New first years weigh in on campus politics
Despite being new to campus, members of the class of 2022 have already begun grappling with complex issues related to inclusion, policing and politics at Yale.
To learn more about where they stand on various issues, the News distributed a survey to members of the class of 2022. Of the 1,578 first years, 864 responded to the survey — a 54.75 percent response rate. Survey results were not adjusted for selection bias.
Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they were concerned by a policing incident at Yale in May, when a white graduate student called the police on a black graduate student napping in a Hall of Graduate Studies common room. Eighty-five percent of respondents said that they either “strongly support” or “support” University President Peter Salovey lobbying the White House and Congress for greater immigrant rights.
And whereas 71 percent of respondents who identify as black, Latinx, Middle Eastern, Native American or Pacific Islander said that it is fair for Yale to consider race as a factor in college admissions, 45 percent of respondents who identify as East Asian or South Asian said they think such practices are fair.
Nearly three-fourths of respondents identify as “very liberal” or “somewhat liberal.” While just over 16 percent said they were centrist, and almost 9 percent somewhat “conservative,” slightly less than 2 percent of respondents identified as “very conservative.”
New Haven and University Police
Although crime rates in New Haven are at their lowest levels since 1985 and trending downwards, just over 61 percent of first years surveyed said that they were “a little worried” about crime in New Haven. The night before the Class of 2022 arrived on Yale’s campus for the largest-ever Bulldog Days accepted students’ orientation event — which began on April 23 — two Yale students were robbed at gunpoint in a Timothy Dwight College suite.
A little over 21 percent of those surveyed reported that they are “not at all worried” about crime in New Haven, 15 percent reported that they are “worried” about crime and 2 percent of respondents said that they are “very worried.”
In May 2018, Yale drew national attention after a white graduate student, Sarah Braasch, called Yale Police Department officers on a black graduate student, Lolade Siyonbola GRD ’19, who was napping in the Hall of Graduate Studies common room. A video of YPD officers interrogating Siyonbola for roughly 15 minutes to determine whether she was a Yale student quickly went viral online.
Ninety-five percent of respondents said that they are aware of this incident. Of those, 73 percent reported feeling “concerned” about the incident, 8 percent said they were “not concerned” and 19 percent reported that they were neutral or did not have enough information to make a judgment.
Cleopatra Mavhunga ’22 said that although she found the incident discouraging as a member of the black community, she and her family were impressed by Yale’s quick response, which included new implicit-bias training initiatives for graduate students and town halls with Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins.
Other respondents said they found the outrage over the incident misguided.
“To me, the police did their job properly [in the HGS incident], and asked for the student’s ID,” Carson Macik ’22 explained. “And the police chief himself is a minority.”
Sixty-seven percent of respondents said that they trust the YPD, though 30 percent said they are still unsure. Only 3 percent of respondents said they do not trust the Yale Police Department.
Thirty-nine percent and 31 percent of respondents, respectively, said they “strongly support” or “support” increased implicit-bias training for YPD officers. Only 2 percent and 4 percent of respondents, respectively, said they “strongly oppose” or “oppose” the measures. Twenty-four percent of respondents said they were “neutral” or did not have enough information to pass judgment.
At town halls held by the University to discuss the HGS incident, several students raised questions about whether YPD officers should carry firearms. Respondents were split fairly evenly on the matter: Just over one-third of respondents said that YPD officers should carry guns, 31 percent said that they should not carry guns and slightly over one-third reported feeling “unsure” on the matter.
Institutional Racism at Yale
The question of whether institutional racism exists at Yale emerged as a topic of debate on campus last semester after two candidates for Yale College Council president — Chris Moeckel ’20 and now-YCC President Saloni Rao ’20 — denied the existence of institutional racism at a presidential debate hosted by the News. One-third of first years reported that they think there is institutional racism at Yale, 20 percent said there is not and just over 47 percent reported feeling “unsure.”
Amid recent controversy surrounding a lawsuit accusing Harvard of discriminating against Asian students, 59 percent of respondents said that it is fair for Yale to use race as a factor in the college admissions process.
Slightly more than one-fifth said they were unsure of whether race-conscious admissions policies are fair, and 18 percent reported that they do not think it is fair to use race as a factor in admissions.
Among East Asian and South Asian respondents, 45 percent said that they think it is fair for Yale to consider race as a factor in college admissions, 27 percent said that it is unfair and 28 percent said they are unsure.
A little over 71 percent of black, Latinx, Middle Eastern, Native American and Pacific Islander respondents said that it is fair for Yale to consider race as a factor in admissions. Among this group, just over 10 percent said that they do not think it is fair, and 18 percent said that they are unsure.
In the fall of 2015, Nicholas and Erika Christakis resigned from their respective positions as head and associate head of Silliman College in response to widespread backlash on campus after Erika Christakis sent an email decrying the censure of Halloween costumes deemed culturally appropriative. The email helped fuel student protests that captured the national media spotlight amid a wider conversation about political discourse, inclusion and free speech on college campuses.
Thirty-seven percent of respondents also said that they are neutral or do not have enough information to determine whether they are concerned about freedom of speech on Yale’s campus. Sixteen percent of respondents said they are “a little concerned,” and 21 percent said that they are “concerned” or “very concerned.” But 26 percent of the respondents said that they are not concerned about freedom of speech on campus “at all.”
“In the class of 2022 GroupMe, people were sharing their opinions very openly, and that was my own exposure to freedom of speech on campus, so I thought campus would be just as accepting,” said Isabelle Top ’22.
Forty percent of first years, however, said that they agree with Yale’s decision to change the term “freshman” to “first year” last fall. Just under 20 percent said that they do not agree with the change. Nic Conway ’22, who disagreed with the change, said she that the change seems to have caused “unnecessary conflict” because Yale students are too “over-paranoid about offending people.”
Respondents were also asked to rate their response to various national and Yale-centric current events.
Sixteen percent and 9 percent of respondents, respectively, said that they “support” and “strongly support,” respectively, Yale Law School issuing a press release praising President Donald Trump’s supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh ’87 LAW ’90. Thirteen percent and 24 percent of respondents said that they “strongly opposed” and “opposed” the press release, respectively. Thirty-eight percent said that they were “neutral” or did not have enough information about the press release.
“To me it almost seemed like they were supporting Trump in my opinion,” said Annabel Sotomi ’22, who opposed the press release. “And because I am such a liberal it was heartbreaking to see the school you attend vehemently support Trump.”
On the subject of Salovey’s efforts to lobby the White House and Congress for greater immigrant rights, 52 percent of respondents said that they “strongly support” Salovey’s efforts and 32 percent said that they “support” the lobbying. Only one percent and two percent of respondents said that they “strongly oppose” and “oppose” the Salovey’s lobbying, respectively. Thirteen percent of respondents said they are “neutral” or do not have enough information to make a judgment.
A little over 64 percent of respondents said that they “strongly oppose” Trump, 21 percent “oppose” Trump, just over 4 percent “support” Trump and 1 percent “strongly support” Trump, with just under 9 percent of respondents saying that they are “neutral” or do not have enough information about the president to pass judgment.