While the Yale College Council pursued an agenda this semester praised by administrators and students alike, some Yalies — including YCC President Jeff Gordon ’12 — worry that the council has left students in the dark.
Changing University policies on issues that directly affect students such as housing and academics is his top priority, Gordon said, adding that the Council has also tried to become a more accessible and helpful resource for students and student organizations this year. But Gordon admits the council still has far to go, and only two of 11 students interviewed said they know what projects YCC is currently pursuing.
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Until two weeks ago, the YCC did not have a website — “an embodiment of the [council’s] failure to communicate,” Gordon said.
“Few people know what we’re doing. They also don’t know what most other groups are doing,” he said. “But it’s different because it’s our job.”
Gordon said the group’s new website should help make the group more visible. But YCC Secretary Lauren Koster ’12 said that the Council’s earlier efforts to increase communication earlier this year have been successful. Koster pointed to a new weekly e-mail to the student body, which includes news from the YCC and other student organizations, as evidence of the YCC’s progress.
Still, many students are unaware of the YCC’s work this semester. While only two of 11 students interviewed said they know what projects the YCC is working on this semester, seven said they supported the YCC’s projects once the initiatives were explained to them.
Adam Berman ’13 said he had not been aware of the YCC’s projects, but when informed about their initiatives was supportive of the language certificates.
“As somebody who takes languages and is probably not going to major in it, that would be a nice thing to have on paper,” Berman said.
The YCC has examined course credit value for science lab courses and a language certificate program which would allow students to complete the equivalent of an academic minor in a foreign language. Its student life work includes efforts to expand gender-neutral housing to juniors and improve both sophomore advising and Undergraduate Career Services. The YCC is working alongside a new Yale College committee that is examining the impact of academic changes made in response to the 2003 Committee on Yale College Education’s report, and has released reports on these issues to coordinate with the Yale College committee’s review.
Though Gordon said he wants the council to be more in touch with students, he said a significant amount of his work involves spending a lot of time with the administration. He said he has managed to establish good relationships with many Yale administrators, and that he hopes these ties can be preserved from year to year so that future councils do not have to spend time re-building the relationships.
Such efforts have not gone unnoticed by Yale administrators. Yale College Dean Mary Miller and Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry both said they are impressed by the Council’s work this year, and John Meeske, associate dean for student organizations and physical resources, said this year’s Council has been especially well-organized.
“[They are] even more on top of things than prior years have been,” Meeske said. “They have a clear idea of what they want to do and how to go about doing it.”
Former YCC President Jon Wu ’11 also said that the work of this year’s executive board has been commendable.
But because the YCC’s policy proposals must be evaluated by administrators — a slow process, Gordon said — it is hard for the YCC to gauge how successful it has been so far this year.
The dining project group has focused on planning events such as the Iron Chef competition instead of pushing for policy changes. Gordon said the YCC has not worked with University Properties to provide student input on retail options in New Haven as he promised in his campaign, in part because no YCC members have expressed interest in doing so.
In his campaign, Gordon said he would improve Yale’s mental health resources. But while he believes Yale’s mental health resources should be better publicized, Gordon said it is still hard for the YCC to decide how it can best help improve the University’s mental health services. This year’s mental health project group has examined the issue and called on students from outside the YCC to weigh in, Gordon said.
Gordon said he would like to see the Council increase its collaboration with other student groups, which it started this year. For instance, Gordon said he was proud of the YCC’s partnership with the Yale College Democrats, Dwight Hall and New Haven Action to organize a voter drive, and with the Women’s Center to respond to the Delta Kappa Epsilon initiation controversy this fall.
“It’s our responsibility to not just be our own student group, but also to be a facilitator for all campus groups,” he said.
The executive board of the Yale College Council is elected at the end of every academic year, and comprises six officers. The Yale College Council will send a memo to the Yale Corporation about its policy recommendations at the end of this week.