Slutty Girls and Stupid Boys: Today’s Abstinence-Only “Education”

Joe Sonka

One of the common themes you'll find in abstinence-only curricula is the constant shaming of young women who don't uphold certain visual standards of chaste and purity.

One of the common themes that you’ll find in abstinence-only sex
education curricula (besides factual errors, conservative ideology and
demonization of condoms) is the constant shaming or judgmental
statements towards young women who don’t uphold certain visual
standards of chaste and purity.

Young women are taught to not show skin or flirt, lest they invite
dirty lustful thoughts in the boys, who are rendered helpless beasts
when tempted by the girls of ill-repute. Not only does such "education"
insult the intelligence of young people, but it reinforces harmful
gender stereotypes.

Let’s take a tour through the states to look at some of the most egregious examples:

In South Carolina, Heritage Community Services (currently receives a CBAE grant of $600,000 per year from 2006-2011) teaches girls that conservative attire is necessary, or those poor boys will virtually attack you. Here is an excerpt from their classroom curriculum:

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"Males and females are aroused at different levels of intimacy.
Males are more sight oriented, whereas females are more touch oriented.
This is why girls need to be careful with what they wear,
because males are looking! The girl might be thinking fashion, while
the boy is thinking sex. For this reason, girls have a responsibility
to wear modest clothing that doesn’t invite lustful thoughts.
"

Yes indeed, girls. It is your duty to the country. More from HCS’s website:

"a good minimum guideline is to declare everything covered by a
bathing suit as off limits. Everyone needs to know his or her
boundaries before getting in a risky situation. Once someone is excited
physically, it can be difficult to stop."

Teen Awareness, Inc., out of California (received $3.2 million in CBAE grants) agrees:

"be careful about how you dress (are you sending the wrong message?)"

As do Abstinence Education Consultants in Kansas (has received $3.1 million in CBAE grants). From their website:

"Dress modestly. Sometimes the way you dress can send unintended
messages to others, especially men because they are sexually aroused by
what they see"

The theme being expressed, with our tax dollars’ subsidization, is not only that girls have a responsibility
to dress like puritans or whatever it is that these groups are
advocating, but that if they don’t, young men are uncontrollable dolts
who will, presumably, "force" sex upon them. LifeGuard Youth Development in Missouri (has received $3 million in CBAE grants) reinforces this insult:

"Guys can be compared to a microwave. They see something enticing and like 30 seconds later, they are ready to go! Because
we know they are using only one side of their brain at a time (logic
and not emotion) and their testosterone causes their sex drive to
always be "ON," generally they may not connect feelings with the act of
having sex
. Girls can be compared to a slow cooker. Usually,
for a girl to be turned on, a whole lot of time, attention, words,
affection, and touch needs to be slowly added before she is aroused.
These actions engage her emotions and for her, sex does equal a
personal relationship."

Yes, this is the "science" that our government subsidizes.

But a quick glance around at other abstinence-only programs shows that
not all girls are "slow cookers." Oh no, some of them are pure trouble. You know, those girls who show skin and flirt, tempting your poor son into a sex-crazed madness.

In Indiana, A Positive Approach to Teen Health, Inc. (receiving a $600,000 CBAE grant each year from 2007-2011) asks why these troublesome girls have the audacity to flirt with boys:

"Sometimes girls flirt to get attention. They may want to feel
they are attractive to guys. Looking for this attention may be cover
for underlying insecurities, and having this attention lets them think
they are at least good at one thing."

Yes, that makes sense. Because flirting with the opposite
sex is certainly not normal, biological behavior. There has to be
something psychologically wrong with these deviants, this being the
"only thing they are good at", obviously. Colorado’s Friends First (receiving a $414,800 AFLA grant
each year from 2007-2011) agrees, saying these troublesome girls who
flirt must lack "parental communication and boundary settings" in their
own home.

