Students march for aid reform

More than 60 students banging drums, shouting chants and waving signs marched from Beinecke Plaza to the Financial Aid Office Tuesday afternoon to call for further changes to the University’s financial aid policy.

The rally, which was spearheaded by the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, began with speeches and poems recited by students, faculty and community leaders. Escorted by three police officers, the protesters made their way to the office, where they gave a copy of the UOC’s petition to Director of Financial Aid Caesar Storlazzi, who was present at the rally.

The petition details the reforms for which the UOC has been campaigning throughout the year, including a reduction of the student self-help and summer contributions and an elimination of the requirement that students receiving financial aid also complete work hours.

But in keeping with the administration’s standard response to UOC protests, Yale President Richard Levin said there are no major reforms will be made for next year.

“We are not contemplating a significant change in financial aid this budget cycle,” Levin said.

Last spring, the University eliminated the parent contribution for students from families earning under $45,000 and reduced it for students from families earning between $45,000 and $60,000.

Storlazzi, who said he first learned of the rally Tuesday morning, said he was receptive to the group’s concerns, particularly regarding student work-hours and borrowing.

“There is a partnership philosophy that a student is the first person to put money on the table [for his or her tuition], but perhaps this philosophy needs to be re-looked at,” he said.

Speakers at the rally discussed Yale’s financial aid policies in comparison to those of peer institutions such as Harvard and Princeton universities, which they said offer more favorable aid packages.

“Yale shouldn’t look to match peer institutions, but rather to become a leader,” said UOC member Margaret Sharp ’08, who emceed the event.

In his speech on Beinecke Plaza, Local 35 President Bob Proto encouraged the assembled students to continue their campaign.

“This is so important, and this is a right you have,” he said to the crowd. “This is happening in [the administration's] backyard, and they’re going to sit on it and not act.”

Rabbi James Ponet, director of the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale, and Reverend Frederick Streets, University Chaplain and Pastor of the Church of Christ in Yale, spoke in favor of the UOC’s proposals at the rally.

UOC member Tasha Eccles ’07 said the demonstration was an attempt to keep the committee’s actions from growing stale.

“It’s our goal to not do the same thing every time,” she said. “We hope that this is a fun and lively experience.”

At the rally, students shook empty bottles filled with stones, chanted and held signs with statements such as “Yale Students Deserve A Yale Experience” and “For God! For Country! For Profit!”

Storlazzi said he will respond promptly to the UOC members’ request to begin an ongoing dialogue.

The UOC recently sent letters to 500 alumni donors requesting that they earmark their future donations for financial aid. The letters stated that more than 2,000 Yale undergraduates signed a petition supporting financial aid reform in mid-January.

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