As my second year at Yale comes to a close, I’ve come to realize that Yale is undergoing a period of serious change. Our policies are slowly getting more progressive, campus conversation increasingly includes issues of socioeconomic class and students are beginning to make clear to administrators that we should have a role in decision-making. The campus is in the process of physically changing in preparation for the two new residential colleges. All of this, combined with the upcoming selection of a new dean, indicates that administrators and students alike will soon be faced with crucial decisions that will guide the direction of the University.
Last year marked the resurgence of the conversation about financial aid and class at Yale. Freshman Scholars at Yale launched partially in response to a column in the News calling for a bridge program. Initial complaints about the rising student contribution to financial aid were voiced in various campus publications. This year, the group UFLIP was formed to provide a space for discussion about class. Even more strikingly, all four candidates for Yale College Council president incorporated financial aid reform into their platforms. This marked the first time that financial aid was discussed during YCC elections since 2011, when candidates mentioned student contribution, term-time jobs and the International Summer Award in their platforms.
Student opinion has been vocalized on a variety of issues. Fossil Free Yale successfully mobilized students to vote overwhelmingly in favor of fossil fuel divestment in November’s referendum. Although gender-neutral housing for sophomores was rejected for 2014-15, the administration knows that students strongly support it. Concerns over mental health and sexual assault policies have covered the pages of campus publications, forcing administrators to respond. The University released a series of sexual misconduct scenarios to clarify University policy.
We have also been given a slightly larger role in decision-making. Unlike last year’s presidential search committee, this year’s dean search committee included an undergraduate. At last week’s debate, three candidates for YCC president stated that a student should sit on the Yale Corporation. While this may be far from becoming a reality, Corporation members have begun interacting more directly with students through “University teas.”
When we return to campus in the fall, we’ll be returning to a Yale faced with decisions. Students have raised concerns and the administration is well aware. Both parties will need to decide whether or not to pursue real change in policy.
Will the YCC choose to actively push for financial aid reform, or will talks of lowering the student contribution remain campaign rhetoric? In 2005, YCC passed a resolution calling for a reduction to the student contribution. Since then, some smaller attempts have been made to negotiate with the financial aid office. Given now financial aid has such a large role in this year’s YCC campaigns, it stands to reason that the winning candidate should make the issue a priority.
If Fossil Free Yale’s divestment proposal is rejected over the summer, will they organize students to protest in the fall? Fossil Free has staged some small actions this semester, but much larger numbers will be necessary if they intend to override this type of administrative decision. Divestment movements on other college campuses have chosen to take a more radical tone and Fossil Free Yale will be forced to decide if it wants to take a similar path.
Students will also need to decide whether or not administrative responses to mental health and sexual violence policies are sufficient. Will further discussion be enough, or will there be a push for actual policy change in those areas?
As our administration continues to turn over, first with President Salovey, and now with Mary Miller’s replacement, the possibility for change will grow. The new dean will be accompanied by a new YCC, and the shift in interactions between the two may have serious implications for the student body.
The groundwork for progress on the issues students care about has been laid. Next semester will reveal whether administrators are serious about changing their policies in response to student criticism. It will also reveal if students care enough to push administrators to change.
Diana Rosen is a sophomore in Pierson College. Her columns run on Mondays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .