The Yale Herald, the Yale Record, and the Yale Political Union are not the only student organizations under threat of losing their offices.
Last Thursday, the Yale Student Environmental Coalition (YSEC) received an email from Dean Hannah Peck informing us that our room in Welch Hall’s basement would be transformed into storage space. We were instructed to remove all items by May 21 or to donate them to the Yale Library; anything else left in the room would be thrown out. As consolation, we would receive one shelf worth of storage space alongside other student organizations. Yale Outdoors (YO) was notified on the same day that their gear room, also in Welch, would be converted into a shared storage space for clubs with “dangerous items.”
Since 1986, YSEC has brought undergraduate students with a passion for environmentalism together. Our umbrella organization encompasses six undergraduate student groups — YO, the Endowment Justice Coalition, the Environmentalists of Color Collective, GREEN, the Environmental Education Collaborative, and Students 4 Carbon Dividends — as well as six affiliated projects — Equitable Bikeshare at Yale, the Composting Project, the Environmentalist, the Yale Refrigerants Project, the Yale on Ecosia Project, and Project EnCOR. Our coalition seeks to empower students who wish to engage in all forms of environmental action and justice advocacy on-campus, in New Haven and beyond.
In other words, YSEC’s office is not just an office; it is a community space shared amongst our member groups that has always kept its doors open to undergrads. Our room is a physical hub for undergraduate environmentalism at Yale, a place that allows us to collaborate with each other, to build relationships, chill out, heal and socialize beyond formal meeting times. This space, that holds years of past environmental activist and campaign-building history, imbues our work with continuity and purpose. It is not something that can be replicated over Zoom or in reserved on-campus rooms, as suggested by Dean Peck’s email.
Across the hall from YSEC, YO’s room functions as a storage space full of outdoors equipment that Yale affiliates can rent at reduced rates, and as a classroom and repair shop. We have serious concerns over the proposed repurposing of YO’s room to “a storage space for groups who need to store dangerous items.” Currently, the YO room stores camping fuel under the supervision of Yale Environmental Health and Safety. However, a shared space solely dedicated to the storage of dangerous items is an alarming proposal for a room where YO gear managers and community members spend many hours a week. We have yet to receive any information on what these “dangerous items” would include.
Among undergraduates passionate about environmental issues, the presence of a robust undergraduate environmental community was one of the promises that drew us to Yale. While our community is indeed strong and growing, this cannot be attributed to Yale’s ‘dynamic extracurricular life’ nor its alleged position as a global leader in sustainability, a claim that greenwashes over its continued investments in fossil fuels and other extremely unsustainable practices. Our community has been built by us — a tight-knit team of dedicated students — in the corners of on-campus basements, oftentimes with little to no help from administration. The best thing Yale has done so far for our community has been to provide us with rooms, and that only came after student efforts put pressure on the administration.
It is unfair that other student organizations do not have their own room; however, a truly equitable approach would empower all student groups by meeting their unique and individual needs. As stated by other similarly affected organizations, the administration’s misguided conception of fairness fails to enhance community-oriented extracurricular life, and reads more as an attempt at “bureaucratic optimization.”
We urge the Yale administration to rescind this harmful and unilateral proposal to seize our spaces in Welch Hall and those of other organizations in 305 Crown. In its place, we ask that the administration call a meeting where our organizations can work directly with other concerned student groups to figure out how space can be shared in a way that benefits us all. We are fully in support of meeting other groups’ needs for community and storage space and believe that this should be a collaborative and discursive process. It should not result in students losing homes for the work they are passionate about nor having to write open letters explaining the importance of their organizations to the administration.
Please consider signing this petition to demonstrate opposition to the removal of student organizations from Welch Hall and 305 Crown.
Sebastian Duque and Madeleine Zaritsky, Co-Presidents of YSEC
Veronica Brooks and Raina Sparks, Co-Presidents of Yale Outdoors
Naina Agrawal-Hardin and Lumisa Bista, EJC Organizers
Daphne Joyce Wu, Head of Communications of the Environmental Education Collaborative
Camilla Ledezma and Isabelle Thomas, Co-Founders of the Environmentalists of Color Collective
Carlos Bahena and Sheikh Nahiyan, Co-Presidents of GREEN