After two years at Yale, I have learned that move-in never gets easier. When I was a first year, the chaos of move-in meant frantic runs to thrift stores and supermarkets to acquire furniture, climbing more stairs than I ever imagined and being thrown into a group of 15 peers I had never seen for nightly chats about the “Yale experience.” These meetings, receptions and events were overwhelming. To me, Yale was overwhelming.

Yet at the same time, Yale appeared flawless. I felt lucky and honored to be here, and in my first-year mind this university could do no wrong.

Unfortunately, the allure was short-lived for me as a low-income student.

Even though I am on full financial aid, I get charged every semester. Each year, I still owe Yale a hefty sum, even though my FAFSA has determined that my family makes so little that we should not have to pay Yale. Yale has a million names for this circumstance. I call it the Student Income Contribution. In recent years, Yale has dubbed it the “Student Share” or the “Student Employment option.” The point is that I am responsible for a cost unique to those receiving financial aid. And so, my only option is to work.

I was hired to work events such as Mellon Forums and College Teas, events that Yale is proud to offer to its students. I feel both trapped and embarrassed working these events. I came here to be a student. Instead, after class, I slip into my loose khakis, worn-out dress shoes and black polo to go to work as my suitemate takes an afternoon nap. As the events begin, I stand on shift while my peers indulge in cheese, dessert and insightful conversation. After the event is over and everyone leaves, I stay to clean up after the students and guests and make sure the Head of College’s house is ready for the next event. By the time I get to the library to begin studying, my peers are finishing up and going to bed.

What strikes me most is the indignity of the divide: who gets to be a student and who has to work. As it turns out, getting into Yale was not enough to escape where people believe I belong: working. As a non-white, working-class Latino man, Yale expects me to work. And moreover, the money I make goes right back to the university. I work to make the magic happen for my peers.

This year, I frantically moved all my stuff into my room early to get back to work — preparing for the first years to arrive. All my days were focused on fun for the first years: move-in, first-year reception and other camp Yale activities. At the end, I was overwhelmed, overworked and under-appreciated.

I have grown incredibly close to my friends at Yale and love the communities that surround me. However, the student income contribution still divides us.

As classes begin, I know that this divide is already beginning to take place. Those who are on financial aid will have to work. Those who are on financial aid will have to pay. Until Yale eliminates the Student Income Contribution, students on financial aid will continue to feel disrespected, unsupported and unwelcome at Yale. That’s how I feel.

Josh Diaz is a junior in Morse College. Contact him at josh.diaz@yale.edu .

  • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

    Is there sort of YDN quota for these pieces? I mean, we are treated to several per week.

    Surely the is something–anything–else on your minds? We get it, do, try something original.

  • Anthony G.

    Why not organize a pity party? I worked my way through a peer college, nights, weekends and “vacations,” with no days off from age 18 to age 25, when I graduated from a peer law school, working 15-20 hours a week in that hyper-competitive environment. Unlike this kid, I didn’t feel sorry for myself. I felt lucky. Incredibly lucky. My dad was unemployed much of the time, I was first generation blah blah blah ,and now I’m very well off, living a fascinating life, all because my schools gave me the chance to work my way through.

    Entitlement is not yours. If you don’t like it, leave and let a transfer student in.

  • doc2513

    Instead of wallowing in shame you should thank Yale for teaching you humility, a virtue that some of your classmates will be slower in learning. I had to work to put myself through undergrad and grad school, and I am a better person for it.

  • David Zincavage

    Mr. Diaz’s attitude would, of course have been absolutely inconceivable to members of earlier classes at Yale. Students from humble backgrounds fortunate enough to have been admitted to this elite college in earlier (and better) days thanked their lucky stars at having been given the priceless opportunity to move upward in the world and were only too happy to work hard to earn it.

    I make a practice of reading lots of old novels and memoirs offering accounts of undergraduate life at Yale in different eras. Mr. Diaz would be appalled, I can tell you, to learn what real inequality was like in the 19th Century. Poor boys worked regular jobs and lived in miserable hovels in the New Haven slums, eating the cheapest food and often skipping meals, to get through Yale. People without family money had little opportunity to partake of the pleasures of student life, and poor students were certainly not treated as equals by the rich.

    I was recruited to attend Yale by an alumni representative from the Class of 1926. He was a wealthy and successful executive, but he had come to Yale the son of a poor Presbyterian clergyman from New Jersey. He absolutely needed to work his own way through Yale. That meant not just earning a small “student contribution,” but earning the money to pay for his tuition and for his room and board somewhere.

