As an elite university, Yale is often spoken about in terms of what it can provide its students and faculty: a rigorous liberal arts education, prestige within the Academy, a golden ticket to lucrative careers. But all of these supposed perks are contained within Yale’s identity as a political space. From the Western Canon to social science research to a path to Goldman Sachs, almost all aspects of the Yale experience are inherently political.

Since 1934, the Yale Socialist Party — formerly the Liberal Party — has pushed students to critically examine the politics not just of Yale, but also the wider world. What is justice? What is equality? How should we fight for these ideals? More recently, we have sought to provide greater support to leftist causes both on campus and off. We view activism and direct action as inextricable from good leftist politics. However, our continued involvement with the Yale Political Union has prevented us from effectively pursuing these goals and put a strain on our friendships. Therefore, in order to fully commit ourselves to the aforementioned aims, our Party has chosen to leave the Yale Political Union.

The debate over the Union’s usefulness has long been rumbling within our Party. For years now, the Union’s debate format has rendered the meaningful development of political beliefs nearly impossible. The quality of student speeches varies wildly and a few unfocused questions at the end of each speech limits direct engagement with a speaker’s arguments. The ideas that members espouse, however, can be even worse. Just last year, members of the Union stood behind a podium to spew blatant transphobia and question whether women should have the right to vote, all without reprimand. In September 2017, the Party of the Right released a whip sheet in which they referred to Indigenous people as savages. Not a single individual was formally censured.

Such incidents have unfortunately become commonplace within the Union and have wrought significant damage on our Party. Members of marginalized communities — the people who are crucial to building an authentic Left — don’t wish to sit through the needless denigration of their identities nor should they be required to in order to participate in spaces like ours. We have watched as the constant debasement of low-income people, people of color, women and queer folks has led both members and potential recruits to distance themselves from Union and therefore from us. Although our Party has made our concerns explicit and sought reform innumerable times, the structure of the Union itself has made it resistant to change. To be clear, this is not an issue with the current Union leadership; the problem is institutional, not personal.

By leaving the Yale Political Union, we hope to revitalize our Party and construct a better leftist space for future generations of Yale students. We will welcome the people we need to create the networks necessary for thoughtful activism and solidarity-building. We will cultivate a stronger sense of love and community amongst ourselves in order to ensure that our friendships last long after we leave this university. And, perhaps most importantly, we will think, interrogate and theorize as we fight for a better Yale.

We will no longer settle for the detached debate that defines the Yale Political Union. The political nature of our university, of our world, demands to be squarely grappled with. It is not enough to question the Canon, debate the research or criticize the corporation, for intellectual engagement alone will not suffice. Real leftism is bold and unyielding in its battle for greater justice for all people. As conscious inhabitants of this Ivory Tower, we are obligated not only to envision a brighter future, but also to take part in its creation.

This statement was written on behalf of the members of the Yale Socialist Party by the current chair. Ian Moreau is a junior in Pierson College.  Contact him at ian.moreau@yale.edu .

  • David Zincavage

    Being Leftist today means that you cannot “meaningfully develop your own political beliefs” in an atmosphere that exposes them to different beliefs.

    Alumni readers are laughing their asses off.

  • Nancy Morris

    “[The Yale Socialist Paryy’s] continued involvement with the Yale Political Union has prevented us from effectively pursuing these goals and put a strain on our friendships.”

    Sure. Who knew?

    Oddly, the parties in the Oxford Political Union, on which the YPU is modeled, have apparently never experienced this problem. Perhaps I am wrong and somebody can point out the historic exception. Until then, I calling this op-Ed disgraceful nonsense … but thinking of much stronger language.

    The YPU exists to promote pointed, educated discussion of important political issues. The withdrawal of the YSP – now so reduced as to be comparable to a hideously shrunken head – evidences the inability of its member to engage in reasoned, researched argumentation … nothing else.

    By extension the YSP’s withdrawal evidences the inability of many on the political left to engage in such argumentation. No such additional evidence is necessary. Once can witness the phenomenon every day in any Yale dining hall, and in every Yale political science and American studies classroom.

  • Peter

    It sounds like the Socialists are fundamentally opposed to the idea of a liberal education, preferring all students be indoctrinated in its orthodox beliefs.

  • donttouchme

    Socialists are tyrants. They won’t participate in a forum unless they have censorship power. The YPU setup should be studied and replicated in other bodies to drive out social justice warriors.

  • doc2513

    I did a double-take when I read this: “Just last year, members of the Union stood behind a podium to spew blatant transphobia and question whether women should have the right to vote, all without reprimand.”

    Since when does a person get a “reprimand” for offering an opinion, no matter how odious the socialists may find it to be? Doesn’t freedom of thought and expression yet find a home on Yale’s campus?

  • yalie

    It seems odd that, as a response to ideas and attitudes they find reprehensible, the Yale Socialists are removing themselves from the forum in which those ideas and attitudes are espoused and could therefor be countered.