I was appalled to see — as I have in the News and in my already cluttered inbox — the platforms of students running for Yale College Council positions. Aspirants have touted their experience meddling in issues of current interest to Yale students: academic minors, gender neutral housing, financial aid reform and other issues relevant only to students. My instinctive response was: How could all the candidates have the same mind on all of the issues? Is Yale that homogenous? Is this race just a popularity contest, or what?
In other countries — two examples are Ghana, where I come from, and France, about which I have read a great deal — student activism is not limited to a narrow spectrum of probably insignificant student needs — or, rather, pseudo-needs. There, students recognize that the business of the government, be it national or international, is inextricably linked to what will eventually come to affect their lives, if not immediately then soon enough.
University students should seek to address issues of broader interest and not just care about outdoing one another in a popularity contest. Why isn’t much attention paid to the involvement of students in the greater New Haven community? What of international politics? Don’t Yale students care about these? A cursory visit to a Yale Political Union debate will immediately dispel that notion.
It is not uncommon, while on the way to dinner, to be interrupted by a group of enthusiastic Yale students asking you to sign a form to save five children in Darfur, or to force President Levin to say something about human rights abuse in China, or to raise awareness on global warming in Tanzania. Can these issues be separated from the day-to-day aspects of student activism at Yale? Many will say no. Why isn’t any candidate talking about things like these then? It says something about Yale students and their attitude toward student politics and activism that aspirants for YCC positions can get away with not addressing broader issues, settling instead for some small niche. Either they have lost faith in the leadership of the YCC as a body or they do not really care about the issues they make a lot of noise about. Either way, there is a serious issue at hand with which Yale students must make an effort to deal.
It does not make a difference whom I vote for because all the candidates are talking about the same issues, and they all have almost the same approach to realizing their visions. It is as if we are in a continuum in which things will definitely change and progress will definitely be made at some point irrespective of who is in office. Why should they waste money and paper campaigning for votes? Why not convene among themselves and decide who should go for which position? After all, they already know one another and have been working on the issues on their platform together for some time now.
I’m reminded of Justin Kosslyn’s admonition in last Monday’s News (“Resist ‘leaderliness,’” April 6). He wrote that students running for positions should not run just to be “leaderly.” There are real concerns to be dealt with, issues that go far beyond Yale’s walls but inevitably concern us and require our attention. I’m not advocating a disregard for immediate student wants, such as those addressed in many of the candidates’ platforms. I’m only alarmed by the fact that they all seem to be saying the same thing.
Come on, friends, let’s do hard things.