    He would have dearly loved, he once confessed to me, to have won a letter on the Yale Football Team, but he simply did not have time off for football practice. He had to work. He somehow managed to win a letter finally in LaCrosse, which apparently involved a much smaller time commitment. He also did not have time for singing groups and he had no money to join fraternities or clubs like Mory’s. He was tapped by no Senior Society. But he did not feel in the least wronged. He was grateful to Yale and devoted to her service all his life. If he were alive to read Mr. Diaz’s editorial, I expect that he would be simply astonished at that gentleman’s perspective and depressed at the changes in values and education that are responsible.

    And, oh yes, I had bursary jobs myself. I can remember, for instance, having to get out of bed before dawn to go make toast in Commons. I also bused trays, and loaded the dishwasher. I used to wear a necktie under my white coat and I’d make a point of appropriating a carnation or rose from one of the vases on the tables for a boutonnière. I decidedly approved of the bursary job system, and I liked the feeling of doing my bit to pay for being at Yale. I didn’t like getting out of bed early, and I definitely disliked burning my fingers handling hot toast, but I took pride in doing the right thing. Unlike Mr. Diaz, I was quite conscious of the enormous favor Yale was doing me, and I was very much aware that lots of others had had to work before I came along.

    • Clayton Snider

      It’s amazing that I can leave the desolate, closed mindscape that exists in rural Kentucky and come to Yale only to still find people that use the argument “it’s better than it was before” to justify that you shouldn’t complain about something. I guess if conditions were so bad in the past then damn we really do need to stop complaining.

      And I guess that goes for everything else, right? Slavery has been outlawed, and the civil rights movement happened, so we should put down every complaint about racism. Women today are treated much better than from antiquity until recent history, so let’s undermine claims of sexism. Gay marriage was legalized in 2015, so homophobia is not a problem anymore. That kind of claim obviously just doesn’t work.

      Using some greater issue in the past does not justify reducing a modern issue to be insignificant. Just because FGLI students now don’t live in slums of New Haven doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to further close the disparity between students of different social classes.

  • gwbnyc

    children of the school’s employees get a nice shot, too.

    root them out.

    find them.

  • Dab

    lol @ all these posters talking about “real inequality” and the need to “feel grateful.” It’s like they forgot progress is a thing.

    You can appreciate help but still expect fairness. Or at least believe in it. I’m wealthy, and I’d probably do way worse in school or my outside activities if I were subjected to menial tasks like Mr. Diaz.

  • Natalia Taylor

    I’m sorry you all had to go through that. It wasn’t fair then and it’s not fair now. I’m glad that most of you look at your experience as positive, but Diaz is valid in his criticism of Yale. Every university needs to receive this kind of feedback to grow. While we are grateful for all that Yale has provided us, there are many things, especially regarding equal opportunities for First-Gen, Low-Income students, that can be improved.

  • FGLI Student

    This is an open response to many of these comments:

    I am currently a low-income undergrad student. I thank God for the blessing of being here at Yale without having to take out sizable loans and debt-ridden for the rest of my life.

    That being said, I believe Mr. Diaz’s point was not simply the aspect of having to work. The point is much deeper.

    In high school, I woke up at 4 am to work a morning shift at a restaurant before school to participate in voluntary community service after school.

    I believe what Mr. Diaz was trying to get across was the sense of belonging here at Yale. Those of us who have to work constantly feel as if we are repaying a debt to Yale. Yes, we owe Yale a lot, but today we should be furthering our education and our cultural experiences to become tomorrow’s leaders of the world. We repay Yale by learning the skills that will equip us to make the world a better place. We are here to learn how to do that. We learned the lesson of humility a long time ago.

    Of course, I don’t mind working. That’s the only life that know. I know how to flip burgers at McDonald’s. I know how to wait on Yalies at fancy events. I’d be happy to do that.

    Yet, the indignity that Mr. Diaz is discussing comes when people who do not have to work get the privilege of time. The disadvantages we faced at home follow us to Yale. The privileges of having one’s parents provide one with everything follows them as well. The slap in the face is that Yale could easily alleviate this burden for students. Maybe don’t host as many apple picking outings? Use that money to fund student’s education instead? Financial aid’s goal is to provide equal footing for students. We still lack that equality.