Candidates renew policy focus

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No caption. Photo by Greta Stetson.

In order to effect change for the student body, this year’s crop of Yale College Council presidential candidates is looking to reform the council itself.

The three candidates — Pete Croughan ’12, Jeff Gordon ’12 and Courtney Pannell ’11 — have all outlined ambitious policy agendas, hoping for reforms on issues such as the University’s mental health services and academic minors. And while the candidates said they hope a renewed focus on issues will not divert the council’s attention from planning events, all three said they hope to achieve their ambitious reforms by restructuring the way the YCC approaches policy initiatives.

After absorbing the former Yale Student Activities Committee in the fall, the YCC this year has taken on a more event-heavy agenda than the previous year’s council. This academic year, the YCC premiered three new events — the Fall Festival, the YCC Comedy Fest and the Harvard-Yale pep rally — in addition to planning standard events such as the Winter Show and this month’s Spring Fling.

But all three candidates for next year’s president said they would rework the YCC’s project group system, which divides YCC initiatives up among several smaller groups of representatives who report back to the larger council. This semester, both events planning and policy initiatives were delegated among seven project groups.

Croughan, this year’s Spring Fling chair, said he thinks the council should strike a balance between events planning and policy initiatives, such as reforming Yale’s mental health resources and participating in the administration’s fall review of academics.

Croughan said that while project groups this year focused on producing tangible results, a lack of council-wide discussion meant the council as a whole did not get “passionate” about policy work. He said he hopes to direct council-wide discussion on policy issues so that those members who are enthusiastic about a particular issue are able to discuss it substantively. Croughan has also advocated for allowing YCC representatives, rather than executive board members, to lead the project groups in order to further involve representatives.

“I think that’s how you get the best results,” he said, “Thirty-five people all discussing the same issue.”

Gordon also said he would reorganize the way the council divides work on events and policy: Instead of having each project group pursue a mixture of projects, he said he would create separate groups that each focus on only one event or policy initiative at a time. YCC representatives would then serve on several committees each semester.

Gordon said he thinks that with project groups focusing on several projects at a time this year, the groups lost track of deadlines and did not give each issue enough attention. He added that he would invite non-YCC members to work with the council on projects about which they have strong opinions or relevant experience.

“I see myself focusing more on policy,” Gordon said, adding, “But that doesn’t mean [the YCC] would do fewer events.”

All three candidates, in fact, emphasized that they would not neglect event-planning next year.

Pannell (a multimedia editor for the News) said that, as president, she would reduce the number of YCC project groups in order to maximize council members’ talents. She said there would be three project groups per semester: In addition to one focused on events, one group would focus on macro-policy, such as extending gender-neutral housing to sophomores and juniors, and another would focus on student services issues, such as reforming Yale Dining Services.

“For events and for policy, you sort of need a different skill set,” she said. “I think it would be worth it to divide those up.”

Voting begins Monday at 9 a.m. and ends Tuesday at 9 p.m. Students can log into YaleStation to vote.

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