To the Editor:
In response to the column (“Can Undergrads Really Solve New Haven’s Problems?” 2/20), I was greatly disturbed on many points.
First, Weiss’s generalization that Yalies hail from private schools and suburban communities is a false one. Most of my friends and I come from public schools, live in urban areas, and have families that grapple with many of the issues that Dwight Hall groups seek to alleviate.
Second, her comment that Yale students should focus on teaching community members conflict resolution is condescending and paternalistic. We cannot serve our city by approaching our fellow New Haven citizens as if we have something wonderful to offer due solely to our acceptance to Yale.
Third, Weiss’s proposal for a University-wide festival in which we all get together to learn about one another’s cultures is extremely naive. Gathering together to “relate” to one another for a day will neither make Yale a more culturally aware campus nor make it more receptive to students of color.
If anything, such a “festival” would only serve to delegitimize our varied cultural backgrounds as it would put them on display as some sort of entertaining oddity. I did not come to Yale to entertain my classmates or to help others feel more culturally aware, nor do I participate in community activities to magically fix the “ills” of New Haven.
I did come to Yale to learn and gather the tools needed to affect real change in the world. In this learning, participating is essential. One should not urge students to sit on their hands and talk about change, but rather to act to bring about change and learn to make true lasting reforms in our society. Clothing drives and park clean-ups are not the way to make true changes in society, contrary to Sarah Weiss’ cotton candy vision of a unified Yale. True change will come from students being active in their community and in local politics, getting their hands dirty to truly understand how to serve and bring about change.
Accordingly, the humility and dedication necessary for working for reform does not come from remaining within our ivy-covered walls, but from going out and encountering the city in which we live and truly being citizens of New Haven. Sitting around a campfire understanding each other and talking just doesn’t cut it.
Candace D. Mckinley ’03
February 20, 2002