A few blocks from Old Campus, on Elm Street, hangs an electric orange traffic sign. For the past few days, the sign has warned passing motorists of the dangers they will happen upon a scant few blocks ahead.
Freshman Move-in Friday. Congestion ahead. Warning.
Surely, the sign is accurate. Freshman move-in is a hectic mass of traumatized parents, hyper upperclassmen movers in college-appropriate color-coordinated T-shirts, freshmen eager to finally be on Yale’s hallowed grounds. Thru-traffic beware, indeed. Warning: Yale ahead.
But the sign is also a sadly apt, if unintentional, comment on the relationship between students and this city in which we reside. Yalies have our bubble, New Havenites theirs, and caution signs litter the points of intersection. Yes, many students tutor at local schools or some other form of community service. But the town/gown divide remains something students and administrators need perpetually to work at overcoming.
For freshmen the Yale bubble can be particularly impenetrable. For the next few weeks, finding Linsly-Chittenden for English class understandably trumps finding your way to working out there in New Haven.
But though it’s hard to adjust to Yale, it’s irresponsible to put New Haven down at the bottom of your to-do list, down after assembling IKEA furniture and beating the cops to the BD’s party. You’re a Yalie now, and therefore also a New Haven resident. New Haven police help keep you safe; New Haven candidates will vie for your votes. And now, thanks to some courageous lawmaking (that’s not something you often hear), you can get a plastic card affirming that you’re an official resident of this the City of New Haven.
The Elm City Resident Card, which debuted in July, is an official municipal ID, allowing its bearer to access city libraries and beaches; to open banks accounts; and to pay, debit-style, at some local stores and parking meters.
The card wasn’t designed for Yale students, with our driver’s licenses and U.S. passports or visas. The card was meant to help keep safe New Haven’s growing population of illegal immigrants, who are often targeted by muggers who know that illegal immigrants carry cash on them in lieu of being able to open a bank account. The card, therefore, is meant in large part to protect every individual’s right to avoid being the target of crime.
The card, the first of its kind to be offered by a U.S. city, sparked a national debate. But the card also underscores something basic — yet often overlooked — about New Haven and Yale: We all live in the same city. Whether you’re an immigrant from Latin America or from a New England prep school, we’re all New Haveners now and, as such, have a shared interest in keeping our city and its residents safe.
Even if you can’t commit to tutoring. or you’re not the social justice sort, take 30 minutes, go down to City Hall (it’s just across the Green from Phelps Gate), and pop the Yale bubble by getting yourself an Elm City Resident ID.
Welcome to Yale, and welcome to New Haven. Make yourself a home.