Global humanitarian crises should outweigh University’s financial needs

To the Editor:

On Oct. 28, the Yale School of Music announced that it had received $100 million from anonymous donors, enabling it to waive tuition starting in the 2006-07 academic year. The press release celebrated this donation as “a testimony to the goodness of this place,” yet I found both the donation and Yale’s eager acceptance of the donation inappropriate and socially irresponsible, given the magnitude of today’s humanitarian crises.

On the same day, the United Nations announced it would soon end its airdrops to the earthquake area if it did not receive $250 million immediately. This would suspend operations to deliver food, water and winterized tents to the 3 million homeless survivors of the quake. Of the $550 million requested by the United Nations, only one-fifth has been promised, and less has been delivered. The United Nations estimates that the entire cost of the disaster will exceed $5 billion.

On the other side of the world, a child is dying every minute of an AIDS-related illness. Only 5 percent of HIV-infected children receive drugs, and only 1 percent receive preventive antibiotics for related infections such as diarrhea and malaria. A series of generic AIDS drugs would cost less than $10 per child per month, and with 660,000 children in need of this drug cocktail, $100 million could provide all 660,000 children with enough drugs for nearly 14 years.

Finally, the Red Cross estimates that it has received $1.9 billion of the $2.3 billion needed to provide assistance to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The federal government has also allocated $17 billion to the reconstruction of the New Orleans infrastructure. Despite this federal support, the urgency of this disaster has faded from the public’s consciousness, and we cannot rely on federal funds alone to revive New Orleans and assist the hundreds of thousands of poor displaced residents.

I’m sure there are many contextual factors behind the anonymous donation that were not included in the press release, and perhaps the donor is a billionaire and has donated considerably to these other causes. However, given the information that is publicly available, I believe the $100 million could have been directed towards one of these or many other international humanitarian crises, rather than subsidizing music students’ tuition. As an institution that sees itself as a member of the international community, Yale should view this donation not as a cause for celebration, but perhaps as a sign of the disconnect between the Yale community and the rest of the world.

Jenny Lee ’06

Oct. 30, 2005

Comments