James Cersonsky raised several ideas for Dwight Hall to become more active in promoting community service and social justice (“Step it up, Dwight Hall,” Nov. 13), Our experience is that a passion for making the world a better place is thriving at Yale. Countless students spend hours tutoring underprivileged children, working with the city to reduce air pollution or volunteering at soup kitchens to serve the homeless among many others. Much of this work is possible because of the services and support Dwight Hall provides.
However, Cersonsky raises a valid point. Many Dwight Hall groups don’t feel that they are part of some larger culture of service and social activism. As the hundreds of posters on the flyer boards vie for the attention of passerby, this sense of disconnectedness can even feel like outright competition.
Cersonsky proposes to fix this problem by increasing support for community campaigns, a la Shelter Now, to engage the campus and to make service more accessible through one-time opportunities, college days of service and events with non-service student groups. These suggestions have been topics of discussion among many members of the campus service community for months, and this past week, we were elected to at-large positions on the Dwight Hall Executive Committee to put these two ideas into action. One of the primary focuses of next year’s committee will be to spread this culture of service.
The campus campaign coordinator will work on directing campus attention toward grassroots campaigns that are immediately relevant to students on campus. The Elm City Resident Card and Shelter Now, for example, were campaigns that unified Dwight Hall and simultaneously appealed to the Yale community as a whole. By using this position to create and support similar campaigns we hope to back up the hard work that member groups do with Dwight Hall’s institutional voice.
The general service coordinator will work to make service an accessible part of the Yale experience. While the Dwight Hall member groups, with their intensely committed membership, are the heart of service at Yale, we recognize that not all students have the time or interest to dedicate themselves to the degree required by these organizations. Thus, we are working to create opportunities for all students to get involved whenever and however they can.
We will work to build on the current Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project-Dwight Hall Moment of Service, offering one-time, time-efficient opportunities, such as serving food at a shelter or teaching computer skills to the unemployed. Students groups have already become engaged; Just this Saturday, the Independent Party traveled to Life Haven, a shelter for women and children, for a cleaning project. We envision a busy calendar containing at least one open service opportunity per week and frequent events with student groups not specifically geared toward service.
Additionally, we plan to tap into the greatest existing communities at Yale, the residential colleges, to make service accessible to the student body. After the successful Davenport Day of Service this semester, we hope to expand such days to the other colleges. Further, we hope to talk with the college councils to create service chairs to keep these microcosmic communities engaged with our greater New Haven one.
We look forward to a new spirit of service at Yale, in which contributing to our school and our city is as ingrained a part of campus life as intramurals, screws and The Game. As Dwight Hall moves toward a new year, we hope you will join us in sewing service and social justice into the fabric of Yale.
Alexandra Brodsky is a sophomore in Davenport College. Charles Zhu is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College. They are the Dwight Hall general service coordinator-elect and campus coordinator-elect, respectively.