As the University prepares to open its doors to thousands of alumni for this month’s major tercentennial weekend, Yale’s residential college council presidents, who are upset that students aren’t more involved with the event, are taking matters into their own hands.
Disappointed in both the 300th birthday celebration itself and what they say is the Yale College Council’s inability to represent student interests to the University administration, the Council of College Presidents has been meeting for the last month and a half to consider options for ensuring a more student-oriented final tercentennial event next fall. The college council presidents plan to meet with Tercentennial coordinator Janet Lindner today and hope to meet with Yale President Richard Levin next week to discuss their complaints.
The contention over the tercentennial celebration is over the second of the three major events, the weekend of April 19-21, which is geared largely toward alumni. While students have been offered a limited number of tickets to events which include speeches by former president George H. W. Bush ’48 and cartoonist Garry Trudeau ’70, undergraduates have criticized planners for failing to adequately publicize the weekend to students and for limiting too many of the weekend’s events to alumni.
College council presidents said beyond their request for more say in the birthday party lies an effort to change the nature of student involvement in the administration and changing the outlets of communication. The Tercentennial, they said, represents a greater problem of a diminished role for students in the University’s decision making and what some said is dissatisfaction with the Yale College Council.
By advocating a wider, more lasting role for the college council presidents, a body the presidents said is more directly representative of the student body than the YCC, they hope to use student dissatisfaction over this month’s tercentennial weekend as a means to achieve greater student voice in the administration overall.
Hopeful the final event might appeal to more students than the first two, Pierson College Council President Manish Vora ’02 said the tercentennial events so far have revealed lasting problems in the administration.
“Starting a year ago there were such high expectations about the Tercentennial,” Vora said. “Maybe next year it will be the grand finale, but I feel the expectations were already up there, and for a whole year they did not make an effort to involve students in the process. It does represent how things work here.”
But Lindner said the flack over the April event is misplaced.
“It really struck me that people didn’t really understand the second [April] weekend,” Lindner said. “In the context of the whole year, people would understand it’s not excluding anyone.”
While their meetings have centered on the lack of representation of students on the Tercentennial Committee, which included YCC President Libby Smiley ’02 as the lone student representative, college council presidents said their actions were not meant to directly attack the YCC.
“I don’t think this was a shot at the YCC,” Ezra Stiles College Council President Andy Beck ’02. “It’s just that we want to try to do something from the residential college point of view.”
Vora said the college council presidents would enhance the voice of students to the administration.
“I don’t want to just blame the YCC because I think it was more that the administration never had really good communication with students,” Vora said. “Perhaps the council of college presidents could be a good addition to the community so more students could have their voice heard. The YCC may not represent the whole University, and I think it makes more logistical sense that college council presidents represent the student body.”
Smiley pointed to the high turnout at Tuesday’s open forum with Levin as a sign of interest in an increased role for undergraduates in administration decision-making — something she said would be welcome.
“I would like to see more than the YCC involved,” Smiley said. “The YCC is more than happy to work with the Council of College Presidents, but I am reticent to have just the YCC working on it when so many groups are interested.”