Where does Yale fall short in showing support? What do students wish they had known about the first-generation, low-income experience before coming to Yale? What can Yale do to help students better navigate their lives?
These were some of the prompting questions at the “Community Conversation” hosted by First-Generation, Low-Income at Yale, or FLY, last Wednesday — a night of “venting” and “actionable brainstorming” about the FGLI experience at Yale. Around 25 students gathered to discuss issues particular to the FGLI community, including FGLI representation among administrators and fees associated with extracurricular groups.
“Often, we face problems unique to our FGLI identity, and it can be easy to think that we are struggling alone,” FLY co-President Nick Randos ’22 wrote in an email to the News. “That’s why we came up with this community conversation event — a night when we can come together and vocalize shared experiences, to realize that we are not alone and are instead a community fighting together.”
According to FLY co-President Karen Li ’22, FLY’s campus role is “definitely advocacy” — since, Randos said, there previously was not a group dedicated to FGLI activism.
Li added that a town hall allowed FGLI students from across campus to share their individual concerns, noting that “not everyone’s FGLI experience is the same.” FLY board member Maya Vaknin ’22 told the News that the event was meant to “find a balance” between venting about FGLI students’ “unique hurdles” and empowering them to “make them feel like they [can] actually make a difference.”
“I’m a [FGLI] student, and for my first year, I hadn’t heard about any of the FGLI initiatives on campus,” Vaknin said. “So part of our role and a big part of the event was to let people know that there are FGLI student allies on campus that are actively working to make changes.”
After smaller groups at the event discussed the prompting questions, they reconvened as a larger group to draft actionable goals. An email to FLY members after the event listed the issues raised, which included not receiving refunds, Greek life dues, food during spring break, printing costs, summer storage, housing for families during graduation and inconsistencies among student dining hall salaries and financial aid.
Chelsea Uddenberg ’22, one of the students at the event, told the News that she attended because she wanted a “space where people understood [her] struggles” as a FGLI student.
“I’ve been feeling like I’m not really getting the financial aid I need,” she said. “Like there’s so many hidden costs, and it’s been very financially difficult for me sometimes to even be a part of group activities and extracurriculars.”
Vaknin said that “phase two” of the event is currently underway. According to Vaknin, the FLY board is creating “actionable plans and solutions” from the issues brought up to communicate to administrators. Randos added that they are creating task forces based on the list to address these issues and members will be matched to these groups at their next meeting.
According to Li, the group has already begun sharing the list of suggestions with administrators. She noted that from their initial meetings, they seem “very open” to working with FLY to improve Yale’s resources.
“An important step in tackling a lot of these issues is collecting student stories, testimonies and understanding the facts of the issues,” FLY board member Suzanne Brown ’22 said. “Once we’re armed with these experiences and the voice of many, we’ll be able to approach administrators and say, ‘Hey, this is a real problem,’ and we won’t let our experiences be ignored.”
FLY’s next membership meeting is on Feb 22.
Alayna Lee | firstname.lastname@example.org