This year, the Yale College Council will have an endowment and a board of trustees for the first time since the group was established in 1972.
Thanks to a donation from an alumnus whose name the YCC has not released, the council will receive $150,000 every year over the course of the following five years. According to YCC President Joe English ’17, $125,000 of the annual donation will be distributed directly into the endowment, which will be overseen by Donna Consolini, an officer in Yale’s Office of Development. The remaining $25,000 each year will be allocated for the YCC’s discretionary use, with any leftover funds distributed back into the endowment.
In accordance with the Development Office’s guidelines, the YCC will also establish a board of trustees in mid-November consisting of six to eight people. One of the board’s key responsibilities will be to oversee both the YCC’s general budget — which this year is $360,000 — as well as the endowment to ensure proper allocation each year. While the members of the board have not yet been determined, English said they will come from a diverse range of backgrounds to include former YCC presidents, Yale College professors, University administrators and college alumni. Members will serve a term of three academic years, after which they will have the option to either renew their membership or allow the YCC to vote on a successor.
According to English, both the endowment and the board of trustees will help the YCC — whose members generally only serve one year on the executive board — develop greater institutional memory and autonomy.
“The first and primary mission of the endowment is to financially empower the Yale student government in order to be able to enact policy,” English said. “At other institutions where the student government has an endowment of their own, if there is ever a point where the administration can’t support an initiative financially, the student government is able to take it into own hands and fund that initiative.”
The YCC was first approached with the donation proposal in April. English said the donor wanted to contribute to the council because he frequently attended YCC meetings during his time at Yale, and is a firm supporter of the group’s role as an advocate for the student body.
After the period of five years, the YCC will harvest the interest generated by the endowment to help fund its initiatives. YCC Vice President Maddie Bauer ’17 said the council will not actively seek donors to grow the endowment and will not add any money from the student activities fee into the funds. The donation also will not replace funding the organization currently receives for its annual budget from the student activities fee and the University President’s Office.
A primary function for the funds is organizational development within the YCC, English said. He cited a range of activities that the funds would support, including the YCC Correspondents’ Dinner — an annual gala hosted by the YCC for campus publications — and a welcome reception for residential college council presidents and class councils. The YCC is starting to build greater communication between its various subsidiary groups, English said.
“The overarching theme of these changes is this sort of unification throughout the ages and also throughout the organization,” said YCC Chief of Staff and former Production and Design Editor for the News Sammy Bensinger ’17. “One of the challenges that an organization as large as the YCC faces is making sure someone on the council feels just as welcome as someone on the board, and that’s what we’re aiming for.”
In line with these goals, the board of trustees will also serve as a point of guidance to each successive YCC board. After the YCC turnover each year, trustees will be able to advise and provide context to new leaders of the organization on how former members have dealt with similar issues in the past, English said. He noted that while the experience of former YCC President Michael Herbert ’16 provides a valuable perspective, it would also be useful to have a broader frame of reference.
Bauer cited last year’s extension of gender-neutral housing to sophomores as an example of the need for a board cognizant of the YCC’s current and former projects. Gender-neutral housing originally began as an initiative under then-YCC President Brandon Levin ’13, who secured its implementation for upperclassmen. Both Levin and Herbert worked to implement similar goals, Bauer said, so a board of trustees could have helped connect both presidencies.
Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway, who was invited to be a member of the board, said he believes the trustees will give the YCC more “institutional memory,” given that they will serve longer than the typical term of individual YCC leaders.
English echoed this sentiment, adding that the board will provide the YCC with increased legitimacy when handling matters with the University administration.
“The more we’ve been talking with alumni, the more we’ve learned that they’re still very much in contact with the other YCC members they served with,” Bauer said. “There seems to be a missing link between the current and past YCC, so hopefully this will create a precedent not just for institutional memory, but also a strong institution that people will be happy to be a part of.”
The Associated Students of Stanford University, which includes the Undergraduate Senate and Graduate Student Council, has a total endowment of $15 million.