It appears the Yale College Council has yet to resolve its identity crisis. In fact, members of Yale’s only elected student government have apparently decided to add mergers and acquisitions brokering to the party planning and occasional advocacy they already provide their constituents.
Tonight, YCC will vote on a resolution to incorporate YaleStation.org as a “technology arm” of the council. The proposal is wrong-headed from all possible angles. Not only is it a gross misuse of the YCC’s time to dabble in Web site acquisition, but the proposed alliance of an elected governmental body and a media outlet is a fundamental conflict of interest that both sides should immediately disown.
For YaleStation, there is little to be gained from joining the YCC. YaleStation founder Alexander Clark ’04 has established the Web site as an important player in the campus media, both as a host to other undergraduate organizations like WYBC Radio and Teli and as a portal that could eventually compete with YaleInfo to be Yale’s best home page. But by subjugating himself to the obviously one-sided YCC, he is reducing his promising site to a mere mouthpiece of the student government and jeopardizing the legitimacy of all his affiliated organizations. Clark created YaleStation and thus has the right to cast his lot with whomever he chooses, but he should realize that this decision will doom the organization he worked so hard to build.
The YCC, on the other hand, should be accorded no such freedom of action. A student government body has no business overseeing YaleStation’s diverse media holdings, and the YCC’s leaders should know better than to propose such a resolution. YCC President Vidhya Prabhakaran ’03 has said that the YCC would have control over YaleStation but make no decisions regarding its editorial content, much like AOL exerts no control over its various news media units.
Prabhakaran and the rest of the YCC fail to grasp exactly what the resolution implies. When it comes to free expression, perceived objectivity is as important as actual objectivity, and the fact that YCC officials would control YaleStation’s purse strings and act as a final arbiter on YaleStation’s contracts undermines the public credibility of everything currently tied to Clark’s site. As elected representatives who depend on public perception to win their offices, they should understand that.
There is also the question of the relationship after Clark and Prabhakaran leave. YaleStation’s independence will disappear after it allies with YCC, and once Clark leaves, the lines between objective organizations and the YCC will blur further still.
At the root of this debacle is the YCC’s ambiguous role on campus. As elected representatives, YCC members should spend their time working on issues that directly affect the student body and planning campus social events. YaleStation can function perfectly well as an independent body, and if the YCC is worried about technology, it should address its concerns to a subcommittee or an independent student board. That its members choose to spend their time organizing a useless and misguided Web site merger shows that they are still grasping in the dark for a way to fulfill their mission.