Sammy Westfall

As more than 1,000 admitted students filed into Woolsey Hall on Tuesday afternoon to hear a Bulldog Days address from University President Peter Salovey, about 70 members of the Yale Police Department’s union and their allies protested outside, brandishing signs that read “YALE COPS WANT A CONTRACT NOW” and handing out pamphlets describing the armed robbery that took place in Timothy Dwight College early Monday morning.

The protest comes amid a two-year contract dispute between the University and the YPD’s union, the Yale Benevolent Association. Two weeks ago, during Bulldog Saturday, the police union held a similar protest in which members distributed flyers emblazoned with the message, “Yale’s campus may not be as safe as you think.”

This time, the pamphlets the protesters handed out were titled “Yale Bulldog Day Special Edition 2018.” In addition to describing the TD robbery, the pamphlets listed past instances of violent crime in and around campus. In a personal letter addressed to admitted students and their parents in the pamphlet, President of the Yale Police Benevolent Association Richard Simons characterized New Haven as “at times … a dangerous place” and asked students and parents to support the union in its contract dispute with the University.

“We are advising the parents of what you have in the city of New Haven — the crime and everything,” Simons said. “Everything’s true.”

He said, however, that the first priority of the police union is the safety of the Yale community.

Asked to respond to the Bulldog Days protest, University spokesman Tom Conroy said Yale provides its officers with excellent pay and benefits, and that it provides the department with all the resources it needs to meet its responsibilities. Yale is a great place to work as a police officer, he said, which has allowed the University to attracts and retain excellent personnel.

YPD patrol officer Adam Marong, who participated in the protest, said the protest was designed to accomplish three objectives — to publicize the issues facing the YPD, demonstrate the YPD’s commitment to public safety and promote transparency.

“Yale handed out a pamphlet last time trying to downplay the crime, saying there is only property crime here,” Marong said, referring to the YPBA Bulldog Saturday protest. “Anyone in New Haven knows that’s just simply not true.”

Still, in recent years, violent crime has declined both on campus and in New Haven. Since the University began tracking crime data in 1985, Yale’s campus is the safest it has ever been, Vice President for Janet Lindner said in a letter to the police union on April 16. And the seven homicides New Haven recorded in 2017 was the lowest number the city has seen in decades.

In the pamphlet, the union acknowledged this downward trend, and attributed the crime decline to the “hard work of the women and men of the YPBA, but wrote that “even one violent crime against a student is one crime too many.”

Both Marong and Simons emphasized that Yale should agree to more dates for the police union and administrators to meet and hash out a long-term contract. Still, Conroy said, Yale had a bargaining session with the union on Monday.

“If it’s not resolved in the fall, where does it go from there? Is the police department going to be on strike?” YPD officer and union treasurer Earl Reed said. “Up until now, it hasn’t affected the students. So it’s a balance for us. We figured that if we can get their attention peacefully to negotiate the contract, then we can avoid all of that in the fall.”

Although some admitted students and their family members interviewed by the News expressed surprise and concern about the robbery in TD, none said it would affect their decision on whether to come to Yale.

Leila Iskanderani, who said she has already committed to joining the class of 2022, said that while it is important for students to know about crime in the New Haven area, she does not think Bulldog Days is an appropriate time to address the issue.

“I come from a big city and I’ve been told that New Haven is really dangerous. But having been here before, I can tell that it’s just as dangerous or safe as any other big city,” she said. “So I honestly think that they are blowing a problem out of proportion to serve their own interests.”

Hong Xiao, a parent of an incoming first year, said she heard about the TD incident on a WeChat forum with other Chinese parents of admitted students, but that she does not believe it will affect students’ decisions to come to Yale. But she added that when she passed a residential college earlier in the day, she asked two Yale students to close and lock their door.

While admitted student Pablo Menon acknowledged that the incident is “not something you want to hear about on Bulldog Days,” he said he unconcerned, because he can tell the University is taking steps to improve Yale’s security. When he arrived on campus on Monday, he said, he found it difficult to get into Yale buildings without a keycard, which reassured him.

Susan Clark and Mark Bushnell, the parents of an admitted student, said the incident did not change their perception of New Haven.

“I already know that New Haven is not some bucolic little pasture where everybody holds hands and sings Kumbaya,” Clark said.

The YPD has 71 sworn police officers.

Sammy Westfall |