We see President-elect Salovey as a listener. He will enter Woodbridge Hall with a reputation for reaching out to students — and we hope he will resist the separation from the student body that can often accompany administrative promotion.
There is one specific student group to whom Salovey is supposed to listen: the Yale College Council. Salovey must therefore work with the next generation of student body leaders to reimagine and relegitimize student government at Yale.
Since the Yale College Council absorbed the Yale Student Activities Committee beginning in 2009, the YCC has struggled with a dual mandate. As a community, we seem to accept that the YCC serves as our student body event planners — our administration and our student activities fees fund major, successful undertakings like Spring Fling.
But what is less accepted is that the YCC should also be our community’s answer for resolving issues of campus policy with our administration.
When looking at this year’s YCC Mid-Year Report, it becomes clear that too many proposals are pending without progress. We are left wondering whether our administrators feel any obligation to respond to YCC initiatives.
And when administrators do not respond, it therefore feels as though the YCC has failed to pressure them to take quick action. The YCC, a student advocacy group, seems unwilling to criticize its closest partner for fear of losing political capital with the Yale administration.
As a result, students see the YCC as an organization without teeth.
For the ultimate benefit of the College, Salovey must encourage a constructive, and occasionally contentious, dialogue between his administration and the elected representatives of Yale’s student body. In times of disagreement, a strong YCC will rally student support against the administration, and our administrators must not take offense. Salovey should let future leaders know that the YCC’s current timidness only does a disservice to the goals of the student body it represents.
Salovey must also help the YCC better integrate into the administrative architecture of our University. Too many committees consider the same issues simultaneously, with one made up of YCC representatives and one of administrators. Salovey must close gaps between the YCC and Yale College Dean’s Office — creating committees with both students and faculty — so that proposals are not left waiting indefinitely for a response from the other side.
These cultural and structural changes will lead to a YCC with whom student groups want to collaborate in order to achieve their goals. No longer will its agenda be filled with ideas from within its own set of interested students. The YCC will not be limited to passive polling, and can instead partner with other campus organizations for change.
This cannot be done by administrators alone. In the upcoming elections, we hope to see candidates prepared to make use of the Salovey administration’s blank slate. Next year will be a moment for two presidents to step up.