To the Editor:
Jeff Mankoff’s column “Activism is an inefficient way to make change” perpetuates a false stereotype of current college activism. Mankoff focuses solely on the protests and demonstrations most often associated with college groups. However, activism at Yale also includes lobbying for reform from within the political process, not just demonstrating for reform.
By lobbying, students shred two misconceptions. First, with Jack Abramoff turning lobbying into a four-letter word, students with no motives other than the incorporation of fair and just public policy show that the political process is about the discussion of ideas rather than the trading of money and favors. Second, students begin to change the negative conception of “activist” college students that Mankoff explores.
Many student groups at Yale, including the Yale College Democrats, Students for Clean Elections and Project Opportunity, have begun to utilize lobbying as a method of political activism, engaging in exactly the kind of nuanced political involvement and negotiation that Mankoff espouses. Students for Clean Elections mobilized students to successfully push for the most progressive statewide campaign finance reform in the nation. Currently, the Yale College Democrats and Project Opportunity have been working towards the passage of an Earned Income Tax Credit in Connecticut to benefit the state’s poorest families. We have been meeting with legislators in Hartford, building a statewide coalition of college students and non-profit organizations and testifying before legislative committees on the economic and social benefits of a state EITC.
With the proliferation of lobbying groups on campus, Mankoff’s negative view of activism seems simplistic. Both traditional activism in the form of protest and more moderate activism in the form of lobbying yield results. Engagement in the political process through all types of activism should be encouraged, not disparaged.
Ben Shaffer ’09
Feb. 22, 2006