February 17th, 2011 | Uncategorized

OPINION | Libresco: Take time for activism

Riley Scripps Ford gave a terrible portrait of activism and engagement in his column stumping for the Senior Class Gift (“Giving Back, Paying Forward,” Feb. 16). Ford pitched the gift to seniors who feel disconnected or dissatisfied with Yale as a way to make a positive impact. But donating $5 to Yale’s general funds is not real engagement, and it does nothing to resolve objections to University policy. The real way to make positive change is working to reform what you find intolerable.

It’s ironic that Ford’s article ran on the same day as the News’ cover story on Brown ceasing its investments in a hotel chain that has been accused of abysmal labor practices (“Brown Halts New Investment in HEI,” Feb. 16). That change happened because activists at Brown and elsewhere put pressure on the university and raised awareness. Yale’s Undergraduate Organizing Committee has been carrying out sit-ins and protests for over a year to shame Yale into withdrawing its support for HEI. UOC understands what Ford seems to have missed: activism takes time and commitment. It must be focused and aggressive.

Your $5 contribution to financial aid will have no impact on Yale’s decision to raise the expected work contribution without expanding student jobs. To make a difference, you’ll need to sign up with UOC or another group and organize for something a little more critical than the Senior Class Gift.

  • RSF

    Dear Leah,

    Thanks for your thoughtful commentary. You’d be right in calling my column a “terrible portrait of activism” if that is what I was attempting to portray. But SCG isn’t activism; in fact, I don’t think I used that word once. It’s a good thing, too–seeing how effective UOC has been thus far with their HEI campaign (read: “’Either Brown has information that we don’t have, or I find this to be an extremely perplexing development about what it takes to influence Brown’s decisions,’ Macey said”), we wouldn’t have raised any money at all, much less the current record-setting amount. I’d say the difference between Brown and Yale is not so much the aggression and commitment of the protests, but rather the backbone of their respective investment offices.

    Your point is well-taken, of course; I just don’t think this is a very useful comparison. SCG is primarily a way to show appreciation to Yale, and my appeal was directed at those who feel they have little to appreciate. I think you’d find that although the act of donation itself does not magically create or improve community, the individual college efforts can be extraordinarily meaningful, even to those who have never been active in their college communities. Saybrook, for example, is quite proud of reaching 100% participation, and there were students who happily contributed in lieu of playing IMs, going to Mellon Forums, SAC meetings, etc.

    In any event, JE is going strong at 90%, and I’m sure Chris and Cathy would love to hear from you if they haven’t already. Feel free to shoot me an email if you’d like to discuss this further.



    P.S. As you’ll read, an anonymous donor has pledged $100,000 to financial aid and study abroad programs should the Class of 2011 reach 100% participation overall. Perhaps that’s more your style.

  • Jaymin

    > “there were students who happily contributed in lieu of playing IMs, going to Mellon Forums, SAC meetings, etc”

    There’s something disheartening about the implication that latte’s worth of money can compensate for apathetic school spirit elsewhere.