“What does the Yale College Council even do?”
Well, this answer depends on what you are looking for. Many students do not “engage” with the YCC because they do not feel a pressing need to. Not all of us have grievances that need attention from the administration or from the YCC, but that doesn’t mean that those who do should struggle to find an outlet or platform to do so. This organization can only be successful in its mission of shaping University policies and improving student life if it delivers the value that people are seeking.
For some, this may mean enjoying Spring Fling and the Farm Tours in the fall. For student groups that organize around issues like sexual climate, cultural diversity and financial aid reform, however, this may mean taking an active part in creating reports that go to the administration, finding platforms like town halls through which they can open up schoolwide conversations and having easier access to face-to-face conversations with relevant administrators. For example, Mind Matters — an organization that hopes to raise awareness about mental health issues — has faced frustrating setbacks with arranging meetings with masters and deans to discuss programming like “How to Help a Friend.” This is where the YCC can help facilitate those discussions-: by inviting Mind Matters to a meeting with someone like Assistant Dean Hannah Peck DIV ’11 or gathering an audience to attend a workshop on helping friends emotionally and helping them access resources.
Dean Jonathan Holloway has made it clear to the Council that he sees it as his looking glass into the student body. We need to continue to convey that message to students and continue to legitimize the YCC as an organization that will not just wait for student groups to seek support, but rather will always reach out to these groups, looking for new ways to maintain a constant formation of partnerships. This culture of actively seeking can be cultivated within the Council with efforts from the YCC leadership. All the representatives are Yalies who interact with friends, classmates and people in their residential colleges. Their projects need to follow the task-force model when relevant, bringing in student groups to partner with them on joint projects, such as organizing events for undergraduates to get help from graduate students with planning their summers, or making sure professors ask students for their preferred pronouns during the first class.
“What does the president even do?”
After asking Joe English ’17 about his year as the YCC president, I heard one thing loud and clear: It is crucial that the next president maintain relationships of trust and open communication with administrators in order to garner respect and decision-making power for the student body. Many Yalies have no idea what the president’s role entails. A big part of it is being the face of the student body for the administrators. This means meeting with them in their offices to discuss initiatives, priorities and collaboration. Since the leadership of the Council changes each year, we need to make sure there is continuity in the administration’s exposure to the Council and that no bridges are burned. This means working closely with the previous year’s executive board and being sure to have a realistic idea of what has been done and what can continue to be pushed. As candidates, we should not make lofty promises without understanding the struggles and efforts that have come before us.
The president needs to first and foremost be empathetic in order to understand and deeply care about our concerns. When it comes down to it, effectively conveying emotion and gravity to administrators in an office will go a long way in mobilizing human interactions. We need someone who cares and someone we can trust to always care, regardless of whether a title or position is on the line. Human instinct can be surprisingly powerful. While all of the presidential candidates can run a campaign on a set of values and ideas, we need to prioritize relationships, connection and involvement in the student community to ensure that we will be able to accurately and passionately assert student experiences and priorities to the administrators who are not, and do not have to be, our enemies.
“Diksha, what is something you want the student body to know about you?”
Thanks for asking that question, Diksha. I hope the people I interact with every day know that I care deeply about them, about Yale and about the student experience. That care and respect is something I can promise to translate into advocacy, dedication and determination without losing sight of all of our experiences. At the end of the day, we do what we do for the people that we love. Trust me, there is plenty of love in my heart to go around.
Diksha Brahmbhatt is a sophomore in Berkeley College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .