To the Editor:
On the eve of last year’s strikes, the Yale Daily News wrote a typically self-important editorial acknowledging the need for better pensions and wages for Yale’s workforce, yet criticizing the workers who were striking to realize those changes. It’s a good thing those workers didn’t listen to the dozen Yale undergraduates dispensing advice, or else they wouldn’t have won the best contracts in the unions’ history. Judging from the curiously similar editorial on Thursday’s financial aid action, though (“On route to aid reform, a major roadblock,” 2/25) — which acknowledged the need for comprehensive financial aid reform, yet chided the students actually pressuring the University to make it happen — the News still hasn’t figured out how our University works.
For the past five months, President Levin has refused to sit down and discuss financial aid issues with students. He’s ignored rallies, massive petitions, a unanimous YCC resolution and, yes, even the learned opinions of the News’ staff. On Thursday, President Levin proved he’d rather have 15 of his own students arrested than sit down and discuss the issues. Hundreds of students braved the wind and snow throughout the day to show their solidarity, two of whom were even treated for frostbite! And because of their bold action and the strong, unwavering support from students, professors and workers outside the Admissions Office, President Levin’s obstinate refusals have become a national issue.
I can’t tell you how much I wish I attended a University where President Levin and the Corporation would sit down and let students reason with them. Had they done that five months ago, maybe Yale would have gotten a 28.3 percent jump in African-American applicants like Harvard did this year; had they done that five months ago, maybe hundreds of students wouldn’t be forced to still work 20+ hour weeks to make ends meet; had they done that five months ago, maybe students wouldn’t have to put their bodies on the line to secure meaningful financial aid reform at Yale.
Greg Yolen ’05
Feb. 27, 2005
To the Editor:
As a signer of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee’s financial aid petition, I was infuriated by the group’s tactics Thursday at the Admissions Office. By obstructing tour groups and occupying the office until after closing hours, the UOC has created division where there should be student unity and has likely discouraged some of Yale’s qualified applicants from attending the University.
Financial aid reform is a noble cause: I signed the petition in solidarity with my friends who are international students, who must work 15-20 hours a week and thus do not have the time to enjoy the same benefits of a Yale education that most students do. Judging by the record number of signatures that the UOC collected for its petition, it seems that financial aid reform is widely supported on campus. The UOC could have used this issue to unite much of the student body. Instead, by using such extreme protest methods, the committee will cause division among student supporters of reform.
It is in the interest of every Yale student to have the most talented, most intelligent and most diverse student body possible. The University’s imperfect financial aid system likely prevents qualified students from attending Yale. However, the actions of the UOC at the Admissions Office have likely dissuaded prospective students who visited campus Thursday from matriculating.
While I continue to support financial aid reform, particularly for international students, I will no longer support the Undergraduate Organizing Committee.
Martin Toomajian ’06
Feb. 24, 2005
To the Editor:
I participated in Thursday’s action at the Admissions Office, and although I was not one of the students involved in the sit-in inside the building, I support them completely and thank them wholeheartedly as a student on significant financial aid. I have to question the logic of the News’ recent editorial on the subject, which suggested that the protest will actually hurt the cause of financial aid reform. The News said that “those of us on campus who support financial aid reform but were embarrassed by yesterday’s sit-in know that this kind of change does not come with ultimatums and publicity stunts.” But the fact is that most substantial changes in University policy — admitting women for the first time, reaching an agreement with the unions and also previous successful campaigns for financial aid reform — have come in response to aggressive political action on the part of Yale students.
What President Levin said on Tuesday was that some financial aid reform was in the works, that he didn’t know what it would look like yet and that it is difficult for the Yale administration to decide what to spend money on since “we have more good ideas than money” or some such. Yale’s endowment is a lot of money worth of good ideas — but leaving that aside for the moment, let’s take President Levin at his word. If Yale’s administration is struggling to define financial aid reform (and to decide on what Yale’s wealth should be spent) then the vocalizing of student opinions on the subject is crucial. Hundreds of people saying that financial aid reform is worth the University’s money and supporting a platform that details what it should look like would be invaluable for an administration actually attempting to construct good new policy. And if no credible attempt is being made, all the more reason to protest. So when everyone from the University president on down thinks this is an important issue to talk about right now, political action related to it could not possibly be a waste of time or a stumbling block in the process of accomplishing change.
The students who sat in at the Admissions Office just wanted to talk to someone to ensure that supposed planned changes in aid policy are in line with the feelings of the student body before the new budget came out. This is neither unreasonable nor particularly difficult to grant. And I think the suggestion that anyone, either student or university official, will change his or her mind and not support financial aid because of feeling squeamish about a perfectly peaceful sit-in is just out of touch with the realities of this issue. Real people’s futures are at stake here, and I’d hate to see them get sacrificed because we don’t have the moral courage to actually make change happen.
Matt Traldi ’06
Feb. 26, 2005
To the Editor:
The actions of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee on Feb. 24, 2005 were irresponsible and counterproductive. While the goal of more inclusive and extensive financial aid is a noble one, the means employed by the UOC not only hurt their case, but offer an extremely poor reflection of the University. The very notion of an Admissions Office “sit-in” is an immature display: Not only does the Admissions Office have nothing to do with the financial aid policy of the University, but this juvenile UOC posturing inconvenienced hundreds of visitors to Yale. Many of these families have traveled from across the globe to tour the university; to obstruct their paths as they entered the Admissions Office (as was done by the UOC) and to hassle them sporadically speaks very negatively about this supposedly “progressive” student group.
Yale is by no means perfect. The way to bring about desired changes, however, is not to stage knee-jerk stunts. Our understanding was that the UOC did not come even close to exhausting more civil avenues of reform. The call for more extensive financial aid is legitimate; the actions of the UOC, however, are not.
Al Jiwa ’06
Akash Shah ’06
Feb. 24, 2005
To the Editor:
Thursday’s editorial makes far too many assumptions. First, the News assumes that last Thursday’s sit-in was planned and executed exclusively by the UOC. To the contrary, many of the 15 participants have not even attended a UOC meeting. The News also fails to consider the diverse group of students who rallied outside the admissions office. With many other students who are not affiliated with the UOC, I endured freezing temperatures for seven hours to demonstrate the importance of financial aid reform for the student body.
Second, the News’ analysis rests on the flawed assumption that President Levin has provided students a clear picture of the future of financial aid at Yale. Apparently, “the UOC suggested it had no desire to listen to what the University actually planned to do.” If the News knows something that I do not, I encourage it to publish these phantom plans for reform. I was present for every single comment President Levin made on financial aid at last Tuesday’s open forum, and the only tidbit that I gleaned was that the administration is “considering” serious reform. After 1,100 students endorsed the UOC’s financial aid platform and the YCC’s unanimous adoption of a resolution supporting substantial aid reforms, I attended the forum expecting more than lip service to my concerns about equality of experience and diversity at my university.
Last Tuesday, President Levin showed that the University believes that 1,100 concerned students may be summarily dismissed with a 20-minute discussion. Last Thursday, President Levin showed that the administration is unwilling to discuss the issue any further before crucial decisions are made in the “next few weeks.” Who should the News be “embarrassed” about — a group of students earnestly trying to be heard or an administration that adamantly refuses to listen?
David Tian ’07
Feb. 27, 2005