Yale College Council represents student opinion on many issues

To the Editor:

Wednesday’s News’ View (“Personal traits most essential in dean search,” 1/21) unfairly derides the Yale College Council as unfit to provide student input in the search for the new dean of Yale College.

The Yale Daily News editorial board called the YCC “those elected to plan parties,” inconsistent with ample evidence published in the News’ own pages. Last semester, News reporters wrote more than one article a week about substantive issues that the Council worked on for students. Last semester, the News reported that the YCC delegated activities to a new constituent body, the Yale Student Activities Committee. In this new structure, the Council of Representatives deals primarily with issues, and a review of the statements of candidates running for election today demonstrates that students know the YCC is about much more than parties.

The News editorial claims that YCC members are not elected “for their ideologies on liberal education.” However, candidates frequently run with platforms highlighting academic goals. One of the four Council committees is dedicated to academics, and it dealt directly with Dean Brodhead, gaining an understanding of his academic philosophy and of his direct impact on undergraduate education. Council members have more experience analyzing College academic issues and working with Dean Brodhead than most students, and interact with him often in his administrative capacities, as well.

The editors of the News further stressed that students elected their representatives only to “pick Spring Fling bands and organize shuttles to the airport.” This statement is not based in fact, though it reveals what Council members are elected to do — to be responsive to the demands of the student body. The current YCC executive officers campaigned on a variety of substantive concerns and an emphasis on improved communication with students. Not one of the candidates cited the idea of an airport shuttle. Rather, this year’s Council heard students’ complaints of inconvenient and expensive airport transportation, and addressed the problem. Students care about the accessibility and responsiveness of their representatives on issues (such as the Dean’s search) as they arise. Just as no one elected YCC members to run an airport shuttle, no one specifically elected them to provide input on a search for a new Dean. But this ability of the YCC to communicate with students makes it an appropriate body to gather student opinion on the subject.

In the News’ View on April 21, 2003, the News urged the YCC to emphasize communication with students, especially using YaleStation. On Wednesday, the News recognized how YaleStation had become a powerful communications tool for the YCC. Both YaleStation and the YCC’s representative structure have well equipped it to represent student opinions. Just hours before the editors published its editorial, the YCC e-mailed the campus, calling for student input through YaleStation, already generating thoughtful responses from over 120 students.

In the next few days, the YCC will be announcing forums in each residential college for students to better discuss their opinions on this important matter.

We agree that the search committee should solicit opinions from a variety of sources. However, the facts show that the YCC does serve a vital role in representing student opinion on this and other substantive campus issues. We hope that the News’ editors would examine the evidence in both deed and word — the written word printed in the News’ own pages, in fact — before they capriciously disparage the YCC in the future.

Elliott Mogul and David Gershkoff

January 22, 2004

The writers are, respectively, the Yale College Council president and a Branford representative to the Yale College Council.

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