Coming into this year’s Yale College Council elections, the News was pleased to hear that the race for president would be heavily contested. In the wake of extensive conversations last semester, we hoped the intense competition would generate a range of creative policy proposals to address complex and crucial issues including racial equity and sexual climate. However, we have regretfully been left disappointed by multiple platforms filled with promises that no YCC president could achieve in one term.
That is why the News proudly endorses Peter Huang ’18 for YCC president. His ideas are concrete and achievable, because they are informed by a formidable fluency in University policies and procedures. And, unlike his peers, his platform demonstrates deep knowledge of what is actually achievable for a student government presidency.
We were surprised to come to this conclusion. When we saw the list of candidates for the first time, Huang did not stand out as a frontrunner, as he does not have the high-profile experience some of the other candidates boast. However, our interactions with him have convinced us that he is the most pragmatic candidate in the race, and by far the most knowledgeable. When asked what he would change about sexual misconduct policy, he explained how interim measures like no-contact orders can be more successfully deployed. When asked how much money the student income contribution generates for Yale each year, a number that no other candidate was able to provide, Huang calculated the figure on the spot using his existing knowledge of financial aid policy. And when asked about issues of faculty diversity, he cited a lack of mentorship for junior faculty of color, a targeted problem that could only be noted by someone knowledgeable of the ins-and-outs of faculty hiring. The role of YCC president is not one to be taken lightly, and Huang clearly understands the expectations — and limitations — of the job.
We urge our peers to consider this when casting their votes: A YCC president alone cannot fix faculty diversity, sexual climate, financial aid policy or the many other hot-topic issues that were debated on Tuesday night. But a candidate well-versed in existing policies can make an impact by focusing on clear and actionable policy steps.
Perhaps the most compelling example of this was Huang’s proposal to task a group of representatives with thoroughly researching each academic department’s struggles with faculty diversity, an idea which demonstrates a methodical and well-thought-out approach to the issue. This unique proposal targets an important University-wide problem without overstepping the bounds of the YCC president’s role — a rare find among this set of candidates. Even though his project may seem smaller in scale, it does not diminish Huang’s clear investment in the issue at hand.
When considering Josh Hochman ’18, we were impressed by his extensive YCC resume and careful consideration of an impressive array of issues. That said, his platform sacrificed depth for sheer breadth, resulting in an inability for him to be well-versed in the intricacies of all of the policies he was proposing. Hochman could not convince the News that he knew what he wanted to focus on in his term or how he would achieve his goals. In a field full of candidates with great ideas, Hochman could not convince us he was ready in a way that Huang assuredly did.
Similarly, Sarah Armstrong ’18, who enjoyed a strong show of support during the debate and is considered by many as a campus favorite, failed to show us that she had the policy savvy to implement solutions to the issues she has identified on campus. Armstrong has positioned herself as an advocate for sexual assault reform on this campus, citing her leadership experience in the campus group, Unite Against Sexual Assault at Yale.
However, Armstrong’s suggestion that we implement an “independent oversight board to the University Wide Committee” was deeply troubling. Not only did she fail to explain how an additional administrative body — still moderated by the University — would actually ensure more accountability, she also lacked any plan to create such a body. Her lack of specificity on this issue reflects an unreliable and underdeveloped platform which, though popular, has little chance of becoming a reality.
The same is true of Diksha Brahmbhatt ’18. We admired her genuine commitment and raw honesty throughout this campaign and were impressed that she had met with current YCC president Joe English ’17 to better understand the role, something we surprisingly did not hear from the other candidates. But her passion and enthusiasm were not enough to convince us that she would be a better choice than Huang, whose alacrity was coupled with extensive knowledge of Yale and YCC policies. Her platform was in no way unique or compelling enough to shift our focus from Huang.
Most disappointing is Carter Helschien ’18, a candidate who many understandably believe is running a joke campaign. It is one thing to use humor in a campaign to try to engage with apathetic students, but Helschien’s conduct during the debate — at which he arrived dressed as a magician — gave us no confidence that he could tackle the difficult and sensitive issues currently at the center of campus discourse. Furthermore, during his meeting with the News, he fumbled on the specifics of both his financial aid plan and his cultural center outreach initiative, two of his biggest platform points.
This is a crowded election, and we fully expect to see a heated runoff next week. We hope, however, that students vote for the candidate they believe will effect positive change — not the one they find most affable. Voting for a YCC president too often becomes a popularity contest, and this election could easily proceed along similar lines. It is our duty as students to prevent that from happening.
Anyone can dream of a better campus. But a good YCC president will take those dreams and do something about them. They will rally behind student activists, but will also meet with administrators to determine what can actually be done. We need a reasonable, rational and considerate leader to take us through the next year. As the events last semester demonstrated, this campus cares deeply about the future of Yale — and our next YCC president must be someone who can channel that momentum into attainable goals. For that reason, the News endorses Huang.