About 25 students from various campus activist groups entered Yale President Richard Levin’s Woodbridge Hall office at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday to deliver a letter urging the University to extend the Homebuyer Program to include Fair Haven by Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January.
In the letter, students from Concerned Black Students at Yale, the Dwight Hall Executive Committee, Jews for Justice, Movimiento Estudantil Chicano/a de Atzlan, the Pan-Ethnic Coalition, Student Legal Action Movement, the Undergraduate Organizing Committee and Yale Coalition for Peace challenged Fair Haven’s exclusion and accused the University of not providing adequate coverage for low-income and minority members of the community.
The Homebuyer Program provides loans and bonuses to Yale employees buying homes in New Haven. It includes neighborhoods some students say are too distant and affluent to be practical for employees to live in. Although contiguous with the Yale campus, Fair Haven is not included in the program. Fair Haven, which is predominantly Latino, is one of the poorest neighborhoods in New Haven.
After they delivered the letter, four student representatives, including Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04, announced that University Vice President and Director of the Office of New Haven & State Affairs Bruce Alexander had agreed to meet with them to discuss how to incorporate Fair Haven into the program. While the students were speaking, Alexander walked by on his way to lunch and said he would be glad to discuss the issue right away.
Alexander, who spoke for about 15 minutes, said Yale is considering incorporating the Fair Haven neighborhood into the University’s Homebuyer Program, and said the inclusion of Fair Haven would help bring the community together.
“I would not want to divide a neighborhood,” Alexander said.
Levin is currently on a trip to China and could not be reached for comment.
According to a UOC press release, homeownership is at 40 percent in New Haven. The Yale groups represented at the demonstration said Yale’s exclusion of Fair Haven “prevents the Yale Homebuyer Program from fulfilling its mission of buoying homeownership in the city’s struggling neighborhoods.” The groups said the program “furthers de facto segregation and racial inequality.”
Farah Peterson ’05 of the PEC said while the talk with Alexander and the administration’s agreement to investigate including Fair Haven in the Homebuyer Program were encouraging, the University must still work to straighten out race relations.
“It’s a little confusing because the last time Yale reached out to Latinos was when they brought in Latino strikebreakers [during this fall's three week walkout],” Peterson said.
MEChA treasurer Laura Hurtado ’04 said she thinks Yale should promote healthy development in Fair Haven.
“MEChA is concerned [by] the current policy,” Hurtado said. “We congratulate the University for committing to desegregating the workforce, but Yale has to commit to desegregating the community.”
UOC member Josh Eidelson ’06 said the groups decided to deliver the letter directly to Levin because attempts to hold meetings with the administration have failed.
“We pursued a variety of methods of speaking to the administration and unfortunately have often seen those opportunities for dialogue shut down,” Eidelson said. “I think the number of students represented by the groups is a testament to the support of putting Fair Haven back on the map of the Homebuyer Program.”
The Homebuyer Program was one of the Office of New Haven and State Affairs’ earliest initiatives and is in its 11th year.