I couldn’t have told you the first thing about New Haven. To me, it was an old and excessively boring city, with nothing much to do besides go to class and slip away to New York whenever the opportunity arose. It was mid-April of 2020, and I had just committed to attending Yale, which meant I was to spend the majority of my next four years in New Haven. As someone who had come from a poor neighborhood on the west side of Chicago, I was excited about the prospect of living in a city where nothing much happened -- where things were quiet and simple. New Haven represented an escape from the social issues that plagued my city, from economic inequality to violence and police brutality to systemic racism.
The rose-tinted glasses through which I viewed New Haven were smashed to pieces at one of Yale’s student-led preorientation programs, called Cultural Connections. That program introduced me to the issues that New Haven faced and revealed to me just how much Yale played a role in them. Yale, a school I loved, became an irredeemable institution at the heart of New Haven’s housing, budget and race issues. The university I had become a member of was a powerful and often destructive force in New Haven, gentrifying neighborhoods and touting its chokehold on the city’s economy.