These programs gleefully promote and teach others to point fingers at
girls in their school that have "gone all the way". "Slut-shaming" is
par for the course, as Missouri’s LifeGuard Youth Development lets
everyone know what to call these young women:

"Being able to have sex does not make you any different from a rat
in a warehouse. They have sex too. Is that what you want to compare
yourself to?"

(i.e., hint, hint, "slutty" girls are rats, spread the word!)

South Dakota’s Alpha Center (received $1.2 million in CBAE grants) elaborates:

"Nobody wants to marry someone who has been the loving, meaningful relationship of 17 other guys."

The worst combination of these themes of "slutty girls" and "uncontrollable sex beast guys" came from Ohio’s ATM Education website (receiving $600,000 CBAE grant
each year from 2006-2011). Before we shamed them into changing their
site, you could enter the "Party Room", where you learn the story of
Rochelle, Jason, Monica and Tanner. Each person tells their perspective
about what happens during and after a party one night.

Rochelle tells how she drove her drunken friend Jason home after the
party, and then is raped by him. Jason denies that the rape happened,
saying their sex was consensual. Monica and Tanner observe that Jason
was being a drunken idiot the entire night, with Monica (Jason’s ex)
adding her opinion that Rochelle has a reputation for "putting out" and
being a "slut."

The site then asks the question: "Based on all accounts, whose story sounds the least credible?"

Guess who the "correct" answer was? Rochelle.

Why? Because she had a supposed reputation as a "slut." Therefore she is not to be believed.

Jason, on the other hand, is given a pass, because he was drunk, "vulnerable," and with a "hot" girl in a car.

Boys will be boys, right? They can’t help it if they get tempted by one of "those" girls.

Fortunately, ATM Education was shamed into changing the language on their site,
but if you look at the language of these abstinence-only until marriage
programs all over the country, it’s not difficult to believe that one
of these programs would make such statements.

Currently, the Obama administration is finalizing the details on their
2010 fiscal budget, and they will have to make a decision: (A) continue
to fund these abstinence-only sex education programs that have already
wasted $1.5 billion in tax dollars and endangered the sexual health of
countless youth over the past decade? Or (B) zero out funding for these
ab-only programs, instead bringing real, age-appropriate comprehensive
sex education to our schools that gives youth all of the information
they need to stay safe and avoid pregnancy.

What can you do?

WRITE OBAMA AND TELL HIM TO ZERO OUT ABSTINENCE-ONLY FUNDING!


And tell your Congressperson too!

This post is cross-posted at Amplify.

Commentary Politics

On Immigration, Major Political Parties Can’t Seem to Agree on What’s ‘Un-American’

Tina Vasquez

As far as immigration is concerned, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are without their faults, though positions taken at the conventions were clearly more extreme in one case than the other.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Immigration has been one of the country’s most contentious political topics and, not surprisingly, is now a primary focus of this election. But no matter how you feel about the subject, this is a nation of immigrants in search of “el sueño Americano,” as Karla Ortiz reminded us on the first night of the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Ortiz, the 11-year-old daughter of two undocumented parents, appeared in a Hillary Clinton campaign ad earlier this year expressing fear that her parents would be deported. Standing next to her mother on the DNC stage, the young girl told the crowd that she is an American who wants to become a lawyer to help families like hers.

It was a powerful way to kick-start the week, suggesting to viewers Democrats were taking a radically different approach to immigration than the Republican National Convention (RNC). While the RNC made undocumented immigrants the scapegoats for a variety of social ills, from U.S. unemployment to terrorism, the DNC chose to highlight the contributions of immigrants: the U.S. citizen daughter of undocumented parents, the undocumented college graduate, the children of immigrants who went into politics. Yet, even the stories shared at the DNC were too tidy and palatable, focusing on “acceptable” immigrant narratives. There were no mixed-status families discussing their deported parents, for example.

As far as immigration is concerned, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are without their faults, though positions taken at the conventions were clearly more extreme in one case than the other. By the end of two weeks, viewers may not have known whether to blame immigrants for taking their jobs or to befriend their hardworking immigrant neighbors. For the undocumented immigrants watching the conventions, the message, however, was clear: Both parties have a lot of work to do when it comes to humanizing their communities.  

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“No Business Being in This Country”

For context, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence are the decidedly anti-immigrant ticket. From the beginning, Trump’s campaign has been overrun by anti-immigrant rhetoric, from calling Mexicans “rapists” and “killers” to calling for a ban on Muslim immigration. And as of July 24, Trump’s proposed ban now includes people from countries “compromised by terrorism” who will not be allowed to enter the United States, including anyone from France.

So, it should come as no surprise that the first night of the RNC, which had the theme of “Make America Safe Again,” preyed on American fears of the “other.” In this case: undocumented immigrants who, as Julianne Hing wrote for the Nation, “aren’t just drug dealers and rapists anymorenow they’re murderers, too.”

Night one of the RNC featured not one but three speakers whose children were killed by undocumented immigrants. “They’re just three brave representatives of many thousands who have suffered so gravely,” Trump said at the convention. “Of all my travels in this country, nothing has affected me more, nothing even close I have to tell you, than the time I have spent with the mothers and fathers who have lost their children to violence spilling across our borders, which we can solve. We have to solve it.”

Billed as “immigration reform advocates,” grieving parents like Mary Ann Mendoza called her son’s killer, who had resided in the United States for 20 years before the drunk driving accident that ended her police officer son’s life, an “illegal immigrant” who “had no business being in this country.”

It seemed exploitative and felt all too common. Drunk driving deaths are tragically common and have nothing to do with immigration, but it is easier to demonize undocumented immigrants than it is to address the nation’s broken immigration system and the conditions that are separating people from their countries of originconditions to which the United States has contributed. Trump has spent months intentionally and disingenuously pushing narratives that undocumented immigrants are hurting and exploiting the United States, rather than attempting to get to the root of these issues. This was hammered home by Mendoza, who finished her speech saying that we have a system that cares more about “illegals” than Americans, and that a vote for Hillary “puts all of our children’s lives at risk.”

There was also Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a notorious racist whose department made a practice of racially profiling Latinos and was recently found to be in civil contempt of court for “repeatedly and knowingly” disobeying orders to cease policing tactics against Latinos, NPR reported.

Like Mendoza, Arpaio told the RNC crowd that the immigration system “puts the needs of other nations ahead of ours” and that “we are more concerned with the rights of ‘illegal aliens’ and criminals than we are with protecting our own country.” The sheriff asserted that he was at the RNC because he was distinctly qualified to discuss the “dangers of illegal immigration,” as someone who has lived on both sides of the border.

“We have terrorists coming in over our border, infiltrating our communities, and causing massive destruction and mayhem,” Arpaio said. “We have criminals penetrating our weak border security systems and committing serious crimes.”

Broadly, the takeaway from the RNC and the GOP nominee himself is that undocumented immigrants are terrorists who are taking American jobs and lives. “Trump leaned on a tragic story of a young woman’s murder to prop up a generalized depiction of immigrants as menacing, homicidal animals ‘roaming freely to threaten peaceful citizens,’” Hing wrote for the Nation.

When accepting the nomination, Trump highlighted the story of Sarah Root of Nebraska, a 21-year-old who was killed in a drunk-driving accident by a 19-year-old undocumented immigrant.

“To this administration, [the Root family’s] amazing daughter was just one more American life that wasn’t worth protecting,” Trump said. “One more child to sacrifice on the altar of open borders.”

It should be noted that the information related to immigration that Trump provided in his RNC speech, which included the assertion that the federal government enables crime by not deporting more undocumented immigrants (despite deporting more undocumented immigrants than ever before in recent years), came from groups founded by John Tanton, a well-known nativist whom the Southern Poverty Law center referred to as “the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement.”

