This weekend, the Managing Board of the News interviewed the candidates for Yale College Council office. The following are our endorsements for next year’s executive board:
President: Bill Fishel ’08
For the first time in three years, the race for YCC president was not already decided before the campaign season began. With a pool of five candidates, most of whom boast — indeed, flaunt — considerable experience in Yale’s student government, the campaign has seemed muddled in a repetitive cycle of similar credentials and promises. But although every candidate told us he would make the student body glad there is a Yale College Council on a daily basis, we believe Bill Fishel will make good on that promise.
Better than most, Fishel has demonstrated an ability to identify clearly the most pressing student concerns that the YCC should be working to address, and to address them. His service as chair of last year’s Freshman Class Council highlighted his attention to detail and his thorough understanding of the financial concerns that often govern Yale’s student government. This year, Fishel’s development of the Campus Cash program — a vastly superior alternative to the stingy, dying Flex system — proved that his economic savvy can also work around the financial concerns that govern the University itself. More importantly, his dogged persistence to add Calhoun, Ezra Stiles and Morse to the list of residential colleges receiving comprehensive renovations demonstrated that while Fishel is well suited to minimizing extraneous YCC and University expenditures, he will also fight to improve student life at Yale even when sizable costs cannot be avoided.
But while the goals Fishel has outlined seem both worthwhile and realistic, we are concerned that among the list of student concerns he has addressed, financial aid remains conspicuously absent. Other candidates have outlined laudable aid platforms, ranging from the grand plans of Larry Wise ’08 to the more measured, reasonable niche assistance that Wells O’Byrne ’07 has suggested. O’Byrne in particular impressed us with his willingness to tackle issues that have typically stymied the YCC this year, including financial aid, expansion of the Yale Sustainable Food Project and a campaign against Yale food provider Aramark. Moreover, O’Byrne’s work with the fledgling Student Ambassadors Program attests to his stated desire to broaden the pool for which a Yale education is a financially realistic possibility. Fishel has convinced us of his commitment to curb iniquities among enrolled students, but we have not seen an equivalent commitment on his part to equalize the opportunities of qualified Yale applicants.
Still, Fishel offers the charisma and ability to build consensus that the YCC presidency has not seen of late, and if he takes a cue from the ambition of O’Byrne, we believe he will make an excellent president. Ultimately, we believe too many of O’Byrne’s campaign promises to be unrealistic. Wise suffers from a similar problem, as well as a damaging unfamiliarity with the economic realities that constrain his most meaningful proposals. Current YCC treasurer and presidential hopeful Emery Choi ’07 has also highlighted the YCC’s role as a lobbying body, but we remain unconvinced that Choi’s excellent work this year will translate to the duties of the council’s president. And Stephen “RSteve” Fedele ’07 has demonstrated an incredible ability to galvanize voters typically apathetic toward the YCC, but we do not share his vendettas against Swing Space, chickens or the nation of Belgium.
Fishel, by contrast, has demonstrated an ability not only to remind students of why they should believe the YCC matters, but to ensure that it does matter. His well reasoned analysis of most salient campus problems, as well as his dedication and ability to work with all interested parties in solving them, lead us to believe that he could helm the most effective YCC we have seen in our time at Yale.
Vice President: Govind Rangrass ’08
Frankly, we were disappointed that some of the presidential candidates did not choose to campaign for the position of vice president instead. This year’s vice presidential race presents a choice between three candidates who do not seem to offer a particularly well-balanced choice among them. Gabe Davis ’07, the self-styled outsider candidate with experience on the Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee, has expressed a desire to reinvent the YCC and tackle the big issues of concern to students, but has been vague when it comes to substantive plans to improve the council’s effectiveness. Steven Engler ’07, a longtime YCC representative and head of the council’s ad hoc soap committee, has a strong understanding of the key issues on which he can and should seek to effect change as vice president — particularly with regard to financial aid, Yale’s sustainable energy campaign and organizational communication — but did not exhibit a strong sense of how to face the clear obstacles to those objectives.
