The Yale College Council is moving forward on its projects for the semester, placing financial aid as one of its key priorities for the term ahead while continuing their work on sexual misconduct policy and mental health reform.
Last spring, the YCC approved a Readmissions Peer Liaisons project and a Student Mental Health Fellows project. The first was designed to pair students who withdraw from Yale with those who have already been through the reinstatement process and the second to bring upperclassmen into each residential college to discuss mental health concerns and resources. Both projects had significant support in the spring — the proposal for readmissions liaisons passed unanimously — and are continuing into the new semester.
In addition, this semester, according to YCC Vice President Maddie Bauer ’17, the council has focused its energies on other projects that are still intended to improve student well-being and safety on campus. For example, she noted, the YCC has successfully implemented both a sexual health task force and a financial aid task force. It is also working on a number of new projects in this area, such as improving freshman programming by the Women’s Center and the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education Center, Bauer added.
“[Readmissions liaisons] was something that was very much [former YCC President Michael Herbert’s ’16] pet project, and this year has been very much about starting new initiatives,” Bauer said. “That’s not to say we’re not going back to old ones, but sometimes it’s hard to go from year to year since every project has a different status.”
Herbert proposed the readmissions liaisons project last winter, and it was approved by the YCC in February. Similar to the peer liaison program at the cultural centers and LGBTQ Resource Center, the program would help mediate some of the loneliness and confusion that withdrawn students feel by connecting them to students who had already successfully returned to campus. But both Bauer and YCC President Joe English ’17 said the program is not ready for full implementation, although they agreed it will be a continuing project this year.
Herbert acknowledged that he did not push the project vigorously, especially in light of a number of reforms the University announced last spring for reinstatement policy.
According to Joseph Cornett ’17, YCC member and project lead, the Student Mental Health Fellows project has not seen as much progress as he hoped. He said the project would not be completed until at least the end of this semester. He added that the YCC is still in talks with Yale Health’s Mental Health and Counseling division, as well as other administrators. While it was originally proposed as a stand-alone program, Cornett said the initiative — which will mirror the Communication and Consent Educators program for sexual climate — will now likely be part of the University-sponsored Student Wellness Project, which was announced by University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews in September. That broader project will consist of a committee of students, faculty and staff dedicated to improving programming on student well-being.
Still, YCC members emphasized the progress they have made in other areas, especially sexual misconduct. Last spring, the University’s Title IX Steering Committee committed to a series of recommendations that emerged from a joint task force formed by the YCC and Women’s Center. Some of those recommendations have begun to materialize, such as the creation of an advisor pool for both complainants and respondents of sexual misconduct. Conversations about the topic have continued in light of alarming new statistics from a survey by the Association of American Universities, Bauer said.
“We haven’t taken [the AAU survey] lightly and we’re looking for ways to increase student awareness and also create an impact and address the findings of the survey,” Bauer said. “We’re looking to see what kind of projects we’re implementing to combat this.”
Bauer said a key component to the YCC’s effort in advancing campus safety will be increasing pre-orientation programming for freshmen and transfer students during their first week at Yale. In a September email to the News, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd said her office worked over the spring and summer to develop a new segment of freshman orientation on Yale’s sexual misconduct policies and resources.
In addition, she said, the Title IX Office worked with students over the summer to better explain options for reporting sexual misconduct and developed a new set of explanatory online infographics about all the channels available.
“Ensuring that the campus understands the full range of options is ongoing work, but we’ve taken a few important steps already,” Boyd said.
This work will be continued by the Yale College Council, the YCC executive board emphasized.
The primary focus, though, will be on the ongoing debate over the elimination of the student income contribution — a fee of up to several thousand dollars that students on financial aid are expected to contribute to their tuitions.
Last year, the University froze the student income contribution for the first time in three years, but the YCC has promised to advocate for its complete elimination.
“Our biggest priority this year is eliminating or reducing the student income contribution for next year,” English said. “We are making sure a decision comes out for the class of 2020.”
In addition to the Student Mental Health Fellows project, the YCC currently has 22 other project assignments for the fall semester.
Correction: The article “YCC mental health projects stall” incorrectly implied that the Yale College Council had discontinued their efforts with Mental Health and Counseling and sexual misconduct policy to focus on financial aid reform. The council is working on mental health projects, among others, simultaneously. The article also stated that the YCC has successfully implemented a sexual health task force and a financial aid task force, when in reality, the Council successfully convened a sexual misconduct task force last semester and has a financial aid working group. In addition, the Council is working on a dining task force, an LGBTQ task force and a task force for the new colleges. The News regrets these errors.
Clarification: The article stated that YCC has been increasing pre-orientation programming. In fact, this is an idea that the Council plans to raise with the administration.