On Saturday and Sunday, the Managing Board of the Yale Daily News interviewed the candidates running in contested races for Yale College Council office. The following are our endorsements for next year’s executive board:
President: Steven Syverud ’06
Steven Syverud, now running his second campaign for YCC president, would appear a natural choice for the top job in Yale’s student government. Syverud’s accomplishments — like his work on an airport shuttle, his influence in shaping the changes to Yale’s financial aid policy this spring and his creation of a Freshman Day of Service for the coming year — reflect the type of pragmatic efforts that the YCC should pursue. Perhaps more importantly, Syverud, a former staff reporter for the News, has presented a list of goals for the coming year that are both worth fighting for and eminently attainable. If Syverud is elected president, we fully expect to see progress on several of his top initiatives, from improvements in advising to a late-night dining option to additional sophomore seminars, by this time next year.
Syverud has many of the traits of a good president, but the lingering question in our minds is this: In the face of criticism and contention, can he still show the leadership needed to head the council effectively? R. David Edelman ’07, a charismatic candidate whom we see as Syverud’s main competition in the race, is at his most compelling when he speaks about getting YCC representatives excited about issues on which they can effect change, and Edelman’s own experience working on dining hall restrictions serves as a case in point. In contrast, we were disappointed by Syverud’s ability to defend his platform under scrutiny, raising questions about his capacity for carrying the rest of the YCC along with him. Likewise, Syverud’s failure to meet the deadline to turn in a candidacy statement — even if only by three minutes — is a cause for serious concern about whether he will pay attention to the details of the presidency and his willingness to adhere to the rules.
In the end, though, neither Edelman nor the two other candidates, Sam Penziner ’07 and Alan Kennedy-Shaffer ’06, offer enough in substance or style to overcome Syverud’s strengths. While Kennedy-Shaffer’s dogged commitment to reforming the YCC is impressive, we have difficulty imagining him earning the trust and respect of either his fellow YCC members or the Yale administration. Though Penziner’s frankness and likability provide a breath of fresh air in this race, even he admits that he is not among the “serious” candidates. Edelman speaks thoughtfully about his central issues — like improving Undergraduate Health Services — and about building student confidence in the YCC, but his vision for the YCC is neither as realistic nor as relevant as Syverud’s. And none of the candidates have matched Syverud’s commitment to reaching out both to active council members and campus groups, like the cultural houses, which have felt neglected by the YCC.
Syverud has not captured our excitement in this race, but he appears to know what the YCC president can — and can’t — realistically do. Syverud’s record speaks for itself, and ultimately, makes the strongest argument for his candidacy.
Vice President: Marissa Brittenham ’07
The vice president’s race offers a very difficult choice between two candidates who would both fill the position of vice president admirably. Ryan Atlas ’07, a veteran of the YCC and the Freshman Class Council, appears well-suited to be a consensus-builder on the Council, and although some of his top priorities seem too broad to be successful, we have full confidence that he would be a thoughtful and effective vice president.
Marissa Brittenham, however, brings a superior knowledge of Yale policy on a wide range of topics, including dining services and financial aid. On both those issues, she has already served as an important voice on the council in pushing for new dining options in CCL and more trips home for international students on financial aid. If Brittenham can recruit a following in her efforts to increase the YCC’s openness and improve Yale’s student services, she could be a driving force for change on the YCC.
Treasurer: Bill Fishel ’08
The field for treasurer this year offers both quality and quantity: There are six candidates, and nearly all of them appear to have a wealth of experience, skills and ideas. Three candidates — Allison Pickens ’07, Emery Choi ’07 and Jayson Tischler ’07 — have demonstrated their ability to organize campus-wide events, and all three speak knowledgeably about the treasurer’s role. Larry Wise ’08 lacks experience with student government, but he offers a fresh voice that could do the council well. But Bill Fishel, who served earlier this year as chair of the Freshman Class Council, stands out in this crowded race with his attention to detail and his knowledge about the YCC’s budget. In a year when the YCC’s financial situation will change drastically due to the new student activities fee, Fishel understands both the challenges and opportunities the new money will bring.
Secretary: Kasdin Miller ’07
In contrast to the field for treasurer, we are disappointed by the field of candidates for secretary. Govind Rangrass ’08 — who has helped lead the important effort on the YCC to create a University-sponsored cell phone plan for international students — offers the greatest focus on campus policy. But Kasdin Miller is the only candidate who instills confidence in her abilities to fulfill the duties of secretary, a position that has been largely neglected this year despite its importance in publicizing the YCC’s work. Working for a body that has struggled at times to gain the trust and attention of students, Miller offers the greatest hope of increasing communication between the YCC and its constituents.
YSAC Chair: Jackie Carter ’07
For the first time, the chair of the Yale Student Activities Committee will be elected by the student body, and this race offers an ideal opportunity for YSAC to overcome the spotty record of its first two years. Unfortunately, the five candidates in this race have not proposed especially creative ways of building YSAC into an effective committee. Still, Lina Chen’s ’08 idea for “theme nights” is one worth considering, and Lauren Ezell ’07 possesses a clear understanding of where YSAC has fallen short in the past. With her combination of experience and enthusiasm, however, Jackie Carter — who has served actively on the committee since its inception — offers the best hope for building a campus presence for YSAC. So long as Carter can learn from the failures of events like this year’s Winter Ball, which she was involved in organizing, her energy should serve YSAC well.