ELISCOVICH SIGAL: Peers, not politicians

I live in Argentina. Where I come from, the president’s net worth has mysteriously quadrupled since she was elected eight years ago, and the vice president is accused of fraud. Everyone hates politicians, whether for their broken promises or their corrupt behavior, and I understand why.

What I cannot understand is the disrespect Yale students have towards campus leaders. For some reason, there is an immense amount of animosity towards Yale’s “politicians,” no matter how good their intentions are. All too often, people post malicious and slanderous anonymous comments on the News’ articles. We find it acceptable to ridicule students on social networks and in daily conversations. While I don’t expect Argentine citizens to respect their corrupt politicians, I do expect Yale’s undergraduates to demonstrate more respect toward their peers.

When people make hurtful comments about the Yale College Council, they often fail to recognize that YCC is not some sinister corporation protecting its self-interest at the expense of the student body. It’s a diverse group of your friends, suitemates and classmates. These so-called “politicians” are people eating in your dining halls, sitting next to you in section and applying to the same summer internships. They are students who, despite having two papers and an exam the next day, take time to write a report evaluating the quality of computer science offerings or respond to dozens of emails from administrators, just like you might make time to rehearse for your a cappella jam.

Of course, there is always room for improvement. Student government should be scrutinized and criticized by its constituents. But the current dialogue regarding YCC is not based on constructive criticism, but rather hateful, and often personal, attacks. This is in part worsened by sensationalist reporting that propagates false perceptions, but also by a student body that is all too willing to believe the worst of their student government. We don’t address our friends or our classmates with blatant animosity, so why are we so quick to show disdain for student leaders solely because we are hiding behind a keyboard?

This culture of ridicule surrounding YCC is harmful and discouraging; it prevents student leaders from making hard decisions or worthy changes simply to avoid criticism.

I am extremely excited to serve as YCC vice president next year. This past year YCC has radically changed. Our student government is doing more than ever before. I am fortunate to enter an organization that has already been constructed — I can now focus all my attention on directly serving the student body.

But even the YCC’s restructuring suffered from rash and premature judgment initially, though anyone familiar with these changes know they have had a positive effect. In April 2013, a News’ View criticized the expansion of YCC’s executive board as an “attempt to reform the Council with unnecessary layers of bureaucracy” (“The first step toward legitimacy,” Apr. 10, 2013). YCC President Danny Avraham ’15 pushed this idea despite rampant criticism; today no one can imagine how the Council functioned properly before.

It is true that Avraham ran unopposed. But, this does not mean that his presidency was undemocratic or illegitimate. Last week’s News’ View insinuated that the Council has not been involved in critical decision-making processes (“For a new president,” Apr. 16), which is false. As a board member, I had no voting power. Every decision in the past year has been placed in the hands of the elected representatives, a process that was introduced by Avraham in September.

Recently, Avraham was criticized for the one occasion in which he attempted to exert influence over a Council decision regarding joint ticket elections. But I believe that he demonstrated remarkable leadership in that instance, and I am grateful for that.

During the YCC’s debates over the new constitution, Avraham decided to ask the Council to reconsider its vote to have a joint ticket for the presidential and vice presidential races. It was not until finishing a long and exhausting week of campaigning that I understood why he pushed against it. All candidates should be tested on their own merits. A joint ticket over-politicizes the elections, prompting candidates to focus solely on finding a running mate who can win more votes. Avraham’s visionary leadership should be applauded, for he had nothing to gain and much to lose in being so persistent. As a leader, he was selfless; he subjected himself to public criticism for the sake of future Yalies. He demonstrated one of the things that we should demand of every YCC president: commitment to this school and its students above good publicity.

As excited as I am to be on YCC next year, I am also scared. I am scared of the hateful things that can be posted about me under a cloak of anonymity. I am scared of no longer being a classmate, suitemate and friend, but rather a controversial “political” figure. I am scared of publications fishing for a story to increase their readership at the expense of me and my fellow students. I am looking past these fears because I believe in the long-term changes that this organization can effect for Yale. I believe that Yale students can be critical in a constructive manner. In the meantime, let’s leave ridicule for Argentina’s corrupted politicians, and thank our fellow YCC members for their dedication to our community.

Maia Eliscovich Sigal is a sophomore in Timothy Dwight College. Contact her at maia.eliscovichsigal@yale.edu .

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