The Yale College Council is launching its own publicity campaign this month in an effort to promote voter turnout and encourage a greater number of candidates to run for office.
The YCC has placed advertisements in the Yale Daily News and the Yale Herald, hung banners and posters around campus, sent mass e-mails and made a grass roots, word-of-mouth effort to urge students to vote or run for office. In addition, the YCC postponed the registration deadline for candidates from Jan. 17 to Jan. 20.
“We want people to think about the YCC more seriously,” YCC Vice President Ryan Sheely ’04 said.
In the YCC fall elections, only 25 percent of the student body turned out to vote and 36 students ran for 15 positions — an average of 2.4 candidates per seat. Sheely said the number of candidates for each residential college was erratic, with only one person running in some colleges and nine people running in others.
“If the students in a college are informed and active voters, they will feel more direct power over their representative,” Sheely wrote in a Yale Daily News editorial Jan. 23.
The YCC’s dedication to increasing the number of candidates has paid off, Sheely said. In the current election — which began yesterday and will continue until 9 p.m. tonight — 27 students are running for 12 positions, for an average of 2.25 candidates per seat. Although the numbers indicate a decline in candidates, the statistics do not account for the fact that the number of contenders is more evenly distributed across the residential colleges, Sheely said. He added that extending the deadline for candidates may have led to more competitive elections.
“If we hadn’t extended the deadline we would have probably had only one person running per college,” Sheely said. “For a democracy you need to give voters a choice.”
In order to augment voter turnout, the YCC increased its efforts from previous years with numerous advertisements and grassroots efforts.
“[In previous elections] mass e-mail would be about it,” Sheely said. “I hope this will be a model as to how the council will run.”
Constituents and representatives said communication problems have been one of the reasons for the lack of involvement. It is not so much that students do not care about the YCC, but rather that they are unaware of its contributions to student life, Rebecca Levy ’06 said.
“[The YCC] represent[s] the student interest and things they’d like to change,” Levy said. “I don’t know how effective they’ve been so far. I think it’s a problem that I don’t know what they do besides hold social events.”
Last semester, YCC accomplishments included bringing the New York Times to the dining halls, increasing the availability and visibility of condoms and sponsoring a Jimmy Fallon show, Sheely said.
The YCC has acknowledged the communication problem and is attempting to rectify the situation, Sheely said.
“We want the student body opinion but can’t get them to come to us, so it’s a two-way communication problem,” he said. “If we can do this, we’ll be a more effective institution.”
The YCC recently published the State of Yale College, a semesterly report written by YCC president Andrew Allison ’04. Additionally, YCC Secretary Lindsey Parker ’04 is planning a regular newsletter, and the YCC is also planning to increase the effectiveness of the Yale Station Web site to communicate with the undergraduate community, Sheely said.