Do rock the vote

Amelia Nierenberg’s ’18 recent column (“Don’t rock the vote,” March 3) is right to note that Ward 22 includes more than just Morse, Stiles, Silliman, Timothy Dwight and Swing Space; two-thirds of the ward encompasses a vibrant, highly diverse working-class community called Dixwell. We do not defend the misinformation Nierenberg encountered at the polling station, nor the lack of civic awareness demonstrated by students.

In fact, as Ward 22 co-chairs past and present, our role has been to involve students in local affairs and issues within the city. This is much of why having a Yale student serve in the position of co-chair is so important, and why we must continue to build upon previous work to bridge the divide between town and gown.

But the ultimate conclusion Nierenberg draws from her experience is incorrect. Despite her claims, Yale students are residents of New Haven. Local policies affect the businesses we patronize, the water we drink, the streets we walk and public services we enjoy. Likewise, our community plays a substantial role in shaping the surrounding city; not only is Yale New Haven’s largest employer, but its campus and students make up a crucial portion of the city. We can either neglect this relationship, or accept its importance in our lives and the obligations it entails.

Furthermore, Nierenberg’s views are not only wrong but actively harm our relationship with New Haven. Since Yale built the walls on Old Campus around 1870, our University has sustained frosty and even hostile interactions with the city.  Much of this tension has been exacerbated by the often disinterested attitudes of Yalies towards long-term residents. Nierenberg’s argument suggests that we further withdraw from city affairs, which would only serve to perpetuate such tension. Recognizing our privilege and relative isolation from New Haven should motivate us to become more involved, not less. It should at the very least commit us to supporting those who engage meaningfully in the city.

Part of that commitment involves voting in local elections. Voting for candidates that will support long-term New Haven residents is one of the most powerful ways we can contribute to this city. Furthermore, failure to vote depresses voter turnout numbers, which decreases the political incentive of state lawmakers to adhere to interests of local constituents. In a low-income municipality like New Haven, voting offers one of the only avenues for the community to demand government investment. Nierenberg’s call to “not rock the vote” is thus damaging to New Haven interests.

Nierenberg’s discomfort with her own civic participation should not lead her to further passivity, but rather to more active engagement with New Haven. We strongly recommend that she and all Yale students read the New Haven Independent, browse the City Section of the News and talk to the multiple Yalies who hold public office in this city. Finally, we recommend that all Yalies vote. Failing to vote is not an act of humble responsibility, but of malignant indifference. Only when we acknowledge and act upon our obligations to the community that surrounds us can we hope to be responsible citizens.

Gabrielle Diaz and Maxwell Ulin are the present and former co-chairs of Ward 22. Contact them at gabrielle.diaz@yale.edu and maxwell.ulin@yale.edu .