Dustin Siggins


Yale pro-life student group denied membership in ‘social justice’ network

Dustin Siggins

NEW HAVEN, CT, April 23, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Yale's student-based pro-life group has been denied membership in the social justice arm of a non-profit group on campus.

According to Christian Hernandez, immediate past-president of Choose Life at Yale (CLAY), "this is the first rejection of Dwight Hall's provisional membership in 10 years, to my knowledge."

The largely undergraduate pro-life student group had attempted to join the social justice arm of Dwight Hall, an independent non-profit on Yale's campus that boasts 90 student groups. Hernandez says that CLAY was "given no further details on the reasons for rejection."

On its website, Dwight Hall describes itself as a "an independent, nonsectarian nonprofit umbrella organization" that "reflects a diverse Yale student body and a strong history of social justice work in New Haven and beyond," and "is the largest campus-based student-run service organization in the country." More than 90 student groups and 3,500 students are part of Dwight Hall each year.

It is uncertain what kind of relationship Dwight Hall has with Yale. LifeSiteNews reached out to Yale's Office of Public Affairs for further information, but the university's press secretary did not provide that information, nor whether Yale provides funding for Dwight Hall. The non-profit says its funding comes from grants, endowments, contributions, "facility rentals," and the "Yale Office of New Haven State Affairs." The last two sources provide eight percent of the organization's $800,000 annual budget.

Hernandez said one member of each student group makes up the Cabinet, which is the body responsible for accepting or rejecting student groups. It is not known how many of the 90-plus members of the Cabinet voted, nor what the breakdown of the vote was. Hernandez did say that the pro-life group, which boasts approximately 20 members in weekly meetings in addition to other members, has conducted itself "in line with what's required by Dwight Hall to be a social justice member."

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"Our group is involved with different forms of advocacy on campus," according to Hernandez. "We have weekly meetings, we have a yearly conference with numerous speakers, we have students that are volunteering with the local [crisis pregnancy centre], and we have a candlelight vigil for the unborn and their families."

"We also bring in speakers each semester from different areas, most recently from New Haven Hospital."

The College Fix reports that by joining Dwight Hall, CLAY would have seen "perks" that come with membership, including " funds, access to loaner cars for service projects, printing services, a spot at freshmen recruiting events, and other benefits." Organizations that have been allowed to join Dwight Hall include the ACLU, the Arab Student Association, a gay advocacy group, and an environmental group.

At least one Christian-based organization is part of Dwight Hall -- Visions of Virtue, which describes itself as a "Christian sisterhood" that "addresses ... issues" like "sex, nutrition, education, and relationships ... in a biblical context" that is "unlike existing Yale programs."

In an op-ed published by First Things, former CLAY president Matthew Gerken wrote that "pro-lifers at Yale have long gotten over the idea that they’d get anywhere arguing with their peers about whose right to autonomy trumped whose, and so they charted a new direction."

That direction, according to Gerken, involved CLAY members taking "up their cause as a matter of social justice. They realized that abortion has never been solely a matter of a baby’s life and liberty."

Dwight Hall Executive Director Peter Crumlish did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

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