Saturday afternoon, I attended a meeting of the Yale College Council for the first time in my three and a half semesters at Yale. The agenda was more controversial than it tends to be, and it was the reason I chose to attend in the first place. The council was deciding how to choose the student representative to help select the next Dean of Yale College.
I left the meeting disappointed in the twelve representatives who voted against having a campus-wide election for the position, as well as the Executive Board for voicing its support for this decision, as its members do not having voting powers. These members did not adequately represent the interests of the student body.
But beyond my disappointment, I left the meeting with a strong conviction that non-YCC members need to start attending YCC meetings.
Saturday’s contentious debate was forced by the presence of several non-members, including myself, who felt that a campus-wide election was absolutely necessary. To be fair, I ended up at the meeting mainly because YCC President Danny Avraham ’15 asked to meet with me and two other students about the issue beforehand. But it was clear from the start of the council meeting that the Executive Board did not want to hold a campus-wide election. The presence of non-members who spoke out against the Executive Board’s message pushed the Council to discuss student representation, an issue they may have not touched on otherwise.
Attending YCC meetings also holds the council accountable for its statements — especially given that until around 4 a.m. on Monday, the most recent YCC minutes available on their website were from Nov. 16. Emails from the YCC on Feb. 16, Jan. 27 and Jan. 20 claimed that minutes were available online, but this was inaccurate. I contacted Avraham on Sunday about the minutes, and they were put up 12 hours later. But the minutes should have been up in November. Up until Monday, students who were not present at meetings since November had no way of knowing what was discussed at these meetings in any level of detail.
Even with the minutes available online now, some important statements are missing. A particularly important missing statement was made by a freshman representative on Saturday. She claimed that student voice was a major component in Salovey’s selection for president in 2012, even without a student on the committee. This statement showed a fundamental misunderstanding of the history of student representation at Yale and she should be held accountable.
Putting up the minutes is a good step toward student engagement. But YCC can do more. Practically speaking, most students will not take the time to read through them. At Saturday’s meeting, I witnessed troubling actions on the part of various YCC members that most students did not.
For example, all seven freshmen on YCC voted against having a campus-wide election. The vote breakdown among upperclassmen was 9–5 in support of the election. A common argument voiced by the freshmen was that, as YCC representatives, they were the voice of the student body. Interestingly enough, none of the freshmen on YCC were elected over an upperclassmen opponent — they all either ran unopposed or only beat other freshmen. The unusually small number of upperclassmen who ran for YCC was a clear indicator of the widespread apathy towards YCC at the end of last year. Saturday’s disappointing vote was a direct result.
Attending the meetings is also a way for students to see how the council carries out the tasks it was elected to carry out. I was surprised, for example, to learn that the vice president only allowed discussion to move around the table in a circular fashion, preventing any back-and-forth discussion or immediate responses. This made discussion difficult.
Students should make more of an effort to attend these meetings, but the council should also make more of an effort to encourage them to come. YCC posted on Facebook less than two hours before Saturday’s meeting inviting students, but this has only been done two other times since September. They should post notices of their meetings on Facebook every week with a short description of the intended agenda, preferably with more than two hours warning.
The pressing issue right now is the selection of the next Dean of Yale College. Although there has been a large amount of disagreement over how Avraham was selected as the representative, we must attend YCC meetings and demand that Avraham accurately relay the student body’s opinions to the advisory committee.
Diana Rosenis a sophomore in Pierson College. Her columns run on Mondays. Contact her at email@example.com.