Antwi-Boasiako: Address bigger, broader issues

I was appalled to see — as I have in the News and in my already cluttered inbox — the platforms of students running for Yale College Council positions. Aspirants have touted their experience meddling in issues of current interest to Yale students: academic minors, gender neutral housing, financial aid reform and other issues relevant only to students. My instinctive response was: How could all the candidates have the same mind on all of the issues? Is Yale that homogenous? Is this race just a popularity contest, or what?

In other countries — two examples are Ghana, where I come from, and France, about which I have read a great deal — student activism is not limited to a narrow spectrum of probably insignificant student needs — or, rather, pseudo-needs. There, students recognize that the business of the government, be it national or international, is inextricably linked to what will eventually come to affect their lives, if not immediately then soon enough.

University students should seek to address issues of broader interest and not just care about outdoing one another in a popularity contest. Why isn’t much attention paid to the involvement of students in the greater New Haven community? What of international politics? Don’t Yale students care about these? A cursory visit to a Yale Political Union debate will immediately dispel that notion.

It is not uncommon, while on the way to dinner, to be interrupted by a group of enthusiastic Yale students asking you to sign a form to save five children in Darfur, or to force President Levin to say something about human rights abuse in China, or to raise awareness on global warming in Tanzania. Can these issues be separated from the day-to-day aspects of student activism at Yale? Many will say no. Why isn’t any candidate talking about things like these then? It says something about Yale students and their attitude toward student politics and activism that aspirants for YCC positions can get away with not addressing broader issues, settling instead for some small niche. Either they have lost faith in the leadership of the YCC as a body or they do not really care about the issues they make a lot of noise about. Either way, there is a serious issue at hand with which Yale students must make an effort to deal.

It does not make a difference whom I vote for because all the candidates are talking about the same issues, and they all have almost the same approach to realizing their visions. It is as if we are in a continuum in which things will definitely change and progress will definitely be made at some point irrespective of who is in office. Why should they waste money and paper campaigning for votes? Why not convene among themselves and decide who should go for which position? After all, they already know one another and have been working on the issues on their platform together for some time now.

I’m reminded of Justin Kosslyn’s admonition in last Monday’s News (“Resist ‘leaderliness,’” April 6). He wrote that students running for positions should not run just to be “leaderly.” There are real concerns to be dealt with, issues that go far beyond Yale’s walls but inevitably concern us and require our attention. I’m not advocating a disregard for immediate student wants, such as those addressed in many of the candidates’ platforms. I’m only alarmed by the fact that they all seem to be saying the same thing.

Come on, friends, let’s do hard things.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    This is an utterly silly and uninformed column. The author asks, "Why isn't much attention paid to the involvement of students in the greater New Haven community?" This just shows he hasn't been paying much attention - the question of how to get students involved in New Haven has actually been one of the most-discussed issues in this campaign. And as for, "What of international politics?" Well, it's a freaking Board of Alderman position, so international politics are not relevant at all. I would prefer my alderman keep the focus on issues where he/she could actually effect change.

    The author correctly points out that when it comes to many of the big issues facing the city (like the New Haven resident card) the candidates' platforms are pretty similar. Yet he resists the obvious explanation for this, which is that on these issues, Yale students mostly agree. Where the candidates are most different is, ironically, on the topic of how best to involve students in New Haven issues. Since this is one of the "bigger, broader issues" he wants the candidates to address, he should have no problem picking a candidate on this basis.

  • Anonymous

    @ #1: I think you are confusing the two campaigns. You know, the YCC one and the Board of Alderman one.

  • y12

    how about safe streets??? students are getting killed out there o a regular basis. also improving the streets and making whitney avenye and elm street look like places people wanted to spend time in 9or walk and bike around), would do more for the city's economy than anything else. look beyond the ivy walls and you'll see some really big issues that affect the community, but that the inept city govt is not doing anything about
    letting us all get kileld by speeding cars on chapel street

  • Actually

    The article's about the YCC elections, not Ward 1. But I still think it's misguided to think that the YCC should be placing pressure on Richard Levin to speak out on Darfur. His job is to run Yale, not insinuate himself into international politics.

  • Anonymous

    Um, he's talking about the YCC, not the Alderman's race…

  • Two races, two faces

    Obviously, it's too much for Yale students to have to endure two simultaneous races. Sometimes going to get confused and vote for Jon Wu for Ward 1 Alderman (Slogan: Bringing Yale and Wu Haven together).

    That said, in response to the meat of the article: the reason this doesn't happen is because student governments have little to no actual authority, especially compared with somewhere like France. Therefore, they focus their energies (when they do it right, and at least address policy more so than parties) on legitimate but local concerns. It seems minors (which I dislike) and gender-neutral housing (which I like) are in fact perfect examples of relevant topics for the YCC to work on. Many other campus activist groups pressure the Administration on specific international or national conecrns (cf. responsible endowment investing, etc.). The YCC doesn't do that because a) there isn't widespread agreement, i.e., majorities, that can agree on anything, and b) because the people who do care about such things would rather not waste their time of the necessary but frivolous bureacratic jobs that the YCC works on.

    I think the real question you should be asking is this:

    Why aren't their more activists at Yale?

    Answer: Because priviledge breeds complacency.

  • Anonymous

    @#6

    I think the real questions you should be asking are this:

    Why don't know you the difference between "their" and "there"?

    And does priviledge breed complacency, or privilege?