“The Border Crossed Us”

From the get-go, it seemed the DNC set out to counter the dangerous, anti-immigrant rhetoric pushed at the RNC. Over and over again, Democrats like Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA) hit back hard against Trump, citing him by name and quoting him directly.

“Donald Trump believes that Mexican immigrants are murderers and rapists. But what about my parents, Donald?” Sánchez asked the crowd, standing next to her sister, Rep. Loretta Sánchez (D-CA). “They are the only parents in our nation’s 265-year history to send not one but two daughters to the United States Congress!”

Each speech from a Latino touched on immigration, glossing over the fact that immigration is not just a Latino issue. While the sentiments were positiveillustrating a community that is thriving, and providing a much-needed break from the RNC’s anti-immigrant rhetoricat the core of every speech were messages of assimilation and respectability politics.

Even in gutsier speeches from people like actress Eva Longoria, there was the need to assert that her family is American and that her father is a veteran. The actress said, “My family never crossed a border. The border crossed us.”

Whether intentional or not, the DNC divided immigrants into those who are acceptable, respectable, and worthy of citizenship, and those—invisible at the convention—who are not. “Border crossers” who do not identify as American, who do not learn English, who do not aspire to go to college or become an entrepreneur because basic survival is overwhelming enough, what about them? Do they deserve to be in detention? Do their families deserve to be ripped apart by deportation?

At the convention, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), a champion of immigration reform, said something seemingly innocuous that snapped into focus the problem with the Democrats’ immigration narrative.

“In her heart, Hillary Clinton’s dream for America is one where immigrants are allowed to come out of the shadows, get right with the law, pay their taxes, and not feel fear that their families are going to be ripped apart,” Gutiérrez said.

The Democratic Party is participating in an all-too-convenient erasure of the progress undocumented people have made through sheer force of will. Immigration has become a leading topic not because there are more people crossing the border (there aren’t) or because nativist Donald Trump decided to run for president, but because a segment of the population has been denied basic rights and has been fighting tooth and nail to save themselves, their families, and their communities.

Immigrants have been coming out of the shadows and as a result, are largely responsible for the few forms of relief undocumented communities now have, like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows certain undocumented immigrants who meet specific qualifications to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation. And “getting right with the law” is a joke at this point. The problem isn’t that immigrants are failing to adhere to immigration laws; the problem is immigration laws that are notoriously complicated and convoluted, and the system, which is so backlogged with cases that a judge sometimes has just seven minutes to determine an immigrant’s fate.

Becoming a U.S. citizen is also really expensive. There is a cap on how many people can immigrate from any given country in a year, and as Janell Ross explained at the Washington Post:

There are some countries, including Mexico, from where a worker with no special skills or a relative in the United States can apply and wait 23 years, according to the U.S. government’s own data. That’s right: There are people receiving visas right now in Mexico to immigrate to the United States who applied in 1993.

But getting back to Gutierrez’s quote: Undocumented immigrants do pay taxes, though their ability to contribute to our economy should not be the one point on which Democrats hang their hats in order to attract voters. And actually, undocumented people pay a lot of taxes—some $11.6 billion in state and local taxes last year, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy—while rarely benefiting from a majority of federal assistance programs since the administration of President Bill Clinton ended “welfare as we know it” in 1996.

If Democrats were being honest at their convention, we would have heard about their failure to end family detention, and they would have addressed that they too have a history of criminalizing undocumented immigrants.

The 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, enacted under former President Clinton, have had the combined effect of dramatically increasing the number of immigrants in detention and expanding mandatory or indefinite detention of noncitizens ordered to be removed to countries that will not accept them, as the American Civil Liberties Union notes on its site. Clinton also passed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which economically devastated Mexican farmers, leading to their mass migration to the United States in search of work.

