This week, Yale President Richard Levin did something that the members of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee had pushed for throughout the past three years: He sat down with them.
During their 45-minute discussion of Yale’s financial aid policies, Levin did not commit to the further reductions of the student and summer financial aid contributions for which the UOC has campaigned, citing competing priorities such as a desire to create new faculty positions. But though he said financial aid changes probably will not be enacted this year, Levin did agree to consider the group’s suggestions.
We believe the meeting was a positive step. It demonstrates an increased transparency on the part of the administration, and the meeting seemed to strike a proper tone for future discussions of changes to administration policies. We are pleased that Levin agreed to a conversation with the UOC members instead of falling back on official statements or representatives.
Along similar lines, we are glad the UOC has pursued a more convincing medium than the protests that have comprised much of its recent efforts. Though the sit-in that UOC members staged at the Admissions Office earlier this year was effective in that it captured national media attention, we feel the medium has limited the real impact of the committee’s campaigns.
While the University should be receptive to campus concerns, groups such as the UOC cannot truly expect to effect change through a consistently radical presentation of their case. We are glad to see that the committee is able to sit down and speak with the president rather than standing on a picket line and shouting at him.
But while the meeting helped to re-establish a precedent of administrative receptiveness to complaints, we find it difficult to agree with the UOC’s position on its topic of choice. We recognize that financial aid reform is the committee’s primary focus this year, but we are reluctant to issue further requests to Levin and the University before the impact of last spring’s amendments to the aid policy has been assessed.
That said, Yale’s financial aid reforms have traditionally followed those of Harvard or Princeton, and it would be admirable for the University to take a lead on additional reform at this stage.
Still, while Yale should be encouraged to take a more active stance on policy reform, we are heartened by Tuesday’s meeting between Levin and the UOC. Though the protest tactics of the UOC and other advocacy groups have at times seemed extreme, we recognize that such tactics may result from frustration with University bureaucracy. This meeting marks a step forward for both sides, and, more importantly, for rational discourse between student organizers and the administration. But both sides must now work to ensure that the dialogue continues, without the spokesmen or the megaphones.