Although he is a film fan so intense that he keeps a list of every movie he has ever seen, Harrison Marks ’10 simply lucked out when poll results for the Student Development Directive indicated that Yalies wanted a DVD library as their top permanent improvement of campus life. But the directive itself was no act of luck.
Marks, the current YCC treasurer, is running for YCC president, and the directive — which he spearheaded earlier this year — is, he said, emblematic of his central campaign goal: increasing input from the student body into YCC activities and giving students a greater voice.
One of the sections on his campaign Web site is entitled “Make Y-C-C About Y-O-U.”
“Student government is there to serve the student body,” said Marks, who thinks the major flaw in the operations of this year’s YCC was the low level of interaction the council had with students. Although the YCC improved greatly this year, he said, it still has a long way to go.
Marks has experience gathering and using student input, he said, as evidenced by his work on the Student Development Directive. A survey he commissioned asked students for ideas the YCC could implement — such as the winning DVD library, as well as an LCD screen showing the positions of Science Hill buses — then polled them to select the winner.
Marks said the initiative represented several firsts for YCC: It was the first time, as far as he knew, that the YCC acted with such transparency, spent money on a project that was not an event and allowed students to have direct influence.
“[The directive] made me realize that there are 5,000 incredible people here with ideas,” Marks said. “How can we possibly think that the 28 of us on YCC have all the ideas?”
In order to encourage students to bring their ideas to the council, Marks included in his campaign platform a Comprehensive Outreach Program. He hopes to organize informal meeting times at which he and other YCC representatives will sit in Thain Family Cafe and make themselves available to talk with students about their issues and ideas. Marks also hopes to create a specific YCC Outreach Committee and a Facebook application for students to air their concerns directly to the YCC.
Marks said he is confident that students would take advantage of the outreach program, but he is not sure exactly what sorts of ideas and concerns students will bring to the table.
“I don’t know what people are going to say,” he said. “I shouldn’t know. I think it’s a good thing I don’t know.”
If elected, Marks also hopes “make Yale less about bookends” — less focused on the freshman and senior experiences.
It is widely expected that sophomore and junior year are not as enjoyable as freshmen and senior year, Marks said, and he wants to change that. His ideas include improving academics for sophomores by adding sophomore seminars to the curriculum and creating special places for sophomores and juniors to gather and mingle.
What sets Marks apart, he said, are his vision, experience and ability to achieve results.
“I can talk just as well as everyone else, but what’s really important is backing the broad goals up with concrete ideas,” Marks said. “I have a track record of getting things done.”
“He shares my philosophy of student government,” said FCC Treasurer Brian Levin ’11, who worked closely with Marks this year. “We have an obligation to get an immense amount of input from the [students we serve]. And he’s someone who can effect concrete results as well as spend time on policy.”
As treasurer this year, Marks said, he played a major role in several YCC initiatives aside from the Student Development Directive — which he hopes to expand into a full committee next year. He organized the Yale Invades Manhattan/Party Train trip this semester and heavily lobbied the administration to allow U-Hauls at the Harvard-Yale football game in the fall. He also served as advisor to the Freshman Class Council.