SCC seeks to shake reputation

SCC, led by President Omar Njie '13, is aiming to increase the council's presence on campus this year.
SCC, led by President Omar Njie '13, is aiming to increase the council's presence on campus this year. Photo by Megan Leslie.

The Sophomore Class Council has been called inefficient since its inception in 2005, but this year’s council is trying to breathe new life into the organization.

SCC President Omar Njie ’13 said the group’s goal is to set up more class bonding opportunities and help their peers navigate a year known for its “slump.” To increase its impact, the council has doubled in size and undergone a series of structural changes, but 12 of 20 sophomores interviewed still said they did not know what purpose the council serves.

“It’s been a historically inactive and inefficient council, and we have chance now to revive it,” Njie said, attributing this to previous councils’ small size and lack of motivation.

This semester, the council is focusing on providing sophomores with guidance in choosing a major, Calhoun representative Nicole Nakata ’13 said. To this end, they organized a series of dinners where sophomores can talk to the heads of various academic departments, she added. Last year’s SCC Chair Christopher Lee ’12 said the council came up with a similar initiative, but sophomores last year were not as aware of the offering as this year.

The council is also working to improve sophomore advising, increase the number of sophomore seminars, and work with Undergraduate Career Services to expand career counseling for sophomores, representatives said. Berkeley representative Natalee Pei ’13 said the sophomore council is also working with the Yale College Council to reevaluate mental health services, and has put together a survey on the subject that will go out to the student body soon.

Njie said the SCC is working with Yale Licensing to create Class of 2013 apparel, and planning bonding events such as a semi-formal and a class dinner with a keynote speaker. SCC Vice-President Nathan Yohannes ’13 said turnout at functions this fall like Southern Comfort, a class-wide gathering on Cross Campus this October, has been high, but he thinks many students are still not aware of all the council’s efforts outside event-planning.

“We are running a council that didn’t have the presence we wish it did,” Yohannes said. “We have to get that credibility on our own. People are noticing that we are making big changes, and they are responding well to that.”

Lee said that when he led SCC, it was limited at first by insufficient funding and then by a subsequent decline in attendance. He mentioned that both he and the council had anticipated more funds to cover the costs of the fall picnic, and that the necessary cancellation of the event brought about a drop in morale and attendance.

Five SCC representatives interviewed said this year’s sweeping structural changes were on of Njie’s main objectives.

“YCC’s close relationship with SCC stems from [YCC’s] close relationship with Omar Njie,” said Yale College Council President Jeff Gordon ’12. “From the outset, Omar was enthusiastic about participating as a full YCC member in addition to a liaison between the two councils.”

Njie won his position during the YCC general elections last spring while the rest of the SCC cabinet was elected this semester. After sitting in on an SCC meeting last spring, which was only attended by four members, not including Lee, Njie said he decided to push for an expanded council. While last year’s council was only 12 members — one per college — this year’s has 25 members, with each college sending between one and three representatives. From his experience as a Silliman representative on the Freshman Class Council last year, Njie said he knew SCC would need a lot of manpower to run efficiently and combat its prior lack of visibility.

Nakata, who served on FCC with Njie, said the enthusiasm that characterized her freshman council has carried over to this year’s sophomore council, adding that Njie’s decision to enlarge the council contributes to that feeling. Last year, FCC had 24 members.

YCC Treasurer Brandon Levin ’13 said each class council — FCC, SCC and the Junior Class Council — receives a fixed operational budget of $2,000 from the YCC. FCC receives additional support from Dean of Student and Freshman Affairs Marichal Gentry’s office. Njie said Gentry has also agreed to fund some of SCC’s expenses, including paying for a speaker for the class dinner.

Despite SCC’s ongoing efforts, most sophomores interviewed said they don’t usually notice the council’s presence.

“I think [the SCC] should show what they do more,” Beau Wittmer ’13 said. “If [what they do] is not that much, then I think it should be centralized. It eliminates bureaucracy.”

But Gordon said class councils are crucial because of the need for class-wide events. Class councils should be decentralized from the YCC so they can focus on class-specific issues that could slip through the cracks of the larger council, Njie said.

The department dinners will continue at 5 p.m. tonight in the Calhoun Parlor Room, with representatives from the Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Department.

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