As the city prepares for its biennial mayoral elections this coming Tuesday, the Yale community once again has an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to the city of New Haven.
The Yale College Council should be commended for doing its part. Last Sunday, it passed a resolution calling for the University administration to include voter registration instructions in orientations given by freshman counselors.
If the administration chooses to implement the resolution, freshman counselors will be obliged to provide a tutorial on completing the voter registration forms each freshman receives in his freshman orientation information packet. The voter registration card is currently the only document in the packet that freshman counselors are not required to explain.
At first glance, the resolution may appear trivial. One would think that Yale students are talented enough to adequately fill out voter registration forms, let alone understand the general importance of voting. But last fall only 40 freshmen out of more than a thousand filled out the cards, and, as a result of errors in the completed forms, fewer than 20 were actually registered to vote.
Ideally, Yale students would take it upon themselves to fill out voter registration cards and proceed to vote, but turnout statistics like last year’s demonstrate that the perceived importance of voting has waned at Yale.
Increased voter turnout both grants a stronger legislative mandate to elected officials and facilitates more extensive public knowledge about the major issues communities face. With respect to Yale students, increased voter turnout will more deeply involve students in the affairs of New Haven and communicate to the city that we are mindful of its business and committed to its success.
Viewed in another way, the resolution passed Sunday is an excellent example of small, concrete actions through which the YCC can improve student life and affect change at Yale College. In the past, the YCC has faced criticism for passing broad resolutions on complex issues that they may not have the resources or experience to understand.
While YCC resolutions on financial aid reform and card count neutrality may be entertaining to devise, they have only marginal effects in improving campus life. The student government’s most lasting contributions will likely emanate from detailed, researched resolutions focusing on small goals, such as urging the administration to add soap dispensers to campus bathrooms and ensuring that freshmen counselors are properly trained in educating incoming classes on the technical aspects of filling out voter registration forms.
This year’s YCC seems to understand that reality, and its recent resolution accomplishes the additional goal of reinforcing the Yale community’s duty to be more involved in the city. The administration would do a great service to the student body and the community by implementing the council’s recommendation.