News’ View: Examining the presidential troika

The Yale College Council, believe it or not, can and should be an important part of this University. Undergraduates have much to say about the Yale experience and can be important partners in improving our school.

We have seen, in recent years, glimmers of hope for the YCC. Rebecca Taber ’08 did a good job of decentralizing the group and giving it a stronger ability to tackle large projects. Rich Tao ’10 did exactly that the following year, and while Jon Wu ’11 has successfully pursued a more modest agenda this year, notably taking a less active interest in issues on campus, he has focused on organizing popular events.

In this year’s race for the YCC presidency, there are three strong candidates who could each capably lead the body. Because one of them, Courtney Pannell ’11, is an editor of this newspaper, we will not formally endorse a candidate in the race.

However, there are important ideas and principles that we hope whoever is elected will remember.

The first is to be realistic. In interviews with all of the candidates yesterday, and in a debate sponsored by the News on Friday and posted on our Web site over the weekend, we saw incredible ambition from Pannell, Jeff Gordon ’12 and Pete Croughan ’12. They have admirable interest in improving the academic experience here, in making student life better and in addressing issues pertaining to mental health.

Pannell has perhaps the broadest platform of any of the candidates, touching nearly every aspect of campus life, from technology to dining. She has made focusing on tangibles — extending dining hours and fixing the woefully dysfunctional panlist system — cornerstones of her campaign.

But to get something done at Yale, one needs to be able to prioritize and pick the initiative that is most important. Gordon was the most eager to do this, emphasizing what the YCC does best — establishing programs like the Bass DVD Library that benefit students beyond the term of a single YCC President. But he also wants to focus on reforming academic policies related to science labs and the Credit/D/Fail option. These are issues on which it will be incredibly difficult to make progress, and while we applaud Gordon’s energy, we caution him to focus on the places where he can make the most change.

The second is to listen. Too often candidates for elected office fail to gauge the opinions of those who elected them. We hope to see that change, and think it will.

Croughan has established himself as a consensus builder — someone who will reach across campus and pull together diverse student groups. We are encouraged by his plans to increase the transparency of the often insular body and are intrigued by his plan to hold campus-wide town hall meetings. The YCC president should be a presence on campus and we applaud all of the candidates for embracing that element of the job in their platforms.

Finally, we challenge the winner of this election to be a leader. We hope that the next president of the YCC will strive to rebuild the connection between students and their elected representatives. Each of the candidates has talked about reaching out to students, faculty and administrators, but it’s easy to forget that amid the bustle of life as a Yale student. Especially in a year in which the president will have fewer direct responsibilities than in the past, it is important that the winner spend his or her time rallying support for the work of the other members of the council.

All of the candidates give hope that the YCC will grow in the next year in one way or another. The burden now is on us, the voters, to take this race seriously and cast our ballots with an eye toward the Yale of tomorrow.

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