In an attempt to broaden the impact of Yale College Council funds on student life, YCC Treasurer Harrison Marks ’10 is spearheading an initiative he calls the “Student Development Directive,” which would place some of the YCC’s purse — about $5,000, for now — in the hands of the students it serves by allowing them to propose and select one long-term project to improve student life per term under the financial and personnel support of the YCC.
Worried that the YCC was too narrowly focused on events planning, Marks said he developed the idea for the directive in order to address issues, such as ease of student transport or convenience with routine chores like laundry, with the potential for long-term impact.
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“There’s this culture at Yale where people just assume that student government just does events,” Marks said. “We should be considering spending our money on more lasting things, more creative ways to spend our money.”
Longer-term project suggestions Marks said he has already received include a community bike system under which students could take a bike at the base of Science Hill, ride it to the top and lock it there for another student to ride down. Marks also said a system of LCD screens placed at popular Yale Transit stops around campus that track the position of Yale buses has come up in informal conversations with other students.
This semester will see a one-term test pilot of the directive. If the pilot goes well and enjoys broad student support, the directive will remain a part of the YCC’s funding structure, Marks said. Students interested in offering their proposals to the YCC will have the opportunity to present the council with informal suggestions for longer-term projects at a brainstorming session this evening, he said.
After the floating of suggestions, Marks explained, a project team of three to four YCC representatives will meet immediately afterwards to determine which suggestions are feasible YCC goals for this semester. Ideas vetted by the group will then be put to a vote — open to all undergraduates between Feb. 6 and Feb. 8 — on YaleStation.com, and the YCC will likely announce the winning idea on Feb. 9.
While the students responsible for the original idea would not be directly involved in the YCC project team’s deliberations from that point forward, Marks said he intends for such students to act as advisors to the project team as it works with the proposal. The project team would aim to have implemented the idea successfully by the end of the term, he said.
“A lot of the changes at Yale happen because administrators say, ‘Okay, we’re going to do this for you now — or in three years,’” Marks said, adding that many student proposals face a long road to implementation. “When we want something done fast, we’ve got to do it ourselves if we’re going to see the results.”
Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee Chair Joshua Tan ’09 said a public vetting of ideas that do not make the cut could indirectly could lead to their realization through alternative methods of funding.
“It sounds like taking the way the UOFC 5K competitions are run and applying them to student life,” Tan said, referencing the tri-annual event funding competitions organized by the UOFC and voted on by the undergraduate student body. “When you have these competitions, it’s not only good for the one that wins — the others also get good PR. We’ve seen a lot of the runner-ups held as well, just not with UOFC money.”
Marks said such an outcome would be a serendipitous side effect of the current plan, although YCC support for other suggestions would be incumbent upon YCC’s schedule and urgency of other proposals.