It’s October — and that means Halloween. And at Yale, Halloween means Inferno. But not anymore. When Master Goldblatt announced that Pierson would no longer host the annual Inferno, it was disappointing, but not surprising in light of the similar demise of TD’s Exotic Erotic. The residential colleges are facing new obstacles in organizing campus-unifying events, and this has led to an epidemic of dying campus traditions.
It seems fortunate, then, that both Goldblatt and Master Haller name another organization on campus that may help fill the void left by these cancellations. “Of course there ought to be university-wide things, but this is the Yale College Council’s business,” Haller said to the News (“The Death of the Great Yale Party” 9/29), to which Goldblatt said he “would tend to agree”.
The YCC is known for producing events the entire campus enjoys — most notably the Spring Fling, Winter Ball and the recent Fall Shows that featured Darrell Hammond and Jimmy Fallon. Now the council is even more prepared. Under its new structure, the YCC includes twelve dedicated individuals on the Yale Student Activities Committee (YSAC) who bring energy, focus and experience to campus-wide event planning.
However, there remains one major problem: contrary to popular belief, the YCC has very little money. Its regular budget supplied by the administration, totaling $12,000, amounts to one-tenth of what each residential college receives. And unlike the colleges, the YCC has no alumni base from which to draw donations. The $50,000 granted annually by President Levin for Spring Fling enables us to host that end-of-the-year bash free for the entire Yale community. But expenses for last year’s Spring Fling topped $75,000, so, by necessity, each year the YCC’s entire budget is reserved for that event. Despite rigorous fundraising for Spring Fling, we ended last year with a debt, and each year, one or more YCC officers ends up using his or her personal funds to cover purchases relating to the logistical details. Even the sell-out Jimmy Fallon show cost more than could be recuperated by ticket sales. Currently, the YCC’s budget is not capable of supporting its traditional events, much less preserving campus unity by substituting for cancelled residential college events.
The YCC still wants to contribute to campus life and unity. But it is now faced with three options. The first, to stop hosting the YCC’s traditional campus activities, would only exacerbate the problem of campus disunity. The second choice is to maintain its traditional activities, but this is only feasible with the cancellation of the Fall Comedy/Music Show (which drew a third of the campus this year) and a reduction in the expenditure on Spring Fling — ruining any chance to book a band nearing the demands students express in the annual survey. If student sentiment were amenable to having a smaller Spring Fling, I would have no objections, but the general trend is to demand its maintenance, if not its improvement. So, the remaining option for the YCC is to seek increased financial support.
What is the best way to raise this money? Unfortunately, it has proven impossible to convince outside corporations to fund events that serve the social lives of students at second-richest university in the world. They are unwilling to distinguish the YCC’s meager budget from the $11 billion endowment. Nor is the administration willing to provide any significant increase in funding, pointing to the hefty budgets of the residential colleges. Although the residential colleges should be the primary agents of Yale’s social scene, we cannot let Yale College unity fade as the colleges reduce their focus on campus-wide events. Barring a miraculous decision by the college masters to pool their funds for campus-wide events, students should support the one option not yet mentioned: a student activities fee.
This is not a novel or revolutionary idea. There hasn’t been an activities fee at Yale since the 1970s, but every other Ivy League university currently has one, as do most non-Ivies. This amount, ranging from $35 per person at Harvard to $250 at Columbia, is given to the undergraduate student government to enhance campus unity. At Harvard, that fee is complemented by a direct contribution from its administration, comparable to the funds the YCC currently receives. Last year, a group within the YCC found that in order to positively impact campus life, a student activities fee at Yale would need to be no more that $10 per person — just 30 percent of the next smallest fee, at Harvard.
This fee — which would not impact students on financial aid — would generate enough funding for the YCC to break even on its traditional events and be able to launch innovative events to supplement the residential college system. An example could be the Inferno, but might also include a community service day or an Iron Chef competition.
Furthermore, a large portion of the new funding could be directed to the UOFC, the financial lifeline for the majority of campus organizations, increasing its overstretched budget by over 50 percent. Last year, a dramatic increase in applications prevented the UOFC from fully funding most organizations. So far this year, there have been three times as many applications for funding as there were last year. Clearly, the UOFC cannot and should not fund every club proposal. But when our peer student governments can grant their clubs three or four thousand dollars a year, and Yale’s clubs get a couple hundred, there is a notable disparity.
With only $10 per student, the YCC can answer the call to preserve campus social life by producing quality events and assisting the struggling clubs to which we all belong. This being Yale, the decision to institute this fee can only be authorized by the Corporation. In writing this column, I represent many, but your input is needed before the YCC can take action. If you believe that Yale’s social and extracurricular scene should continue to be a source of school pride, please express your views at www.yalestation.org/ycc through the poll and the forum set up specifically on this topic.
Elliott Mogul is a junior in Timothy Dwight College and president of the Yale College Council.