Remy Dhingra ’20 and I did not come to Yale thinking we would join the Yale College Council. It never crossed my mind until my friend convinced me to attend a YCC meeting. I had always envisioned the YCC to be a place of activism: somewhere opinions could be heard, plans could be made and actions could be taken. But when I suggested an idea to someone on the council, they suggested I submit a question for the YCC’s spring survey. The YCC has become a glorified pollster, and we entered this race because Yale students deserve a better college council.
Right now, the YCC spends most of its time compiling surveys and reports. Try searching “YCC report” — you’ll find the ten pages of headlines or the 57 reports the YCC lists on its website. The primary product of the YCC is words, not action.
This is because students usually run on a laundry list of ideas that range from “improving transparency of the Yale Corporation” or “improving the social scene at Yale.” In fact, we’ve looked through YCC promises from the past five years and estimate that about 95 percent of those promises were never fulfilled. It’s not a surprise when these ideas don’t make it past the report phase and aren’t actually accomplished.
However, under a few focused efforts, the YCC has been able to improve student life. For example, in 2012, the YCC published their “Salad @ Yale” report. Following student feedback and an audit of the salad bars in the dining hall, the YCC lobbied on behalf of five reforms, including better salad dressings. It took less than two months for Yale Dining to adopt these reforms.
While this whole process was a bit silly, it shows that much of the YCC’s problems are not in its infrastructure but rather its motivations. Remy and I got into this race because we believe that students who are motivated — not enveloped — in the YCC’s inaction can push it to do better.
We’re running on three actionable and deliverable ideas we firmly believe we can accomplish in our first 90 days: adding mental health emergencies as a reason for dean’s excuses, semester allowances for free printing, improving dining hall coffee. These are all specific ideas that the YCC actually has the purview to work on and suggestions you can hold us accountable to.
That’s not to say that the current structure of the YCC is perfect. Its flagship achievement this year — extending the Credit/D/Fail deadline 90 days — was actually an initiative started in 2007. Any organization that takes over eleven years to complete a small and bureaucratic change is operating inefficiently. Remy and I have a concrete plan to overhaul the YCC. We’ll break down the entire structure, reforming it into a senate-based structure, and also livestream all meetings. Additionally, we’re advocating reform to the YCC constitution to schedule a referendum on the president’s and vice president’s performance in the fall and make recall elections actually possible.
No other candidate for YCC president this year has a concrete plan to reduce and abolish the student income contribution. For an issue that so deeply affects so many students, we are appalled that candidates didn’t take the time to establish a plan on this issue. The Yale administration walks all over the student body on this issue, and the Yale College Council doesn’t seem to mind. That’s cowardly. We will give the Yale administration one month to lay out a plan to wind down the student income contribution. If they don’t, on day 31, we will establish a 501(c)(3) and start a capital campaign to raise the money ourselves. Our goal is to reduce the student income contribution by $500 per student. The Yale administration doesn’t have students’ backs. Someone needs to.
Let’s not fall victim to the same campaign that happens almost every year: a few YCC insiders who toss around huge ideas with no plans to implement them. We don’t need more reports collecting dust on the YCC website, and we don’t want the YCC to serve itself. Are you content to wait a couple more decades for real change on the student income contribution, mental health and something as simple as better coffee? Instead, challenge your candidates to explain exactly how the surveys they’ve sent out have made your life better. Challenge your candidates to explain their plans and ideas. And challenge your candidates to explain how they’ll shake up the YCC, because something is clearly not working.
Christopher Moeckel is a sophomore in Saybrook College and a YCC presidential candidate. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.