For whose humanity

by Davarian Baldwin, Yale Daily News OpEd, Oct. 11, 2021

Just [a month] ago, Yale launched what’s been called its “most ambitious” fundraising campaign ever. The $7 billion wish list does include requisite line items like faculty and student support, public health and of course racial justice. But the bulk of the price tag orbits around the lucrative research areas of data and computer science, biotechnology and engineering. The campaign is called “For Humanity.”

From a purely educational perspective, the claim of fund-raising for humanity makes total sense. An influx of cash would support classrooms and laboratories that train the next generation of leaders while also producing lifesaving discoveries for the future. But Yale’s “For Humanity” title is not actually indicative of higher education’s goodwill. Instead, it is a branding strategy, one part of an elaborate business model in which schools champion their public good status to shelter millions of corporate dollars and extract public funds from their host cities.

As Yale seeks to add $7 billion dollars to its already bulging coffers, students in New Haven attend classes without enough seats and use bathrooms with no soap. Such disparities are not by coincidence but point to the various ways that higher education prosperity is driven by the impoverishment of its host cities and towns. And therefore, when assessing this latest fundraising effort, we must ask: for whose humanity? […]

Under the cover of “educational purposes,” Yale’s graduate researchers work at stipend rates below their private market peers to churn out for-profit research in tax-exempt campus buildings for millions in royalties that feed the school’s tax-exempt $31 billion endowment. And this wealth regime is covered by a private Yale police department with public jurisdiction over the entire city but directed by the University’s interests. Some people call the area “Yale Haven.”

These financial arrangements bolster Yale and its corporate partners while New Haven schools and other public works remain hungry for property tax dollars. Yale will point out that it provides the city with a  $13 million Payment in Lieu of Taxes, which is the biggest of its kind in the country. But it has testified to another way of seeing the world, and I think we can lift that up and celebrate that.”

[The article can be read in its entirety at www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/peace_cairn]

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