The three-week-long Senior Class Gift campaign just wound up with the lowest participation statistic in the last six years. From an incredible 96 percent participation by the class of 2014, it dropped dramatically to a mere 78 percent.
As a senior navigating the politics of donating to Yale at a time when deep problems have been revealed within our community — from sexual assault to mental health — I had to relearn the meaning of gratitude, community and ownership. Like every other senior, I have spent the last few weeks deliberating with friends and peers over the dilemma. In the end, I stuck to my initial resolve — I chose to boycott the SCG.
The SCG stands for tradition, for expressing satisfaction and for inculcating a legacy of giving back to the alma mater. Ever since the SCG was instituted in 1997, graduating seniors have fully and soundly “endorsed” their time at Yale and crossed from students to “responsible” alumni. It conditions us to believe that responsible alumni are those who further this institution through financial support.
But the SCG also stands for something bigger. It stands for a sense of collective ownership. We’re all in this mission together, and this is the first time our class comes together with a unified purpose — to raise money for the University. And on an individual scale, the SCG is an opportunity to express our gratitude for the impact Yale has had on our lives.
I’m no stranger to that feeling of gratitude. As a low-income student from a developing country, I am here because Yale has gone above and beyond to provide a college experience I otherwise never could have experienced. On a personal level, this in itself should have prompted me to show my support to the University. But once I took a step back and considered my broader network of friends and peers, I realized my endorsement of the University would be selfish and, in some way, antithetical to the collective experience which the SCG represents.
As a community, as the senior class, we are in a unique position to express our passion for the University in a different manner. We all have one friend who has suffered under Mental Health and Counseling, we all have that one friend afraid of reaching out for professional help for fear of being sent back home. And we have talked about how mental health has repeatedly failed to meet our expectations. We have written articles, lobbied the Yale College Council, presented reports to committee XYZ, held placards in photo campaigns and heck, some of us have even initiated conversations with Woodbridge Hall.
Apart from a vague email and a promise for better resources in uncertain terms, the responses so far have been fairly underwhelming. In this context, the SCG stands out as an immediate and useful tool available to us to make a collective point. These numbers matter. And perhaps, this way, the story behind those numbers will also get told.
Prompted by the social media campaign and petition demanding mental health reform at Yale, I wanted to anchor the act of boycotting not as a lack of support for the University but as a testament to our care for the community we’ve found at Yale.
We want to see a healthier, safer campus for ourselves and the generations of bright, talented individuals who will come after us. Many of us have experienced frustration with MH&C first-hand, most of us have confronted the callousness of the University over MH&C procedures and we all know someone who has faced dire consequences. Today, I am heartened to see a point of definitive action.
The SCG boycott doesn’t show to me a lack of solidarity in the senior class. In fact, it shows that we care and we care to act on our concern for each other. As far as donating goes, as Yale alumni, the chance to give back to the University in tangible and intangible ways will present itself all throughout our lives. I know that I will likely donate to financial aid down the road. We will acknowledge the education, we will fondly reminiscence. However, never again will we all be in the same space, actively participating in something as essential as mental health advocacy and collectively coming together for each other.
The SCG is intended as a mechanism to unify us. But I believe the movement to boycott it was not only a better way to bring the senior class closer but to serve a more just purpose.
Shalmoli Halder is a senior in Saybrook College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.