NEWS’ VIEW: What Occupy means to us

Occupy New Haven will not fundamentally change the fabric of American society and government, but at least it is making people talk. It is undetermined, but it has captured enough energy, anger and frustration to shape our political discourse. This protest should make us consider what it means to be Yale students.

To learn from the events on the Green, we must realize that Yale is the 1 percent. We do not all come from wealthy backgrounds, nor will we all be rich after graduation. But Yale has produced presidents and titans of industry and — for better or for worse — we are expected to continue that tradition. Our matriculation here has made us part of the 1 percent. We cannot ignore that identity. Nor can we ignore how it shapes our relationship to these protests.

Protesters are calling for more separation between business and government. Most of us will hold jobs in one of those two fields.

Protesters are calling for less inequality of wealth. Our studies are subsidized by some of the world’s largest fortunes.

Protesters are despairing over the demise of the American dream. Others are calling for its rebirth. We know that dream is not dead because many of us live it.

We have to make sense of those three complaints and their place at Yale. We are university students. Our minimum wage is $11.50 per hour. We spend our time in castles reading Rousseau while they try to live out his theory on the Green. We can go out and protest with the Occupiers and try to act on their demands. Action feels good. But it might not get us anywhere.

Our unique privilege gives us access to the resources we need to better heed the call of the men and women sleeping on the New Haven Green. If Occupy lacks proposals for real solutions, our task is to look for them. Occupy is a call for action— we just don’t know yet what sort of action should follow.

The protesters do not either, and they acknowledge as much. But they know they are angry. We have to remember that this anger exists, and with reason. Everyone, no matter his or her opinion on Occupy New Haven, can grant that this anger is well founded. Many of us are bound for jobs on Wall Street or Capitol Hill, and those careers are legitimate and rewarding. But although those jobs may distance some of us, they do not grant us a license to threaten to Febreze protesters on our way to Goldman interviews.

Instead, we have to consider the root of that anger. It’s based in part on a poor education system, in part on the role of corporations in public life and in part on a host of other factors. When the protests fade, the anger will not all disappear with them. It is our job to remember the distance on Saturday between the Freshman Barbeque on Old Campus and the first Occupy protests across the street on the Green. Neither group could hear or see the other, and the students did not see the young girl on the Green who sat on the ground, holding a sign that read, “LOOK MOM NO FUTURE.”

It is our job to think to the future and ensure that it exists for everyone. Our direction as students isn’t quite clear yet. Nor are the demands of the protestors. But it is the job of a student— and the job of a citizen—to listen to all that frustration and start trying to create a cohesive narrative.


  • The Anti-Yale

    *Look Mom No Future*

    No one is preventing this child –or any other –from using the internet to begin today and every day hereafter to improve her command of the English language, or any other skill she chooses (even if she has to use a computer in the library). Waiting around for ‘government’ or ‘education’ to do it is the height of ir-responsibility.

    The greatest speech writer in our country’s history (Abraham Lincoln) never went past third grade. Hemingway never went past high school. Both George Bushes (H.W. and W.) were spoon fed by Yale.

    Take your pick.

  • ALS

    This is actually quite good. Thank you. I hope it gets read.

  • 20Y12

    “Our matriculation here has made us part of the 1 percent.”

    This is downright offensive. Yale students are not part of the 1 percent simply by matriculating. Maybe some Yalies come from this background and others may become a part of it, but there is a significant portion of Yalies who will not, and nor do they care to.

    Without looking at statistics and instead looking at the diverse group of friends I’ve met at Yale, I can wholeheartedly say that Yale is not just the 1 percent. The 99 percent is here too. I’m one of them.

    To be clear, I also think that Occupy New Haven is a pointless effort that will only produce riled feathers and media attention. Oh, and thousands of wasted tax dollars. Next time you pass by the Green, take a look at the public officers that have to take time away from their efforts against real crimes occurring in the city in order to babysit an aimless group of protestors.

  • Yale12

    The point is that by matriculating at Yale, we automatically become privileged, part of an educated elite if not a wealthy elite. Whether you had that privilege before or not is irrelevant.

  • JE14

    … if you’re gonna say something stick to the definitions.. 1% = the richest 1% of society. at least 50% of the student body is on financial aid. => Not part of the 1%. Also I don’t like your use of the word privileged, it makes it sound as if our situation was handed to us on a golden platter, which is false. I had to work to get here and I’m pretty damn sure that a lot of others had to work to get here too.

    Also, in the society as it is right now, if you try really hard, chances are you will succeed.

    • jamesdakrn

      nah dood. If you have talent, you will succeed, not “try really hard.”

  • RebelYale01

    Well written article with nice verbiage. However, I am livid with being asked to share my “wealth” with anyone. Because I matriculated from Yale gives no one a claim to what I have worked for. My parents were farmers, like John C. Calhoun, another South Carolinian and Yale graduate; I have worked for any advantages I may now have. It really doesn’t matter if you were born rich or poor, we all have the chance to better ourselves. Charity is noble, but “share the wealth” is communism.

  • River_Tam

    “Guys, we go to Yale, so that means we’re privileged”.

    If you want to give up your privileges, you’re free to leave Yale. I’m positive there are many other schools that would love to have you.

    Wait, you’re NOT heading towards the exits?

  • amenhotep

    I agree with RebelYale01. The government can’t make me give up my slaves; they’re my hard-earned property. God damn those Black Republicans.

  • River_Tam

    The last refuge of Democrats is always slavery, for some odd reason, as if the Republican Party ever supported slavery or segregation.

  • RebelYale01

    I wish if someone were going to agree with my opinion, that at the least the ancient Egyptian fellow would agree with something I actually opined. If you look to attack those of us from South Carolina and can’t think of anything to really “zing” us with, I do so wish that you would stop pushing slavery on us. Yes my family came to Carolina in 1730 from Pennsylvania, but we were “Backcountry folks”. According to the fine folks of Charles Town we were lower than slaves on the order of mammals.
    By the way, Hotep, no one should ever be made to feel guilty of what they have, or have not, in this world. It is emotional blackmail of the worst sort for you to make others feel guilty that they were born wealthy and should therefore feel a need to hang there head in shame. What signal does that send to people like me that wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth? That I should wait on someone like you to give me some of your money? How about we give others a chance to work for what is good in this life. I worked my rebel rear-end off to amass what I have. I want no part of being forced to give what I have earned away to others. How dare you use your elitist liberal mind games on these vulnerable babes who have left hearth and home to come to Yale for the best education in the world!

  • amenhotep

    Well, RebelYale01, I give you credit for understanding the target of my post, unlike River_Tam. But it really is very unbecoming, to put it lightly, that you are constantly linking yourself to a Confederate past. What I found funny about your arguments here is that they resemble the arguments that were used to justify slavery, the worst feature of that Confederate past – regardless of whether your family owned slaves.

  • RebelYale01

    “…linking yourself to a Confederate past.” Wow. Hotep, you completely overlook the message of my rant. Well, you didn’t overlook it, but you have no defense for the truth of my words. My words tear at your soul like my Epee.

  • RexMottram08

    God save me from being Southern!

    If only I were a sophisticated Northerner! Then I too could pretend to have 5 abortions for my senior thesis.

  • streever

    This is an excellent piece. Thank you.

  • tomago

    A word from the working class boys and girls…it’s been 30 years since the luxury of postulating about the world from my dorm. You WILL BE perceived as privileged when you garner a Yale sheepskin…use it to your advantage. It’s also less a guarantee of success than it used to. Don’t fool yourselves, it’s cold out here, and while your parents and classmates might be awed by the pearls from your mouth, the one that signs your paycheck soon will only care about results…as you will. The boneheads on the Green had a good idea that they squandered by knowing nothing and doing less. This 1% vs 99% is a good advertising, but inaccurate. ONH kids protesting about bank bailouts in front of TD Bank on Chapel while wearing a Che Guevara tee, fail to glean it’s a local branch, and a Canadian company…and Che was a good-looking murderer…it only makes them look stupid and feckless. Effect change if you can, and thank your parents for the gravitas you have, as you will be expected to do the same for your own…just please…damn it, don’t waste it…we’ll eat you alive.

  • lightandtruth

    tomango – so true.