One hundred and fifty Yale students gathered last Friday on Cross Campus to demand greater student activism on campus. However, in a telling statement about the solidarity of the student body, or lack thereof, some students protested the event itself.
At “Unite Yale: Rally for Student Power,” student speakers represented a host of organizations, including members of Yale’s four cultural houses, Fossil Free Yale, Students Unite Now and mental health policy reform advocates. During the two-hour-long event, students argued for administrative transparency and highlighted several issues before the University.
“The rally represents the views of various students on Yale campus that have been historically disenfranchised by the administration and certain elements of the institution as a whole,” said Sebastian Medina-Tayac ’16, an organizer of the event and a representative of the Native American Cultural Center. “It showed that there is unity among students and that students deserve to be heard.”
But midway through the rally, a group of 10 students began their protest against Unite Yale mere steps away, in front of Sterling Memorial Library. Holding signs and chanting, these students momentarily disrupted the rally, questioning its organizers’ motives.
Cole Aronson ’18, who was part of the protest against Unite Yale, said he supports students who say they have been wronged by the Yale Corporation but criticized the rally’s “random assertion of student power.” Aronson added that the rally was not a productive way of addressing student concerns.
Still, Gabrielle Diaz ’18, an attendee of the rally, said she was discouraged by the protest against Unite Yale. Diaz said she was concerned that those students did not understand the need for students to use their own voices to improve the University.
Throughout the rally, student activists called for the renovation of the cultural houses, the reform of mental health policies, divestment from fossil fuel companies and the elimination of the student contribution. However, the speakers said each issue affected not just an individual group of students but the entire student population. Fabian Fernandez ’15 said at the rally that members of La Casa not only face racial injustices, but also encounter problems with the student contribution and Yale’s mental health policies.
Joel DeLeon ’18, an organizer of the rally, said he was surprised by the enthusiasm of the attendees, and he called upon students to continue the message of unity following the rally.
“I firmly believe that we did our best in starting on the road … in reinvigorating the agency of other students,” he said. “In order for our goal to completely come to fruition, the students who were at the rally must now take it upon themselves to be a part of the change.”
Organizers of Unite Yale first conceived of the rally several weeks ago after they became frustrated with the administration’s responses to previous demonstrations on Beinecke Plaza. In particular, students at the rally complained that their voices were not heard by the Yale Corporation in the push for divestment.
In response to the rally, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway said in an email to the News that he would be “happy to meet with anyone” who schedules a meeting with him.
Given the scope of the event, attendees said they were attracted to the rally for a variety of causes.
Max Weinreich ’16 said a rally like this helped him understand the scope of student activism at Yale and claimed that all the issues presented at the rally stemmed from the “sluggish bureaucracy” of the administration.
Although Unite Yale mainly addressed undergraduate concerns, the rally also attracted other members of the Yale community.
Alex Taubes LAW ’15 said he came to stand in solidarity because he was inspired by the “courage of the rally.” He noted that many graduate students also encountered the issues discussed during the event, listing mental health concerns as an issue that has been raised at the law school.