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All School Conference 2008 Plumbs YDS-New Haven Links

By Michael O'Loughlin ’09 M.A.R.
Organizers of this year’s All School Conference devoted the annual, weeklong event to exploring the relationship between Yale Divinity School and New Haven by inviting city officials, immigration activists, performance artists and labor leaders to the Quad.

ASCOrganized by the student-run Community Life Committee, "Yale and New Haven: Living Together" ran each day from March 3 to 7. Scheduled for the runup to Spring Break, the All School Conference offered the YDS community an opportunity to hear experts hold forth on issues ranging from urban women’s health to crime and safety in the Elm City.

"Students and administrators came out of the woodwork with fascinating ideas and a passionate desire to be more involved in the life of our city. We hope to capitalize on that energy and hold a further series of talks when we return from Spring Break in order to come up with some solid plans for action that can be put into place in the next few weeks and continued next year," said Carrie Levy ’08 M.Div., a co-chair of the Community Life Committee and co-organizer of the conference with Brandon Johnson ’08 M.Div.

Two officers from the New Haven Police Department, one of them a YDS student, led a panel titled "New Haven, Crime and Safety." They concluded that creating opportunities for youth to engage in constructive projects and getting them off the street is the best way to make New Haven a safer place.
Anthony Campbell ’08 M.Div., a 10-year veteran of the police force who now works as a training officer for the New Haven Police Academy, said that Yale students could contribute to the formation of a safe New Haven. He noted that students are an invaluable resource to the New Haven and Yale police departments, especially in terms of offering information.

"Last year, we had 160 shootings, and 10 were solved. We can only solve crimes with information," Campbell said.

Responding to a student’s question about the relationship of Yale University to New Haven, Campbell said that it is mutually beneficial, yet there remains much to be done. A common question at all the panels was: What can we as YDS students do to help?  Both officers said that interaction with the community was what mattered most.

"What you have learned in here, do out there," Campbell said. "Go and minister to people who need it. Make practical applications of what you are doing here."

Another All School Conference panel discussion, this one titled "Immigration and the Congregation," drew about 25 students to learn more about the community’s response to immigrants and refugees living in the New Haven area.

"Our job is to welcome and resettle refugees. We get them on track to get jobs, and to make them self-sufficient members of the community," said panelist Chris George, director of the Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services.

James Manship, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Fair Haven, described the approach he takes at his church as one that is steeped in Catholic social teaching. "There are two aspects to social justice: Direct access to the needs of the people, and looking to address the institutional change that is needed. Our effort and participation in community is rooted in the common good," he said.

Aside from panel discussions, the All School Conference also included the March 5th showing of the film Revolution ’67, a documentary about the six days of rioting in Newark, NJ in 1967. Divinity School students were among the artists taking part in the March 4th performance of "for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf," described as a "choreopoem" by Ntozake Shange.

The conference concluded with a March 7th discussion titled "Where do we go from here?" in the Common Room. About 25 participants mulled ideas for further action by the YDS community. Proposals ranged from initiating school-wide volunteering opportunities to the transformation of the Common Room into a temporary shelter for local residents. 

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