This weekend, the Yale College Council will elect a second replacement member of its executive board in the middle of an academic year for the first time in the Council’s history.
YCC Vice President Debby Abramov ’14 and YCC Secretary Leandro Leviste ’15 announced this month that they would not return to Yale as students this semester, prompting the Council to find replacements among its current membership. The YCC elected Danny Avraham ’15 as its new vice president on Jan. 20, and this Sunday at 1 p.m., the Council will elect a replacement for Leviste. Leviste is still on campus, but next week he will head to his home country, the Philippines, to assist his mother Loren Legarda with her political campaign — a campaign he said he knew about when he ran for secretary.
“These two departures are really, really big. We are going on, but these were really important positions that voters chose candidates who they thought would remain at Yale for the entire year,” YCC President John Gonzalez ’14 said. “These were two special circumstances that do not come up all the time.”
Current executive board and YCC members said the departures were isolated incidents that did not involve the YCC’s activity last semester. But the rapid restructuring of the YCC may impact the Council beyond this semester. Current YCC members interviewed, including YCC Events Director Bryan Epps ’14, said they think the two departures will cause voters to press candidates harder about their personal future plans during this spring’s elections.
Leviste suggested moving executive board elections to the fall, which he said will minimize unexpected departures. Students interviewed, however, said candidates are not incentivized to disclose that they might leave Yale regardless of the date.
“I don’t think holding elections in the fall would make it any easier to anticipate having to leave Yale, because most students aren’t thinking all the way to spring semester when they arrive on campus in August,” Alex Shapiro ’14 said. “No candidate would reveal if they were thinking about taking time off from Yale, as that would throw the election. People will say whatever gets them elected.”
This month’s two departures occurred in close succession.
On Jan. 10, Abramov said in an email to the YCC that she would not return to Yale this semester, adding that she “ultimately felt leaving Yale for the semester was best.” All YCC members interviewed declined to comment on a specific reason for Abramov’s decision, though seven YCC members interviewed said they were surprised Abramov chose to take a semester off because she had been a dedicated member of the Council. Leviste said he thinks Abramov’s decision to leave Yale was not made “on a whim” and not “what she wanted to do.”
Twelve days later, Leviste announced his plans to campaign in the Philippine election on behalf of his mother. He said she needed a family member to represent her full-time on the campaign, and he will be giving speeches at rallies of over 20,000 people almost every day once he returns home.
Leviste said he knew the details of the campaign when he decided to run for YCC secretary last spring, but chose not to advertise it to voters because he had not planned to take a semester off. Instead, Leviste said he thought he could arrange his schedule in a way that would allow him to contribute to the campaign remotely.
“I planned to take an extremely light course load this spring, and maybe travel back to the Philippines a few weekends,” he said. “I only realized over the recent winter break that staying at Yale this semester would compromise both my work at YCC, and my work on the campaign in the Philippines.”
The YCC will hold its elections this year on April 11 and 12.