LARSON: An absent YCC

Nothing in Particular

There was something a little ridiculous in the coverage of the resignation of two Yale College Council members last week — and I don’t mean having to remember whether it’s Debby Abramov ’14 or Danny Avraham ’15 who’s going to represent us as the Council’s vice president this semester.

Rather, what was particularly striking was the discrepancy between how YCC members spoke of the news and how other Yale students seem to be treating it.

We had YCC President John Gonzalez ’14 helpfully informing us that, “These two departures are really, really big,” before going on to lament the impact of the resignations on the trust the Yale student body holds for the YCC. Events Director Bryan Epps ’14 went so far as to predict a change in voter preferences, anticipating that students will from now on demand of YCC candidates more detailed information about their future plans.

But while remaining YCC members seem eager to forestall any further resignations, the voters whose trust was arguably breached don’t seem to give a damn.

Far from witnessing outpourings of public outrage — or even interest — I haven’t so much as overheard a conversation in which the names of the departing YCC members were even mentioned. And while the article covering the announcement garnered an impressive 16 online comments, most are from supporters of departing YCC Secretary Leandro Leviste’s ’15 mother, who holds political office in the Philippines.

In other words, students just don’t care that a couple names and positions on the YCC have had their relation to each other switched around; they don’t seem to think that the YCC vice president, or secretary, has any relation to them.

But criticizing student apathy implies that proposals went unnoticed that deserve our attention. And when it comes to the YCC’s actions so far this year, I can’t think of anything it’s done that deserves our attention.

OK, that might be a little unfair. Expanded dining hall offerings during fall, Thanksgiving and winter break were worthwhile enough, and as I’m not currently on a meal plan, I may be underestimating the value of the YCC-inspired improvements to dining hall salad bars. Judging from a few guest-swipe meals, however, the refurbished ones don’t seem like anything to write home about.

Indeed, reading the YCC’s own 2013 Mid-Year report reveals a totally depressing lack of real accomplishments. The tiny number of actual achievements (salad bars, small discounts at restaurants during Camp Yale) are grouped together with a somewhat longer list of marginally interesting proposals (later dates to withdraw from a class, or convert from Credit/D/Fail).

All other things equal, it seems like the Council may have set the stage for a couple of small improvements to student life over the next couple years. But the report certainly gave us no clue as to how the YCC might meaningfully improve student life, or why the news that its members might be changing should garner any student interest.

I’ve previously defended the YCC against those who decried its small-bore agenda. But that was a different YCC, which had achieved gender-neutral housing for juniors, as well as longer lunch hours at Durfee’s. Even after the YCC’s initial success, some were still angry that half of Yale College did not yet have the right to live with people of the opposite sex. Now, it doesn’t even seem like gender-neutral housing for sophomores is anywhere on the YCC agenda.

Yale already gives its students unparalleled resources and opportunities, so it’s not shocking that we don’t demand dramatic change — or much of anything — from our elected representatives. Still, last year’s YCC proves that an actively pursued, incremental agenda can tangibly improve student life. This year’s council has forgotten that lesson.

So long as students can’t name a battle the YCC has fought and won on their behalf, they won’t care if a couple of its members decide to quit. I have no doubt that the YCC takes the resignation of two of its members very seriously. I doubt anyone else does.

Harry Larson is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College. His column runs on alternate Tuesdays. Contact him at harry.larson@yale.edu .

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