Beyond our Ivory Towers

I spent a healthy portion of my freshman year being told that I should fear the streets beyond Popeye’s. Now in my junior year, I see students unwilling to venture too far beyond the wrought-iron gates; I overhear upperclassmen pass on the culture of fear to the next generation of Yalies.

New Haven is a city, and cities have crime. But the warnings that we hear are tinged with mistrust of our neighbors, based on disrespect and discrimination. New Haven is home to over 100,000 residents, the majority of whom are people of color. So, when Yalies learn to fear their environment, they are also implicitly learning to fear people of color.

This is unacceptable.

At Yale, learning to fear thy neighbor of color feeds into the harmful racial dichotomy on campus that makes many students feel they have to code switch — change their demeanor based on the racial makeup of their surroundings to prove that they are an exception to the stereotype.

There are few voices at Yale that speak out against our culture of disrespect. But our current Ward 1 Alder, Sarah Eidelson, is not one of them. As an alder who oversees a ward comprised of 85 percent Yale students, she has had the opportunity to be a bridge between Yalies and New Haveners.

But instead of encouraging Yalies to look beyond our ivory towers, she has remained silent. By holding a position of power, yet doing nothing to challenge these harmful dynamics, Sarah is actively complicit in perpetuating negative attitudes towards New Haveners.

I don’t want to support a candidate who thinks that only appearing on campus during election season and writing #BlackLivesMatter on a campaign website is enough to change the status quo. I want to see a representative who is actively building coalitions of Yalies and New Haveners—who will change the culture on Yale’s campus.

That is why I support Fish Stark.

Yale’s culture of fear, distrust, and discrimination isn’t going to change unless Yalies are re-introduced to New Haven. Yalies aren’t going to stop calling New Haven residents “Townies” until they learn to appreciate the Elm City and its people.

Since freshman year, Fish has been working towards changing the dynamic between Yale and New Haven. He has worked as a teacher in New Haven over the past two summers, encouraging others to engage in community service along the way. On the Yale Dems board, he got freshman involved in the city by organizing them to canvass for Governor Malloy.

More importantly, he has spoken out against harmful campus attitudes towards New Haven. I am confident that as Ward 1 alder, he will continue to encourage Yalies to engage with New Haven, not fear it. Anything else would be unacceptable.

by Sarah Bruley

photo by Cesar Garcia-Lopez