As the fall semester marches on, the Yale College Council is seeking to form deeper relationships with both students and leaders of student groups during this academic year.
According to YCC Vice President Christopher Bowman ’18, the YCC hopes to continue to champion long-standing student concerns like mental health resources, while also investigating issues within the student body to which the YCC has previously devoted less attention. This year, the organization is putting mental health concerns, the lack of faculty diversity and the accessibility of the council at the forefront of its policy work, Bowman told the News. Additionally, Bowman said YCC representatives will aim to be more engaged with their residential colleges as a means of strengthening ties between the council and undergraduates. Every spring, each residential college elects two representatives to serve a yearlong term on the council.
“[YCC President Peter Huang ’18] and I are actively encouraging YCC representatives to stay involved in both their residential colleges and greater on-campus discussions throughout the year,” said Bowman. “That could mean visiting college council meetings, holding office hours or participating in more student-run events, but we definitely see an importance in strengthening ties between YCC and the greater student body. … We only know what is important to undergraduates when we maintain a dialogue with them.”
Currently, YCC meetings are held on Sundays at 1 p.m. in room 207 of Phelps Hall, a weekly chance for students outside the YCC to get involved with the council’s activities. All undergraduates may petition to become associate YCC representatives, or nonvoting members who work on official YCC projects and are held to the same standards of attendance as elected YCC representatives.
With regards to mental health concerns, Bowman emphasized that while previous administrations have addressed mental health issues on campus before, he and Huang plan to handle mental health differently.
“[Former YCC President Michael Herbert ’16] made mental health policy a cornerstone of his presidency, and we’re bringing it back to the [Yale College Dean’s Office] this fall by looking into withdrawal and reinstatement,” Bowman said. “By comparison, YCC hasn’t issued any formal reports on the Resource Office on Disabilities recently, which we’re doing through our Disability Resources Task Force.”
Bowman also noted several projects the YCC plans to pursue in the upcoming academic year. The scale and structure of these projects will differ substantially from that of previous councils, consisting of 12 individual projects each headed by two students. In contrast, previous YCC administrations had 24 smaller projects, each headed by one student, said Bowman. These 12 projects come on top of YCC’s three task forces on disability resources, cultural houses and transfer student policy.
Following conversations between Bowman, Huang and the student body, the YCC projects will attempt to tackle questions of faculty diversity and the rising trend of students living off-campus. The topics of the projects are more complex and require a more streamlined structure, which is why the student-to-project ratio is now 2-to-1, up from 1-to-1, Bowman explained.
“The reps are somewhat specializing their focus within these initiatives based on what they are most interested in or what they find to be the most pressing challenges,” Bowman said. “That way, we have clear action items within bigger ideas that we can bring to University administrators.”
YCC leaders will also continue to move forward on past YCC initiatives like improving mental health resources. Additionally, the YCC will preserve its former organization structure. One change over last year is the creation of the student outreach director role, an executive board position currently held by Diksha Brahmbhatt ’18.
The student outreach director is responsible for connecting YCC representatives with various student groups, as well as gathering input from student organizations, according to Bowman. Huang said that Brahmbhatt has already “introduced student groups on campus to New Haven community organizations with similar focuses.”
Huang added that Brahmbhatt will help ensure student groups interested in working with New Haven will adequately address the concerns of the Elm City community. He also noted that Dwight Hall and the YCC will work together to improve the undergraduate experience. Huang said many students would like to see greater overlap between Yale and New Haven, and, he said, to that end he believes the YCC should collaborate more with Dwight Hall.
Dwight Hall Coordinator Anthony D’Ambrosio ’18 told the News that Dwight Hall is eager to continue its work with the YCC, including through the annual Dwight Hall-YCC New Haven Fair.
“Diksha has also helped us to strengthen our relationship with New Haven,” said Bowman. “She organized the YCC’s first-ever New Haven Fair a couple of weeks ago that brought together undergraduates and New Haven organizations on Old Campus. Now, she’s engaged with an urban project called the Collaboratory that connects various public and private organizations across the city together to tackle challenges facing New Haven.”
The Yale College Council was established in 1972.