by Isadora Milanez
originally published in Broad Recognition
On March 7, 2016, Students Unite Now launched a website demanding the elimination of the student income contribution at Yale. The website contains the efforts of over two months of conversations about financial aid in which students whose situations ranged from full financial aid to no aid at all shared why they believe Yale will be a better place without the student income contribution.
The results are striking. As I read the narratives — my own, those of the people I interviewed, and those shared by others — I think about the Yale I was promised when I first attended an information session in my public high school’s tiny library.
This Yale made a few promises: that it would bring together people of different backgrounds, that it would give students the aid they needed, no matter their financial situation, and that we were all here to be a part of “a tradition, a company of scholars and a society of friends.”
What I see today is that this Yale exists for some students, but that, for many others, it does not. Perhaps even more disappointing, Yale brings together students of vastly different backgrounds, but rather than serve as an equalizer in academic experience, produces systems that stratify students based on class and race.
Look around and see who works twenty hours a week at their student job, who is taking out loans despite the no-loan promise, and who gets to put those twenty hours into their academic and extracurricular passions. There are two Yales, and the one that we were all promised goes to students who have class and racial privilege.
The narratives on the SUN website highlight the ways in which Yale undermines the great talent it recruits by keeping its students from the work they truly want to do.
We were all accepted equally, but we cannot exercise the same intellectual and emotional freedom. Students dealing with issues of mental and physical health, sexual assault, and the emotional burden of being a student of color on campus should never be subject to the compounding financial strains that the student income contribution imposes on them.
Why does a university with so much power to redistribute resources and so little to lose by doing so create situations in which the daily survival of its students is at stake? I hope that, after four years at Yale, I will pursue a graduate program. Every day, I think about the incredible, talented students at Yale who face undue barriers to achieving their academic goals, because they are working more hours than they can handle to keep their financial situation secure.
Yale can and should do better. A campus without a student income contribution is a campus that is better for everyone.