Despite the racial tensions and conversations that put Yale in the national spotlight last semester, some students recently admitted to the class of 2020 said November’s student demonstrations have made them no less likely to attend the University.
On Nov. 9, nine days after Yale’s early action deadline, more than 1,000 students held a procession through campus to protest what they viewed as a hostile racial environment on Yale’s campus. And on Nov. 12, a newly formed student coalition called Next Yale marched on University President Peter Salovey’s house near midnight to submit demands for measures the administration should take to improve the racial climate at Yale. Salovey later responded to the activism in a campuswide email that outlined a litany of measures, including reforms to financial aid and increased funding for Yale’s cultural centers. The events quickly garnered widespread national media coverage, with some praising the students for their activism and others denouncing the movement as childish and unnecessary.
Though the demonstrations revealed a far less glamorous side of life at Yale, students interviewed who were accepted through early action on Dec. 15 said the protests have not made them less likely to matriculate, with some saying that the image of Yale as a diverse campus engaged in principled dialogue has given them an even more favorable view of the University.
“Ultimately, I think the protests are encouraging, because they speak to an environment that is intellectually challenging and willing to confront the morally dubious past that Yale possesses,” said Sohum Pal, a high-school senior from California who was admitted in the early action pool.
Pal, who has not yet accepted his offer from Yale, said the protests continue to factor into his ultimate decision. Exhausted of hearing about the events through the media, he decided to reach out to two current students to speak to sources closer to the epicenter.
Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said he would encourage early admits to speak with current students for information on Yale’s campus climate. Quinlan declined to speculate on whether last semester’s demonstrations would have any tangible impact on the yield rate for the class of 2020.
“I think it’s far too early to speculate on how the campus events of the last few months will impact admissions,” Quinlan said. “I have personally been impressed on an almost daily basis with the passion of Yale’s students and their commitment to activism. Their voices are a powerful catalyst to drive change and growth at Yale. I am confident that Yale will emerge as a stronger, more unified community as we move forward collectively. I have faith our admitted students will see that as well.”
In November, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions encouraged tour guides to speak openly with prospective students about the racial climate at Yale.
While five accepted students gave varied responses on whether they view Yale in a different light now compared to when they submitted their applications before Nov. 1, they agreed that the ongoing campus conversation on race is not a reason for them to reject their offers of admission from the University. The students voiced reasons ranging from a desire to be exposed to dissenting viewpoints to the fact that Yale is not unique in the state of its race relations when compared with other universities nationwide when explaining their continued interest in the University.
Mariah Kreutter, an accepted student from New Jersey, said her opinion of Yale and other elite, private colleges has not changed, since she has made an effort to remain conscious of what issues students are debating on campus. She added that many other colleges have been under media scrutiny lately for similar reasons.
“Racism isn’t new. Activism isn’t new. These are American issues that have been around forever and aren’t going away anytime soon,” she said. “Yale isn’t perfect, and these conversations are very difficult. But it’s not just Yale that’s trying to navigate them. Any college I choose to attend would have the same tensions.”
Indeed, since Yale’s protests began, similar events have erupted on the campuses of the University of Missouri, Claremont McKenna College and Princeton University, among others.
Andrew Grinde, a student from Montana who was accepted early action, said the protests will not impact his decision to attend because the opportunities available to him at Yale would not be available to him anywhere else.
However, one admitted student who spoke on condition of anonymity for privacy reasons said the protests raised some concerns for him about the state of free inquiry at Yale. Still, he said he would not turn Yale down for those reasons.
Tyrah Green, an accepted student from Connecticut, said that after the protests she views Yale in a different, yet largely positive light. She said that the protests raised her awareness of the diversity of opinions on campus. Ultimately, she said she would be doing an injustice to herself not to attend based on whether or not she agrees with what one student or a majority of students at Yale believe.
“My opinion of Yale has changed,” Green said. “It isn’t quite as perfect anymore. But if perfection is a cocoon for myself and my beliefs, then I don’t want any part of it.”