Nearly one hundred students gathered in front of Woodbridge Hall, Yale University on Friday to protest a student income contribution policy.
The protest, organized by the group Students Unite Now, called on the University to eliminate a policy that requires undergraduates on financial aid to contribute to their education through savings or income from a summer job. For freshmen, the student income contribution stands at US$1,625, while for sophomores, juniors and seniors it is US$3,050.
While the students chanted specifically against the student income contribution, they also spoke more broadly about Yale’s requirement that students on financial aid contribute to their own education. This requirement consists of both the student income contribution and student self-help, which the University defines as a term-time job. For freshmean, the self-help requirement is US$2,850 per year. For sophomores, juniors and seniors, it is US$3,350.
The protesters argued that the required contribution creates a division along socioeconomic lines between Yale students who must secure paid employment as part of their financial aid packages, both during the academic year and over the summer, and those who do not have such requirements.
“I want to see the student income contribution eliminated,” SUN organizer Avani Mehta ’15 said. “I think that’s the only way we can have a Yale where students choose how they learn and how they work.”
The protest began at 12:30 p.m. on Beinecke Plaza, where several students shared their experiences with managing extracurricular activities and school work while also earning enough money to fulfill Yale’s student income contribution requirement.
Yamile Lozano ’17 said she was not aware of Yale’s student income contribution policy before she applied to Yale. As a first-generation, low-income, minority student, Lozano said she had hoped to advance both herself and her family during her time at Yale, but said that the contribution prevented her from becoming financially independent in the way she had hoped to.
“I have to give up my time to make up the contribution,” Lozano said. “My talents are being wasted on the contribution.”
Another student, Sarah Swong ’15, spoke about what she described as a lack of economic and cultural diversity in her primary extracurricular, the Yale Symphony Orchestra. Condemning what she called “socioeconomically homogeneous” student organizations, Swong said she would like to see “a Yale that’s not divided by race and class.”
Students who are currently expected to contribute financially as part of their financial aid packages are less likely to join time-consuming extracurricular activities, said Javier Cienfuegos ’15.
“It’s impossible to balance extracurriculars, work and school,” Cienfuegos said.
After sharing their stories for half an hour, the protestors spread out across campus in five groups and delivered a document containing 1,100 student signatures to all the residential college masters and five top Yale administrators, including University President Peter Salovey, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan and Director of Financial Aid Caesar Storlazzi.
According to Jesus Gutierrez ’16, who spoke at the protest, SUN organizers met in January 2015 with several residential college masters to request that they ask the administration to eliminate the student income contribution.
“[The contribution] creates two different Yale experiences,” protest attendee Eleanor Womack ’18 said.
Tyler Blackmon ’16, a Yale College Council representative and columnist for the News, said that if Provost Benjamin Polak “actually walked out and talked to students, he might see that the two-Yale idea actually exists here.”
The protest comes roughly two months after the YCC presented a report to the Yale administration recommending greater clarity in financial aid letters and a short-term freeze on the student income contribution.
None of the University administrators who received the signatures could be reached for comment Friday afternoon.