Do you know how tiring it is to fight our University to eliminate something they deny exists? It is exhausting, but damn it feels good to win. Students Unite Now began calling on Yale to eliminate the Student Income Contribution in 2012. At the time, Yale administrators pretended that a systematic problem did not exist. Determined, students kept sharing their financial aid experiences — at town halls, in rallies, through photo campaigns and more. Even when Yale acknowledged the problem in 2018, University President Peter Salovey told the News that “eliminating the Student Income Contribution [would] not be a priority” approaching the next capital campaign.
Unfazed, students persisted. In 2018 and 2019, Yale oversaw more than 50 total arrests of students at civil disobedience actions where SUN protested for the elimination of the SIC. In 2019, hundreds attended the SUN Financial Aid Town Hall to show the hidden costs of this gap in financial aid. In early 2020, we delivered 800 statements from first years and continued organizing during COVID-19 to hold remote meetings with twelve heads of College. Each head of college sent our 2020 report directly to Salovey and Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun. In 2021, SUN and allies delivered hundreds of student letters calling for better financial aid and mental health policies.
We shared our stories, took direct action and united allies to win next year’s elimination of the billed SIC, keeping $7,500 in low-income students’ hands over their time at Yale. Make no mistake: this aid increase is not from Yale’s benevolence. It is the result of a decade of student action. Now, we ask if Yale will answer the call for a just recovery. Or will Yale pretend inequality from the pandemic does not exist, like it did with the SIC years ago? We are Students Unite Now, and here’s why we need a just recovery:
My name is Aly Moosa, and I am a first year at Yale. So far at Yale, I have been working two jobs, while currently looking for more, to cover the constant stream of indirect educational costs under the SIC. On top of already stressful classes, I must support my family back at home financially with the expectation that I am supposed to take care of myself at Yale. How am I supposed to be taking care of myself when Yale won’t cover basic costs the Office of Financial Aid agrees are imperative to live and study on campus? Yale says it supports queer, first-generation, low-income students of color like me, but I am angry and tired from the lack of support Yale provides for its people. Yale must pay for the cost of the SIC and the lack of institutional support that students, including me, feel everyday.
My name is Caroline Reed, and I am a sophomore at Yale. Before coming to Yale, my long-time therapist and I called for an intake appointment at Yale Mental Health and Counseling right when I got here. While I waited over a month, I was on my own without any mental health care for the first time in years. My anxiety swelled into almost-daily panic attacks. I couldn’t eat; I lost almost 1- pounds in two weeks. Terrified for my physical well being, I saw a physician at Yale Health. She told me the problem was my anxiety and connected me back to MHC. When I finally saw a therapist, over a month later, I was completely open about my history. My therapist suggested that I go home for the semester, given my state, and made me feel like I did not belong at Yale. Why does mental illness need to escalate so far in order to be seen at MHC? To break this unhealthy and dangerous status quo, Yale must keep its promise of two-week wait times for therapy between intake and first appointment.
My name is Alex C.M., and I am a junior at Yale. When I was at my lowest and finally mustered the courage to call MHC, I felt like I should have listened to the many peers who warned me against it. They paired me with a white man without any of my input, without even letting me know I could request someone who shared parts of my identity. I made the appointment in the first place because of my experiences of racism and classism in my first-year suite, and this therapist made no attempt to understand why I was so upset. Instead, he minimized my experiences. When I shared my feelings of fear and discomfort, he changed topics. When I brought up how this campus made me feel about my indigeneity, all he could offer were empty nods instead of the advice and understanding I needed most. Why does MHC leave our identities in the waiting room? Students should be seen by therapists who can respect and relate to diverse lived experiences of race.
Thursday evening, students marched with SUN to donate over 660 photos for a just recovery to Yale’s new capital campaign. Each photo represents a student with SUN demanding coverage of the SIC’s indirect expenses and maximum two-week therapy wait times with representative therapists. Yale has tried to wait out students on the SIC at the expense of our time, education and well-being for years. This is Yale’s chance not to make the same mistake again.
Students Unite Now is an undergraduate activist organization that fights to increase equity at Yale along lines of race and class. SUN’s student demands are Yale’s coverage of indirect Student Income Contribution costs, two-week maximum wait times for therapy, and hiring more diverse therapists with respect to race and those trained in LGBTQ+ affirming care.