The Yale College Council is revamping its task forces, bodies that delve deeply into a specific problem on campus, by targeting sections of the undergraduate student body that have been previously underrepresented.
In its third year, the YCC’s task force model has already produced seven reports focusing on topics ranging from financial aid reform to LGBTQ resources to the new residential colleges. This year, the YCC administration — led by YCC President Peter Huang ’18 and Vice President Christopher Bowman ’18 — is working on three different task forces addressing disability resources, the cultural centers and Yale’s transfer student policy. It may be too early to tell what the task forces may accomplish, as YCC leaders told the News that the three task forces are just beginning to get off the ground.
“The task force model allows us to focus on specific issues that we otherwise would not have the resources to address,” said YCC Task Force Director Peter Hwang ’18.
For many years YCC task forces had a smaller role on campus, but grew in stature under the administration of former YCC President Joe English ’17. Huang said he hopes to grow the task force program even more this year.
Task force membership is competitive, as the six to eight members of a task force are solicited from the entire student body rather than within the YCC. The task force is responsible for speaking with both University administrators and students to assess Yale’s policies.
“YCC task forces are unique because members don’t just come from the YCC,” said Hwang. “Rather, we bring together student advocates and campus leaders who are already making a difference and put them in contact with administrators who can turn recommendations into policy.”
Disabled students have often found themselves without a voice in Yale’s student government. The new disability resources task force will work with Yale’s official Resource Office on Disability, Hwang said.
ROD already works to remove “physical and attitudinal barriers” that prevent disabled students from participating fully in the Yale community.
The task force’s purpose is to hold ROD accountable and to evaluate how well ROD is serving students with disabilities at Yale by analyzing the efficiency of current resources.
“Disability resources is a focus that the YCC has not formally done research on for the past few years, so I believe it is time we as the student government body on campus better understand where disability resources fall short,” Huang said.
While the four Yale cultural centers have always been at the heart of campus discourse, recent campus demonstrations and the subsequent bolstering of the centers’ budgets have only made them more important.
A 2014 external review of the Afro-American Cultural House, Asian American Cultural Center, La Casa Cultural and Native American Cultural Center recommended improvements to facilities and organizational structures. In fall 2015, University President Peter Salovey announced several cultural center initiatives, such as an increase in funding, an integration of mental health resources with the cultural centers and facilities improvement.
Huang said the purpose of the task force is to collaborate closely with the cultural centers to better improve the cultural experience for all students.
Luwei Xiong ’20, who is actively involved with the AACC, said the new cultural center task force is a step in the right direction.
“I’m very happy to see the YCC take the lead on cultural issues this year,” Xiong added.
Yale’s transfer policy is another topic the YCC has previously overlooked, Huang said. Yale accepts between 20 and 30 transfer students each year. One of the focuses of the task force is to improve the student organization climate for transfer and nontraditional students. According to Huang, student organizations focus heavily on recruiting traditional four-year students, leaving transfer and nontraditional students left out. Many academic policies, like distributional requirements during specific class years, do not apply to transfer students. This can lead to widespread confusion for transfer students, and the lack of a support network exacerbates this problem.
The task force on transfer students will find ways to both help transfer students settle in and clarify how the University determines the number of semesters allocated to transfer students, the availability of their transfer credits and study abroad opportunities for transfer students.
“Transfer and nontraditional students are an important part of the Yale community, but there has not been much YCC work on understanding how to improve their transition and support them as they enter a new environment. That’s what [this task force] is all about,” Huang said.
Though YCC leaders admitted the YCC has an ambitious task force agenda ahead, they said Hwang’s prior experience on the Greek life task force last spring will serve him well in his role of YCC task force director.
“[Hwang] has a holistic understanding of the dynamic between YCC and non-YCC students who want to participate in student government initiatives,” Huang said.