In the wake of last year’s controversy over Calhoun College, and the recent discovery that the naming of Benjamin Franklin College was three years in the pipeline, there has been much criticism of the Yale Corporation and University President Peter Salovey. This criticism has produced a surge of community activism targeting the Corporation’s nebulous decision-making process and its unwillingness to listen to student input. To be sure, the Yale administration is not free from blame, having issued a series of misleading statements about the degree to which student voices would factor into these decisions.
But both sides — student activists and the Corporation —need to do a better job of listening to each other.
On the one hand, activist “demands” for instantaneous change trouble me. Radical, fast-paced change can lead to unintended consequences, as evidenced by the many failed revolutions and coups throughout history. Change takes time, as it should, and we should prudently consider all the possible outcomes before making a decision, especially one with so many logistical factors. More importantly, the Corporation is not merely looking out for the well-being of the students here for four years; rather, its duty is to ensure the stability and well-being of Yale for posterity. The goal of student activism, then, should be to remind the powers-that-be that there are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed. It should not be to spew vitriol towards figures such as Salovey. Such practices are, in the end, counterproductive to making change.
And change is very often necessary. There are real issues facing students, and the administration has been far too slow to acknowledge that fact. It is entirely unacceptable that there are only two gynecologists available at Yale Health to see to the needs of all female students on campus, and it is certainly not realistic to keep one endocrinologist employed once a week for only a few hours to oversee the well-being of not only transgender students, but also the wider student body. This is not to mention the long waiting times to see a medical professional, which can span anywhere from a week to over a month. Mental Health & Counseling clinicians often require transgender students who desperately need a letter of recommendation for hormone replacement therapy to go in for several sessions before a letter is given, a process that can take months. The administration has continuously pushed back the implementation of commonsensical reforms to make it easier to change one’s preferred name online. This list is by no means exhaustive, but could easily be shortened without much effort or burden on the budget.
Both sides must be more willing to see the challenges that the other faces. By proactively recognizing and rectifying the less savory aspects of Yale, the Corporation could have avoided the scandal involving Corey Menafee over the summer, simply by removing the offensive images and placing them inside a museum. By being understanding of the difficult position that Salovey occupies as president of the University, activists can avoid being dismissed by the people who have the power to make a real difference and formulate achievable goals. Creating change at Yale is not an easy process, but if we cultivate a genuine sense of mutual understanding, then reconciliation, and ultimately change, will follow.
Stephen Lee is a freshman in Calhoun College. Contact him at email@example.com .