Dear Friends,

As you may know, I am retiring on March 1. This is the last of my semiannual letters updating you on Yale’s continuing to build a community of excellence by advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

When I began in 2016 as executive director of the Yale Alumni Association, I was somewhat uncertain that Yale’s disparate and independent schools (Yale College plus now 14 schools) could meaningfully advance these issues. After more than 7 years, I can now express my gratitude for the work that has been done at our beloved institution. As a member of Yale’s staff, I have seen up close the care, thought, time, and resources invested in the goals and initiatives that President Peter Salovey announced in October 2020, which are enumerated here.

The annual reports of the Belonging initiative have provided updates on these efforts. The most recent report for 2023 is here. I previously mentioned to you the 2021-2022 report.

Recently, a notable project has been completed: research to understand Yale’s formative ties to slavery and the slave trade. The research team included faculty, staff, students, and New Haven community members, and was led by David W. Blight, Sterling Professor of History and director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale. The research has been published in a book, Yale and Slavery, A History, which is available without charge as a digital download. In response to the research, President Peter Salovey and Josh Bekenstein, senior trustee of the Yale Corporation, announced additional commitments to address findings from the Yale and Slavery Research Project and issued an apology.

As a loyal alumna in active service to Yale for over 40 years, it will take me time and effort to process Yale’s entanglements with slavery. I anticipate other alumni will feel the same and look forward to hearing how best to support alumni in this regard.  

I am gratified to see Yale’s commitment on these important issues. There has been so much work! And I agree with President Salovey and Trustee Bekenstein that the work must continue. Please join me in supporting the Corporation and senior administrators as they continue to make Yale a community where everyone feels they belong.

Best regards, 

Weili Cheng ’77, Pierson College
Executive Director
Yale Alumni Association