UOC argues for fiscal reform

Yalies walking through Beinecke Plaza at midday on Thursday witnessed a curious sight: a President Richard Levin doppelganger — albeit some decades younger — celebrating the University’s terrific endowment return.

Members of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee (UOC) held an assembly in Beinecke Plaza on Thursday afternoon in which they portrayed a variety of Yale-related characters in a mock celebration of this year’s $3 billion Yale endowment return, announced two weeks ago. While the tone of the assembly was lighthearted, the UOC showcased its arguments that Yale, in light of its recently increased endowment, should reform its financial aid policies and support New Haven community development.

Thursday’s event began when a UOC member ­— sporting a name tag that read “CEO Levin” — jumped atop a stone slab in the Plaza and spoke to an audience of fellow UOC members and student passersby.

“I am proud to announce the endowment grew by $3 billion,” the UOC member, impersonating Levin, said. “Happy Fiscal New Year.”

Thereafter, members of the UOC depicting wealthy Yale donors mockingly suggested some uses of the newly earned $3 billion. A student whose name tag read “Robin D. Poor” proposed that Yale acquire the country Trinidad and Tobago, redevelop it and use it as an island resort for Yale donors. Other suggestions included an on-campus croquet stadium and a supply of fresh rose petals in Harkness Tower that could cascade down into the Branford courtyard while the carillon is played.

Noah Dobin-Bernstein ’07, one of the event’s organizers, explained the UOC’s actual suggested uses of the increased endowment.

“I’d love to see a significant new investment in improving financial aid so that all students at Yale can have equal opportunities,” he said. “There are also a number of wonderful things Yale could invest in … including a larger voluntary tax contribution in the city of New Haven.”

Yale contributed $4.18 million the city in the 2006 fiscal year, up from $2.3 million the year before.

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel said financial aid has been one of the University’s central priorities.

“Yale is considerably out in front with respect to financial aid,” Brenzel said in an e-mail. “In thinking about improvements to the financial aid program for undergraduates, the Yale administration looks not only to the competitive landscape, but to the many other priorities the university must also fund, including financial aid for graduate and professional students, one of the goals of the current capital campaign.”

Students who watched the assembly seemed to agree with the UOC’s idea that Yale should expand its financial aid initiatives. In the spring of 2005, the University removed 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.

Emily Friedrichs ’07, who is not a member of the UOC, said she feels the current policy for student contribution requires some students to spend too many hours per week working.

“When the first financial aid changes were implemented, [the Yale administration] felt that work-study was an important part of the financial aid process,” Friedrichs said. “I think having to work twenty hours a week is too much.”

Other students did not agree that Yale spends too conservatively. Alex Yergin ’07, president of Yale College Republicans, said he trusts that Yale’s allocation of resources is intelligent and sufficient.

“I think that the University is doing a great job, the endowment managers are fabulous and that the University knows where its money should go,” Yergin said. “Yale has an enormous amount of money in endowment … but it’s not like there’s $18 billion on hand in cash, and a lot of that money has to be protected.”

Starting this year, the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative eliminated the family contribution for Harvard students whose families earn less than $60,000 annually, and it reduced the contributions for families with incomes between $60,000 and $80,000.

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