In 1990, then-Sen. Joe Biden introduced the Violence Against Women Act, which passed in 1994 and specifically excluded undocumented women for the first 19 of the law’s 22 years, and even now is only helpful if the victim of intimate partner abuse is a child, parent, or current/former spouse of a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident.

In addition, President Obama is called by immigrant rights advocates “deporter in chief,” having put into place a “deportation machine” that has sent more than two million migrants back to their country of origin, more than any president in history. New arrivals to the United States, such as the Central American asylum seekers coming to our border escaping gender-based violence, are treated with the same level of prioritization for removal as threats to our national security. The country’s approach to this humanitarian crisis has been raiding homes in the middle of the night and placing migrants in detention centers, which despite being rife with allegations of human rights abuses, are making private prison corporations millions in revenue.

How Are We Defining “Un-American”?

When writing about the Democratic Party, community organizer Rosa Clemente, the 2008 Green Party vice president candidate, said that she is afraid of Trump, “but not enough to be distracted from what we must do, which is to break the two-party system for good.”

This is an election like we’ve never seen before, and it would be disingenuous to imply that the party advocating for the demise of the undocumented population is on equal footing with the party advocating for the rights of certain immigrants whose narratives it finds acceptable. But this is a country where Republicans loudly—and with no consequence—espouse racist, xenophobic, and nativist beliefs while Democrats publicly voice support of migrants while quietly standing by policies that criminalize undocumented communities and lead to record numbers of deportations.

During two weeks of conventions, both sides declared theirs was the party that encapsulated what America was supposed to be, adhering to morals and values handed down from our forefathers. But ours is a country comprised of stolen land and built by slave labor where today, undocumented immigrants, the population most affected by unjust immigration laws and violent anti-immigrant rhetoric, don’t have the right to vote. It is becoming increasingly hard to tell if that is indeed “un-American” or deeply American.

Analysis Human Rights

The Students of Color on the Front Lines of Yale’s Fight Against Institutional Racism

Zoe Greenberg

“When we’re applying, Yale’s like, ‘Please come here, it’s so diverse, we do all of these things!’ But when we get here, it’s like, ‘OK. You’re on your own,’” Brea Baker, a Black senior and president of Yale’s NAACP chapter, told Rewire in a phone interview. “The Yale that we’re being sold is not the Yale that we live on a daily basis.”

Near midnight on October 31, 2015, Rose Bear Don’t Walk and two friends stood outside a bar next to the Yale University campus, waiting to get into a Halloween party. Bear Don’t Walk, a senior at Yale and a Native American from the Bitterroot Salish and Crow Tribes in Montana, usually dreaded Halloween, when many of her peers dressed up like caricatures of Native Americans, with “war paint” streaked across their faces and feathers protruding from their hair.

But this year she was having an unexpectedly good time. A woman dressed in a cartoonish Native American costume had actually taken it off and handed it over earlier in the night, after Bear Don’t Walk explained that the outfit was disrespectful. Now outside the bar, Bear Don’t Walk saw a group of three men, one of whom was wearing a caricatured Native American headdress. Buoyed by her earlier experience, she decided to talk to him.

A few days before, the Intercultural Affairs Committee (IAC) at Yale had sent an email encouraging students to avoid costumes that would be disrespectful to minority races or ethnicities. In response, Erika Christakis, a faculty member and administrator in one of Yale’s residential communities, sent a now widely read email, claiming that the IAC’s guidelines imposed unnecessary control over students’ behavior. Quoting her husband Nicholas, another administrator at the college, Christakis wrote, “If you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other.”

Outside the bar, Bear Don’t Walk approached the three men, who may or may not have been students. She began to explain that she was Native American and found the costume insensitive. Almost immediately, the men started screaming at her, according to her and another friend, Diana Orozco, who was there.

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“Shut the fuck up! Your life and opinion don’t matter to me!” Bear Don’t Walk remembered one of them yelling.

