Petition calls for more student input

Friday, members of United Students at Yale delivered a petition calling for greater student input in University policy-making to the office of Yale President Richard Levin.

In one of the group’s first concrete actions, the members presented the petition, which they said contains 3,017 undergraduate signatures to Nina Glickson, an assistant to the president.

“We are asking for more meaningful input into the decisions that affect our lives,” reads a cover letter that accompanied the petition. “We have identified three areas of widespread concern — financial aid policy, diversity on campus, and Yale’s actions as a local and global citizen.”

Levin, who was out of town Friday when the students presented the petition, said he appreciated the students’ concerns, but added that the University provides many channels of communication for undergraduates.

“The petitions lay out several worthy objectives — and I think these are all objectives the University had been pursuing and will continue to pursue in the future,” Levin said. “I certainly am open to finding other ways to get students involved, but there is certainly no shortage of student input of opinion.”

Before they filed onto Beinecke Plaza from William L. Harkness Hall, the members listened to short speeches from several of their fellow members. Even though the petition is not specific about how the University should address student concerns — or about which concerns are a priority — several students spoke on issues they feel are important.

Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04 said he feels that the survival and success of New Haven is critical for a positive Yale experience, and that the University administrators should listen to undergraduates’ ideas for how to improve the city.

“Yale needs to understand that it will only do best when it listens to those voices,” Healey told the group of USAY members who had assembled in WLH 114.

Maggie Whelan ’02 discussed her ideas about student input in financial aid policy, saying that the University should be better at “attracting good students irrespective of their status.”

Josie Rodberg ’03 talked about how she feels the lack of female professors impedes the learning process among women. She said that she had no female professors during her freshman year, and that her experience was lacking because of it. Rodberg suggested that students have a bigger stake in whom the University selects to teach.

“It’s not just important to the quality of research that goes on at Yale, but [also] to the 5,000 undergraduates who should be able to choose who teaches them,” Rodberg said.

Several USAY members said the petition’s ambiguity aimed at allowing the University flexibility in deciding how to include the student body.

“It was intentionally left open-ended,” said Julianna Bentes ’04, who helped deliver the petitions, which do not contain USAY’s name.

Members said they do expect that the administration will include them in some form.

Ted Wittenstein ’04, a member of USAY and the Yale College Council, said he would be surprised if Levin did not respond.

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