YCC President: Marks ’09 has recipe for change

Amateur chef Zach Marks ’09 has a knack for converting dining hall fare into culinary delights. He wants to similarly transform the Yale College Council presidency.

Marks, who currently serves as YCC secretary, is perhaps best known for his cooking prowess, which drew the attention of The New York Times in January and transformed him into something of a pseudo-celebrity on campus — and beyond. He said he is about to ink a book deal and will soon start a regular column for The Huffington Post, a popular progressive news and opinion Web site.

Zach Marks
Zach Marks

Yet aside from that well-publicized hobby, Marks said, he takes pride in having transformed the position of YCC secretary from that of a “glorified minutes taker” into a liaison to student organizations. Now, Marks wants to revamp the YCC president’s role in the community as well.

“This place is great, but it’s far from perfect,” Marks said. “There are definitely some things that need to be cleared up, and I think I’m the person who can do it.”

His platform starts with financial aid, in which he said the University must invest more lest it continue to lose top students to schools like Harvard, Princeton and Stanford universities. In his work for the Yale Admissions Office administering the Student Ambassadors program — which reaches out to high school students across the country — and as the national education policy director of the Roosevelt Institution, a student think-tank, Marks said he has learned the importance of financial aid as well as the burden of expensive college loans.

Marks said he also plans to address a number of quality of life issues, including keeping dining halls open later, providing lectures online, and providing more performance spaces and dance studios for students. In addition, he wants Undergraduate Career Services to offer more resources for students interested in internships and jobs outside of the financial sector.

As he jumps from issue to issue almost breathlessly, Marks peppers his platform with anecdotes — planning a higher education conference with Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel, dining last weekend with a former Times restaurant critic whom Marks calls something of a surrogate father. Mid-stream, leaning forward on the edge of a leather-backed chair, he offers greetings to passersby in the Saybrook College common room but does not miss a beat in presenting his accomplishments as secretary. Minutes — and several YCC resolutions later — Marks finishes.

“That’s a long story short,” he said.

And it is a long story — Marks got his start in student government at Yale on the Freshman Class Council, for which he served as Issues Committee chairman. Last spring, he ran unopposed for YCC Secretary and, in that position, now serves on the YCC’s Executive Board.

In discussing his work as secretary, Marks emphasized his work reaching out to student groups and organizing an open forum on hate speech after apparently anti-Muslim posters went up on campus in November. He also pushed for a multiculturalism awareness workshop during Freshman Orientation and University subsidies for the HPV vaccine.

But what gives Marks an early edge going into this spring’s election — his YCC executive board experience — may also be his biggest hindrance. As the YCC’s de facto spokesman, Marks has had his name splashed across the pages of Yale’s student publications whenever there is a story on the YCC. For that reason, many students may link Marks to the current YCC administration more than any other official, YCC President Emery Choi ’07 included. That could be a good thing or a bad thing.

“It won’t be like introducing a new face,” Marks said.

In the opinion of Richard Tao ’10, chair of the Freshman College Council, Marks’ tenure on the YCC is an asset. Marks has been a regular presence at FCC meetings this year, Tao said.

“You can call him an insider’s candidate, but at the same time he’s somebody who has also had the perspective of someone who’s involved in a lot of other stuff on campus,” Tao said. “I think that as president, that’s definitely good experience for him.”

Marks, a native of Philadelphia, is a member of Saybrook College and is an ethics, politics and economics major with an urban studies concentration.

This week, the YCC’s Election Committee cited Marks for appointing members of his campaign staff at least two days earlier than election rules permitted. The committee reduced his allowed number of posters by 20 percent.

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