I’m running for Yale College Council president because I have seen firsthand what the YCC can do. I’m running because of what the YCC should do but doesn’t. I’m running because the YCC should work for everyone.
Last week, the News posed a question: Does the YCC matter? This election is about answering that question. The YCC matters, but it’s time we prove it to students.
The YCC matters because administrators listen to us and heed our advice. It matters because we can make real change. It matters because that change impacts students every day.
The YCC matters, but that doesn’t mean the YCC works. Administrators give us immense legitimacy as a body. They see us as the voice of students. But right now, we aren’t. YCC has not been speaking as the voice of students — we’ve been speaking as the voice of the YCC. The News was right to say that students don’t see the YCC as the place to go to with ideas, but that isn’t because the YCC can’t achieve those goals. It’s because the YCC hasn’t gained the trust of student organizations and sought out their ideas.
That’s what I will change. The YCC is good at getting its policies implemented — but it’s not as good at developing the right policies in the first place. As president, I will not wait for groups to approach me. I developed my agenda by meeting with student groups to hear their goals. The YCC’s role should be to translate these ideas into concrete policies. I will continue these conversations and develop these relationships to ensure student groups have a meaningful voice in the YCC.
I’ll mandate that YCC representatives meet with at least three groups relevant to their projects during every stage of the policy cycle, because the responsibility is on the YCC to take the initiative to seek student input and rebuild relationships. We will not become a place to go to with ideas by waiting for students to come to us. We have to prove we can do what we say we will.
When the time comes to meet with administrators, I won’t just tell student groups what we’re talking about, I’ll invite them to the table.
This is how the YCC will change; We will actively seek ideas from students and give them a powerful voice before the administration. That’s why the YCC matters.
The YCC can be a powerful force for change. Our advocacy has led to mental health reforms, like increased appointments for students, and financial aid reforms, like last year’s reduction to the student income contribution. The LGBT task force, which I was a part of, saw its main recommendations approved. Within a year, we secured expansions to gender-neutral housing, a new LGBT resource center and a preferred name option in Yale databases. We did this in part because of our close collaboration with the LGBT Co-op. This should be the norm, not the exception. As president, I’ll make sure that’s the case. I’ll develop a formal relationship between the YCC and the cultural centers, the Yale Student Athlete College Council and activist groups.
The three policy initiatives headlining my platform all came from conversations with student groups. Financial aid, mental health and course accessibility are issues that matter. They are issues the YCC can actually impact. I believe in the YCC, but I understand our limitations. My platform doesn’t promise everything — it promises concrete changes to the policies most important to our Yale experience. It lies at the intersection of what we can do and what we must do.
To improve financial aid, we must eliminate the student income contribution. I’ll hold administrators to their promise to revisit last year’s reduction and consider expanding it, so the student income contribution will eventually disappear. In the short term, I’ll push administrators to follow Princeton University’s model and establish a grant to cover students’ summer income contribution when they study abroad or work in an unpaid internship. This grant would only require about a 5.1 percent annual increase to the financial aid budget.
To improve mental health resources, I will encourage Yale to hire more clinicians and for those clinicians to receive training in identity-based mental health issues. As a short-term fix, YCC will help Yale Health establish a better partnership with local mental health care providers in New Haven who could see students more quickly.
To give students better access to the classes they want, the YCC will push the administration to offer more seminars and more sections of popular seminars. We’ll advocate for expanding preregistration and increasing the capacity of programs like the one in human rights. Finally, we’ll push for seminars and sections to be spread more equally throughout the day so athletes and others with scheduling constraints can take classes they want.
The YCC can enact real change. We should do it where students need it most.
Adam Michalowski is a sophomore in Branford College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .