SUN speak-out draws crowd of 100

Students Unite Now, or SUN, is a community advocacy group that seeks to give students at Yale a forum for free expression.
Students Unite Now, or SUN, is a community advocacy group that seeks to give students at Yale a forum for free expression. Photo by Alissa Anh Chu.

A crowd of over 100 Yale community members gathered at Beinecke Plaza for a speak-out on Friday afternoon, calling attention to issues such as financial aid policy, University support for transgender students and Yale-New Haven relations.

At the speak-out, organized by the community advocacy group Students Unite Now, 13 students took the megaphone to discuss topics related to student life, University policy and relations between the University and the city. Many of the speakers called on administrators to increase transparency and student involvement in University decision-making. Sarah Cox ’15, committee member and organizer of SUN, said she thinks that the gathering was successful because of the large turnout and high participation in the day’s event.

“I’m proud of everyone who got up and spoke today,” Cox said. “We are right next to Woodbridge Hall, surrounded by all this power — to speak truth to that is really intimidating.”

SUN member Tom Stanley-Becker ’13 said the group had been organizing the speak-out for the past two or three weeks, but the idea originated after group members drew up a charter last December that outlined the issues SUN plans to address. Cox said they hoped the speak-out would strengthen their charter because the speak-out inspires action instead of talk.

Several police officers were present throughout the speak-out, though they did not interfere with the event. Cox said that though she was not surprised by their presence, she felt that they did not disturb the demonstration. Four people at the speak-out said that they felt the police presence was intimidating and unnecessary.

Cox said she was pleased with the number of people who spoke — only eight of the 13 speakers were scheduled before the event.

“I was really excited to see so many students listening and talking to each other,” Crosby said. “There were some tremendously powerful stories told here today.”

Crosby, who is a Democratic co-chair of Ward 1, spoke together with his co-chair Nia Holston ’14 on Friday to urge the University to be more mindful of the city in its development projects and to encourage more students to become involved in the New Haven community.

The speak-out drew participants from all over the Yale community, including Aaron Greenberg GRD ’18, who spoke on behalf of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization and said his group supports the actions of SUN.

“We stand in solidarity with SUN to make a more democratic, equitable and better Yale together,” he said.

Greenberg also advocated for better working and learning conditions for graduate students at Yale.

Ned Downie ’14, a SUN committee member and a senior editor of the Yale Daily News Magazine, spoke on eliminating the student contribution for financial aid.

“We care about making this place more equal,” Downie said, adding that the student contribution is one issue that puts students dependent on financial aid at a disadvantage. Stanley-Becker said that the organization is considering making the issue of financial aid student contribution the centerpiece of it campaign this year.

SUN was officially created in the January 2012 and has since worked on many issues, including the presidential search last semester.

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