To the Editor:
I have been following with some interest the coverage of financial aid reforms in the Yale Daily News.
This latest demand by the UOC that the term-time and summer work student contribution be reduced or eliminated is specious and ill-informed. The UOC are positioning themselves as crybabies, implying that by virtue of their exalted status as Yalies, they should not have to work, I guess to free up time to sup on ambrosia or perhaps to picket. This anti-work attitude reeks of the ivory-tower mentality that student activists have railed against for generations. Students at state schools and other private colleges are all expected to work; why shouldn’t the exalted Yalies be, too? Working at part-time and summer jobs is a nearly universal part of the college experience, and has been for some time.
It is not unreasonable to expect that college students — grown-ups by all accounts — work a few hours a week while school is in session and more or less full-time in the summer. Yale’s expectation of eight to 10 hours of paid work per week is hardly onerous, and is often fewer hours per week of paid work than students worked in high school. Additionally, the hourly rate Yale pays its student workers is significantly higher than they might make in similar jobs elsewhere.
The various paid jobs I took at Yale were vital parts of my college experience. Through working in chemistry and public-health labs and operating the Saybrook Squiche and Printing Press (eliminated by the renovation), I advanced my academic study, gained real job skills and gleaned insight on myself and the world. I got to know some of the professional staff and faculty as a co-worker, rather than just as a student who wants something. I worked alongside graduate students whose only other experience of undergrads was as sniveling ignoramuses. I honed technical skills, from pipetting to cleaning to frying eggs. The summer before my senior year, when many of my fellow biology majors were doing unpaid internships in research labs, I found a paid position in a lab. While my lab was headed by an assistant professor at Epidemiology and Public Health rather than a renowned elder statesman of Molecular Biology and & Biophysics, I got to do more and had a better experience. Rather than keeping me from fully participating in undergraduate life, my term-time work — along with the weekly paychecks of $50-100 — allowed me to pay the entry fee to numerous dramatic, music and dance performances, to go out for a few drinks and otherwise lead the rarified life of a college student.
As to the assertion that Yale should copy Princeton’s aid policy, I have two thoughts: First, as adapted from my mother’s question when I was in middle school, “If Princeton jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” And second, as I learned at this time of year when I was a freshman, “Princeton doesn’t matter.”
Eric Peterson ’99
Nov. 16, 2005