New Haven Action Fund officials announced Wednesday that they will hold a Student Activism Summit on March 3 to assemble student activists in the Elm City behind a common advocacy strategy.
About 60 students are expected to attend the summit, co-organizer Ted Fertik ’07 said, which will be the first time Yale activists have a chance to coordinate their campaign efforts with students from neighboring universities, including Southern Connecticut State University, the University of New Haven and Gateway Community College. While student activists and city officials said they are enthusiastic about the conference, they said it is only the first step in what should be a concerted effort to unify activist efforts citywide.
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Fertik said the NHA Fund-organized conference is the first concerted effort by the group to reach out to university students across the city. The morning will be dedicated to discussing tactics and strategies, he said, and in the afternoon participants will vote to select a coordinated campaign issue to pursue in the coming months. The four choices to be considered are health care, environmentally-friendly energy, immigrant rights and early childhood education.
“For us, this conference and campaigning are the most significant step we have taken so far to reach out to other schools,” he said. “We realized we really needed to build a bigger team to weigh on the issues.”
The conference comes at a time when a number of Yale students and organizations have tried to engage the student body on hot-button issues facing the city. On Tuesday, the Yale Political Union hosted a debate on unionization at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and Ward 1 aldermanic candidate Rachel Plattus ’09 organized a talk on education in the city on Feb. 7.
Plattus said the upcoming conference will allow students to join together to form more powerful activist campaigns and generate better solutions to the city’s problems.
“An effort should be made to bring in as many students as possible,” she said. “The opportunity is ideal to engage not only Yale College students but college students all over New Haven and to get them all in the same room talking about issues.”
But Hugh Baran ’09, a member of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, said that while he thinks it will greatly benefit student activism to coordinate efforts across the city, many more events will need to be organized if there is to be a lasting partnership.
“I think it will take more than the one event but I think it is a good place to start,” he said. “Building the networks up is going to take time and energy directed to doing that.”
The NHA Fund was founded in spring 2005 to coordinate students’ activist efforts around the city, NHA Fund Executive Director Noah Kazis ’09 said. Although the founders of the political action group were Yale students and the executive board currently consists entirely of Elis, Kazis said the organization is still young and needs time to reach out to neighboring schools.
Ward 1 Alderman Nick Shalek ’05 said he fully supports the NHA Fund’s conference. Although the event is organized independently of the city, he said, he is happy to help in whatever way he can.
“I will be talking to the New Haven Action Fund to seeing how I can best support it and be involved,” he said. “What they are doing is terrific in terms in increasing involvement of students in Yale and encouraging them to get involved in important issues.”