Five months after it was denied Dwight Hall membership on the grounds that its work did not fall in line with the organization’s mission, Choose Life at Yale kicked off its second annual conference this weekend with a discussion on social justice.
CLAY — Yale’s pro-life student organization — first sought membership into Dwight Hall’s Social Justice Network in the fall of 2013. After a year of provisional membership, the organization ultimately lost its bid in a vote with undisclosed margins at Dwight Hall’s biannual board meeting.
On Friday afternoon, Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life of America, delivered a keynote address called “Reproductive Social Justice.” Hawkins’s speech largely focused on abortion as a practice that destroys relationships, such as that between the mother and the child.
“The Social Justice Network has a different view from me as to what social justice is,” Hawkins said. “Some people believe that dismembering human children is a human right.”
Although Students for Life of America and CLAY have collaborated for years, CLAY leaders only invited Hawkins to speak about social justice at the end of last spring, she said.
The timing was not coincidental. While this year’s conference was not intended to focus mainly on social justice, CLAY members chose the keynote speaker in response to the Dwight Hall decision, said Evelyn Behling ’17, CLAY’s co-director.
“We believe that Dwight Hall should be more welcoming to all definitions of social justice, not a specific subsection,” Behling said. “We really think it’s important that on this campus as a whole we really think about what [social justice] means.”
Behling attributed the Dwight Hall decision in April to the personal views of the members of its cabinet, adding that the board that came to the decision was largely made up of Democrats.
Dwight Hall has no official political affiliation, nor does it offer a definition of social justice, according to Shea Jennings ’16, Dwight Hall’s public relations coordinator. Rather, it encourages its members to think about what social justice means to them, she said.
CLAY has been deliberating about whether the organization should re-apply for membership, Behling said, though it has not yet reached a consensus. Other members said the group is pursuing a path divergent from Dwight Hall activities.
“Something we’re considering as a group is whether we want to continue applying to make a point,” Behling said. “We’re still deciding that as a group.”
At the very least, it is unlikely that CLAY will re-apply for membership this year, said Christian Hernandez ’15, a former CLAY president. The two organizations have not been in communication since the vote in April, Jennings said.
This year the organization will turn its attention to Yale Health, Behling said.
Yale Health policy regarding pregnancy is decidedly pro-choice, Behling said. Under Yale Basic, the plan’s coverage pays for abortions, but not prenatal care or delivery of a baby.
“It’s discrimination against a certain class of women,” Hawkins said.
The conference hosted 13 speakers in total this weekend.