killings at the hands of the police of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans have galvanized a protest movement that is still raging. There have arisen from that movement many streams of conversation throughout the society about the historically rooted outrages of racism and evaluations of practice and policies related to race. 

We at SOM are called upon to address systemic racism, both because we are part of the larger national current and because our distinctive mission urges us to engage with pressing societal issues. There is no more pressing issue than confronting systemic racism—specifically against the Black community. How we will act, and why, is the focus of this communication. 

We at the school have been thinking deeply about making changes over the next year and the next several years. This note will present some background, outline the principles by which we will be guided as we address this issue, and present specific actions we plan to undertake. You will find additional details on the pages of this website, where we will track and provide updates on the ongoing efforts at the school.

HOW WE WILL PROGRESS

As we address racial injustice, I hope that we avoid a pattern I have observed multiple times. A racial incident or tragedy brings the spotlight to these bone-deep problems. Much is said about the importance of change and forceful action. But then something else occurs, and attention turns to other important issues. Those who care deeply about equity and social justice are rightly exasperated when focus shifts and hope for progress appears to evaporate. 

I want to reassure everyone in the Yale SOM community that our attention will not fade. Achieving diversity and full inclusion, and addressing consequences of racism, while remaining true to our values and mission, are among the most challenging yet pressing issues we face, which is why I have emphasized them in my public talks as dean, beginning with my first address to you all. I have been delighted to see that addressing racial inequality is a topic of deep conversation and engagement across the entire SOM family. It is a focus of our students. The faculty have been regularly engaging with each other about this issue, including spending much of the summer reading and discussing material on antiracism. SOM alumni have been holding virtual Let’s Discuss sessions. Our staff have organized listening sessions on topics such as allyship and privilege. 

Inspired by a common purpose, we hope to implement changes and policies that are informed, durable, and consequential. I, for one, have no interest in making purely cosmetic changes, and I know you share this opinion. The problems we seek to address have been long in the making; tackling them effectively will require thoughtfulness, persistence, resolve, and patient strength.

We will act in an informed way, based on evidence, quantitative and qualitative, about conditions at the school and with a clear-eyed assessment of where the sources of problems lie. We are situated in a great academic institution, and we will deploy the expertise at SOM and more broadly at Yale to make progress on these matters. We intend to act forcefully and in a brisk but unhurried fashion.

Our progress will depend on the efforts of each of you. As we jointly work to make our school and our society less biased and harmful to Black people, I ask that you also apply the same candor and zeal to assessing whether you are living out your ideals in your daily interactions. Ask yourself: What is my contribution to the culture and climate at our school? Do I engage respectfully—not only with the deans or with my professor—but with all members of the community, regardless of their place in the hierarchy? The inclusive and respectful culture to which we aspire will hinge on our several individual efforts.

BACKGROUND

To build the understanding that can serve as a foundation for lasting improvements, I’ve spent much of the past several months gathering information from our different constituencies. I have spoken with:

  • The SOM student and alumni community, including especially our Black students and alumni, and the authors of a petition that many of you have signed and which I discuss further below. 
  • SOM faculty, one-on-one, in small groups, and in full faculty meetings, to discuss experiences, ideas, and approaches to the challenges we face.
  • SOM staff, including both student-facing staff and those staff members whose invaluable work may be unseen by the students.
  • External audiences, including non-SOM Yale stakeholders, such as the deans of other schools and other campus leaders; and experts from outside Yale, including members of the press, leaders of other universities, activists, and scholars whose work can help enrich our understanding of these issues.

I received this summer a petition from a group of concerned and dedicated alumni and students of the school that was signed by a large number of you. This petition laid out a number of short- and long-term requests for the school. Importantly, there was nothing in its spirit with which I, the faculty, or leadership of the school disagree. You will see below that many of the steps we will be taking align with specific requests in the petition. There are a few suggested actions that we will not be able to satisfy in exactly the form or timeline proposed, but for these items, too, you will see that what we will commit to doing aligns very closely with what the petition seeks.

Broadly speaking, the requests that I’ve received for quick action, whether from direct conversation, or through the petition, may be collapsed to the following themes: 

  • Increase the representation of Blacks among students and faculty
  • Address curricular concerns, such as case representation, new courses, and classroom dynamics
  • Provide more opportunities for consultation and input on school policy
  • Provide metrics, when possible

These are all important and reasonable requests and we will aim to satisfy (and be held accountable for) them in the months and years ahead. But we intend to go beyond satisfying these requests, and implement other ideas that will help ensure that our community creates transformative change as we address racial injustice in a community characterized by respect, free expression, and engaged and charitable listening. When the camera turns elsewhere, when national attention dims, let the changes we together make to our programs and our culture persist.

