I have lived on Yale’s campus for a mere seven months, which makes me five-sixths of a first year. These past seven months have been nothing short of life-changing, defined primarily by my experiences as a part of Yale’s community. Through half-time protests, on-campus organizing, study breaks, late Saturday nights and most recently a global pandemic — one thing has remained true for me, and for every student at Yale: there is a community we can fall back on, a community we can call to action. At Yale, as Marina Keegan ’12 once said, we are a team.
In light of the coronavirus pandemic and Yale closing its doors to its wide community of students, faculty and staff, almost all of us have had to move back to our old worlds. For some, this has meant traveling home to New York state via a quarantined two-hour car ride with our nervous parents refusing to let us take the subway. For others, however, the return home has meant traveling for days, boarding cramped flights with hundreds of potential carriers, moving through multiple international airports and finding ourselves in time zones hours ahead of EST, EST, EST.
For some, this has meant returning to luxurious homes, with faster-than-Yale Wi-Fi speeds, loving families and full access to resources. For others, however, this has meant losing the promise of on-campus educational equity, scrambling to find high-speed internet before Zoom-et-veritas opens its doors, and having to reevaluate familial relationships in a time of home lockdowns and social quarantining.
At Yale, we find ourselves members of a uniquely equalized community — although there still are real differences. At home, however, all of us lead different lives. Being away from campus heightens financial disparities among students and reifies inequality in education access.
As an international student on full financial aid and a member of Yale’s community, I am calling on my team, Yale, to recognize these differences and push to maintain one of our primary values: educational equity.
Maintaining this equity is essential now more than ever. All of us are Yalies, but not all of us can boast of the same resources to continue our academic commitments to Yale. As the University prepares to move classes online in less than a week, amid students still returning home, getting tested at airports, worrying about friends and family and resetting our Gcals in preparation for what is inevitably going to be “night school,” Yale has not done nearly enough to guarantee educational equity.
With the crisis upon us, looming before us, if not directly impacting our lives, continuing classes with the same rigor as usual is impossible for all of us. For some of us, however, it is physically impossible to continue as normal. At such a time, the University must opt for a Universal Pass policy.
Universal Pass is the only way we can effectively account for the inequity in home life for many Yale students. Any other option actively discriminates against international students and students who do not have adequate learning facilities at home. An optional pass, for example, creates an unnecessary dichotomy between students who can afford to show their grades and those who cannot. It reinforces the same differences that the current grading policy does.
Under an optional pass system, opt-ins will majorly correspond with students from financially secure backgrounds. International and FGLI students will be pressured into choosing optional grading due to the pressures of getting into graduate school and keeping up with their peers. No student should be academically punished because they don’t have access to the tools and resources necessary for learning — tools our University has committed to provide us otherwise.
As Yalies, we are dedicated to the University and to academic integrity. We maintain our promises to campus through genuinely engaging with classes, pursuing research, maintaining diligent extracurricular profiles and organizing for student access and equality. These are promises we keep day in and day out in return for the resources and communities that the University provides us.
Our academic commitments at the time of coronavirus are no less, but the resources we have and the realities that we are currently navigating disqualify equity and harm our ability to perform at our best.
I was doing well this semester, as I am sure were many of us, but I doubt I can continue as I was on campus — and asking this of me and hundreds of others impacted by this crisis is unfair, if not outright wrong. We have made tons of sacrifices these past weeks: financial, emotional, physical. This is another one we must make in the name of community, in the name of equal representation for historically disenfranchised FGLI and international student communities, in the name of all of us at Yale.
None of us saw this crisis coming, and none of us anticipated how rapid the situation would unfold. As Keegan has told us, at Yale, there is an abundance of people who are in this together, who are on the same team. This team must do better and ask for a Universal Pass.
IMAN IFTIKHAR is a first year in Morse College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .