The place I called home for 18 years is 5,068 miles away from New Haven (and in a much warmer part of the world). The prospects of moving to a place far removed from my loved ones, much colder than anywhere I had ever been and with a largely unfamiliar culture, was daunting. But throughout my time at Yale, I have built a new home that has helped me survive the difficulties inherent to assimilation and the struggles of college life. I owe my success at building this home to my peers and the plethora of resources that brighten the experiences of many Yalies. Now, as a FroCo, I hope to pay it forward to new generations of Yalies. It is for this reason that I have chosen to donate to the Senior Class Gift.
My donation to the SCG is not a pure endorsement of all that is Yale. Rather it stems from recognition that while Yale certainly has room for improvement, the University wants us to thrive and succeed. Yale’s very structure — the residential college system amidst a University with wide resources — is designed to create communities that build a wide safety net and create an environment conducive to growth, learning and self-discovery. Yale has systems of support that simply do not exist in the real world: Walden Peer Counselors, FroCos, PLs, CCEs, deans, masters and professors.
Each of us will find different things at Yale that we will come to cherish. We all graduate from this University as changed individuals and for most of us that change will be overwhelmingly positive. We are changed by the Master’s Teas we attend, the classes we take, the conversations we have, the performances we see and the fellowships that give us a chance to engage the world around us. We grow in an environment, which despite its flaws, places students and their concerns at the center.
The University’s recent fledgling response to student concerns about Yale’s mental health services and policies is an indication of its commitment to students. Our concerns are being heard. Dean Jonathan Holloway has convened a committee to inquire into withdrawal and readmission policy changes. Our system is by no means perfect, but I am also proud of and committed to a University that has already begun to listen to the concerns we’ve raised.
Protesting the SCG over issues of mental health will not force the administration to change its withdrawal policies, but it will detract from the good we can achieve through our class’s participation. Donating to the SCG doesn’t mean that we all loved all four years at Yale; I doubt we can find many students who loved every single moment here. Donating does, however, show that we recognize and appreciate the many amazing experiences and opportunities we have been afforded. All of us have utilized Yale’s resources and benefited from them in one way or another. Not many places outside the Yale bubble offer the kind of opportunities we get here.
I’m donating to the SCG because I want to show that I’m thankful for what I have been given. However, I also recognize the need for change.
Pushing for change and giving back to Yale do not have to divide us as a class. We can simultaneously advocate for reform and give back to a community that has fostered us. Divided, we fall silent. But united, we can continue funding the positive experiences Yale has given us while simultaneously directing our resources to areas that desperately need improvement. Systemic change from the administration takes time and is something that could potentially be achieved through petitions, discussions with administrators, lobbying through our YCC representatives and other forms of advocacy. These conversations are happening and in the meantime, we can unite as a class and collect the resources needed to promote the campus environment that we’re fighting for.
If you do choose to give, give not because Yale is perfect, but because it is a place worth making better for others to come. The smallest acts of kindness are important, and our collective support can ultimately make Yale a home away from home for generations of students.
Zahra Baitie is a senior in Calhoun College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.