Tomorrow, Students Unite Now will host a town hall about the Student Income Contribution. We have spent the last month preparing for it by having conversations outside of dining halls and in dorm rooms with our friends and classmates about how the SIC affects our lives. We are speaking out for full financial aid at Yale. Our stories deserve to be heard.
Last week, we delivered over 1,000 letters from students and allies to President Salovey, asking him to attend our town hall. We first invited him over email, and he refused. This shows us that President Salovey and the administration do not want to listen to low-income students and our communities. They may meet with small groups of us, but they do not want to face us all together. This makes us feel like Yale values us only as faces to paste on their recruitment brochure, not for our real experiences and concerns.
We hope that this is not the case. We hope that President Salovey will change his mind. No matter what he decides, we will be there tomorrow. We are writing to speak out about the hidden costs of the SIC and invite all of campus to our town hall to make our voices heard.
My name is Hannah Lee, and for me, going to Yale meant fulfilling a promise to myself and to my parents: I would be the stepping stone to economic security for my immigrant family by finding my passion and fulfillment. A big part of that was in biological research. Before I even arrived on campus, I pored over the Student Jobs page for laboratory research positions. But paid research positions are hard to find; I couldn’t afford to take an unpaid position when I needed to pay the SIC. So I compromised and decided to do “grunt work” for a lab, managing the mice for them. I loved the people in the lab, but we weren’t colleagues. While my peers dove into their research, I stayed in that mouse room, doing the preparation so that they could keep moving forward with the actual research. There was no trajectory for my research career in that room. My role was to labor so that others could succeed. As a poor Asian woman, this experience was all too familiar but no less unsettling. I had to do it to keep my promise to succeed, but at the same time, it felt like breaking that promise — I had to choose between paying the SIC and building my career. I struggled with feelings of anger and helplessness at this impossible choice. Yale promised me and other low-income students full financial aid, but until they eliminate the SIC, we will keep having to make choices like these.
My name is Nia Whitmal, and my job requires me to work at least two shifts a week, starting at 6:00 pm and ending at 9:30 pm. As a first year, I averaged around five hours of sleep a night. My classes weren’t intensely demanding, but after every shift at work, I found that the small dent I’d made in my homework by midnight meant that I’d be up for hours to feel prepared for my classes the next morning. Sacrificing sleep helped me finish assignments, but I was so groggy in class that I couldn’t make meaningful contributions — so what, really, was the use in staying up so late? Yale’s high-stress culture impacts students no matter who you are, but the SIC turns this culture into a burden that nobody should have to bear. I lost out in my classes because I was exhausted from working. I won’t get that time back. This is what the SIC costs me.
We are not alone: Many other students experience many other costs. Over the past month, we have focused on the experiences of international students, undocumented students, students in STEM and mentally ill students. These are only a few of the common themes we’ve heard in the hundreds of conversations we’ve had over the course of our campaign. The administration can call the SIC whatever it wants: We know what it costs because it shapes our experience of Yale on multiple levels, from our ability to pursue our passions to our relationships with one another. We won’t have full financial aid until Yale decides to eliminate the contribution.
We will be at the town hall tomorrow because we believe in a Yale without the SIC. In this Yale, low-income students of color can engage in class and pursue meaningful research. We can go to therapy and spend time with friends. We can pay to renew our DACA; we can afford a plane ticket home. We have time to do the things we love with the people we love, to keep fighting for a community where we can participate fully. This is the community Yale promised us; this is the community we deserve.
We can’t afford to wait for it. So we won’t.
See you tomorrow.
Hannah J Lee is a junior in Ezra Stiles College. Nia Whitmal is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College.
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