Running for YCC president was never something Brent Godfrey ’08 planned to do. But over the last three years, he has become increasingly concerned with what he sees as the isolation of the college council from the student body. He finally decided to run when it appeared that the presidential race might go uncontested.
Still, even as he “threw his hat into the ring,” he wasn’t entirely sure of his goals. This changed, he said, when he attended the first election meeting with the other candidates. Looking around, he said, he realized why the YCC has historically been so ineffective.
“The YCC is largely an insider crowd,” Godfrey said. “Many might not be connected with the realities of Yale students. It made me want to give this a real go.”
The disconnect between students and their representatives, Godfrey said, results in truly important issues — such as the recent scandals over racial jokes — being ignored while the YCC continues with business as usual. Rather than working proactively, he said, the YCC has held a series of open forums to patch up each “transgression.” The YCC should be at the forefront of leading a substantive, campuswide dialogue, Godfrey said.
“We need to tackle the issues that divide us on this campus,” he said.
Those who know him say Godfrey should have no trouble realizing his goals for the Yale community, even if he isn’t the usual YCC type.
Anny Gaul ’07, who interviewed Godfrey when he applied to be a FOOT leader, said he not only has the self-awareness to know what he cares about, but also the confidence and sense of humor to get things done.
“He was a very personable guy [in his interview],” said Gaul. “He is able to talk to a lot of people easily. He also strikes me as a guy who would never go to the YCC.”
The divide between students and the YCC isn’t the only divide Godfrey hopes to bridge. He said that at most public universities, the student government plays a substantial role in running the school, whereas Yale’s administration merely pays lip service to YCC concerns. To remedy this, Godfrey proposes lobbying the administration to allow for the election of a student to serve on the Yale Corporation board.
Godfrey said he has experience with diverse groups of people. As a freshman, he jointly founded ENGAGE, which teaches civics lessons to New Haven youth in order to help them lobby on behalf of their own interests.
Last summer, Godfrey taught volleyball in Brazil for six weeks, and he said he plans to return this summer to conduct his senior research on the history of Brazil’s transition to ethanol-derived biofuels. The Morse history major sounds as open to being an advocate on the issue as an academic, but until he knows more, he said, he will keep an open mind.
“When I come back, I could be a big proponent [of ethanol],” Godfrey said. “Or, I could be protesting with the farmers.”
Taylor Matthews ’07, one of Godfrey’s SAE brothers, described him as extremely detail-oriented. Matthews said that as a pledge educator, Godfrey avoided mixups by always having a clear plan.
If Godfrey heads the YCC, that plan will aim to give students a voice. The reason the same insiders are continuously re-elected, he said, is that many students have lost all faith that the organization can be an advocate for serious issues.
Godfrey noted that in the Ward 22 election, some Dixwell residents expressed resentment that Yale students were determining the outcome of a race despite, as the residents saw it, not having a vested interest in the community. While Godfrey said he thinks Yale students should be voting, he understands the sentiment.
“It’s easy to see why [residents] portray students as removed,” he said.
Godfrey himself is a member of Morse, one of the residential colleges in Ward 22. He hails from Irvine, Calif.
Past YCC attempts to engage New Haven have been “a farce,” Godfrey said, arguing that the YCC should make more of an effort to become involved in the city and not merely sponsor token events that are good for publicity.
“Yale has a responsibility to be a positive force for change in the community,” he said.
Godfrey knows he faces an uphill battle as the outsider in the race. After all, he said, unlike some of his opponents, perhaps, he hasn’t been preparing for this day since receiving his Yale acceptance letter during high school.