“Excellent” and “diverse” were the two words Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun used to describe my class as I sat at the opening assembly last August. But in the short time since then, I have seen the many ways in which the university fails in these purported goals.
Indeed, my Class of 2023 marks many improvements in Yale’s commitment to diversity. The majority of my class receives financial aid of some form, students hail from all 50 states and from over 50 countries and a majority of students are not white. Fifty years after the first women were admitted to Yale College, there is an effectively equal number of men and women enrolled today. While I commend Yale for the many improvements it has made, the university fails to seek diversity when it comes to student families — students who have or are expecting children while at university.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, more than one in five college students are parents and 40 percent of black female students are mothers in the U.S. At Yale, I have not met a single student who identifies as such. But on an institutional level, Yale fails to be friendly to student parents. The school does not reveal statistics on how many student parents there actually are, which is understandable, as this is likely a low number and so could risk revealing the identities of those polled.
But the school needs to be ready in the event of having to accommodate students who are parents or decide to become them. As a principle — regardless of how many undergraduate students at Yale actually are parents — Yale should not only be accomodating, but also welcoming, especially given the national statistics about how prominent undergraduate parenthood is.
Yale makes it as easy as possible for a woman to prevent pregnancy if she chooses — as Yale should. But the university does not provide the necessary resources or information for those who are pregnant or have dependent children.
Within my first week at Yale I attended mandatory sex-ed in which I was taught about the importance of consent, how to use a condom (as demonstrated on a wooden dildo), about the different methods of birth control and about different resources I could contact for an abortion in the event of an unplanned pregnancy. It was very helpful to learn this information and these classes should continue to be taught. However, during this workshop, there was no mention of resources available if I were to be pregnant or have a child and want to raise it. Similarly, there are no resources explaining how the university will help me should I become pregnant and decide to carry the baby to term.
Having lived and attended classes at Yale for the last semester, I am aware of the many ways in which Yale fails to welcome student parents. First years and sophomores who are not married and are under 21 are required to live on campus, and there is no listed exception for students with dependent children. In the event a student has to hand in an assignment late, there is no explicit exception for if one’s child is sick. Yale has no daycare for the children of undergraduate students on campus, no special financial assistance programs for parents to cover the costs of childcare, no ability to get healthcare coverage through the university for a dependent child and no listed parental leave policy for enrolled undergraduates. Questions to administrators on these topics are often met with pregnant pauses, rather than action.
With an endowment of over $30 billion, it is hard to imagine that Yale could not implement some or all of these changes. Many of them simply require changing a sentence or two in official university policy. The real question is: Does Yale want to? Seemingly not, as Yale does not recruit student parents or offer them much support. On tours of Yale, there is no mention of initiatives or materials to help prospective students who are also parents.
On campus there seems to be the perception from students, the administration and admissions officers that a successful Yale student does not have a child during her four year enrollment, despite the fact that President George W. Bush was born while his father the late President George H.W. Bush was an undergraduate at Yale (and by most measures, both men were fairly successful).
Even if Yale does not have an explicit policy to dissuade parents from applying and students from becoming parents, as one of the nation’s leading educational institutions, Yale should seek to educate top students from all backgrounds.
As I learned in my first year sex-ed workshop, talking openly and truthfully about sex is vital. Yale should seek to do so not only about safety, consent and pleasure, but also about the possibility of children.
CAROLINE BEIT is a first year in Ezra Stiles College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .