Yale College Council elections have all but ended — but for today’s Undergraduate Organization Funding Committee runoff — and the results are something of a deja vu. Students, or at least the 2,307 who voted, elected another student life-oriented council and the incoming executives look, on paper, very much like the outgoing ones. In some respects, that bodes well for a body that found a niche this year in dealing with day-to-day student concerns. And if the 2003 rate of campaign-promises-fulfilled is any indication, by this time next year we can expect a handful of new conveniences for all to appreciate and a Spring Fling to which some will look forward.
While specific platforms varied considerably this year, during interviews with the News’ board last Sunday the candidates invariably criticized this year’s council for not being as in touch with student concerns as it should have been. Many of this year’s candidates recognized that the chronic gulf between the YCC and everyone else persisted despite current executives’ modest efforts to better gauge student opinion. The council, the candidates presciently implied, is in constant peril of irrelevancy.
Low voter turnout rates, especially among upperclassmen, are an annual reminder of just how relevant many students think the YCC is to their lives. The widespread disaffection is not just the fault of representatives pushing resolutions too great or small to provoke enthusiasm from a campus majority. That the council has little money relative to like bodies at other universities might contribute to the apathy that causes a minority of students to vote each year — though the turnout was 17 percent higher this year than last. And that a disproportionate number of us were involved in student councils en route to Yale and know how effective student government often is, cannot help many students’ sense of the council’s legitimacy. But unless incoming president Elliott Mogul ’05 succeeds in his ambitious campaign to win a larger budget, the council’s hopes of serving students better next year depend on their efforts to increase communication between students and representatives.
All of the candidates who won, and many who did not, proposed using the Internet to reconnect the YCC with the undergraduates it theoretically represents. Incoming secretary Lenore Estrada ’05 suggested making better use of YCC affiliate Web site YaleStation to encourage student feedback and help YCC representatives identify what issues are of most pressing concern to the students who elected them. How, exactly, she proposes to entice students to comment on the site remains unclear, but the prospect of open lines of feedback is a good one for students with an interest in what the council is doing. For a group whose campaigns were largely concerned with the council’s legitimacy, this and similar proposals to increase feedback should be a top priority.
But ultimately, the YCC depends on voluntary participation, and once the mechanisms are in place, the burden is ours to maintain the council’s relevancy. This is a group of experienced representatives, geared toward making students’ daily lives more convenient, the minibuses more reliable, Shaw’s more accessible, and the dining halls keep longer hours. By acknowledging the council’s power to deal with issues related to student life, Yalies with reasonable expectations will be pleased with the officers they elected.