Sometimes at Yale, it’s easy to feel that nothing ever changes here. It’s easy to be dismissive. I’ve had my own frustrations with it, without a doubt. At dinner the other night, a friend asked me in sincerity, “Have you liked your time at Yale?” As a senior wrapping up my four years here, reflection has become a natural mode of conduct. I took a second to respond before answering, “I had a lot of expectations coming into Yale. I came into Yale thinking it would be like a musical, but have often found it to feel like more of a mediocre, off-Broadway play.” I think to some extent, I’m not alone here. Everyone thinks things could be better.
Yale may not meet all of our expectations, but I like to believe that it still tries. I get frustrated with the people who say that it doesn’t, people who decry Yale as having failed us completely. Yale has given us places to sleep, even if those beds could be comfier or bigger. It’s given us food to eat, even if that food could taste a little better. It’s given us financial aid, even though, yes, a little more money would be nice. And when it comes to addressing issues of sexual misconduct here, it’s given us several indispensable programs and people — such as SHARE, the CCE program and the UWC to name a few — but needless to say, we still have a long way to go.
But it tries.
Sometimes in order to improve, we need to gain better insight into what we want to work on — we need to look more closely at our flaws. If we see that we’re not doing so well in a class, then we try harder. If we notice that we’re drifting further from our friends, we try to reach out more. In order to get better, we need a sense of what to target.
The last time the AAU Campus Climate Survey was put out, its statistics helped inform Yale’s policies in making our campus safer. It revealed disheartening and devastating things, like the fact that 25 percent — one in four — of trans and nonbinary graduate and professional students, or G&P students have experienced sexual harassment from a professor or faculty member.
These figures may be hard to confront, but that doesn’t mean that we should shy away from them. Instead, we should allow them to inform us, breaking and bending our understanding of the campus around us. The 2015 AAU Survey did exactly that — forcing Yale to act. Yale listened to the results, and it tried. In response to the statistics mentioned above, it enacted bystander intervention training for graduate and professional students, as well as a faculty code of conduct. It hired more Title IX Coordinators, expanded the CCE program by increasing the number of professional staff in the office and doubled the number of SHARE staff on hand.
Additionally, the survey helped people recognize that they weren’t alone, and that what happened to them wasn’t okay. After the 2015 AAU results came out, Title IX reports doubled, and then tripled. UWC cases against faculty increased, too.
All these improved institutional policies and initiatives put us on a better track. Yet even now in 2019, we remain far from exceptional. People on our campus are still harassed, disrespected, mistreated and hurt in unacceptable ways.
Taking the 2019 AAU survey is crucial because it helps us hold not only Yale, but ourselves, accountable. It helps us take stock of where we are, what we need to do and how far we need to go to build the responsible and respectful community that we deserve.
Anyone who’s taken a basic statistics class knows that in order to get accurate results, you need a large data set. The more people that participate in this survey within the next 24 hours, the more representative it will be of what’s lying underneath — illuminating issues that are at stake and forcing the administration to listen by the sheer force of numbers. We need a large contingent of students to take the survey, so that Yale can do better and have a broader scope of statistics to rely on. So that it can see its flaws, so that it can try to ameliorate them.
Before the AAU survey closes today, Monday, March 4, at midnight, students who haven’t taken the survey already and who feel comfortable doing so should. Offering up that information can make all the difference in ensuring that the next crop of people who come here can benefit from it. It ensures that Yale can try to make them safer, better educated, or more inclined to treat each other with mindfulness and respect. It can try. And we should too.
Allison Primak is a senior in Davenport College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .