Workers on the fourth floor of 2 Whitney Ave. were caught off guard Wednesday afternoon, as over 50 members of Students Unite Now marched to Provost Benjamin Polak’s office to deliver a report on financial aid at Yale, as well as 150 student testimonies about how the student effort has negatively impacted their lives.
At 3:45 p.m., the group of students walked into the office building and congregated outside of the Office of the Provost, though they were not permitted to actually enter the office. Moments later, they returned to the first-floor lobby to publicly share stories of struggles with the student effort, a combination of summer earnings and income from a term-time job that students on financial aid must contribute each year. But after just 15 minutes of speaking, the students were asked to leave the building altogether, and they then walked down the block to finish their presentation in front of Rosenfeld Hall. The protest was similar in format to one held last month at Student Financial Services, where students shared experiences outside of the office building and implored Director of Financial Aid Caesar Storlazzi to endorse their position on eliminating the student effort. Wednesday’s protest at the Provost’s Office comes after an acknowledgement by SUN leaders that Storlazzi does not make policy decisions alone, but rather in conjunction with Polak, University President Peter Salovey and Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway.
“We are gathered here today to bring the demands to eliminate the student income contribution to the people who are choosing to keep the situation the way it is,” SUN leader Jesús Gutiérrez ’16 announced in the lobby of 2 Whitney Ave. “From our meeting with Storlazzi, it’s pretty clear that it’s not him.” On April 18, Storlazzi met with around 25 SUN members where he defended the existence of the student effort and declined to advocate to the administration on the group’s behalf.
Polak did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.
Gutiérrez said a worker at the Provost’s Office accepted a copy of the report and student testimonies from him at the entrance of the office, but students were not allowed to enter beyond the elevator landing on the fourth floor. Students were told that Polak was not there, Gutiérrez said. However, 40 minutes after the students left and Polak had returned, Zelma Brunson, operations manager at the Provost’s Office, could not answer whether the provost had actually received the packet or whether he intended to read it.
“We do not know anything about a demonstration today,” she said.
Just two students shared their stories before security guard Delfin Rodrigues interrupted the protest to say that students had to leave the office building. He told the News that a group of that size was not allowed to gather inside the building, but that sending in a few people to get the point across would have been acceptable.
Students at the protest, however, interpreted the afternoon’s events as a sign that the administration is unwilling to listen to their concerns.
“I think this is the fourth time that I’ve tried to tell my story to this administration, and they’ve refused,” H. McCormick ’17, a SUN member, said to the group. “Evidently, they don’t want to talk to us, but we’re not going to stop trying.”
Gutiérrez said Polak did not respond to two emails from the group prior to the protest requesting a meeting.
The student effort is currently set at $6,400 for all students, but is set to drop next year to $5,950 for most students and to $5,050 for those with the highest need as defined by the University.