The Yale College Council is holding its elections this week with ballots available online until Friday morning. Ignore for a moment that I can’t respect an organization that subcontracts voting to a Web site that thinks Yalies want to see pictures of their moonfaced, drunken selves the day after a big dance. Entertain some additional criticism of YCC — as if there hasn’t been enough this past week.
YCC disappears for eight months of the school year, only to re-emerge in April. Then it spends the duration of the month trying to convince fellow undergraduates it’s more than a glorified high-school student council while providing vast evidence to the contrary in the form of neon campaign posters with rhyming slogans and promises of bouncy castles at Spring Fling.
I know in their eyes the rest of us are apathetic slackers more willing to complain than to contribute when it comes to our Yale experience. Invariably campus publications carry quotes from some optimistic YCCer about their pleasantly vague desires to influence the administration. This “influence” is inevitably attempted through super-mockable resolutions. There are only two things YCC can realistically influence that students care about — soap in the bathrooms and Spring Fling.
The soap issue’s more tired than my legs next year (I’m living on the fourth floor), and unless Ben Harper cancels, I’ll spend my Sunday afternoon cozying up to whatever 30-pack is on sale this week. Aside from free cotton candy this weekend, I’ll resort to the trite observation that YCC’s actions are irrelevant to my life at Yale, classifiable as either trivial or impractical. Which begs the question of who, if anyone, represents the voice of students like myself.
Two weeks ago a Yale Daily News article described the actions of the Council of College Presidents, who, frustrated by the dearth of undergraduate participation in Tercentennial events and the lack of YCC action in response, “took matters into their own hands” and met with the coordinator of this month’s Tercentennial events Janet Lindner to discuss their complaints. Roguish insurrectionists!
Of course, the college presidents were tactful enough to refrain from openly criticizing YCC, and its officers, for their part, were quick to state their willingness to work with residential college government. But YCC would like undergraduates to believe they are the essential governors of this institution.
The underlying belief of many of the presidents was clear: Residential college councils are better suited to representing students on this campus. Yes, YCC consists of two representatives from each college. But YCC is an attempt to centrally govern the lives of a decentralized campus.
Yale is by definition somewhat fragmented — our meals, homes and even friends are divided into 12 parts. Every college has its quirks and a personality defined by its respective master, dean and residents. Sure, we have a collective undergraduate identity, but one would have to be either an admissions officer or completely ignorant to claim that each of the residential colleges is the same.
So why not eliminate YCC altogether? All the major campus life initiatives proposed by this year’s slate of candidates are proposals that take years in YCC time and a few meetings in residential college time. Formally decentralizing student government by the elimination of YCC would speed decision making. Most importantly, decisions made within colleges could be more focused on the specific needs of their residents.
I’d suggest a hostile overthrow of YCC, but unfortunately, Yale is a rather civilized place, so students’ only recourse is electoral. If you haven’t blocked it from your memory, you might recall the results of the national presidential election. When it became “official” last December, the op-ed pages were abuzz with talk of everyone’s favorite frat boy’s lack of an electoral mandate and predictions for an impotent term in office.
Don’t neglect to vote just because you believe YCC to be irrelevant. If you haven’t already voted online for this year’s YCC officers, here’s your chance to take away their mandate and relieve us all from the once yearly farce of pretending that YCC matters: Cast a ballot but choose to abstain.
Sarah Merriman is a junior in Pierson College. This is her last regular column of the semester.