The Yale College Council and the Yale Student Activities Committee met with most of the residential-college council presidents and student activities council chairs last Saturday to discuss ways to improve its transparency and communication with other these other student governing bodies.
At the two meetings — held separately for the presidents and the SAC chairs, although members of both the YCC and YSAC were present at both — the groups discussed the use of student feedback in its relations with the administration, residential college-subsidized events and the “Five Minute Forum” program, through which YCC representatives present on specific issues at weekly residential college meetings.
“We’ve definitely had a relationship with the college councils before, but now we are trying to make it more … obvious and clear,” YCC Secretary David Narotsky ’09 said.
But despite what Narotsky said, several residential-college council leaders said before Saturday’s meetings, they had not seen much of an effort dedicated to improving communication between the two councils beyond suggestions that YCC representatives attend weekly meetings. The current recommendation that they attend these meetings, while similar, is now more formalized because of the establishment of the Five Minute Forum, YCC representatives said.
Jessica Stephens ’09, SAC chair for Berkeley College, said during the 2006-2007 school year, YCC President Rebecca Taber ’08, who was SAC chair for Davenport College at the time, had scheduled “one or two” informal meetings with some of the SAC chairs in order to increase inter-communication among the colleges. Now that Taber is president, Stephens said she sees a greater opportunity for more regular formal communication among all the residential colleges and the YCC.
“This was a goal of ours but not really a priority,” she said in an interview with the News on Sunday. But since new presidents and SAC chairs for some residential colleges were being elected in December, “we figured we’d wait for the new presidents to start their terms then, and talk about it then.”
As part of the Five Minute Forum plan, which was introduced to all the YCC college representatives for the first time at Sunday’s YCC meeting after it was approved by residential-college council presidents on Saturday, representatives will attend the weekly council meetings of their colleges. There, they will lead five-minute discussions on and answer questions about one of the initiatives the YCC is spearheading at the time. During the rest of the meeting, representatives will take notes that they will bring to the general YCC meetings for discussion on Sundays.
YCC officials will compile the notes to create a weekly report to submit to the administration, Taber said. The reports — which previously included comparative information on parallel programs at other Ivy League colleges and the results of Yale student polls when available — will now have student feedback from the weekly Forums to add to the analyses the YCC presents to the administration.
YCC and YSAC representatives also introduced the notion of incorporating more residential-college funds into making YCC events more accessible. This would be a concrete example of a more extensive relationship among the residential college SACs, YCC and YSAC, some attendees said.
YCC representative Katrina Landeta ’10, who presided over the SAC-chair meeting, said the use of residential college resources can help make certain YCC and YSAC events more accessible for students by further lowering costs. For example, she said for the planned “N.Y. Train” event this semester — a YCC event that will provide discounted tickets for students to travel to New York City — the residential-college councils and masters could further subsidize the ticket costs.
But Stephens said while she supports the subsidization idea for the future, some of the residential-college SAC budgets are already finalized for the semester, so they are currently unable to reallocate their funds.
The push for transparency is yet another bullet-point in the laundry list of YCC efforts this year to reach out to the student community, mostly in the form of online polls on financial-aid policies and dining services.
In the upcoming months, the YCC hopes to get input from the residential-college councils on other issues such as the current state of science academics at Yale and the residential-college expansion, Narotsky said.
The SAC meeting featured a collaborative discussion between SAC chairs from various residential colleges about events they plan to hold during the semester.
The chairs concluded the meeting by agreeing to form an online calendar on which the SAC chairs can post events. This calendar would prevent different residential colleges from scheduling too many events at the same time, several meeting attendees said.
Narotsky, who was present at the SAC chair meeting, also stressed that collaboration and open discussion with the residential college councils and SACs will aid both the YCC and YSAC in better helping the students.
“We’re definitely stepping up our efforts,” he said.
The YCC is planning to host a Web site that will facilitate its communication with the residential-college councils and the student body by providing status updates on YCC initiatives throughout the semester. Taber said she hopes the site will be up by March 1.