Yale isn’t the land of milk and honey. The line at Durfees could be shorter. The journalism seminar I loved could be uncapped. I wish our dining halls were open throughout the day, just like those at Columbia. I wish I didn’t have to pay $1.25 dollars to do my laundry. Maybe these issues are solved in heaven, but that’s not what Yale was ever supposed to be. Reading the Opinion section every day, I sense a tendency to complain about all kinds of Yale issues, which underscores a simple realization: Yale is a darn good place.
Yale isn’t some abstract “them.” Yale is us. We shouldn’t blame Yale left and right for whatever we don’t like; we should learn how to deal with issues ourselves. Recently, I have read a dozen pieces in the News and on Facebook criticizing Yale for all kinds of wrongdoings: supposedly immoral investments, bad experiences with the Financial Aid Office and miscellaneous fees the University charges us. One student group even wrote a 20-page long digital zine, “warning” incoming first years that “Yale lied to all of us.” On behalf of myself and those who feel grateful to Yale, I have to say: Yale has not lied to me.
Yale isn’t an individual we can sensibly blame for whatever doesn’t work well. Yale is a huge organization, a complex organism running on a budget of a whopping $3.66 billion. It hosts 13,300 students and 4,700 faculty in addition to 10,000 managerial, professional, clerical and maintenance staff. Just by necessity, we will always encounter people who can be nicer to us, rules that can be more accommodating and student groups that can be more appreciative of us. But the reality is that no large organization is perfect, and that’s okay.
Some students accuse Yale of siphoning every penny from you that they can. I’m still surprised Yale doesn’t charge a penalty for late financial aid applications. Yale does financially incentivize students to choose courses early, register before the deadline (I paid that fee in August), vacate rooms on time and to not lose their IDs. And sensibly so, as it is a giant organization that cannot entirely rely on people’s good intentions.
Some students accuse Yale for not providing affordable financial aid. I’m sorry their experience wasn’t great. Yale’s financial aid surely isn’t perfect (what is?), but overall, it is exceptional. Here are some numbers: 52 percent of Yale students receive grants averaging $50,150 dollars. That’s $150 million in annual financial aid alone. To me, when someone gives you $70,000 dollars a year, it’s a little silly to complain about having to contribute five hours a week to an on-campus job. I have done that since my first month here and I’m more than happy.
Many students complain about the endowment; some even explicitly demand what the returns should be spent on. Few realize that without our endowment, Yale wouldn’t be affordable for everyone. The $30.3 billion, multiplied throughout the decades by David Swensen and his team, finances 34 percent of the university budget, providing funds for scholarships, salaries for scholars and the cost of equipment necessary for research. It’s easy to say Yale could spend only 1.5 percent of its endowment annually to eliminate tuition altogether. But there is always a trade-off. The endowment isn’t a bottomless pile of money you can spend willy-nilly. It has to be managed wisely to continue its mission: securing financing for the university, not just this year, but also for decades ahead.
Some students complain about student jobs. As a not particularly confident first year and a low-income international student, I also had to write cover letters, send out e-mails to professors and apply to dozens of positions online. But Yale isn’t here to lead us by the hand, and it never should.
We know little about running complex organizations, and telling Yale what to invest in, how to spend its endowment or which donations to accept (or not) is pretty silly. Yale pays professionals millions to carefully consider all available options and make the right decisions. We could trust these people from time to time.
At the end of the day I simply want to say thank you to Yale, David Swensen and the Investments Office for investing Yale’s money so successfully, because otherwise I couldn’t afford to be here. No one should expect Yale to take care of everything for us. We are supposed to be adults, and we are treated as such. We should behave accordingly.
Jakub Madej is a senior in Franklin College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .