When she was elected last spring, Rebecca Taber ’08 became the first woman chosen as Yale College Council President in seven years. But Taber has brought more than a new gender dynamic to the YCC, council members and administrators said — she has also brought a zeal for reform that they said promise to make the YCC more relevant and more effective than it has been in years.
With her re-ordering of the council’s committee structure and commitment to guiding representatives through the financial and administrative obstacles they face in working on projects, Taber has given Yalies in student government a new sense of purpose, council members said. YCC Secretary Dave Narotsky ’09, who joined the council last December, said the organizational changes have helped dispel the malaise that hung over the YCC last year.
“I think the whole feeling was incredibly different last year,” he said. “The initiative wasn’t as strong as it is now, and the administration wasn’t in as direct contact as they are now.”
Instead of gathering twice a week to debate resolutions related to student life, the full council will meet only on Sundays this year. The Executive Board will use Wednesday evenings to meet individually with project teams and offer advice on how to make progress toward concrete goals.
Newly elected Branford College representative Katrina Landeta ’10 said she met last Wednesday with Taber and the rest of the Executive Board — which comprises Narotsky, Vice President Emily Schofield ’09 and Treasurer Harrison Marks ’10 — to discuss issues on which she is interested in working. Taber was encouraging but straightforward during the meeting, Landeta said.
“She’s given us very honest feedback about what can be done or how something can get done, as well as what we can do personally and what kind of manpower she can give us,” Landeta said. “She has been overall very friendly and honest and positive about it all.”
Taber wasted no time in pursuing some of her top initiatives after being elected in April. She met last spring with Council of Masters Chair Judith Krauss to discuss universal keycard access to residential college common spaces and with representatives from Information Technology Services to talk about expanding wireless access to more buildings on campus, Taber said.
Krauss said she appreciates Taber’s commitment to working on issues important to students, though she thinks the proposal to grant universal keycard access could be damaging to the cohesiveness of individual colleges.
“People who live in the colleges certainly should be able to use those spaces to hold meetings,” Krauss said. “[But] I think that [universal access] could really pretty seriously undermine the notion of the college being a small community.”
Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry said he and Assistant Dean of Yale College Edgar Letriz met with Taber and the other Executive Board members at the beginning of this year and that he has scheduled weekly meetings with Taber to discuss issues of interest to the Council. That Taber worked with other board members over the summer in order to begin planning this year’s Fall Show is a testament to her commitment to her new position, Gentry said.
“Rebecca also has shown a commitment to strengthening the accounting procedures for the council,” he said in an e-mail. “I appreciate the energy that Rebecca and the executive board members are demonstrating.”
Taber has also met this fall with University President Richard Levin, Yale College Dean Peter Salovey and Director of Student Financial Services Caesar Storlazzi to discuss proposals ranging from decreasing the student contribution for students on financial aid to the implementation of a “Campus Cash” plan that would allow Yalies to consolidate numerous campus payment accounts onto their student ID cards and use those cards to pay for meals at several restaurants around campus, she said.
Campus Cash and financial aid changes, as well as improvements to the undergraduate advising system and the creation of Eli Days — a conference for low-income high-school juniors in Connecticut that would assign them mentors and offer advice on getting into college — are among Taber’s top priorities for this semester. Taber said she thinks recent personnel changes around the University give the YCC a good chance for achieving tangible results this year.
“With Aramark leaving, it’s the first time in 10 years that there will be a major change to dining, so we think it’s a perfect time to have student input on dining issues,” she said. “And [Cross Campus Library] renovations are finishing up, so it’s a great time to work on expanding library hours.”
Despite her numerous responsibilities and the dozens of issues she has to keep track of, Taber is able to stay involved in all aspects of the YCC’s work without micromanaging, Narotsky said.
“In economics you talk about the invisible hand of the market,” he said. “I feel that’s kind of like what Rebecca is. We all have our roles, and her role is to make sure it all fits well together, that we’re all on the same page.”