Promoting antiracism at YDS: A message from Dean Greg Sterling

August 17, 2020

Yale Divinity School Dean Greg Sterling issued the following statement today to the YDS campus community.


All of us were aghast when we saw the murder of George Floyd. It was yet another example of a crime we have witnessed too many times. Many of us reacted by determining that we would make some changes. I am writing to let you know what we have been doing at YDS and what we plan to do.

We made some initial statements and organized an important faculty panel that has received wide viewership. We have also arranged to listen. I attended a session of the Association of Theological Schools on Black Lives Matter, and the overwhelming advice that my presidential and decanal colleagues of color made was to listen before acting. We have tried to take this to heart. We had a group of Black/African-American students speak with the leadership team of the School. I have also had meetings with Black/African-American students, with the Black/African-American staff, and with the Black/African-American faculty. We arranged for a group of Black/African-American students to meet with the leaders of the Dean’s Advisory Council and a group of Black/African-American alumni to meet with the same leaders. I will make an effort to meet with the leaders of the student affinity groups in September. My door is open to any student or student group who would like to meet.

We have worked hard for a number of years to become a community where all could feel that they belong and are equally valued. We have posted a timeline of actions taken since 2012 so that people will know what has been done and have a better idea of how to help us move forward. We have made a serious effort, but we still have a long road in front of us. 

The leadership team and I have formulated a basic plan to make changes at the School that involve significant (re)allocations of resources. I have presented these proposals to the President and Provost of the University. We will present them to the faculty and the staff at their retreats. We are presenting them to the Dean’s Advisory Council this summer at a special meeting before the start of the fall semester. Once we have input from all of these groups and from additional students, we will present the plan publicly. We hope to do this in the latter part of October via an online presentation.

In the meantime, I have appointed a Task Force to help us think through the steps that we need to take to address racism at YDS as it affects under-represented groups, primarily Black/African-American students but also Asian, indigenous, and Latinx community members. This Task Force will examine racism encountered in both informal and formal settings, in both unstructured and structured arrangements, and in both thoughtless and subconscious ways. The co-chairs are Willie Jennings and Laura Nasrallah. They will be joined by three other faculty members (Michal Beth Dinkler, Donyelle McCray, and Tisa Wenger), two staff (Lynn Sullivan and Antonio Bravo), and two students (to be appointed in early September). We are dedicating the entirety of the faculty and staff retreats to these issues as well as a significant part of the leadership team’s retreat. 

We are working to build a consensus about what steps we need to take. We are doing so because we believe that fostering the knowledge and love of God in community requires that we respect and honor the image of God that is in all of us. If you found yourself screaming at the television—whether literally or within your consciousness, as I did—imploring the officer to get up and let George Floyd breathe, I hope that you will join us in an effort to let all breathe the same air freely and equally.


Greg Sterling


August 17, 2020