In a dramatically split vote Tuesday, the Dwight Hall cabinet rejected a proposal to join the New Haven Student Fair Share Coalition, a group that calls for Yale to make a voluntary contribution to city government.
The Fair Share Coalition calls for a contribution of about $12.8 million to make up for revenue members say the city loses from Yale’s tax-exempt status. In a vote that required a two-thirds majority to pass, 20 votes were for the proposal and 20 were against it, with two abstentions. Dwight Hall also voted to induct five new member groups at the meeting, increasing its size to 65 organizations and over 3,000 students.
Both Fair Share representatives and university officials were present at the meeting, which was attended by over 100 students. On behalf of the University, Associate Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Michael Morand and Associate General Counsel Jim Carolan spoke at the meeting, while Vice President for Finance and Administration John Pepper observed from a back corner.
Helena Herring ’07, a member of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, which is part of the coalition, said Yale has an obligation to make the voluntary contribution.
“What we’re asking for is a voluntary tax contribution because we care about our city, and being part of this coalition is an extension of that,” Herring said. “It’s the responsibility of Yale to step up and pay its fair share.”
But Morand said Yale’s tax exemption was not the source of New Haven’s problems, and a ‘voluntary contribution’ was not the solution, especially with the University already making budget cuts.
“We’re a non-profit — we create wealth and value,” Morand said. “The mayor himself said the problem is not exemption — the problem is the tax structure. Property taxes don’t fund New Haven schools anyway.”
Associate General Counsel Jim Carolan said the extra money given to the city would be hard to spare.
“You have to think about it in terms of the annual operating budget,” Carolan said. “We don’t have an unlimited source of money. It is a zero-sum game.”
Dwight Hall co-coordinator Brian Goldman ’05 said the presence of top university officials like Morand, Pepper, and Carolan at the meeting showed the importance of Dwight Hall’s voice.
“People’s eyes are on Dwight Hall,” Goldman said. “The people we had representing both sides were wonderful. It’s great to have that — it shows the impact Dwight Hall is having on the community.”
Emily Jones ’06, a fellow with the Dwight Hall Early Childhood Fellows, said she voted for the proposal.
“We signed on because we’re educators, students, and citizens of the city,” Jones said. “This is something we as students feel we can lobby for change on. What the vote showed was that the issue is important — people are thinking about the issue.”
Jones said she did not see the defeat of the proposal in Dwight Hall as an ending point.
Scott Caplan ’06 is the President of the Yale College Chess Club, one of the five new Dwight Hall organizations voted in as new members at yesterday’s meeting. Caplan said he was not convinced by the arguments of the Fair Share coalition.
“I was never convinced,” Caplan said. “Before I sign on to a statement condemning Yale for not doing their ‘fair share,’ I want to be sure they actually aren’t doing it.”
Dwight Hall co-coordinator Michelle Rosenthal ’05 said she thought the meeting was a success despite, and perhaps even because of, the split vote.
“It’s the best dialogue Dwight Hall has ever had,” Rosenthal said. “The fact that it was so divided reflected the thought students put into their questions, comments, and conversations.”