After serving on the Yale College Council for two years — first as an associate member and currently as the Student Organizations Director — Ben Ackerman ’16 hopes to institutionalize the ability of students to make decisions for themselves.
Ackerman said the next YCC president must work towards making student participation in Yale’s most important administrative meetings a regular and institutionalized process. Ackerman said the two biggest obstacles to this goal are unresponsiveness from administrators and the student body’s apathy towards student government. As president, Ackerman said he hopes to be known for starting the process by which students will have a substantive and more frequent dialogue with faculty and administrators.
“Institutional change is the most important challenge we face,” he said. “Currently there isn’t a mechanism by which the students can compel administrators to make the changes we want them to make.”
Ackerman said one of his central goals would be to place students on the Yale Corporation, adding that students at Cornell have successfully lobbied for students to sit on the school’s Board of Trustees.
If students had a seat at the Corporation, they would be able to lobby President Peter Salovey to reverse decisions after they have been made, he said. Still, he acknowledged that this long-term aspiration would probably not be reached in a single year.
Ackerman said he also hopes for relations between students and administrators to more closely mirror those between faculty and administrators.
Yale administrators should have a formal obligation to consult with students when making changes to policies and programs, Ackerman said. He added that students should also have “two-way channels” through which they can also propose policy changes to administrators.
As the only presidential candidate with prior experience on the YCC Executive Board, Ackerman said he has already prepared strategies for integrating the YCC into the broader administrative system at Yale. Students have a unique opportunity to make institutional reforms right now, he said, because Salovey is still new in his role.
Ackerman also said he would practice a more “inclusive” form of leadership than his predecessor, as president.
Corey Malone-Smolla ’16, treasurer of Timothy Dwight’s College Council, said Ackerman’s current role as president of the group is a testament to his love of his residential college and his organizational skills.
“Ben is not afraid to disagree with [administrators] to get what he thinks is better for students,” she said, adding that Ackerman has sat down with Timothy Dwight College Master Jeffrey Brenzel and Operations Manager Bob Kennedy many times to talk about improving the college’s basement.
Kennedy said Ackerman has matured as a leader since his freshman year, adding that he has become more realistic about what students can accomplish within the limits of administrative and budgetary priorities.