Spring break has a way of changing things. Maybe the pains of midterms have subsided, or the days of relatively little schoolwork have made starting classes again exciting and refreshing. I spent a large part of my spring break exploring Boston. Before I left, I had imagined that the Boston area would be a sprawling urban scene, throbbing with activity. There were parts of Boston that fit that description, but there were also parts that reminded me of New Haven.
New Haven has a sleepier, quieter feeling to it that I’ve learned to appreciate. Returning to New Haven reminded me of the excitement that I left here two weeks ago. While we were on break, New Haven community members worked hard with Yale-New Haven Hospital Cancer Center officials to agree on a community benefits agreement. Wednesday night, New Haven residents, hospital and city officials and students all celebrated the agreement as a step in the right direction.
This success is telling, among many things, of effective community organizing and the strong concern among New Haven residents for the welfare of our city. It’s also a reminder of the work yet to be done. We must remember that while the University has made much progress in New Haven and within the University to work for justice and equality, it has much work yet to do. Before we left for spring break, more than 80 students, community members and clergy officials marched to the financial aid office to call for greater financial aid reform.
The self-help obligation, which obligates many students to work, is unjust. It forces students to work excessively and prevents them from pursuing other meaningful activity. The $4,400 self-help obligation is unique in terms of financial aid in that besides tuition and room and board, it is one of few figures that every Yale student sees on his monthly financial aid statement. It affects the student who would like to devote more time to theater, to research or to doing community service. Yale obligates us to meet this self-help requirement. We are similarly obligated by our vision for a better Yale to call for its reduction.
Progressive change in Yale’s financial aid policy is a priority for me, and I’m not the only one. A survey by the Yale College Council last semester found that undergraduates rate further financial aid reform as the top spending priority for the University this year. The YCC has unanimously passed a resolution calling on Yale to act. In addition, 500 students wrote individual letters to members of the Yale Corporation sharing their own experiences and calling for action.
Yale students have made clear that securing a financial aid policy that unites our campus and expands our opportunity is a priority for us. Unfortunately, Yale President Richard Levin has so far indicated that it’s a priority he doesn’t share, at least for the time being. That leaves him out of step with student sentiment and out of touch with student needs. I hope Levin will take the new fiscal year as an opportunity to come around. Until he does, I’m glad to be back in New Haven and proud to keep working with other students to push for change.
Elijah Barrett is a freshman in Trumbull College.