In the fall of 2020, Yale School of Management Dean Kerwin K. Charles appointed the inaugural Council on Anti-racism and Equity (CARE) as part of SOM’s plan of action to address systemic racism. Drawing from SOM’s student, staff, faculty, and alumni stakeholder groups, and with representatives from the Office of Inclusion and Diversity and the dean serving in ex-officio roles, the 13-member council had a clear mandate: to identify existing issues and needs related to inclusivity, school culture, and representation, and to develop and recommend to Dean Charles plans of action based on these findings. CARE’s process, though, was up to the newly formed council to develop—and, since this marked the first time in the school’s history that stakeholders from throughout the entire community were tasked with an institutional-level charge to advance the dean’s goals, that process would have to be developed from scratch.
One of the group’s earliest decisions was perhaps its most important and fruitful. In establishing a set of norms and expectations for how members would interact, the council paved the way for authentic conversations about sensitive topics.
“We all agreed that it was a safe space, and that really helped to foster respect and transparency. It allowed thoughts to flow without fear,” said Elizabeth Lynch-Oliver, a financial analyst supporting faculty and research and a staff stakeholder representative.
Jamila Abston ’17, alumni stakeholder representative, said that another of CARE’s earliest decisions—to commit to valuing every member’s voice equally, regardless of status or seniority—galvanized the council and encouraged a sense of pride in its work. “It helped everyone take ownership of the council’s ideas and to feel that our individual and specific inputs would show up in the final presentation to the dean,” she said.
Members said that the intentional choices they made about how they would proceed as a group also helped bring to the fore multiple perspectives rooted in different lived experiences.
Said Nicholas Barberis, the Stephen and Camille Schramm Professor of Finance and faculty stakeholder representative, “There are experiences that our Black community members have had that I, as a White man, haven’t lived through. It was bracing and important for us to hear those—for example, to hear about the exclusion that some Black students feel when they have relatively few Black professors to take classes from.”
Student stakeholder representative Daniel Harris ’22 said, “It was really wonderful getting to know everyone on the committee and getting to build relationships with people from different parts of the organization and the community. We all have different perspectives and fundamentally different experiences of the community we’re trying to improve. It was particularly interesting to hear from staff what inclusion in the community would feel like for them—what would be meaningful to them.”
Abston said that bringing all the stakeholder groups together in one room “provided all of us the opportunity to understand the full spectrum of challenges and the intersectionality of the issues we were addressing, particularly around curriculum, community, recruitment, and representation. For example, I have a much better appreciation of the history of recruitment for diverse faculty candidates and the struggles of current Yale minority students from participating in CARE.”
Barberis said that the collaborative approach felt appropriately reflective of the school’s values: “SOM is at its most powerful when the various groups—students, staff, faculty, and alumni—work as one toward a common goal. CARE was a wonderful opportunity to do just that. In the way it brought together and connected different groups, it could be a model for other committees or councils.”
In total, the full council met 12 times, but there were countless sub-group meetings and one-on-one conversations. By the end of its session, CARE had compiled 36 recommendations. It would ultimately winnow that list down to a few, which the council presented during an hours-long discussion with Dean Charles.
CARE’s recommendations will be implemented in the upcoming academic year. These approved recommendations are focused on elevating underrepresented voices in the SOM community and include opening up the school’s podcast studio to showcase staff, student affinity groups, and alumni and launching the CARE Colloquium, which will bring underrepresented leaders to SOM on a regular cadence to engage meaningfully with the community.
Kristen Beyers, who served on the committee in her role as assistant dean of inclusion and diversity, said CARE’s inaugural year was a success and that the school will build on and adapt the council’s approach. “It was rewarding to witness community members from all different perspectives come together around how we can collectively do better. Due to the groundwork laid by this inaugural group, CARE will continue into the future as a pillar of how we live our commitment to be an inclusive community throughout all our activities.”
Dean Charles also said the council will play an important role at the school. “When I tasked CARE with advising me on issues of anti-racism and equity within the SOM community, I knew that each and every one of the council’s members would engage thoughtfully and thoroughly in the process, but they truly exceeded my expectations,” said Dean Charles. “The work that this council has done to lay the groundwork for the future of CARE has been invaluable. SOM now has a framework and mechanism for surfacing issues of inclusivity, school culture, and representation, which is the critical first step to implementing programs and interventions that will make lasting impact at the institutional level.”