Members of the Yale chapter of the Roosevelt Institution presented their research and policy proposals on a range of local and national issues yesterday at the Whitney Humanities Center.
The Roosevelt Institution, a national organization, bills itself as the “nation’s first student think tank,” and the Yale chapter’s first semiannual policy exposition attracted an audience of fellow students, community members and local officials. The presentation featured college students’ analyses of political problems and possible solutions on a range of issues, including America’s dependence on Saudi Arabian oil, predatory payday lending and the importance of good nutrition for HIV-positive Africans. Participants in the expo also discussed local issues such as Yale’s role in sustainable food development and Connecticut’s health insurance coverage.
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Emily Hallet ’09 weighed the costs and benefits of sustainable food projects, pointing out that the production of Yale’s non-sustainable food requires the use of 900,000 gallons of fossil fuel a year. Hallet said that if Yale switched entirely to sustainable food, it would use only about a third of the amount of fuel.
But the benefits of sustainability extend past conservation of fuel resources, Hallet said, and include better student education about healthy lifestyles and a reduction in the use of pesticides and fertilizers.
“Everyone involved has a potential to benefit,” she said.
Another presentation discussed socioeconomic inequality in higher education, highlighting studies that show that only 37 percent of well-qualified students at low-income high schools took a college entrance exam. Participants said there is a lack of encouragement for high school students from low-income communities to attend college.
Sam Brill ’10, who works for the Admissions Office, said Yale’s Student Ambassadors outreach program — meant to encourage low-income students to apply to Yale — saw mixed results in 2006. Although there was a slight increase in applications, he said, there was also a small decline in the admissions rate for low-income students — meaning that while more low-income students applied, not all were as well qualified as admissions officials hoped.
Yale plans to address these results by re-evaluating low-income high schools and instructing student ambassadors to encourage students to focus on college applications to a variety of schools, not just Yale, Brill said.
Speakers also included New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Flemming Norcott, both of whom stressed the importance of public service and compromise when finding solutions to complex policy issues. Norcott is currently teaching a Yale College course on “Blacks and the Law.”
Spencer Sherman ’08, one of the co-presidents of the Yale chapter of the Roosevelt Institution, said he thought the exposition was successful.
“This isn’t just about student ideas, this is about them happening now,” he said. “We hear good ideas in the dorm room but they never end up going anywhere. We can use the insight of the students to invigorate the policy process.”