MILLER: It starts with us

If I’m elected Yale College Council president next year, I will need to take out a loan. I won’t have time to hold down my four jobs, meaning that I’ll be unable to satisfy the $3,350 self-help portion of my financial aid package. I have already accepted this — in fact, it is part of the reason I want to be next year’s YCC president.

As an incoming freshman, I was promised an affordable education and I took this promise to heart. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that I would not be able to fulfill the terms of my financial aid package without holding several student jobs. Unable to find a job on campus via the Student Employment website, I took a job at Urban Outfitters for four months. In order to accommodate my course schedule, I sometimes worked as early as 4:00 a.m.

Sophomore year, I received my financial aid decision a month into the school year; I distinctly remember sitting at work in the Master’s Office when I realized that I was expected to earn far more money as a sophomore. I scrambled to apply to jobs through Student Employment where I, again, received no replies.

And this is how I found myself interested in joining student government. I had considered YCC before that moment, but honestly, until then I had lacked passion. I wanted to reform Yale’s financial aid policies and YCC seemed like the best avenue to do so.

When YCC was restructured this year, each representative was asked to develop his or her own project — I immediately asked to be assigned to financial aid. My work so far has included researching and developing proposals on the student contribution, term-time employment and fellowship funding.

I have been both pleased and dissatisfied with this year’s YCC performance. I’ll forever acknowledge and applaud the dedication of the council members and executive board who spent hours debating policy and the intricacies within our constitution, but I know I’ll always question certain decisions that were made during this past year.

I began to consider running for YCC president because I was appalled by the manner in which the Council decided whether or not the President and Vice President should be elected on a joint ticket. We voted overwhelmingly in favor of the joint ticket in November, but were told several weeks later by President Danny Avraham ’15 that we were having a revote.

After the joint ticket won a second time, Avraham sent an email to the Council during winter break arguing against the joint ticket proposal and calling for a third vote via email. When we returned to campus, we were informed the joint ticket had not passed and would not be included in our new constitution.

Uncomfortable with the revote process, I refused to sign the new constitution until we held a vote in person. The joint ticket ended up losing, and I walked away from the process with one clear thought: Democracy does not exist in a system where the policy is “revote until it’s my vote.”

As much progress as YCC has made this year, we still have a long way to go in terms of properly representing student voice.

Only with a transparent, democratic student government will we be able to push through real progress on the issues students care about. As YCC president, I promise to not only support the interests of students, but to actively fight on behalf of them.

As president I will work to ensure that next year’s sophomores are granted the right to live in gender-neutral housing. Last year, sophomores, including me, were denied the opportunity to live in a mixed-gender suite, because the administration thought we weren’t mature enough. This year’s sophomores have been denied the same right for unclear logistical reasons. Living in a safe, comfortable environment is a right that must be available to all students.

But I also intend to advocate for student interests far beyond the issue of mixed-gender housing. I will push the administration to listen to concerns about the student portions of the financial aid package. I will work with student groups to change some of the University’s approaches to alcohol consumption, mental health and sexual violence. I will work to engage STEM students on how best to funnel graduate-level enthusiasm for STEM initiatives into undergraduate life.

I know the job will be a difficult one. I will have to take out loans and dedicate more time than I ever could have imagined to the position. But it will all be worth it, if it means creating a democratic, transparent government that can finally push through results on the issues students have cared about for years.

Sara Miller is a sophomore in Pierson College and a photography editor for the News. Contact her at sara.miller@yale.edu .

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