MEDANSKY: A government unchecked

Little Fables

Earlier this month, the Yale College Council made an important announcement. No, it wasn’t a new kind of salad dressing in the dining halls. Nor was it the name of this year’s Spring Fling headliner. Rather, it was a draft of the newly revised YCC Constitution, the production of which has occupied the Council of Representatives for the past several months. Their effort shows. Now, the YCC Constitution exceeds 20 pages — a vast improvement over last year’s dozen.

Annelisa Leinbach_Illustrations Editor_Marissa Medansky_1011Despite the length of the document, its arrival was met with little fanfare. Most Yalies I’ve talked to aren’t aware that the YCC Constitution is being revised, or aren’t sure what’s changing. Either way, they don’t care.

At first glance, that disinterest makes sense. The YCC is hardly known for its ability to ignite campus passions. And of the organization’s various projects, it’s easier to get excited about Robyn (please, let it be Robyn) and raspberry vinaigrette than the internal minutiae of student government politics. But Yale students should take the time to learn more about the new YCC Constitution. We’d be remiss to allow our student government to undergo drastic change without our input.

For one thing, the revisions are significant. At the top of the food chain, the number of elected positions on the executive board is slated to drop from six to four. Then, the YCC President and Vice President will nominate six additional members, including a Chief of Staff, to join them. Elections for the Council of Representatives will be moved from September to April, to coincide with executive board campaigns. The referendum process, through which students voted to support fossil fuel divestment last semester, will be formalized. Even the Undergraduate Organizations Committee is about to get a facelift; renamed the Funding Committee, it will operate under greater YCC oversight.

In other words, this isn’t just some amendment — it’s a complete constitutional overhaul.

Some of the proposed changes are great ideas — the referendum process, for example, seems poised to make a real impact on campus. Yet other revisions seem counterproductive or unnecessary. More importantly, they’re often left unexplained. The YCC created a special landing page dedicated to summarizing the constitutional changes, but it’s not well publicized and difficult to find; even last week’s “Elevate Your Resolutions” event was far better advertised.

The webpage offers a summary of the revisions. But its explanations are lacking and some of its claims are counterintuitive. For example, if the YCC hopes to “increase efficiency,” as is claimed on the webpage, than doubling the size of the executive board hardly seems the answer. The same goes for fostering “greater representation” while cutting the number of elected representatives. Other changes seem trivial — at least minor enough not to warrant a seven-hour meeting, when other topics of greater importance to the student body could have been discussed.

In other words, while the YCC invested real effort into preparing the revisions, they spent comparatively little time promoting the changes, explaining them or soliciting student feedback. Perhaps they assumed students would be uninterested. But for a body that purports to aggregate and represent student opinion, to presuppose apathy seems anti-procedural. After all, no one loves a good survey like the YCC.

If the YCC does consider itself a “voice [for] student opinions and concerns,” “a forum for discussion and advancement of student ideas” and the “primary liaison” between students and administrators (all language borrowed from the revisions, including a sharp new preamble), then they should test their new constitution under the scrutiny of the student body. But the YCC has instead used student apathy as a tool to deflect attention away from the constitution, shielding them from questions critical of the claims that justified its revision.

But the blame alone lies not with the YCC. All Yalies should hold our student government to a higher standard. Though brushing off the YCC and its constitutional revisions may seem tempting, our indifference will only enable them to brush us off in the future.

Marissa Medansky is a junior in Morse College and a former opinion editor for the News. Her columns run on alternate Fridays. Contact her at marissa.medansky@yale.edu.

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