“I came to Yale for its synergistic, solution-oriented thinking. What can I say, I’m just a team-playing, long-term thinking, community-caring problem solver.
It feels like it was yesterday that I was standing — bright-eyed and mouth agape — in Payne Whitney at the freshman extracurricular bazaar. Looking across the hundreds of clubs and interests, one thought raced through my mind: so much to govern, so little time.
[Insert charming anecdote about freshman year roommate / wacky friend / Handsome Dan here …] And now — with feigned surprise / resolute purpose / chirpy excitement — I find myself running for YCC president.
When figuring out whether or not to run for president, I needed to force myself to answer the hard questions. Am I constitutionally allowed yet? Which of my friends knows Photoshop? Can I handle my tap-line to the section-asshole list? So be it.
My administration will focus on new solutions to previously ignored problems. Why is nobody talking about academic minors? Is there perhaps a better way to treat Credit/D/Fail classes? Is there no issue that can’t be solved with office hours? Are these just questions, instead of detailed solutions? Exactly.
More importantly, I will be willing to address the elephant in the room that my opponents continue to ignore: the underwhelming enthusiasm for the YCC. For too long, candidates have rested on the laurels of this organization’s striking relevance and success on campus. Where is the person who will stand up and promise real change and a new era of student government? Yale students need a voice: the sort that can come only from the person you pass on Cross Campus and say to yourself, ‘Ah — what’s that kid’s name again?’
These sorts of hard truths and concrete ideas are what the YCC needs to achieve tomorrow, today. I look forward to the conversation / dialogue / Elysium that my campaign brings about.”
Not bad, right?
With April comes another season of YCC elections. Like most undergrads, I don’t follow the day-by-day of our student government. But in this week of guest columns, presidential debates and innumerable Facebook invitations, it’s tough to ignore. What’s more, it highlights a lot of the reasons why the YCC has had trouble making a lasting impact on campus culture.
As just an initial point of common sense, having your officers, candidates and supporters re-enact a scene from “Real Housewives” via the News’ comment sections isn’t exactly the best way to inspire confidence. And this isn’t just a recent anomaly. It’s not overnight that a campus comes to view an organization as nine-tenths indulgent palace drama and one-tenth other. (Trust me, I used to be part of the YPU).
What’s more, the vitriol of this sophomoric swift boating parallels the overblown rhetoric coming from the campaigns. To some extent, this is expected. While it may actually be the most appealing slogan, “An above average guy out to do a pretty competent job” probably won’t garner too much attention. However, the Obama-esque style of promising a new epoch for Yale campus life is a bit ridiculous (and unnecessary).
This bombast isn’t innocuous. Lofty promises are accompanied by deeply hubristic and misguided understandings of a student government’s proper role. The relationship between the students and the University should be asymmetric. We not only accepted the governing structure of Yale when we enrolled, but also the integrity of this academy is contingent upon allowing the best educators in the world to largely know best. The bureaucracy of the YCC should have no official place in the pedagogy of one of the world’s most consequential universities.
Of course, students can have an instrumental role in making changes here. By being tapped into campus sentiments, various groups can bring attention to otherwise ignored issues or propose innovative ideas to improve our school. At times, the YCC has done this. At others, different bodies have. Our student government is not the end-all, be-all of improving Yale, and we only cheapen our voice as students when our elected leaders treat it as such.
Yale undergraduates thrive perfectly well, largely unaffected by an active student government. Actually, this might not be the worst platform: Freeze all YCC expenses and divert the funds towards Spring Fling. Who wouldn’t prefer Luke Bryan to another salad report?
(This is my last column for the News. Thank you for the opportunity to grow as well as amass a lengthy permanent history of opinions that I’ll assuredly come to regret in future years.)
Harry Graver is a senior in Davenport College. This is his last column for the News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .