Bringing change to Yale is not easy. Bringing change to the YCC can be even harder. That’s why our next YCC president needs to have real experience changing the YCC from the inside out.
Many changes in University policy have been achieved through YCC policy recommendations. Advocacy based on a 2015 report by the YCC financial aid task force resulted in a reduction of the student income contribution by $450 for all upperclassmen and $1,350 for students with the highest financial need. Over the past year, the YCC has successfully pushed for the creation of a pilot program for sophomore seminars, extended the Credit/D/F deadline by two weeks and enacted mixed-gender rooming for upperclassmen. These are very real changes, pushed for by some of the most talented and passionate people I’ve met at Yale who I’m proud to call my friends.
But the YCC is sometimes viewed as an ineffective institution because the student body does not see it as a leader of change. Students should see their student government as active, inclusive and effective. Too often, the YCC is reactive rather than proactive. Too often, the YCC follows in the footsteps of student activists instead of clearing the path for them or working alongside them.
The YCC’s internal structure is too complicated. Layers of bureaucracy prevent council members from engaging with the students they represent. Council representatives are spread thin over too many projects. This has made it impossible to set clear priorities and determine a clear course for the future. The YCC’s internal structure requires an overhaul. The organization needs to focus on becoming more engaged, transparent and efficient.
Out of the 12 elections for the YCC Council of Representatives, only one is contested. We need to empower council representatives by tasking them with speaking to individuals within their residential colleges who have been personally affected by the issues. Simple changes, such as emphasizing discussion during council meetings and reserving time to discuss recent and emerging issues on campus, will go a long way.
I propose we create a master calendar to be featured prominently on the front page of the YCC website. It will include a timeline of when the YCC is meeting with administrators and what we plan to discuss. We will create a system through which students and organizations can submit recommendations and advice. We will compile these submissions and hand them directly to the administrator at the beginning of the meeting. When campus climate demands it, we will offer to share meeting time with student leaders not affiliated with the YCC who have similar policy goals. This combines YCC’s unparalleled access to administrators with the work already being done by many students across campus.
I’ve outlined a specific plan to eliminate bureaucracy within the YCC. I will reorganize the YCC internally by simplifying its structure and reducing the number of projects. Instead of 24 projects per year, we will reorganize YCC into six project teams of five to six YCC members each. These six areas of focus for the upcoming year include mental health reform, support for cultural communities, financial aid reform, the student-athlete experience, improving sexual climate and general University policy on issues that affect transfer students, students with disabilities, Eli Whitney students, Greek life and multidisciplinary academic programs. At the beginning of the year, these project groups will separate the most attainable policy goals, which can be accomplished within a semester or an academic year, from longer-term goals, which require multiple years of advocacy.
The difference between a candidate who pledges to bring change and a candidate who actually creates change is experience. I know what it’s like to change the YCC from the inside out. As director of the Undergraduate Organizations Committee, responsible for managing more than $300,000 in funding for student organizations, I began efforts to rewrite the UOC guidelines to focus on simplicity and accessibility for student leaders. I’ve worked with Dwight Hall to create a Service Grant that will provide more access to funding for organizations that hope to do community service projects in the Greater New Haven community. In short, I was able to enact change within a branch of the YCC which has stayed relatively stagnant for years.
I’ve served on every branch of the YCC. This includes the Executive Board, a task force, the Events Committee and the Freshman Class Council. I have an intimate knowledge of the organization and the changes we need to make in order to become an effective and leading body of advocacy. This will allow us to shift the conversation away from the YCC itself and toward the issues that matter most.
Next year, the voices of all students across campus will matter. That’s because the YCC will not just be listening. It will act.
Matt Guido is a sophomore in Berkeley College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .