We are three undergraduates who love Yale University and spend hours upon hours envisioning a better college — a place where financial aid packages meet the true student need, where the mental health system effectively supports the student body, where the living legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is celebrated on a day free from classes and where the dining hall food is tasty and fresh. We see unfulfilled potential all over this campus. And we are taking action.
We are members of the undergraduate group which has formed to demand that student voice be recognized and heard. We are a diverse group that represents a wide variety of student interests and backgrounds, yet we understand our common ground — the fundamental lack of student decision-making power. Students’ efforts to change Yale policy, be it for ethical investing or hand soap in bathrooms, have consistently been stifled.
Time and time again, students have done the research, held the meetings and built a broad base support, only to be shot down by an unresponsive administration. And students have had enough. We want to create a sustainable movement of undergraduates that will consistently and powerfully fight for the issues we care so passionately about.
Calling ourselves a student union, we are building committees in each residential college to ensure that every student has a point of entry and to understand the broad cross-section of student concerns. There is a coordinating committee that organizes the individual colleges with a broader view of the union as a whole, most importantly of the leadership development that is the crux of our structure.
Our strength lies not only in our numbers but also in our personal dedication and commitment to the greater cause. Ultimately, we want to negotiate with the administration on issues such as, but not limited to, financial aid, funding for cultural houses, mental health, licensing policy, academic advising, performance space for dancers and musicians, environmental policy and dining hall food. We know this list is far from complete, and that is where you come in.
We are organizing in solidarity with Yale unions and members of the New Haven community because despite our disparate backgrounds, ours is a common cause — raising our collective voice to democratize and strengthen our schools, jobs and lives. We recognize that the same forces which deny undergraduate students a voice also negatively affect graduate teachers, clerical and technical, service and maintenance, hospital workers and all Yale community members.
We are all vital parts of Yale University and deserve a say in how our community is run. Tomorrow at 4 p.m. the nascent student union will have its membership meeting at the Slifka Center, after which we will join the unions and the community at a rally on the New Haven Green. In a few years, we will look back at this Friday and say that this was the day that kicked off a movement. Please join us.
We believe that Yale has unfulfilled potential — a potential that can only be unlocked when students unite and organize for change. Together, we’re going to make Yale’s tercentennial a time not of complacency but of vision and action. This is our time.
Abby Levine ’02, Zach Schwartz-Weinstein ’04 and Karen Weise ’03 are members of the student union.