On Monday night, Patrick Reed ’15, a member of Yale’s Student Environmental Coalition stood in the center of the women’s table — water still running — to speak to a small crowd of students about the importance of campus activism.
He was representing one of 20 groups at the Yale Activist Bazaar, a new student-run event designed to raise awareness about Yale’s student activist groups and to encourage collaboration among them. While many of the University’s undergraduate organizations engage in activism, those groups typically keep their efforts separate and have few established systems for communicating and working together. But this fall, three undergraduates have attempted to boost conversation in Yale’s activist community by hosting the bazaar on Cross Campus and forming a larger effort they call “Yale Organizes!”
“We want it to be clear that there is not apathy among students at Yale,” said Alejandro Gutierrez ’13, one of the creators of Yale Organizes! “The problem is that there are a lot of pockets of activism at Yale, where it should be a united front.”
Marc DeWitt ’15, another of the students behind Yale Organizes!, said the initiative is intended to encourage dialogue among activist groups but insisted that it is neither a “group” nor an umbrella-type organization like Dwight Hall. DeWitt said that Yale has benefited in the past from student activism, but that these efforts would be more “forceful, powerful and frequent” if a platform existed to help the diverse groups collaborate.
The Monday bazaar attracted a wide range of activist leaders — from groups including Amnesty International, Broad Recognition, the Black Student Alliance at Yale and WYBC Yale Radio — along with a few dozen students interested in joining the groups. All who attended the bazaar were added to a panlist, DeWitt said, which he hopes will be used by groups and individuals to generate more coordinated activist efforts.
Sterling Johnson ’15, campus and community organizer for the Yale College Democrats, said his organization decided to participate to inform students about the Dems’ lesser-known work with community activism, and to form bonds with other activist groups.
“I really hope this event helps both involves freshmen and helps activist organizations work together on important issues.” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of overlap in what each group does, and it would be better for everyone if we worked together.”
Drew Morrison ’14, the president of New Haven Action, a nonpartisan activist group that focuses on local issues, said it was helpful to meet and hear from fellow student activists. He added that having a specific bazaar for activist organizations was more beneficial for outreach and recruitment than the “disorganized” bazaar held for registered undergraduate organizations in Payne Whitney Gymnasium at the start of the fall.
Dennis Tran ’16, who is looking to integrate activism into his extracurricular commitments, said the gathering on Cross Campus introduced him to some organizations he had not seen at the start-of-term extracurricular bazaar. Still, he added that Yale Organizes! could have done a better job advertising the event to freshmen and other students.
“I wouldn’t have known about the event if I weren’t already interested in getting involved,” Tren said.