They’re coming for you. At least, the census coordinators are if you didn’t complete their form. They reached a 94.6 percent compliance rate, but they’re determined to have 100. Is it a matter of pride? No, it’s about money and power.
Reading the advertisements, however, you’d think the census effort was nothing more than a fundraiser for the city. They’re everywhere. “You count too!” they scream. Why you might ask? Well, census at Yale believes you should care because “the census is used to distribute more than $400 billion in federal funds to local and state governments each year.” The implication is that New Haven deserves a larger cut because you’re a student here. Just three minutes of your time and New Haven can get thousands of dollars. Think of the local schools. Think of the children.
But apportioning funding is just one function of the census. Article one, section two of the U.S. Constitution says, “representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union” based on a census count. Neither the founding fathers nor those who amended the census clause in the fourteenth amendment after the Civil War believed that apportioning public money should be a primary role for the census.
In light of this, the census’ ad campaign is revealed for the appallingly cynical effort it is. To the census takers and city bureaucrats, the money you entitle New Haven to is more valuable than the representation of your voting district. Their publicity efforts focused on money and ignored the issue of representation, perhaps it would have got people to ask an obvious question: What does it mean to be counted in a community where you don’t vote?
Contrary to popular belief, every resident counts when determining congressional representation. By forcing students to fill out their censuses in New Haven rather than their voting district, the census records an artificially inflated “permanent” population and thus the congressional representation for the state of Connecticut. As a result, students who vote or pay taxes elsewhere have no choice but to watch their own states and towns lose representation proportionally.
I’m not arguing that students should never fill out their census forms at their college — indeed, students should fill out the census where they vote. And if they don’t vote, they should fill it out where they reside the majority of the time. But more flexibility is needed.
Just having a college population that could vote and might use public facilities should not entitle New Haven and other cities to steal these citizens from the communities they choose to call home. Especially at schools where students rarely drive, use public facilities or plan to become permanent residents, few expenses are incurred by the local community that are not justly compensated. Students bring valuable business to the community. Yale provides both services and an annual voluntary contribution to the city.
John Scrudato is a junior in Morse College.