The men were large and very drunk, according to Orozco and Bear Don’t Walk. One of them walked into the middle of the street and started imitating a Native American war whoop on one knee; the other two continued shouting, “calling us bitches, whores, stupid,” Orozco said. Bear Don’t Walk added that the other people waiting in line at the bar, which is frequented by students and directly in front of a row of Yale dorms, did not intervene, but merely watched from a distance.

“I like to be strong and confident and self-assured,” Bear Don’t Walk told Rewire in a phone interview. “But it was a pretty helpless, terrifying situation, in the midst of so many people.”

Other Yale women of color were having similarly grueling experiences that same night. A few blocks away from the bar, an SAE fraternity member allegedly turned away “dark-skinned” women at the door of a party, claiming, “No, we’re only looking for white girls.” Tension was also mounting over Christakis’ email, which many saw as a suggestion that students of color should simply ignore racism by “looking away,” or shoulder the burden of fixing a systemic problem by initiating one-on-one conversations with peers.

In the days following Halloween, a firestorm of protests erupted in response to the email and the fraternity party, leading to a march of over 1,000 students, fierce confrontations with top administrators, and significant concessions from the centuries-old school (not to mention dozens of think pieces from Yale alumni all over the country). The uprising happened the same week protests raged at the University of Missouri as students spoke out about administrative inaction over racist incidents there. The events at Yale and Mizzou struck a national chord; since then, college students across the country have pushed their schools to confront racism on campus.

But much of the media coverage surrounding the Yale protests didn’t actually engage with the student organizers themselves, many of whom were women of color, to hear their stories and their strategies. These young women, like many women of color who came before them, played a critical role in pushing Yale to take decisive action, while simultaneously launching a national conversation about race at colleges and universities.

For this story, Rewire interviewed seven women of color on the front lines of the movement at Yale, all of whom are trying to change a university that, as they noted, was not built with them in mind.

***

The problems involving racism on Yale’s campus extend far beyond a fraternity party or a Halloween email. The women Rewire interviewed described a wide array of both micro- and macro-aggressions they face regularly on campus, including being repeatedly confused with “the one other Black woman in the class” and being asked to speak on behalf of their entire race in seminars with white peers. In addition, they have concerns about Yale’s inability to retain professors of color; a lack of institutional support for the Ethnicity, Race, and Migration Program, which does not have departmental status; and the monuments to racist leaders across campus, like the residential college named after John C. Calhoun, one of the nation’s preeminent white supremacists best known for his defense of slavery as a “positive good.”

They also detailed incidents of physical violence. Taylor Eldridge, a Black senior Psychology major who is deeply involved in the Yale Christian community, described an evening this past June when she witnessed a white man pull a gun on two Black kids walking on a sidewalk that cuts through Yale’s campus. After the campus police arrived, Eldridge said she spent 30 minutes trying to get an officer to listen to her witness account but was consistently rebuffed; it was only after she said she was a Yale student that a police officer stopped to take down her information.

Shaken by the event, Eldridge said it was largely dismissed by the administration. Only after “three days of persistent emails and a nearly three hour face-to-face meeting” with the campus chief of police and another administrator, she said, did the university even officially acknowledge the incident through an email to the college’s summer session students. (Rewire obtained a copy of the email.)

In recent years Yale has made it a priority to attract a racially and economically diverse student body. In the fall of 2014, the student population was 9 percent Black, 9 percent Latino, and 2 percent American Indian/Alaska Native. The university boasts that 52 percent of its undergraduates received scholarships or grants from “Yale sources.”

But students of color and students from low-income backgrounds say there’s a difference between the recruiting brochures and the reality on campus.

“When we’re applying, Yale’s like, ‘Please come here, it’s so diverse, we do all of these things!’ But when we get here, it’s like, ‘OK. You’re on your own,’” Brea Baker, a Black senior and president of Yale’s NAACP chapter, told Rewire in a phone interview. “The Yale that we’re being sold is not the Yale that we live on a daily basis.”

