Dear class of 2023,

Our names are Max Greene ’19, Bri Matusovsky ’19 and Julia Salseda-Angeles ’19, and we graduate from Yale in a few weeks. Last week, we began a protest to end the Student Income Contribution, a financial aid policy that requires students to work to pay $4,000–5,000 to the University each year.

We camped out in Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall, talking quietly and doing homework. Our protest was peaceful. Still, at midnight, a Yale dean told us that we had to leave or be arrested for trespassing. We complied and set up camp outside SSS the next morning. We lived there, sleeping in tents, until yesterday afternoon, when Yale College Dean Marvin Chun informed us that, given a forecasted storm, we had to leave or the police would break up our encampment, “for our safety.” We felt we could withstand a little rain, but we weren’t given the choice. Today, we are writing to explain why we are protesting.

There is so much good to be found at Yale: we cherish the opportunities and communities we have discovered here. Still, our school has a long way to go before those opportunities and communities are equally available to everyone. We have stories about the Student Income Contribution that we want to share.

My name is Max. I am a middle-class student from a black and Jewish-Hispanic background. My college experience has been wonderful, but it has also showed me how deeply Yale is divided by race and class. The SIC exacerbates these divides for me. Every year, the stress of finding a job and dealing with accumulating debt has affected me negatively, especially because I struggle with anxiety. I have felt guilty for borrowing money from my parents to afford $200 textbooks. Last semester, I frantically tried to figure out how to pay for Yale Summer Session classes, lest I face involuntary withdrawal. I struggle with feeling like a burden on my parents. By upholding the SIC, Yale tells students on financial aid, who are disproportionately students of color, that we do not belong. I want those in the class of 2023 from underrepresented groups to feel that they do belong at Yale (without having to offer a bribe!) That is why I am protesting.

My name is Bri. I am a first-year counselor and a proud first-generation low-income student. At Yale, I have struggled with depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder. My first winter here, I isolated myself from my friends so as not to burden others. Things spiraled: Soon, I found myself with no support. My Froco connected me with Mental Health & Counseling. Getting healthier was a long and difficult process. My mental health was a complicating factor, one example of the numerous unexpected challenges that confront students at Yale. As a Froco, I have watched some of my first years struggle to access mental health resources that they need to adjust and succeed. The SIC exacerbates mental health issues for first-generation, low-income students: We have less time for therapy and must shoulder the emotional burden of working harder and longer to prove that we belong here. I am protesting because I believe that this University can be different for me and for the people that I love. My first years and future students deserve a Yale that provides the support they need to build a sustainable life here.

My name is Julia. I have been organizing to eliminate the SIC since I was a first year. My first two years at Yale, I had my SIC covered by a scholarship, which allowed me to take Directed Studies and a heavy courseload. But I was often the only Latina in those classes, which made me feel a deep, persistent loneliness. Even with my family’s support, I worked two jobs to pay for textbooks, food over breaks and other essential expenses. Yale calls these expenses “unbilled,” but whether I’m paying Yale University or the Yale Bookstore, the money has to come from somewhere. Before I came to Yale, I never envisioned myself as an activist. But when you see your friends hurting, when you see younger students pushed out of the ivory tower and when you know in your bones that there is a better way, staying quiet isn’t an option.

Class of 2023, the Yale we want for you is a Yale where you can make decisions about your time and future without compromising. It is a Yale where you don’t have to feel lonely. It is a Yale where students show our love for one another by taking a stand when we need to.

We are writing to you because loving Yale doesn’t mean pretending it’s perfect: It means fighting for the best version of it. We want you to know that, should you choose to come here, you will find a community of students who fight for each other because we love each other, and because we believe in a better Yale for everyone.

Welcome. We’re glad you’re here.

Maxwell Greene is a senior in Pierson College. Bri Matusovsky is a senior in Pierson College. Julia Salseda-Angeles is a senior in Pierson College. Contact them at maxwell.greene@yale.edu, bri.matusovsky@yale.edu and julia.salseda@yale.edu, respectively.