Yale College Council vice-presidential candidate Heidi Dong ’20 hopes to improve relations between students and the YCC by creating “one connected campus.”
Dong, who is campaigning on a joint platform with presidential candidate Saloni Rao ’20, said she hopes to restructure the YCC with the creation of a new student council and to implement reforms to improve Yale’s mental health services and sexual climate. She is running against Remy Dhingra ’20 and Casey Ramsey ’20 for the position.
“[Rao] and I have talked a lot about how we can improve relationships between YCC and student organizations on campus,” said Dong, who currently serves as the YCC’s University services director, in an interview with the News. “We often find that there are a lot of student organizations that the YCC just never reaches out to, so we’re missing a big chunk of what the student body is thinking.”
To address this issue, Dong has proposed the creation of a new YCC council, composed of one to two representatives from most student organizations, including cultural centers, Greek organizations and service groups. The council would aim to create a “two-way dialogue” between the YCC and student organizations, Dong said. The YCC’s existing council of two representatives from each residential college would remain in place and be renamed the Senate.
While Dong acknowledged that creating the new council may sound difficult, she said the group would only convene about once a month and that many student organizations have already expressed interest in participating.
Dong said she is running alongside Rao, who currently serves as YCC’s academics director, because they share a similar vision for YCC to have “more buy-in from students.” If elected, Dong said, she and Rao, who lead policy groups on mental health and sexual climate, respectively, would benefit from their “complementary expertise” in a broad range of student issues.
As vice president, Dong said she would push to expand support groups at Yale Mental Health and Counseling and to introduce video intake appointments, so that students can begin attending support groups while they wait to have a personal therapist assigned to them. Dong said she would also investigate leave of absence and reinstatement policies and strive to centralize resources for reporting sexual assault and harassment complaints.
Dong, who served as a YCC Morse representative last year, said her extensive experience on YCC will enable her to effectively implement new policies, as well as to revive old projects that the Council has neglected due to frequent board turnover.
“One thing that Sal and I benefit from, from having been on YCC for two years, is that we’ve seen a lot of projects come and go … because we’ve seen some of these projects for ourselves, we have some institutional memory to go off of,” Dong said.
As University services director, Dong helped launch a pilot program to provide free menstrual hygiene products in three residential colleges this year. She also led efforts to launch the Yellow shuttle line, which services science buildings and the new residential colleges up Prospect Street. Dong also worked on several projects in collaboration with Yale Dining to better accommodate dietary restrictions and explore the possibility of expanding dining hours and turning dining halls into study spaces.
Two students who have worked with Dong on YCC praised her professional leadership style and dedication to YCC.
Ryley Constable ’21, who worked under her on the University services policy group this year, recalled Dong’s ability to negotiate effectively with administrators while advocating for the new shuttle line. Constable added that Dong’s platform “shows an understanding of policy with greater depth than the other candidates,” while still accounting for the scope of YCC’s power and fitting into Yale’s budget.
“Simply put, she has the perfect leadership style for executive leadership in YCC,” Constable said. “She’s earned the respect of everyone that she’s worked with in the context of YCC for this reason and she’ll continue to lead YCC well if elected.”
Kate Tanawattanacharoen ’19, YCC’s former University services director, fully endorsed Dong as the best candidate for YCC vice-president.
“At Yale, our attention is pulled in every direction. It is very easy for council members to be completely swamped during the week of a midterm and be less responsive than they typically are … In my time working with Heidi, this has never been the case,” Tanawattanacharoen said. “I have no doubt that she completely understands the process of creating and advocating for campus policies.”
Dong, a molecular, cellular and developmental biology major, is also a campus tour guide and a Community Health Educator.
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