At the end of my first year, I ran for Berkeley College representative because Sydney Wade, then chief of staff, reached out to our Black Women’s GroupMe, pointed out that she was the only black woman on council that year and encouraged more black women to run. This is what inspired me then to apply for the executive board position of student outreach coordinator and now to run for president.
I am running for president in part because a student council should always be descriptive of the student body and that is made very difficult when not all groups in the student body are represented. This allows for more productive and informative conversations to occur, and that’s when real change can happen. Being a part of Yale College Council this past year has given me experiences I never would have gotten otherwise. As student outreach coordinator, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with student groups and student leaders across campus. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with administrators who seemed unreachable before. I am now running for president because I believe we can form coalitions of student groups on campus to push for the changes we want in the administration.
Along with the task of making the council more diverse, I also want to expand our outreach into New Haven. Through the creation of YCC field trips, partnered with other student groups, Yale students have the opportunity to volunteer with an organization within the New Haven community. These trips can allow students to create bonds with organizations and return later.
My vision to help put students first is to strengthen the relationship between YCC and other student organizations. YCC has relationships with administrators and creates real change on campus — but it doesn’t mean much if students don’t recognize that. With the creation of YCC newsletters, the student body can be updated at every step of the way. This newsletter would create a space for students to see just where YCC is in the semester and serve as an opportunity to hold us accountable. It would also feature 2–3 student organizations, who they are and what they do on campus. We would invite them to council to update us on their activities so that all of council can be informed, because campus organizations are one of the ways students currently try to communicate with the administration. Making the YCC into a platform for those groups to interact with the administration would help amplify all of our voices.
Along with structural and internal YCC change, I would also advocate strongly for changes that the student body wishes to see, focusing primarily on financial aid reform and mental health. As a low-income student, financial aid has been a concern of mine since getting into Yale. I am lucky that a majority of my aid comes from outside scholarships, but other students are not so fortunate. Your Yale experience should not be based on your income level and I would advocate for real financial aid reform to be seen. Speaking with administrators regarding financial aid policies, informing them of student concerns and helping to make the process easier to understand is a goal of mine.
Mental health reform is also important to me because Yale is a very stressful place, and considering that most people get diagnosed with a mental illness in college, better structures should be in place to help students who do go through these challenges. These structures should be created both by the administration and student groups. There are already student groups working around mental health at Yale and YCC can aid them in any way they need, as well as crafting our own ways to help. Diversity of Yale Health therapists, as well as shorter wait times to see therapists, are on my list as ways to improve the mental health of students.
Working with Matt Guido ’19, Nick Girard ’19 and Devyn Rigsby ’19, as well as the other amazing members of council and the executive board, has been a highlight of my year. As student outreach coordinator, I’ve gained skills that I will be able to take with me for the rest of my life and into the presidency. Having only one year of experience within YCC does not hinder me — it is advantageous. I have no preconceived notions of what YCC needs to be and can therefore bring about the revolutionary change that is needed. Before joining, I heard concerning things about YCC, but luckily this wasn’t my experience. Now it’s time the whole student body know too.
YCC has the potential to be an amazing organization for all students. If we work together, current and future generations of Yale students can have a better Yale. If we make the YCC an even better representative of our voices, we can truly put students first.
Azaria King is a sophomore in Berkeley College and a YCC presidential candidate. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .