Reproductive Justice Action League at Yale, a student group committed to the advancement of reproductive freedom, was voted into full Dwight Hall member status last Wednesday.
At last week’s Dwight Hall cabinet meeting, representatives from RALY and the Yale Undergraduate Science Olympiad expressed their commitments to social justice and volunteer work to convince the cabinet to promote them to full membership from provisional status, joining a group of 90 student organizations. The cabinet — composed of a representation from each current member group as well as the Dwight Hall Executive Committee — voted in favor of both groups, despite lingering discontent from some students over the cabinet’s 2014 decision not to promote pro-life advocacy group Choose Life at Yale to full member status. The new title will afford RALY funding priority and long-term support from institutional networks in addition to a seat on Dwight Hall’s cabinet.
“If you move beyond political ideology, RALY still stands as an organization that promotes social justice through empowering decisions about one’s body, sexual life and family,” RALY President Maraya Keny-Guyer ’19 said. “RALY is all about providing choice for women and families — whether that be the choice to wait on kids and pursue a career first or the choice to have a child at whatever age you choose.”
RALY’s intersectional approach to reproductive justice allows the group to move beyond “the traditional narratives of contraception and abortion access,” she said, adding that the group focuses on social inequalities and their implications on reproductive decisions. RALY members often volunteer at Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
At the 2014 cabinet meeting, former CLAY President Courtney McEachon ’15 accused the cabinet of bias against the group’s pro-life mission, citing one Dwight Hall co-coordinator’s Yale Feminist t-shirt as “a shameless plug against CLAY.” The vote, which followed deliberations in the weeks preceding the meeting, was not unanimous and saw many abstentions from member groups.
Current Dwight Hall co-coordinators declined to comment on the distribution of votes for RALY and YUSO. But Dwight Hall Co-Coordinator Anthony D’Ambrosio ’18 acknowledged that the cabinet likely reflects “the generally liberal views of Yale’s student body.”
“The simple notion that RALY was accepted and CLAY was rejected is a myth perpetuated by uninformed conservative groups on campus,” D’Ambrosio said. “At this point, it boarders upon conspiracy theory.”
He stressed that both RALY and CLAY received the same access to Dwight Hall resources during their provisional membership periods.
The vote against CLAY’s promotion prompted a debate over the politics and definition of public service at Yale. An October op-ed published in the News by Aaron Sibarium ’18, a former opinion editor, labeled Dwight Hall’s conception of justice as “unquestionably partisan.”
“Allowing RALY and excluding CLAY would needlessly polarize Dwight Hall and ultimately constrain its ability to promote social justice,” Sibarium told the News in an email last week, before the cabinet’s results were released.
CLAY faced similar obstacles when applying to be an affiliated group at the Women’s Center. The group applied to be a residence group but was rejected both times. However, according to Women’s Center spokesperson Vicki Beizer ’18, RALY is currently affiliated. Beizer told the News that, for the Women’s Center, feminism is ultimately about choice.
“To us, being pro-choice encompasses those who ‘are personally against abortion,’” Beizer said. “It’s about whether you respect a woman’s right to her own body and to choose what happens to a potential fetus. Our definition of feminism is pro-choice.”
Consequently, Beizer said CLAY does not stand with the values of the Women’s Center and for what the organization represents.
Representatives from CLAY did not respond to requests for comment.
The Dwight Hall cabinet also voted to promote YUSO to full member status at the meeting. Each year, YUSO holds an invitational science competition attended by 1,100 students, teachers and parents from around the East Coast.
According to Director of Logistics Gina Zhu ’20, the group focuses on reaching out to underresourced high schools in the surrounding area in an effort to inspire more students to pursue studies or careers in STEM. The group hopes to use Dwight Hall’s resources to expand upon their mission and reach more students in the community.
By an overwhelming majority, the Dwight Hall cabinet also chose to add a resolution that supports legislation to tax and regulate marijuana to its index of resolutions. The statement received 33 votes in favor, 12 abstentions and two “no” votes.
Students for Sensible Drug Policy Treasurer Riley Tillitt ’19, whose group proposed the resolution, said the decision signals Dwight Hall’s “support for ending the fruitless drug war that has disproportionately targeted minorities and the economically disadvantaged, and wasted over $1 trillion in the process.”
The Dwight Hall cabinet vote takes place once per semester.