I govern my life by routine. Every morning, I budget about an hour to wake up, shower, brush my teeth and head off to class. Later that day, between seminars and lectures, I eat lunch in the dining hall and go to a few meetings. In the evening, I sing with my a cappella group or study with a couple of friends.
My average day lasts about 17 hours. In this time, I am always astounded by how often I encounter the fruits of past undergraduate advocacy.
I wouldn’t have shelves in my bathroom or a lock on my bedroom door were it not for student leaders who came before me. I wouldn’t have a varied salad bar or a $5 lunch special at Salsa Fresca without them. And I wouldn’t have access to relaxing study breaks or student group funding without the precedents they set.
Undergraduate advocacy is a cornerstone of reform at our university. It has brought about small additions to our campus like the DVD collection at Bass Library as well as significant policy expansions like more accessible mental health resources. I constantly thank my predecessors in the Yale College Council for fighting for such initiatives.
I know, too, that many of you want change. Friends and strangers alike approach me every day with ideas about how Yale could improve their collegiate experience whether by increasing the frequency of on-campus shuttles or by lowering the cost of the meal plan. From what I’ve heard over the past year, every undergraduate would modify at least one thing at Yale.
But too many in our community criticize the system without moving beyond mere talk. They complain and expect somebody else to create a utopia for them. To be sure, the YCC exists to represent the student body and to mitigate the concerns our peers articulate. I have spent the past year doing just that and have loved every minute.
At the same time, I know that I want to help craft a solution whenever I notice a problem. And that’s where the YCC comes in: We are students just like you, who see ways to enhance our university, and we have decided to actively engage in these discussions by becoming members of this council. It is a council of students, for students, and we want you to be part of it.
In this past year alone, the YCC has been able to secure a pilot program for sophomore seminars, open up mixed-gender rooming to upperclassmen, give service groups better organizational funding and improve LGBTQ life through pronoun and name change options. These are but a few of our achievements. We hope that many will come, from an update to University drug policy to more institutional support for our peers with disabilities. But we need others to join the YCC to bring these latest proposals to fruition.
When I’ve encouraged student government participation in the past, some have immediately rejected it due to a perception that the YCC does not fully represent them. I will neither endorse nor challenge this viewpoint.
However, I will note that the YCC cannot become more representative until its membership reflects Yale’s full diversity. We need those involved in the sciences and the humanities; in athletics and the arts; in the LGBTQ Co-op and the cultural centers. We need as many viewpoints as possible to capture the vibrancy of our campus — yet unless students of all these backgrounds run, we will not transcend the status quo. We need you regardless of how you have engaged with us in the past.
Yale is an amazing home, but we can still build on its foundation. I hope that you’ll do more than just talk about what’s wrong with the system and criticize an organization that is dedicated to improving your on-campus experience. Instead, I hope that you’ll consider participating in student advocacy and make our university a better place in the process.
Christopher Bowman is a junior in Saybrook College and the vice president of the Yale College Council. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .