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 courtney.mceachon@yale.edu .

  • Guest

    “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.”

    Courtney, after the meeting I overheard you telling Dwight Hall’s female co-coordinator, as she approached you, that you “couldn’t take her seriously” because of her t-shirt. You were the one who refused to talk to her; not the other way around.

    • calhounie

      Feminists can’t be taken seriously after all.

  • calhounie

    It’s a smear campaign about an alleged smear campaign! Classy!

  • aaleli

    Progressive left: people stuck in a perpetual adolescence; they were the “unpopular or self loathing kids”. It persists throughout adulthood. They have a continual need to validate themselves through group think. Straying away from the party line would mean inconformity and recreating the possibility of being ostracized.

  • JCC2015

    I respect Courtney’s opinion and am very grateful to the Opinion section for allowing balanced debate on this issue. I understand that this is an issue that many have strong feelings on. But I would like to (respectfully) suggest that certain claims made in this piece, particularly those offering rather pointed critiques of certain people involved in this controversy, do not have a place in the YDN’s opinion section. Regardless of whether the events alluded to actually happened (and I am not pretending to have any information on that point), unsubstantiated gossip not only detracts from an argument, it reflects an error in judgment on the part of both the editors and the author of the piece.

    — Julia Calagiovanni ’15

    • Aaron Gertler

      (tl:dr — not sure I support CLAY, but I saw some things this week that make me think Courtney was justified in her public complaint.)

      Julia,

      You make a good point; the opinion section shouldn’t allow for unsubstantiated personal attacks.

      On the other hand, to “substantiate” the attack, to present evidence and make a stronger point, might have required identifying the person responsible more clearly — which would also be undesirable. It’s a dilemma with no obvious solution. Even silence, the cleanest way out, leaves the “certain people” involved here in the clear, which seems like it could encourage similar behavior in the future. (Not that this would necessarily happen.)

      I’ll take a moment here to present what I’ve seen: Someone emailed me, thinking I was the head of a Dwight Hall group (I am not), and asked me to vote “no” on CLAY, making some interesting points about the group’s activities that didn’t ring entirely true. I asked for more details, and they were given. It turns out that my instincts were mostly wrong, and this person’s views were well-supported, if not completely devastating to CLAY’s case.

      I then asked if they’d spoken to any members of CLAY, and offered to introduce them to a member I know somewhat well. I received no answer, and judging from Courtney’s op-ed, it seems as though this direct communication never happened. Even though this person made strong points, it still seems slightly uncouth to have made the points in a series of private messages to potential voters, without giving CLAY the chance to defend itself to those who were contacted.

      This is a major decision for Dwight Hall, and I respect that many people feel very strongly about each side of the debate. But I still wish the standards of discourse from some on the “no” side had been higher — just as I wish that CLAY’s epistemic standards were, if not higher, at least clearer. Though I don’t know every detail of the case, from what I do know, I think Courtney’s annoyance is justified, even if the YDN may have been better off cutting a sentence or two from this piece.

      • JCC2015

        Hi Aaron! Thanks for your response. I probably chose my words poorly there. I think that, if the events Courtney describes occurred, she is absolutely entitled to be annoyed. I just wish that some of her concerns had been discussed privately with the people involved before (or instead of) being taken to a public forum.

  • yapa

    Sterling Jonhonson’s handling of this affair has been a disgrace. He has been focusing more on promoting his personal political agendas than on doing a service to the community. He should be impeached for his mishandling of funds and inappropriate political behavior.

    • downwiththeydn

      Wtf is up with these vicious personal attacks in the YDN? Between the pieces published (see above), and the comments approved (this one), this year’s YDN board is guilty of furthering and legitimizing malicious slander. This is absolutely unacceptable.

      Down with the YDN.

      • Guest

        Okay Sterling. Don’t try to shift the blame to the YDN. You made the poor judgment calls, and you should be held accountable for your improper behavior.

  • theantiyale

    Get real. There is no chance in the world that Dwight Hall (the decaying shrine of William Sloane Coffin) would fund an anti-abortion student organization.