One year ago, when members from the executive committee of Dwight Hall, Yale College’s umbrella service organization, approached Choose Life at Yale asking if we would be interested in beginning the process for official membership, we were appreciative and excited. The opportunity, we hoped, would provide a way for us to dialogue with a broader campus audience and to support other organizations within Dwight Hall.
Over the year that followed, our relationship grew stronger. Dwight Hall leadership was gracious in affording us space to advertise along with all the other groups during their bazaar, and we learned about the resources that would become available to us as full members. The leadership of CLAY dutifully attended all the regular meetings, got assurances from several board members that all was going smoothly and even raised money for Dwight Hall through their phone-a-thon. Until the week of the vote, the CLAY president was assured that there were no members on the executive committee or member organizations who were adamantly opposed to incorporating CLAY.
However, as we were soon to find out, this was blatantly untrue.
Unlike the average Dwight Hall cabinet meeting, the week prior to this one featured an intensive whisper campaign — evidenced in an opinion piece in the News this Tuesday which accused CLAY of tactics we have never used and beliefs we have never espoused — in order to convince Dwight Hall constituent groups to vote down CLAY’s membership.
Some groups took the issue to their individual members for a vote, but many did not. Not one group approached CLAY at any point in the process for a clarification regarding our mission or how we work to advance the welfare of women and their children, nor was time allotted by Dwight Hall for such questions to be asked. Though groups are only typically allowed one-minute to present, in our case it did not account for the unprecedented nature of the situation. During the proceedings, there was confusion and disagreement about whether some members could vote at all.
But far more disrespectful and damaging to Dwight Hall’s reputation is the fact that one of the co-coordinators played a role in the whisper campaign in the days before the vote, convincing students in and out of Dwight Hall that CLAY’s petition was illegitimate. Indeed, the inability of the organization’s leadership to be impartial was most clear in the abrupt way that CLAY leaders in attendance were unacknowledged after the vote. No one stepped forward to tell us how to proceed, or to even recognize the yearlong relationship we had been forming between our organizations. Had we not approached the co-coordinators afterward, no one would have said a word. We thought it would at least be a sign of respect towards our organization and its efforts to have a follow up after the announcement of the first failed vote in 10 years.
Dwight Hall’s treatment of CLAY is unprecedented in its history — no other group in recent memory has ever been rejected. Because of the sensitivity surrounding the issues CLAY deals with, it was incumbent upon Dwight Hall to both foresee these issues and discuss them up front during the provisional membership process. With due clarity, Dwight Hall could have encouraged us to hold an open discussion where we could answer all constituent groups’ questions and concerns. Members of the Dwight Hall executive committee have been dishonest from the start, in a matter in which clarity may have resulted in a different outcome.
Barring this hurdle, we continue to see no reason why CLAY was barred from joining. What we hope is apparent to people on both sides of the abortion issue is that Dwight Hall leadership did not allow us the opportunity to approach groups in a reasonable, formal way to find an operational middle ground. Had we known a campaign against us was underway, we would have met with Dwight Hall’s member groups ourselves. This free and fair discussion, it seems, is precisely what Dwight Hall’s leadership fought tooth and nail to avoid.
We are all obviously disappointed and frustrated with this decision, especially after having gone through this year-long provisional process. Our primary goal at this point is to proceed forward with next year and to demonstrate and continue our commitment to actively advocating social justice. We hope that given the opposition to our entrance, we as a campus can actually use this opportunity to have a legitimate conversation about the definition of social justice. This is a question that concerns us all, and we hope that the inquiry will not stop.
We are willing to take this in stride for a true campus dialogue about social justice. Are you?
Courtney McEachon is a junior in Pierson College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .