Pranav Senthivel, SeniorPhotographer

The Class of 2024 has spent almost all of their time at Yale under the Biden Administration. From his election in November 2020 to recent protests opposing his support of Israel, Biden’s presidency has significantly impacted campus life over the last four years. 

Even before Biden ascended to the presidency, Yalies were engaged in the 2020 election. In fall 2020, student groups across campus — including Every Vote Counts, the Yale College Council, the Yale College Democrats and Yale Muslim Student Association  — worked to mobilize the student body to ensure student voter turnout. Yale Dems also hosted phone banking events for Biden and other Democratic candidates. Many Yale students also volunteered to work at the polls as COVID-19 safety concerns caused a national poll-worker shortage in 2020. 

Following the election night on Nov. 3, 2020, when the abundance of mail-in ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic delayed results in several key states, some professors chose to postpone assignment deadlines, cancel live classes or push back midterm dates to account for widespread anxiety about the election among students. Others continued on with their classes as normal.

On Nov. 11, 2020, when the election was called for Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Yalies reacted with a mix of optimism, fatigue, relief and doubt. 

“Saying the words ‘Madam Vice President Kamala Devi Harris’ still gives me chills,” Ananya Kachru ’22 wrote to the News at the time. “After the 2016 Election, I didn’t anticipate watching a South Asian American and Black woman become Vice President of the United States within four years. This moment means a lot to me, and my family, and I think I’m yet to even fully process it.”

Following the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riots, where a mob of supporters of former president Donald Trump breached the United States Capitol in an attempt to overturn the the results of the 2020 presidential election, Law School students and faculty released petitions calling on Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken and University President Peter Salovey to revoke Josh Hawley’s LAW ’06 Juris Doctor degree. Hawley was the first senator to commit to challenging the results of the election, pledging he would object to the congressional certification of Electoral College results, a statement many viewed as an anti-democratic. 

Since Biden entered the White House, several Yale alums have been appointed to prominent positions in his administration. John Kerry ’66 served as the first United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate until March of this year, and Jake Sullivan ’98 LAW ’03 served as national security advisor.  

Some have returned to campus since their appointment. In April 2023, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen GRD ’71 reflected on her experiences as an economics student at Yale and discussed the Biden administration’s economic aims “to boost economic growth by increasing labor supply, raising productivity, and reducing inequality and environmental damage.” 

From November 2021 to February 2022, the University spent up to $120,000 lobbying members of Congress to pass legislation including the Build Back Better Act — which was meant to fulfill key promises of the Biden campaign. 

In February 2022, Richard Jacob, associate vice president for federal and state relations at Yale, told the News that the University had been advocating to create a pathway to citizenship or legal status for undocumented students and funding for the National Science Foundation and other research agencies. 

The Build Back Better Act failed to pass in the Senate after the conservative West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin pulled his support. Negotiations between Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer and Manchin resulted in the successful Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which incorporated many of the Build Back Betters Act’s proposals surrounding climate change and healthcare, but did not include the path to citizenship reform that the University had lobbied for. 

In August 2022, the Biden administration announced a debt relief plan aimed at forgiving federal student loan debt ranging between $10,000 and $20,000 for borrowers meeting specific income thresholds.

In Connecticut, the plan was set to have a major impact as over 450,000 borrowers were estimated to be eligible for at least $10,000 in loan forgiveness and more than half of that pool is eligible for $20,000 in relief. 

At Yale at the time, 88 percent of undergraduate students in the most recent graduating class — the class of 2021 — graduated with no student loan debt, while 12 percent had borrowed a student loan. Of the undergraduates that did borrow, the average student loan indebtedness totaled $14,383, per University student debt data from the Yale Office of Undergraduate Admissions. 

The Supreme Court struck down the loan forgiveness plan in June 2023 in the case Biden v. Nebraska. 

Sandee Couch SOM ’20, vice president of the Yale Club of Dallas, told the News in September that student debt should be a priority for the University president who succeeds Salovey. 

“The Ivy League, especially Yale, sets the tone from a lot of our other universities,” Couch said. “So student debt has been such a big topic for a lot of people [and] making sure that we make it affordable to all is definitely something that should be on the agenda.”

Other Supreme Court decisions during the Biden presidency have made waves in campus life. The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturning the right to abortion led to major campus protests throughout the 2023 school year

In June 2023, the Supreme Court’s ruling against race-conscious admissions decisions — resulting from the case Students for Fair Admissions  v. President & Fellows of Harvard College — prompted changes to the University’s efforts to promote campus diversity. 

In a Sept. 7 email, Dean of Yale College Pericles Lewis and Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan explained that the University would be taking steps to continue attracting students from underrepresented backgrounds and promoting a culture of diversity and inclusivity while complying with the law. Per the email, these steps include updates to Yale’s undergraduate admissions process, an expanded admissions outreach plan, new talent pipelines and a commitment to supporting a culture of belonging.

“The most important message I want people to hear is that even if the law has changed, our values have not,” Quinlan told the News in September. “We still want to be attracting students from underrepresented backgrounds to Yale, even if the law around how we consider them in the process has changed.”

In October, the University announced that while applicants can still answer the same optional question on the Common Application, their responses self-reporting race or ethnicity will not be accessible by admissions officers involved in the selection process. 

The University has not yet released a full profile of the Class of 2028, the first class admitted after the Supreme Court decision, but plans to do so in August. This profile will include the racial makeup of the incoming class. 

Most recently, Biden’s foreign policy surrounding the war in Gaza has impacted student life. While protesters’ demands have focused on University policy — specifically that the University divest from weapons manufacturers — protesters have used chants condemning Biden’s support to Israel such as “Biden, Biden, you can’t hide, you’re committing genocide” and “Biden, Biden, how many kids did you kill today?” throughout the protests and encampments of recent months. 

In late April, the White House addressed the protests at Universities around the country and denounced antisemitism on college campuses, but did not name Yale or other universities directly.

“While every American has the right to peaceful protest, calls for violence and physical intimidation targeting Jewish students and the Jewish community are blatantly Antisemitic, unconscionable, and dangerous,” said the statement from deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates.

On May 2, Biden himself condemned the students and other protesters, saying “there’s the right to protest, but not the right to cause chaos.” In this televised statement, the president also rejected Republican support for calling the National Guard to subdue protests at universities across the country. 

Campus groups have yet to fully start gearing up for the next election cycle. At a YCC election debate though, incoming YCC president and vice-president Mimi Papathanasopoulos ’26 and Esha Garg ’26 promised to work on allowing Dean’s Extensions and excused absences on voting day “so that students actually can go out and be civically engaged,” per Papathanasopoulos. 

Garg added that they would work with YaleVotes and other student organizations on outreach and also use the YCC funding to make sure all students who vote absentee have access to necessary materials, like stamps and envelopes.  

The 2024 presidential election will occur on Tuesday, Nov. 5. 

NORA MOSES