The Yale College Council held a poorly-attended debate in Linsly-Chittenden Hall last night featuring the two candidates for YCC president, Matt Guido ’19 and Adam Michalowski ’19.
At the hourlong event, the candidates discussed the internal reforms they want to implement as well as the policies they hope to enact. The two debated over how the council ought to engage with students and make the YCC become what Guido called “a leader on campus.” Nick Girard ’19 and Tyler Bleuel ’19, the two uncontested candidates for the positions of vice president and events director, respectively, also spoke at the event.
The debate was co-moderated by YCC Vice President Christopher Bowman ’18 and David Shimer ’18, editor in chief of the News. Council representatives, reporters from the News and students representing organizations seeking to endorse candidates all attended the event. But out of all the attendants at the start of the debate, there was only one student unaffiliated with any organization required to attend the event.
“I wish there had been more people at the debate to hear the ideas of the candidates,” current YCC President Peter Huang ’18 said.
Bleuel, who could not attend the debate, recorded a video statement that aired first, followed by Girard’s opening statement and responses to questions. Bleuel stated that he wanted to shift the tone of the YCC’s events from bringing students to specific events to “bringing the events to the whole campus” by partnering with student groups to increase visibility of their events, a suggestion Girard echoed when he recommended the YCC partner with current student organizations to improve engagement.
The presidential debate itself lasted about 18 minutes and included both questions aimed at specific policy proposals and the candidates’ backgrounds as well as general questions for the two candidates.
Michalowski and Guido rolled out fairly similar platforms earlier this week. The two candidates, both of whom have served on the YCC in some capacity the last two years, pledged to work toward eliminating the student income contribution, increasing the cultural centers’ budgets, expanding Yale’s academic programs and improving mental health resources. Michalowski and Guido also each stressed the importance of engaging proactively with the student body, rather than expecting students to make the first move.
But they diverged in their proposals to reform the YCC from within.
The two candidates, each of whom served on a YCC task force last year, disagreed most strongly on the YCC’s current project model. In the current model, a pair of representatives works toward solving a specific issue or a task force conducts a campuswide survey before releasing a report that addresses a wider range of issues within one topic.
Guido said the current model needed to be overhauled, describing it as “ineffective” as it fails to make the YCC’s work apparent to the student body. His proposal combines the project and task force models, creating groups of five to six council representatives to focus only on high-priority issues.
“I think right now, for a lot of students around campus, when they have an idea for a University policy that they want to change, the YCC is not the first institution that they turn to,” Guido said in his opening statement.
He said that the council has “structural issues” that need to be fixed and highlighted a need to increase transparency of the council’s operations to students. Guido said he imagines a calendar on the YCC website that would lay out the dates the council would meet with the administration and students. Pledging to work with student leaders on campus, he stressed “engagement, transparency and efficiency” as key to transforming the YCC.
However, Michalowski characterized Guido’s proposed upheaval as “too drastic,” claiming the existing YCC project model delivered good results. Michalowski said he instead wants to “tweak” the project model, not “overhaul it” because the task forces create the council’s greatest impact.
Michalowski said the YCC has “legitimacy” with the Yale administration and stressed a need to engage with student organizations. He said that while the council has done a “great job” enacting policy recommendations, it has not been a voice for students and added that the council’s policies need to rise directly from the opinions of student groups on campus.
“I have faith in the YCC,” said Michalowski. “But what I believe we are not doing well enough is bringing students to council.”
During the debate, both candidates responded directly to last Friday’s editorial written by the News about the YCC. Guido acknowledged the concerns about diversity, inclusivity and significance brought up by the News, saying that he also saw the deficiencies and would work to fix them.
Both candidates underscored their desire to “empower” representatives on the council and make them feel like they can and do enact change. They also addressed the $25,000 component of the endowment that the council currently has earmarked for internal spending. Guido said the money should be used to better partner with different student groups and enhance the events they can hold, while Michalowski said it should be spent to develop community relationships with YCC.
Michalowski and Guido also said they have personal relationships with former YCC President Joe English ’17 and Huang, and that they have talked with the former YCC heads to discuss what can feasibly be achieved during a single term.
Bowman prompted each candidate to highlight one change from previous reports he could actualize — Guido said he could see Durfee’s dinner swipes becoming a reality, while Michalowski said that establishing a grant to cover the summer income portion of the student income contribution for students who work an unpaid internship or study abroad during the summer could be possible.
Elections for all council positions will open Thursday morning at 9 a.m. and close Friday evening at 9 p.m.