This Month:

September 2020: Chase Finney

Sep 1, 2020 | Spotlights | 0 comments



 Name: Chase Finney

 School: Yale University 

Year: Junior (Class of 2022)

Major: Global Affairs 

OrgsBlack Solidarity Conference: Finance Committee Co-Chair (October 2018 – present) | The Good Show at Yale: Director (January 2020 – present) | Yale Model African Union I: Under Secretary General of Committees (May 2020 – present)


Personal Bio:

My name is Chase Finney (she/her/hers). I’m a native Floridian, but I moved around the eastern coast of the state and switched schools multiple times. This never really bothered me as a child because I always had my head in a book or a notebook with my imagination firing at all cylinders. I was a dreamer with very little direction, changing my future career plans every few months. I’m so grateful to my parents for being patient with me and allowing me to dream as big as I could, even if I had no idea what I was talking about.

I finally found my calling in 7th grade when I took a class called “World Cultures.” It was my first non-Western-centric social sciences course and I absolutely loved it. It took me a few more years to piece together my fascination with the subject, my study of Mandarin Chinese, and my interest in politics to find my prospective college major: Global Affairs. I think that my major incidentally eliminated a lot of HBCUs from my college search. The majority of opportunities for students interested in global affairs are on the East Coast, namely in NYC and Washington DC, whereas the majority of HBCUs are concentrated in the South and the interior US. 

I’d attended PWIs since middle school, so I felt fairly prepared for my transition to the larger Yale community; I was more concerned with my introduction to Black Yale. Participating in Cultural Connections, a pre-orientation program geared towards POC students, significantly quelled my worries, but after the first few weeks of being in New Haven, I still didn’t know where I belonged in the Black community. I felt especially isolated from the Afro-American Cultural Center (aka “the House”), a space intended to be a refuge and source of support for all of Yale’s Black community. It wasn’t until I joined the board of the Black Solidarity Conference (BSC) that I finally began to feel at home at the House, which served as our meeting space and headquarters during the conference.

BSC is an annual conference that brings over 750 Black undergrads from around the country to participate in workshops, discussions, and career-focused activities to hone their leadership and financial skills, meet with recruiters from prestigious non-profit and for-profit companies, and discuss the most pressing issues facing members of the Diaspora. My favorite part of the conference is during those precious moments of downtime when board members can hang out and see all of our hard work pay off. Especially in the past year as I began taking more classes in my (semi-surprisingly) extremely white major, I’ve really appreciated the community and support I’ve found in the board as I continued to explore my Blackness and grow as a student and future professional.

How would you describe the blk community on your campus?

 The black community is very…complicated. We are fortunate enough to have the House, but as I alluded to briefly, for some students, the House is one of the most uncomfortable spaces on campus. Within each class, there are cliquish students that – for better or worse – gravitate towards the House. It’s not surprising that these groups make some students feel unwelcome despite their diasporic backgrounds. I believe this disconnect in unity contributes to the Black community’s generally spotty record of supporting its members in their times of need; unfortunately, Black women and queer folk often bear the brunt of this selective silence. 

What do they need? What do they want?

The Black community at Yale needs more institutional support. Yale has only recently begun to confront its history and legacy as an institution built upon the backs of slaves. In the classroom, students face both racial microaggressions and blatant racism; this experience is shared by students across academic disciplines. Even in spaces open to the public such as the art museums on campus, Black students find themselves followed and pestered by both patrons and employees. In response to these incidents, the Black community wants Yale to hold perpetrators more accountable for their actions. Moreover, the Black community wants and needs their non-Black peers to stop being bystanders and make more conscious efforts to stand with Black students.

How has your school responded to these needs and wants?

In light of the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the public eye, Yale has made promises to better support its Black students, but to many students (myself included), these words felt insincere. It’s bad enough that the university has a horrible record of retaining BIPOC faculty. If Yale truly wanted to make a change, they would actually enforce consequences for faculty (especially tenured faculty) failing to live up to the standard of inclusion that the university advertises and actively recruit BIPOC faculty when replacing those positions.

What have you done to improve the student life of black students on your campus?

Outside of BSC, I work as a Student Assistant at the House, and a large portion of my weekday shifts are contributed to helping student groups using the four-story space to hold meetings, rehearsals, and hangouts during the evenings. I am also the Co-President of Blackbrook, an affinity group of Black students in my residential college (Saybrook College). Over the past year, the Black Saybrook community has grown noticeably closer, much to the delight of the upperclassmen. 

Why did you choose to attend a PWI over a HBCU? 

My mom is a proud alum of FAMU and loves to tell stories about her glory days and the invaluable bonds that she formed at the HBCU. However, for as long as I can remember, my heart was always set on PWIs; this may sound like a joke, but I seriously attribute part of that desire to High School Musical 3. When I reached senior year, I briefly considered applying to Howard University because its DC location would’ve provided great nearby opportunities to explore career paths related to my major. In the end, I did not apply for two reasons. First, due to limited funding available for financial aid, I knew that by attending a school like Yale, I could receive a significantly heftier financial aid package than I could at an HBCU. Second, I knew that at a school like Yale, I would have more opportunities both on and off-campus, including spots reserved at highly competitive internships and plenty of funding to support student groups.

What is your PWI Survival Guide Tip?

Find your people. This is especially important if you feel isolated from the larger Black community. Even if you only have a few Black friends, I guarantee that you’ll appreciate having them to lean on during tough times and celebrate with during great times.


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