My Yale College Council presidential candidacy is, in many ways, an unlikely one. I didn’t arrive at Yale and immediately begin an FCC campaign and I do not have a particularly strong enthusiasm for student government. I have invested large amounts of my time in other organizations and find myself, in some of them, in the position for a more traditional leadership progression. Until recently, I had not given YCC much thought at all.
But as I have become more involved on campus and gained a better understanding of what makes Yale unique, I have recognized an extreme chasm between student perception of Yale and our perceptions of YCC. Yale’s campus has an extraordinary energy, an enthusiasm eloquently encapsulated in “The Opposite of Loneliness” by the late Marina Keegan ’12. There is a sense of togetherness that distinguishes Yale in a way no amount of Nobel laureates or academic awards could. It’s a special spirit felt not only when the Whiffenpoofs sing “Bright College Years” or when we pass around a Mory’s cup at a banquet, but during a FOOT group reunion, a late night at Yorkside or even just an interesting discussion in the suite.
No one can argue that our attitude toward YCC lacks that enthusiasm. Last fall, in fact, student apathy was so profound that seven out of twelve colleges did not even have contested elections for the Council of Representatives. Although it would be unreasonable to expect Yale students to think of YCC as highly as they regard Yale, I nevertheless believe there is a lot of work that can be done to give Yale the YCC it deserves.
Integration is a crucial component of the creation of that YCC. Towards this end, as president I will seek out student leaders and hold office hours in all of the colleges; more substantively, I will implement the YCC Pulse App at Camp Yale which will, in real time, gauge student opinion on campus issues and make YCC more accessible than it has ever been.
But if we do not create a YCC people care about, all of these efforts will be in vain. Accessibility will mean nothing if students don’t care enough to take advantage of the access. The Pulse App will go unused. Student leaders will lose interest in meetings. I will spend office hours doing homework because no one will bother to attend them.
To truly create the student government Yale deserves, YCC must lead on important issues in a meaningful way. This past year, YCC made progress in turning ideas into tangible results, best manifested in the reinstatement of one extra day to reading period. There are other projects of a similar vein, such as dinner swipes at Durfee’s, that I would pursue to marginally improve the life of Yale students. However, Yale is an institution that prides itself on producing the future leaders of the world. With that mission in mind, we should expect a student government capable of effecting change in realms beyond first world problems.
The most egregious failure along these lines can be found in regards to sexual assault. While CNN, the Huffington Post and Forbes all gave national coverage to the extraordinary problem of sexual assault on our campus, YCC was silent, asleep at the switch. If I am elected, YCC will lead on this issue, and not just with rhetoric but with action. I will focus heavily on reforming policies on sexual misconduct; for example, I will work to close a loophole in current disciplinary regulations that allows individuals suspended for a semester to miss only a few weeks of school.
There are other serious issues where I intend to guide YCC’s energies. Although some critical issues have already been touched by YCC, such as financial aid, the unfortunate reality is that YCC’s proposals are often superficial. As president, I will advance substantive, tangible changes. For example, on financial aid, I will seek to work on a comprehensive solution indexing the student contribution for those on full financial aid to a specific criterion, such as the Consumer Price Index, to combat its disturbing and opaque upward trend.
This past year, YCC declared itself “reinvented” following the ratification of its new constitution. However, this ratification only reinvented YCC’s structures. I am now calling for the reinvention of its soul. I am calling for a YCC that is not only accessible but also engaging, a YCC that leads on important issues and effects meaningful changes, a YCC that is a magnet not just for student government enthusiasts but also for student leaders. I am confident that I can create a YCC students care about, a YCC for everyone.
Michael Herbert is a sophomore in Saybrook College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .