Throughout the ongoing Ward 1 Aldermanic debate, Students for a Yale Cancer Center has argued for the timely construction of the Yale-New Haven Cancer Center, but questions remain about the group’s impact on the debate over the center’s place in the local community.
Christian Jensen ’06, president of SYCC and the Yale Entrepreneurial Society, said SYCC has not taken a strong position on hospital unionization, a key point in local debate over the center, but the group is still pushing for the construction of the center in order to bring jobs to New Haven and expedite treatment for cancer patients. Still, while many of the group’s nearly 200 members have been active in New Haven economic development or cancer-related issues, representatives of community groups and the Yale-New Haven hospital said they were not familiar with the group.
Jensen said the group’s mission is to encourage discussion about the center by reaching out to aldermen and representatives from Yale-New Haven and Community Organized for Responsible Development.
“Politically, I’m a moderate,” Jensen said. “We think that you should build the Cancer Center and settle the unionization issue separately.”
But Yale-New Haven spokesman Vin Petrini, Service Employees International Union Representative William Meyerson and Reverend Scott Marks, the leader of Community Organized for Responsible Development, all said they are unfamiliar with the group or did not know it existed.
“I have never heard of the group Students for a Yale Cancer Center,” Meyerson said.
Even so, Petrini said he would welcome further involvement from SYCC.
“We’ve been in contact with dozens of groups,” Petrini said. “This is the type of unifying projects that brings groups together from around the community. I think it’s great when you’ve got students and community organizations working together.”
Jensen said the group is now focusing on reaching out to the community and working more closely with those who support unionization at the center, in an effort to make their outreach to the community as successful as their outreach on campus.
“I think we’ve been great at promoting the issue among Yale students,” Jensen said. “However, our rhetoric, I think, has been less effective than we’d like it to be, because it’s such a contentious issue, we’ve been less diplomatic than we should have been.”
SYCC began last spring following a series of meetings hosted by Michael Morand, Yale’s associate vice president for New Haven and State Affairs. Morand said last spring’s Relay for Life, which raised over $100,000 for the American Cancer Society, made him aware that students were interested in issues pertaining to cancer treatment.
“We thought it would be worthwhile to engage student leaders about this particular project given its particular importance for the entire community both for its health care benefits and the economic benefits,” Morand said. “It was not a project that was well known among the student population.”
Jamie Kirchick ’06, who said he has been active in SYCC since last spring, said the meetings hosted by Morand were a key component in the group’s founding because Morand showed students that they could get involved with the Cancer Center debate. But Kirchick said the group’s agenda is unconnected to that of the Yale administration.
“They just wanted to share the goals of the hospital in terms of economic development and how students could get involved … they assumed that people in the student body would be interested in economic development issues,” Kirchick said.
Construction on the Center was scheduled to begin this fall but has been delayed because the Board of Aldermen has yet to approve the building permits. A vote on the permits has not yet been scheduled.