Sometime before the end of the year, a Yale undergraduate might stop you and ask to take your picture. She’ll withdraw several steps, find her angle, focus her lens and take two or three photos. She’ll then lower the camera and check the display to make sure you didn’t blink. As she does this, she’ll ask you a question or two about Yale and your place in it: What’s been the defining moment of your Yale experience? Or what has made Yale special for you?
Surprised at the question, you might search for words, but when you find them you’ll share a thought or an experience that in some small way sums up a part of this ancient University that is uniquely your own. The photographer will nod and smile and then meet the answer to that question with another, about your hopes for Yale and the ways you might wish to see your school improve: If you were on the Yale Corporation, what’s the first thing you’d change? Or perhaps: If your children came here in 30 years, what’s one thing you’d want to be different for them?
You might have an answer ready. You might have a lot of things you’d change about this place given the chance. You may have to spend a little time thinking about it or, unable to find a way you’d wish your own experience were different, offer a change that you’d wish for a friend or classmate. The photographer will nod and smile again, and thank you for your time. She’ll ask if you’d mind if the thoughts you shared were put on the web, and if you give your permission, you might see one of those photos and one of those answers join dozens of others in a piece we’re calling Yale Speaks.
Yale Speaks is a series of thoughts and street portraits currently being collected by the photographers of the Yale College Council’s production and design team. The first of these thoughts and portraits will be posted today on the YCC’s Facebook page. Each photo will give a face to a person’s idea for a better Yale — how, given the chance, one would change it. Hopefully these thoughts and images will spawn conversations, growth and new ideas. Some will stay just that, but others will become action. They’ll be brought to administrators, become groups and events and turn into YCC projects and initiatives. Council representatives care very much about their peers’ thoughts. Everyone here has an idea of how Yale could improve, and for those who don’t know where to start, there are students on this campus who want to take up these fights for you. All you have to do is tell them.
So what would you do if you could change one of Yale’s policies? If you had $5 million to donate for the creation of a specific program? If you were dean of Yale College for a day? Think about these questions and questions like them. Talk about them with your friends and acquaintances and those you know at other schools. Think about how you would change this place.
When you have a good answer, don’t wait for a YCC photographer to find you. Share it with your residential college rep, YCC president Michael Herbert or me, or any other peer who wants to help make the answer to that hypothetical question a reality. We’re all here to learn, to absorb, to uphold traditions, to explore, but that isn’t all. Looking at the ways students have successfully changed this school from its beginnings to now, it’s clear that Yale students don’t just have a duty to listen, but a duty to speak.
You can see Yale Speaks at Facebook.com/yalecollegecouncil and selected images on Twitter at @theYCCtweets. Reach out to the YCC through your residential college representative and let them know how they can make this Yale a little more like the Yale you want it to
Isaac Morrier is a sophomore in Branford College and the communications director of Yale College Council. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.