After refusing to meet with the Undergraduate Organizing Committee for the last three years, Yale President Richard Levin sat down with members of the group Tuesday afternoon to discuss financial aid. But the six UOC members present at the 45-minute meeting said they were disappointed that Levin did not make any new commitments to financial aid reform during their discussion.
The UOC has made financial aid one of its central concerns this year, advocating that the student and summer aid contributions be cut in half. The organization is also calling for greater communication between the financial aid office and the student body. Two weeks ago, UOC members visited Yale Corporation members at their homes and offices to discuss their platform.
Levin said competing priorities, including the need to fund new faculty positions and renovations, would likely prevent the administration from enacting financial aid changes this year, but he said he would consider the UOC’s suggestions.
“I also indicated that it would be unlikely for us to address the Yale self-help contributions this year,” Levin said. “I did assure them that the issue would remain on the list of possible candidates for budget increases in the future.”
Margaret Sharp ’08, one of the UOC members present at the meeting, said she and other committee members were frustrated that Levin did not commit to making financial aid reform a top priority for this year.
“We were really looking forward to the meeting,” Sharp said. “Overall, we were a little disappointed that he didn’t make a greater commitment to reducing the student contribution.”
The UOC delegates also discussed with Levin their concern that students benefitting from financial aid are unfairly burdened by the need to earn work-study income, while students who are not receiving aid do not have the same obligations.
Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel said Levin’s decision to meet with the UOC does not necessarily indicate that he is legitimizing the group’s complaints.
“President Levin keeps an open mind, and over the years has met with many groups,” Brenzel said. “Simply meeting with an advocacy group does not mean that you agree with them, nor does it mean that you recognize their claim to represent others who are not members of the group or who may disagree with the group.”
Brenzel, who described Yale’s current financial aid policies as “fair and generous,” said the policies will continue be reviewed on a regular basis.
Director of Financial Aid Caesar Storlazzi said his office is always looking for ways to improve financial aid.
“Yale continually reviews its financial aid policies from two vantage points,” Storlazzi said. “What changes we might need to make for our students, such as revision of travel allowances, and what changes we might consider in light of policies at our peer institutions.”
Storlazzi said he has not been contacted by the UOC at any point this fall.
“I would be happy to listen to their concerns and work with them,” he said.
UOC member Charles Alvarez ’09, who was also present at yesterday’s meeting, said the tone of the group’s discussion with Levin was informal. No plans were made for a future meeting, he said.
Alvarez said the attendees went into the meeting without set expectations.
“There weren’t specific goals,” Alvarez said. “We were just optimistic about conversing with him.”
Levin said any further expansion of financial aid would require additional fundraising efforts.