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 firstname.lastname@example.org .