***

Student activists were quick to point out that the organizing happening after the Halloween email and the SAE party, to get the university to acknowledge the incidents and prevent future ones from occurring, didn’t come out of nowhere.

“This organizing, this coalition-building, has been going on for years. The media only picked up on it now,” Baker said. “This is nothing new, which is why it was so easy, because we all knew each other from previous actions.”

On Thursday, November 5, after days of talking in cultural centers and in off-campus buildings, activists forced the conversation, literally, into the open. Students had gathered outside of Yale’s main library to draw in chalk on the sidewalk—a common form of publicizing events or opinions on campus, like an outdoor broadsheet. They wanted to affirm women of color, who felt particularly targeted by the recent campus events. Jonathan Holloway, the first Black dean of Yale College and a renowned scholar of African-American history, showed up in solidarity.

Soon hundreds of students surrounded him, expressing grief and demanding a public response from the administration. Holloway listened.

“When the students spoke to me about their pain, I could listen to it as a historian. I could understand: There is a long history of this; I’ve heard these stories before; I’ve written about these things before,” Holloway said in an address to alumni a few weeks later. “But then it really struck a deep chord with me, because I lived this before.”

A few blocks away, students also confronted Nicholas Christakis, the administrator whose wife had quoted him as telling students to “look away” from offensive costumes in the original Halloween email.

Adriana Miele, a Latina senior who is a columnist for the Yale Daily News, was leaving a seminar on Thursday afternoon when she saw approximately 200 people walking purposefully across campus. It was an informal march, as organizers moved from the center of campus toward the Afro-American Cultural Center, or “the House,” to plan their next move after an emotional afternoon.

At the center, the students split into different rooms. Some talked about what to do next. Some talked about how the administration might respond. Others sat with whiteboards, pens, and paper, and simply started documenting, “writing testimony after testimony of racism and misogyny,” Miele said.

Everything was moving quickly.

Later that night Yale President Peter Salovey reached out to student organizers, and about 50 of them, including Miele, went to speak with him and other top administrators. For four hours, the students grieved, wept, and shared with Salovey their experiences of racism on campus.

“Knowing my own experiences and hearing them echoed over and over again was heartbreaking,” Miele said. She had once thought the issue was personal; that she was “just being dramatic.” But at the meeting, she saw the problem was bigger than “a few people being mean to me.”

At the meeting, Salovey told the students that Yale had failed them. He said the school would work to be better.

But now that Salovey had vowed to act, the activists wanted to help direct his next steps. The Black Student Alliance had already released a list of demands, but student activists from all of the cultural centers, including the alliance, wanted to create a more comprehensive one, and there wasn’t much time.

So over the course of the next few days, the students gathered again. Baker said the process took place over two days, for about 15 hours. There were about 50 students present, with some coming and going for class or meetings that couldn’t be missed.

First the organizers asked each other, “What do students of color, queer students, and the international community need, in general?” according to Baker. Yuni Chang, an Asian-American sophomore and leader at the Asian American Cultural Center who attended the meeting, remembered that someone wrote the list of needs on a large easel paper at the front of the room, which turned into two pages, then three, then five. Afterwards the group winnowed it down to material demands.

By the end of the hours-long process, the group had a new name, NextYale, and a list of six clear demands. Many of the demands directly echoed those Mizzou students released a few days earlier.

“I definitely felt like this was going to be way bigger than me and way bigger than anyone in the room,” Baker said. “I was anxious, hopeful, nervous: How would the administration view it? But most of all I felt excitement and pride.”

***

The intensive organizing, brainstorming, writing, and planning, did not happen without significant sacrifices though.

The organizers were still full-time students and many were also deeply involved in extracurricular activities and working one or two part-time jobs. All of the women Rewire spoke with voiced how difficult it was, both throughout their college career and in these few intensive days, to attend class, write reading responses, and participate in section while simultaneously battling racism built into the walls of their university.

Adriana Miele said that she’s dropping a class, and it may be difficult to graduate on time.

“This place is not made for me, and the fact that I’m in the process of changing it makes me not care about my well-being in these ways. These past few weeks are the first time in the past four years that I have really felt that I’ve had power here,” she said.

Dean Holloway told the Yale Daily News that he had urged college administrators to be mindful of what students were going through during the week of demonstrations.

“Students are dealing with emotional stress. Some are not getting enough sleep or are not eating enough,” Holloway said. “Our job is to be mindful of this.” He added that individual faculty members are responsible for granting leniency on class assignments, but that many had expressed understanding.

Chang said she couldn’t wrap her mind around the fact that there were students on campus oblivious to the situation, walking around talking with their friends about movies or the weather or a difficult essay.

“That wasn’t a reality for me or for many of my friends. Being a student here during this time has been incredibly difficult,” Chang said. “That’s what it means to be a person of color­—particularly a Black or brown student—at a place like Yale. You can never just be a student.”

***

On Monday, November 9, more than 1,000 students gathered at the center of campus after a week of grief and outrage for a “March of Resilience.” Bear Don’t Walk says fellow student activists spent two days planning the event, designating media coordinators, police liaisons, and people to man the barricades on the sides of the street. The march featured music, singing, and dancing—a bright spot in a week of agonizing and agitating.

Dean Holloway spoke about the march in an address to alumni a few weeks later. He said no administrators knew about the event until the night before, a conscious choice on the part of organizers.

“We weren’t sure what to expect, and we were concerned about what might happen, quite frankly,” Holloway said. “And what happened was a thing of beauty. … Over 1,000 people marched down High Street, down to the Cross Campus Plaza, to say, in a sense, ‘This is our Yale also. We belong here also.’ It was a peaceful, civil articulation that Yale is capacious enough to handle all of our views. That’s Yale at its finest, I think.”

Dara Huggins, a Black junior and president of the Black Women’s Coalition, said the march was about shifting from a place of pain to a place of power.

“That was probably one of the most beautiful things that I’ve witnessed in my whole life,” she told Rewire.

 ***

Eight days after the March of Resilience, President Salovey released a statement outlining the changes Yale plans to make in response to the student activism. His letter began, “In my 35 years on this campus, I have never been as simultaneously moved, challenged, and encouraged by our community—and all the promise it embodies—as in the past two weeks. You have given strong voice to the need for us to work toward a better, more diverse, and more inclusive Yale.”

The changes he noted included doubling the budgets of the four cultural centers on campus, reducing the income contribution for students on financial aid, and training administrators on racism and discrimination.

Many of the women Rewire spoke with after Salovey published his statement appeared battle-worn. They were weeks behind on schoolwork and spending their Thanksgiving break catching up on assignments. Some were cautiously optimistic about Salovey’s response; others were careful to say they appreciated what he said but he had not sufficiently addressed all of NextYale’s demands.

For example, while NextYale requested that the administration rename Calhoun College and name the two new residential houses after people of color, Salovey wrote that the Yale Corporation would be in charge of those decisions. And while NextYale asked for the removal of the Christakises from administrative positions, Salovey did not mention either Christakis in his email. (Since then, Erika Christakis has decided to not teach a course in the spring, according to Business Insider.)

The storm of planning, meeting, and organizing had passed, and some were uncertain about what was going to happen next. Would the administration actually follow through on its promises? Would the campus quiet down?

“At Yale, it feels very slow,” Eldridge said of the university’s response. “It’s hard to be patient when you’ve been experiencing these things every day. This is better than silence, but I’m not satisfied with the response … I’m going to wait to see the results.”

Chang also cautioned against seeing Salovey’s statement as a “final victory” in a short battle against the university. Instead she was energized to continue NextYale’s fight.

“NextYale is very much not over as a movement,” Chang said. “All of this is ongoing. Salovey’s email, and his recognition of that, is a first step, toward many, many more wins in the future.”

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