The Yale administration does not want me to be your alder. And here’s why: I do not agree with their positions on a variety of issues. I believe that there shouldn’t be one Yale experience for students who need to work to pay the student income contribution and a different one for those whose privilege enables them to focus on other things. I believe that Yale should act like a university, and not a corporation profiting at the expense of working people and through the destruction of our environment. I believe that Yale should not arrest its students for exercising their right to protest. I believe that Yale should support its students of color by adequately funding and renovating the cultural centers. I believe that Yale should overhaul its mental health system to be able to respond to every student’s struggle with compassion and support. I believe that Yale should not have a college named after a symbol of slavery and white supremacy. I believe that Yale should let graduate teachers and researchers vote on whether or not to form a union in an environment free from intimidation.
I also do not agree with the administration’s assessment that they do enough for New Haven. Our city is in crisis. Twenty percent of people of color are unemployed. Young people don’t have enough opportunities. Too many of us feel unsafe in our neighborhoods.
The administration wants us to believe that the status quo is permanent — that there will always be a “Yale bubble” and a city surrounding it where people are struggling. They want us to be grateful to them for what we have and to congratulate them for their benevolence toward the rest of New Haven. But because of institutions like Yale, more than half of the land in our city is tax exempt, creating a massive budget shortfall in a time when over a third of children in our city are living below the poverty line.
With the money the administration spends on private equity managers, they could double the operating budget of the city of New Haven. Their current contribution rings in at around $8 million annually — the amount of interest the endowment earns in a single day. I believe that they should contribute more financially. And I believe that they should hire more New Haven residents from neighborhoods of need and solve the jobs crisis.
On many topics, I disagree with the Yale Corporation. But I believe that Yale can be great. And I particularly believe in Yale students. As Ward 1 alder, I’ve set my priorities based on the thousands of conversations that I’ve had with you — in your common rooms, at my office hours, at student group meetings and public hearings, and marching beside you on campus and off.
My leadership as your alder has been about bringing youth voices to the table and working together to get things done. As chair of the Board of Alders’ Youth Committee, I’ve led the creation of a Youth Violence Prevention Initiative that’s put over $1.25 million into local programs. I worked with Yale students to craft testimony in support of adding student representatives to our Board of Education and oversaw the election of the first-ever student reps this spring. We’re investing in existing youth spaces and we’re on our way to reopening the Dixwell Q House Community Center.
But my leadership has also been about standing up to the Yale Corporation and its agenda, because I know that the residents of Ward 1 are not on board. And in moments like this one, leadership means fighting for change.
I fought with the New Haven and Yale chiefs of police during the sit in to make sure that students were safe. I fought with the Office of New Haven and State Affairs to make sure that students’ voices were heard in their recent development project. I joined over a thousand people in marching through Ward 1 this summer calling on Yale to look the jobs crisis squarely in the eye and hire from our neighborhoods of need.
Yale can weather rhetoric. Real change will come as more of us stand together in insisting that the administration listen — to their students, to their workers and to their neighbors.
Everyone agrees that our streets should be safe, that young people should have access to opportunities and that economic development should be inclusive. The question is what we’re willing to do about it.
I’m running for re-election because we have a lot more work to do, and I want to keep fighting.
There are a small number of high-level administrators, together with the Yale Corporation, who don’t share our collective values. But they don’t get to vote in this election. We do.
Sarah Eidelson is a 2012 graduate of Jonathan Edwards College and the incumbent Ward 1 alder. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .