At midnight on May 4, 2024, our terms as Yale College Council president and vice president will come to an end. This year, we have come to know the members of Yale’s administration. We sat in weekly, biweekly and monthly meetings with them, advocating on behalf of the student body. We have learned their policies, participated in various trainings and have become deeply acquainted with the administrative perspective.

When a Grace Hopper College community member wrote hateful speech on a suite’s whiteboard, we listened as the Yale administration explained that no direct action could be taken because of the University’s free speech policy. When our community members were doxxed and harassed by actors inside and outside of Yale, we were again told that the University could take no action. Over the course of the year, University policies served as excuses for passivity. 

The message was clear: Yale University must protect freedom of speech above all else. But in this past week, we saw how the University wholly, hypocritically and shamefully dishonored the spirit of free expression. 

The “Occupy Beinecke” movement began on April 15 with a bookshelf display and rally, calling for Yale to divest from military and weapons manufacturing. In response, Yale destroyed the structure. Throughout the week, students did not leave the Plaza. Each night, the University threatened to enact disciplinary action or arrest students. On April 19,  the University deployed the police against the student protesters. The following day, Dean of Student Affairs Hannah Peck and Associate Dean Andrew Forsyth, speaking on behalf of the administration, went to the protest in person and insinuated university disciplinary action against students who did not evacuate the Plaza. 

Time and time again, the University used chalk and postering policies, fire safety codes and incomplete space rental paperwork to excuse their intimidation tactics. Let it be clear: no amount of technicalities can justify silencing student voices.

In our classrooms, faculty teach us Nelson Mandela’s words, recount South Africa’s history of apartheid and seat us in lectures on political protest, social movements and contesting injustice. Yet the University expects us to stay silent as it funds and profits from war. To the administration: you cannot claim to cultivate the world’s next generation of “aspiring leaders” and simultaneously silence student-led cries for Yale to stand for humanity.  

To the students of Yale College: As we reflect on our year as the student body’s elected representatives, we are deeply satisfied by all the ways we have grown in these roles. We accomplished much, but have also failed in many regards. With each of those failures, we learned as best we could.

 We had conversations with administrators behind closed doors where we asked them to meet with student groups, provide more adequate resources to affected community members, and consider the pleas of student organizers. But we have remained publicly silent for far too long. We sit here and humbly admit that, in this regard, we have failed, and we are sorry.

Despite all of Yale’s efforts, we have seen how you have shown up for each other. Hundreds of students flooded Beinecke on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night to protect the protesters. People have donated food, blankets, tents and other supplies to aid in these efforts. You met counter-protesters with peace and songs of solidarity. This community of care is nothing short of inspiring. 

We stand in solidarity with you. This is your Yale. You have the right to protest its investments and we shame any attempts to silence you.

Disclaimer: Suh-Toma and Fonkeu are writing as YCC officers and individuals, not on behalf of the entire Yale College Council. 

JULIAN SUH-TOMA is a junior in Benjamin Franklin College and is the Yale College Council president. Contact Julian at 

MAYA FONKEU is a junior in Grace Hopper College and is the Yale College Council vice president. Contact Maya at