SPECIFIC ACTIONS

Over the coming months, the school will do the following:

Create a Dean’s Advisory Council on Antiracism, Diversity, and Climate
This new body will report to me and will be composed of students, alumni, staff, and faculty. Its primary job will be to aggregate concerns, criticisms and suggestions and to share that information with me and the school’s leadership. This administrative structure will endure over years to come and will contribute to solving the need expressed by many students for a mechanism to transmit their views to school leadership. I also hope and expect the council will bring students, faculty, alumni, and staff into joint conversation so that each group better understands the constraints faced by others.

Provide additional resources for the Community and Inclusion team
We say that diversity and inclusion are important to the school, and that must also be reflected in the resources we commit to this area. We will allocate more funding for the Community and Inclusion team in order to expand the programming and services they offer.

Revisit the iconography in our building and materials
We are exploring ways to better reflect the diversity of our school and of our alumni in the artwork, portraiture, and other representations on our campus. Besides celebrating alumni of color, we will increase the number of works that celebrate different racial and cultural communities. 

Offer a new course on the cultural context and background of racism
Our organizational behavior faculty already teach well-regarded classes that address race and diversity in organizations. Starting in the spring, I will teach a course, open to all SOM students, that will situate the problem of systemic racism in the broader cultural, historical, and social milieu. I hope this course will help students from the U.S. and other countries better understand the current debate and see the reasons why race and inclusion is an essential subject for a business school today.

Diversify representation in case studies
Faculty will work hard to identify and teach cases with protagonists that span a more diverse range and that better represent our school and the international business setting.

Increase faculty training on inclusiveness
The SOM faculty have committed to make use of teaching resources through the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning and elsewhere at Yale to develop and strengthen their facility at fostering an inclusive classroom environment.

Work with recruiters
We are having conversations with firms about their diversity and inclusion policies and have also made it clear that diversity events are exempt from the limits otherwise imposed on the number of recruiting events in a year.

Aggressively focus on development efforts to support activities around this issue
We will seek funding from donors, foundations, and other sources that can support all of these efforts and enable us to expand our goals in future years. 

Longer-term

Increase Black representation in our student body to a nationally representative share 
To diversify the student body, we have to lean aggressively into the effort. We will create new scholarship funds to support students with a particular interest in antiracism and associated activities. We also have to go where students are. I am committing to talk to deans and placement officers at historically Black colleges and universities to get to know their organizations, and to reach out aggressively to encourage people to attend SOM. Showcasing our unique mission will enable us to stand out from peer institutions and attract talented applicants up to our usual standards of excellence. That starts right now and will continue. I am also evaluating our current process to draw a diverse pool of applicants and expect my Admissions team to develop a plan to significantly advance this objective. We see our mission not only as drawing these students, and the faculty discussed below, to our school, but also as helping efforts to increase the number of Black students pursuing MBAs or doctorates progressing to faculty roles in the academy more generally.

Increase the number of Black ladder faculty
This is a longstanding SOM and Yale University objective. I have expressed to every faculty member that hiring that diversifies the racial makeup of our faculty is a priority of mine. In addition, I have told each faculty group that in their searches for new faculty members they should identify for the school top faculty of color who might be good matches for SOM. To ensure that Black early-career academics are provided the support, guidance, and sponsorship to succeed, a faculty mentoring program was piloted this summer. I intend to fund this program to ensure it becomes a cornerstone of our faculty resources, especially for new faculty members.

Build helpful connections with our local community 
As scholars and future practitioners interested in business and society, we must find ways to use our expertise to assist members of our local community, and especially persons of color, with the business-related challenges they might confront. 

Create a greater space for discourse about racism at SOM
Universities are places where ideas are taken seriously—where people are exposed to the best that has been thought about an issue and where we assemble to debate with and learn from each other. There must be space in our community for ongoing robust discussion of matters related to racism and related issues. We will create lecture series and other fora intentionally designed to bring different points of view together in discussion and debate.

We are committed to making progress on all of these objectives. I am personally committed to doing all I can to help SOM students, faculty, alumni, and staff come together to transform the school in a manner that will be durable and become a source of pride for us and envy for our competitors.

Sincerely,

Kerwin K. Charles
Indra K. Nooyi Dean | Yale School of Management
Frederic D. Wolfe Professor of Economics, Policy, and Management 

September 29, 2020