A recent News survey suggests that about 93 percent of students are at least “content” with life at Yale. Putting questions of survey methodology aside, most of us can agree to the weaker claim that for a majority of students, life is pretty good, overall. Clearly, Yale’s doing something right.
But the Yale experience is still far from perfect. This year, Yale has seen a record number of sexual misconduct complaints. Wait times to see therapists at Mental Health & Counseling often span weeks, leaving students unassisted in their more vulnerable times. Dining hall hours must expand to meet student demands for more flexible meal schedules. Students cannot currently eat at dining hall after 8 p.m. — if they make the trek up to Morse and Ezra Stiles colleges. In other words, we still have a long way to go. How can the Yale College Council work alongside campus organizations to improve students’ lives?
Take sexual misconduct as an example. Currently, those wishing to report cases of sexual misconduct must do so by either phone or email — neither of which are anonymous, and both of which require extra legwork from the reporting party. (Can you name any Title IX officials?) We need to create an anonymous online system to remove unnecessary barriers to reporting cases of sexual misconduct. And we need to ensure that decision makers in cases of formal complaints come from a wider variety of backgrounds by increasing student representation and advocating for more diversity on the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct.
It is unfair that many students miss meals because of their busy schedules and inflexible dining hours, and that student athletes can barely return from practice on time to make it to dinner. Luckily, administration is open to working with us to address this issue. Here’s the thing: We’re trying to avoid raising the costs of the meal plan even higher than they already are. I’m proposing a pilot plan where we stagger the dinner hours of a pair of colleges — for example, Berkeley would be open from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Hopper from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., and they would rotate each semester. This will lead to minimal, if any, increases in labor costs.
Wait times at Mental Health & Counseling are still far too long. The most obvious solution is to simply push for more clinicians. But from the University’s point of view, it already has a low student-to-clinician ratio compared to peer institutions, and it is hiring four additional clinicians next year. While we should continue to advocate for more, we need to think of other ways to decrease wait times. That’s why YCC should actively work with the administration and wellness groups to create a wellness center that will support students facing less serious mental health problems. This will decrease wait times at Mental Health & Counseling, provide interim support for students who face the longest wait times and encourage students who are hesitant to reach out about their problems to seek out help.
For any long-term or short-term change to be enacted, the administration needs to see plans that are concrete, feasible and impactful. I argue that my policies are all three. Most importantly, they reflect discussions I’ve had with students coming from a wide range of backgrounds over the past two years. A nonrepresentative student government has no legitimacy in the eyes of students or administration, and we need non-YCC students to be actively engaged in realizing our common goals.
To achieve this, YCC needs a president who has experience outside of the council. My dedication to strengthening ties between the YCC and cultural organizations stems from my heavy involvement in both, as I’ve served as an intercultural liaison in the Asian American Students Alliance and as a co-moderator of the Taiwanese American Society. I am also a member of the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, which offers me valuable insight into formal proceedings relating to sexual assault cases on campus. And as you all know from all the times you’ve seen “Shunhe Wang added a photo in Yale Memes for Special Snowflake Teens,” I’m willing to put myself out there for you guys.
YCC also needs a president who knows how student government and administration function. Effective external policies originate in efficient internal mechanisms. I have served on Morse College Council for two years and was the Morse representative to the YCC this year. As a representative, I worked toward improving pre-law resources and contributed to the continuation of the Yale Society Initiative, and as a member of the constitution and elections working group, I proposed constitutional changes to be debated later this month. I am keenly aware of YCC’s faults, and I believe I can make effective reforms because I care deeply about improving YCC and improving Yale. But I can’t do it by myself. Both I and the YCC need you, too. Let’s make you, the reason the YCC exists, a part of the change.
Shunhe Wang is a sophomore in Morse College and a YCC presidential candidate. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.