Twenty-seven members of Students Unite Now held a two-hour sit-in at the Office of Financial Aid on Monday, saying they would not leave until the University eliminates the student income contribution, while about 70 other students rallied outside. All 27 students involved in the sit-in received citations for trespassing, because they refused to leave the building after 4:30 p.m., when the University closes it for the night, and had to be ushered out by the Yale Police Department. The YPD did not use physical force.
Since 2012, SUN has advocated for the full elimination of student effort. The group argues that student effort, which is $5,950 a year for most upper-level students on financial aid, forces many students to take campus jobs that prevent them from engaging more deeply in academic and extracurricular life at Yale. SUN also says the student effort reinforces existing racial and socioeconomic inequalities within the student body. Previously, the group pushed its agenda with rallies, petition drives and meetings with administrators. Monday’s sit-in was the first in SUN’s history.
“[The sit-in] is the direct action that students wanted to do, and this is such a brave thing, and I’m in awe of these students,” said SUN organizer Naomi D’arbell Bobadilla ’21. “I can only hope that the Yale administration chooses to finally listen to its students and completely eliminate the student income contribution.”
She added that the group is planning a fundraiser to raise money to pay the citation fines.
After being forced out of the building, sit-in participant David Diaz ’18 told the cheering crowd that Yale chose to “arrest [the students] rather than do what’s right.”
“The University has appropriate policies regarding free expression that were carried out,” University spokesman Tom Conroy told the News. “Everyone involved, both police officers and the students who chose to receive citations, acted in a peaceful manner.”
At the rally outside of the financial aid office, representatives from student groups, such as the Black Student Alliance at Yale, Fossil Free Yale and the LGBTQ Student Cooperative, read statements in support of SUN’s cause.
“Until the demands of SUN are met and low-income students are no longer forced to pay Yale instead of taking advantage of the resources offered to the rest of the student body, Yale campus will never truly be inclusive,” BSAY’s statement read.
SUN members and other students also shared stories about how the student income contribution has affected their Yale experiences and read prepared statements from Yale students who could not attend the rally.
SUN member Hannah Lee ’20 said she has to pay for any expenses not covered by financial aid, so when she found a job during her first year at Yale, she was so terrified of losing it that she worked 27 hours during her first finals week.
Shaheer Malik ’20, a member of SUN and an international student from Pakistan, said he came to Yale expecting to have his expenses fully covered, but instead he has to work 10 hours a week to support himself. He added that the winter clothing and funds for travelling that the University provides are merely “half-hearted measures” that do not truly address the problem.
“When I was supposed to be working on a p-set, I was instead stuck at the library shelving books and scanning barcodes for my peers, who would use those books to study for exams that I didn’t have the time to study for,” Malik said.
One other student activist group in recent history has staged a sit-in to advocate for financial aid policy reform. In 2005, 15 students from the the Undergraduate Organizing Committee occupied the Office of Undergraduate Admissions for an entire workday, forcing the office to lock its doors to visitors. The students demanded that then-University President Richard Levin overhaul Yale’s financial aid policies.
All 15 students also got citations for trespassing when they refused to leave after the building closed for the night.
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