YCC, take two

It has been one year since the Yale College Council stopped passing resolutions. Fall 2007 introduced the “project team,” a YCC platoon devoted to a small, specific issue or policy change, to the Yale lexicon. And last year it worked — sort of.

In-house projects — Eli Days, a student DVD library — came off smashing successes. Other initiatives were not so lucky. (Efforts to reform the University’s Credit/D/Fail policies and to allow students to charge meals at off-campus restaurants to their student ID cards, for example, foundered.) But now the score is reset; a new team takes the field with a hefty playbook, filled with old fallbacks and new ideas.

Members of the YCC Executive Board set an ambitious agenda for the YCC in interviews this week, saying they hope their work this year leads to greater student input on University committees, a clearinghouse for student-group and event funding and a review of Yale’s overhauled financial-aid policy, among other initiatives.

“This year is a critically important year for Yale because it’s a huge transition period,” YCC President Rich Tao ’10 said. “Decisions made by the administration and the stance the student body decides to take will have profound implications for future generations of Yalies.”

Tao said he was referring specifically to upcoming decisions regarding the next dean of Yale College and Yale’s two new residential colleges, slated to increase the size of the undergraduate student population by 15 percent. YCC officials said they hope to maintain an undergraduate presence on all University committees convened to study the new colleges; last year, Tao said, students “contributed substantially” by serving on committees examining the impact that the new colleges could have on the academic and social experience of students in Yale College.

Vice President Emily Schofield ’09 said the creation of late-night dining options and a take-out food option will also be priorities this year. Last year, those same efforts sputtered to a halt while Yale University Dining Services transitioned from a contracted food provider, Aramark, to its current, in-house operation. YUDS told the Council last winter that projects with far-reaching implications — take-out options, to-go coffee lids — would be paused until YUDS picked a new executive director.

“We’re definitely very interested in bringing changes this year,” Schofield said, “which is great, because last year we were on hold waiting for the new executive director to come.”

The end of that search has brought Rafi Taherian, a former executive director of dining at Stanford, to Yale, along with a sense among YCC members that this could be the year YCC finally wins the long-sought-after reforms.

Tao is counting on relationships developed last year with University administrators to deliver some of those victories. Schofield brings relationships with Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry and YUDS officials; Yale Student Activities Committee Chair Colin Leatherbury ’09 dealt extensively with Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Edgar Letriz in planning last year’s Spring Fling.

But the YCC also faces a year of follow-up. After pushing hard for financial aid reforms that arrived in January, Tao said the YCC will research the impacts of the new policy on student life. One of YCC’s principal arguments for the aid expansion was that students spent too much time working jobs to fulfill the annual student contribution. The requirement to work, YCC representatives argued, created a divide between students who could devote time to extracurricular activities and those forced to work long hours to meet self-help quotas. Whether aid reforms have erased that problem remains to be seen.

The YCC also plans to continue its effort to simplify and centralize student-activity financing, an endeavor to which the YCC has committed itself repeatedly over the last few years. YCC Treasurer John Wu ’11 said the Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee plans to create a “common application” for student organizations seeking event funding. In the past, student organizations had to wade through an alphabet soup of funding sources to determine for which funds to apply. On Sept. 22, when the new application goes live, UOFC Chair Bryan Twarek ’10 said students will have access to most funding sources available to undergraduates through a single application.

Twarek’s close work with the YCC, coupled with Leatherbury’s presence at YCC meetings, signals a shift in the way the YCC relates to YSAC and the UOFC. Executive Board members said minimal communication between the bodies in years past led to tensions that wasted student government’s time and money. This year, the three bodies hope to work hand in hand — Leatherbury even mused that it might be possible to spend less of YSAC’s $160,000 budget in order to support more YCC projects.

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