The Yale College Council passed a resolution by unanimous vote Sunday afternoon stipulating that student representatives on future search committees for the dean of Yale College and president of the University must be elected by the undergraduate student body.
Proposed by YCC representative Tyler Blackmon ’16, a staff columnist for the News, the amendment to the YCC constitution states that all students enrolled in Yale College will be eligible to run for student positions on the search committees. The election process will be overseen by the YCC, and the entire student body will be able to vote to determine who will be appointed to the positions. Blackmon said the idea for this proposal stemmed from the formation of the search committee tasked with replacing then-Yale College Dean Mary Miller in February 2014. At the time, Blackmon said, many students were unhappy with the way that then-YCC President Danny Avraham ’15 was appointed as the student representative on the committee.
“When we had the dean search committee last year, I was very forceful to have a process that involved the student body because a lot is at stake, and the entire student body deserves to be heard,” Blackmon said. “[Having a student on the committee has] never happened before, so it was unclear what the process should be.”
Avraham declined to comment Sunday night, but he said in February 2014 that the decision about the process for selecting a representative on the advisory committee should be made by YCC members rather than the larger student body in that specific instance.
YCC President Michael Herbert ’16 said the amendment provides a structured opportunity for the undergraduate community to discuss the qualities that they want in student representatives on these committees. Although Blackmon proposed the amendment after the announcement of Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry’s departure, Herbert said the selection process for student representatives would only extend to search committees for the dean of Yale College and the University president — at least for now.
“We have a lot of elections during the year, and if we had elections for every position, we would have had seven elections this year,” Herbert said. “Blackmon and I both agreed that the two most important positions to have elections were the president of the University and dean of Yale College.”
Many YCC representatives agreed that the amendment was necessary, as it now allows the entire student body to be involved in the selection process.
YCC Academics Director David Lawrence ’15 said this does not mean students can only choose people outside of the YCC. He noted that in some situations, the most qualified candidate may be a YCC member, while in others, there may be more appropriate candidates elsewhere.
Herbert also added that if students have faith in the YCC, then the president may gain their vote of confidence to be on the committee. He noted this would challenge the YCC to be better representatives of the student voice.
“[The amendment] is important, and I agree with it because it will set a precedent for the administration to expect an election for a student representative when they’re choosing a new dean or president,” YCC representative Benjamin Martin ’17 said. “Last year was the impetus for this because of the controversy that Salovey didn’t give enough time to do a student body-wide election, and we were forced to appoint someone.”
Still, YCC members during the meeting agreed that the proposal may pose other potential problems in the future.
Martin noted that while it would be a challenging process to solicit candidates and votes, it is nonetheless an important process that would not happen too frequently.
“One of the things that came up was the timing — what happens if the administration only gives you a week and you have to organize this election?” Blackmon said. “What people realize is that, by us putting this in the constitution, we expect to have ample time, and that the administration can’t just spring on us like in the past.”