Govind Rangrass, however, offers the greatest focus on a handful of specific issues that promise small but important changes in student life. His work on the Yale University Health Services survey helped bridge a gap that the YCC has not even sought to address in years, and his spearheading of the campaign to obtain cell phones for international students, as well as his continued push for greater communication with campus cultural houses — which have long been ignored by the YCC — demonstrate a commitment to the niche issues that too often receive only lip service from the council. But Rangrass’ push for greater student safety measures and an expansion of the online course evaluation program similar to that suggested by the News last year also suggests that he will not ignore more general concerns. If Rangrass can work to galvanize more support in the council than he has typically found, we believe he can help the YCC take important steps forward on the less headline-dominating issues facing students.
Treasurer: Priya Prasad ’08
In contrast to last year’s six-candidate race for YCC treasurer, this election presents a clear choice: Priya Prasad. Her clear understanding of the financial concerns facing the YCC, and her exceptionally wide-ranging breadth of knowledge on issues of concern to students — from the capital equipment funding budget to the divide between central campus and Science Hill — offers us a candidate who seems able to focus the YCC’s attention on problems it frequently ignores without losing sight of the bottom line. And although Prasad’s status as a co-moderator of the Asian American Students Association may seem to influence some of her objectives, we find it difficult to object to her advocacy of greater transparency for the Minority Advisory Council. While her opponent, Daniel Seifert ’09, has compiled a fairly impressive list of financial credentials and laudable goals for expanded club funding, his fundamental confusion with regard to an alleged YCC endowment — which does not and will not exist, according to current treasurer Choi — suggests that we instead listen to the voice of reason, which Prasad offers in spades.
Secretary: Zach Marks ’09
As the victor by default in this year’s only uncontested race, Zach Marks obviously does not need our support. But we do endorse him for the position of secretary — with a couple of important caveats. Marks, a food critic for the News, has proposed a sizable expansion of the secretary’s role on the council’s executive board, and we believe some of his campaign promises have overstepped the bounds of the position. The secretary should not replace the president as the mouthpiece of the organization, nor should he pretend that his proposed transformation of YaleStation into a central hub for audio lectures and internship opportunities will be the responsibility of anyone other than the YCC’s YaleStation chair. That said, the simpler items on Marks’ agenda — including a biweekly newsletter, monthly town hall meetings and the assignment of particular representatives as liaisons to certain student organizations — offer reasonable, substantive ways to flesh out a position that has been poorly defined for too long.
UOFC Chair: Ned Mitchell ’09
In an often disappointing campaign season, we were pleasantly surprised by the four candidates for the chair of the Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee. All four recognized the major problems inherent in current UOFC operations — a paucity of funding deadlines and meetings, a too-low spending cap on individual expenditures, and a general lack of transparency, responsibility to and communication with the organizations it serves. But Ned Mitchell’s brilliant platform, consisting of nine easily achievable and incredibly powerful reforms, far outpaced the plans of his opponents. While the other candidates agreed on the same basic points, they often struggled to offer decisive answers regarding total funding limits and the reasoning behind numbers that sometimes seemed arbitrary. Mitchell did not. While we do not believe he offers the kinder, gentler UOFC that Thomas Hsieh ’08, a production & design staffer for the News, particularly championed, Mitchell clearly knows better than any other candidate why the system works when it does and how to make it work when it does not.
YSAC Chair: Michael Lehmann ’08
This year marks the second direct election of a chair for the Yale Student Activities Committee, and we believe Michael Lehmann knows how to make such an election worthwhile. While he openly espouses a desire to “pander to student opinion,” Lehmann’s faith in polls and his already strong knowledge of student opinion makes him the candidate most likely to steer YSAC away from failed projects such as the Winter Ball and the Fool’s Ball. Lehmann, who championed Gunther’s visit to Yale, may fall prey to ideas that seem ridiculous to some students, but the same can be said of his opponent. Karla Martinez ’08 has continued to advocate events that have proven to appeal to a limited range of students — from a homecoming dance to a campuswide field day — and in contrast to Lehmann, tickets to the projects she has spearheaded, notably the Winter Arts Festival, did not sell out, period, let alone in a matter of hours. While neither candidate seems likely to substantially bolster YSAC’s committee unity, we believe Lehmann’s vision better reflects that of the student body.