Justin Zaremby’s editorial (“Dwight Hall must reject guilt and accept thought,” 9/26) dramatically underestimates both the complexity of Dwight Hall’s work and the thoughtfulness of its members. Zaremby accuses the members of the Dwight Hall community of being unreflective and anti-intellectual.
In addition to containing factual errors, his argument is uninformed and simplistic.
The Social Justice Network, one sector of Dwight Hall, sponsors the activities that Zaremby derides as “therapy sessions” bereft of “thoughtful engagement with the campus-at-large.” But these teach-ins, vigils and rallies aim to invite discussion and dialogue among the diverse voices on campus and, as Zaremby prescribes, to encourage all Yale students to examine and wrestle with difficult issues, ranging from the economics of sweatshop labor to prison reform.
Moreover, the Social Justice Network, which Zaremby treats as the entirety of Dwight Hall, is only one segment of the organization. Had the author consulted even the plaque at the entrance of the building, he would have understood that Dwight Hall is committed to both public service and social justice. (He might also have realized that no one ever refers to Dwight Hall as Dwight.)
The 30 organizations that comprise the Education Network are active in more than 15 schools in New Haven. Tutors mentor elementary school students, do science projects with middle schoolers, prepare high schoolers for the SAT and teach English to immigrants, among other activities.
Zaremby bemoans what he perceives to be Dwight Hall’s egregious departure from its religious affiliation and initial mission. The religious aspect of Dwight Hall persists in the Magee Fellowship for Religion and Social Justice, and several student organizations, such as Salt of the Earth and Yale College Christian Community Outreach.
Moreover, had Zaremby read our mission statement, he would have learned that Dwight Hall seeks “to foster civic-minded student leaders and to promote service and activism in New Haven and around the world,” a goal clearly in line with the intentions of our founders.
Zaremby mistakes what we call “civic-minded students” for what he calls “like-minded students.” Indeed, the students who participate in Dwight Hall are like-minded: We are committed to ideals of social justice and are willing to work to effect change. While he accuses us of having abandoned “leadership goals,” the number of students who have gone from active engagement in Dwight Hall to leadership positions in the public sphere puts such an assertion to lie.
The founder of LEAP, one of Connecticut’s largest non-profit organizations, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman are only two of the Dwight Hall alumni to take on great leadership roles.
Zaremby also contends that Dwight Hall should be primarily a forum for debate and only secondarily for action. We disagree. Action is at the heart of Dwight Hall’s mission. We do not simply talk. We act, and our actions are accompanied by debate and thoughtful discussions. For example, our Public School Internship, Urban Fellow, and Summer Internship programs provide students with meaningful work experience in the New Haven community as well as weekly discussions and meetings with community leaders.
Similarly, Dwight Hall sponsors speakers, trainings, debates and panels aimed at contextualizing the work we do on a daily basis in a larger social framework.
Finally, each month coordinators of every Dwight Hall member group come together to discuss issues pertaining to the Hall and its work, ranging from socially responsible investing to the Higher Education Act. Zaremby would no doubt be shocked by the lively debate at these meetings.
Dwight Hall is not a perfect place. Members of the community continually argue about our mission and the means we choose to realize it. But such discussion and, more importantly, our actions are what make the Hall a vital and positive force in Yale, New Haven and beyond.
We invite Zaremby to join any of our Education Network or Social Justice Network groups, or to attend any of the many events sponsored by Dwight Hall and to bring his passion for debate to our organization.
Jessica Bulman and Alan Schoenfeld are co-coordinators of Dwight Hall.