The Yale College Council has voted to co-sponsor a petition urging Yale to pay its “fair share” to the Elm City.
On Nov. 8, the YCC Senate voted unanimously — out of all of the senators who were present — to co-sponsor the petition brought forth by New Haven Rising, a grassroots community organization led by residents committed to winning economic, racial and social justice through collective action. The vote came after YCC President Aliesa Bahri ’22 and YCC Vice President Reilly Johnson ’22 campaigned on a platform that included advocating “for Yale to pay its fair share to New Haven.”
“Especially during this time of unprecedented hardship and crisis, it is critical that we call on Yale to live up to its ideals of service and responsible citizenry through supporting the New Haven community,” Bahri wrote in an email to the News. “I am proud and grateful to our Senate which voted unanimously to join so many organizations and coalitions in advocating for Yale to pay its fair share.”
The petition was originally brought forth by New Haven Rising in May and is addressed to University President Peter Salovey and the Chief Executive Officer of Yale New Haven Health Christopher O’Connor. The YCC joins dozens of organizations in New Haven and on campus that have sponsored the petition, including New Haven Public School Advocates, Step Up Yale, the Yale College Democrats and Yale Endowment Justice Coalition.
The petition calls upon the University and Yale New Haven Hospital to “commit to making up the revenue that is lost from their tax-exempt property.” Specifically, the petition asks that Yale provide an additional $157 million to support city services such as schools, libraries, affordable housing, nutrition and traffic calming. Further, the petition details the economic impact that the pandemic has had on New Haven and encourages the University to help the city recover from the crisis.
The University did not respond to a request for comment.
However, in previous requests for comment about the University not paying its “fair share” to New Haven, University spokesperson Karen Peart has said that, annually, Yale spends over $700 million directly on New Haven, is the third-highest taxpayer in the city and is New Haven’s largest employer.
“Yale University values its relationship and partnership with the city of New Haven,” Peart has previously written to the News. “We continue to play an active role in supporting our community.”
“Years of austerity have undermined our ability to address inequality and poverty. This unsustainable path will continue until Yale University and Yale New Haven Hospital contribute their fair share,” reads the petition.
According to Jaime Myers-McPhail, New Haven Rising leader and staff organizer, New Haven Rising also leads the Fair Share coalition and founded the Yale Respect New Haven campaign, which was also formed to condemn the tax breaks Yale receives.
“New Haven has suffered from decades of segregated development where the same Black and Brown neighborhoods have been cut out of opportunities for decades,” wrote Myers-McPhail in an email to the News. “Our city cannot change this map without greater leadership from Yale. A city as poor as New Haven should not have to pay $157 million to fund a tax break to organizations as wealthy as Yale University and Yale New Haven Hospital.”
Trumbull College Senator Jordi Bertrán Ramírez ’24 said he voted for the YCC to co-sponsor the petition because he believes it is important for every Yale student to fight for the people who keep Yale running, many of them members of the New Haven community.
He explained that as of last year, Connecticut had the third highest income inequality in the country, and in his opinion, the disparity is compounded by tax systems that favor the “uber-rich and stifles the poor and working class.” Bertrán Ramírez believes that the Yale community has a responsibility to ensure that the University — which he cites as having one of the highest endowment returns of any university — supports New Haven. Yale’s endowment is currently the third largest in the nation, after Harvard University and the University of Texas system.
“With that said, our responsibility to New Haven should not be solely transactional; We shouldn’t feel obligated to pay New Haven a fair share simply because of all that they do for the University,” Bertrán Ramírez wrote to the News. “We should pay New Haven a fair share because it is the right thing to do, because the New Haven community is in need and Yale has the capacity to support the city and so many who are suffering.”
Similarly, YCC Senator for Pierson College Chase Brownstein ’23 stressed that lending support to this and other initiatives regarding Yale’s responsibility to New Haven is “the bare minimum” that Yale community members can do.
Brownstein called upon Yale students to take action, urging them to participate in the community by partaking in civic duties such as educating themselves on policy issues, participating in elections and abiding by public health standards to protect the community.
“As I said, signaling support for this petition means jack squat unless we act on it,” Brownstein wrote in an email to the News.
At the time of publication, the petition currently has 2,755 of its stated goal of 3,200 signatures.
Julia Bialek | firstname.lastname@example.org