Kristina Kim

Saloni Rao ’20, who is running to succeed Matt Guido ’19 as president of the Yale College Council, does not have a platform.

Instead, she said, she has a realistic and detailed “plan” for what she aims to accomplish in the upcoming year. Rao, who announced her candidacy last Friday, has centered her campaign on several key themes — increasing support for student mental health, improving the sexual and social climate and reforming University policies to improve faculty diversity, increase financial aid transparency and introduce late night dining options, among other goals.

“I’m running for Yale College Council president because I believe that the organization can act as a more powerful vehicle for change and be more representative of the student body,” Rao told the News. “I will harness the power of the student body and increase the legitimacy and bargaining power of YCC as an institution.”

Rao’s opponents in the race for president are Christopher Moeckel ’20, Aadit Vyas ’20, Shunhe Wang ’20 and Azaria King ’20. If elected, she would be the first female president of YCC in nine years.

According to her campaign website, Rao plans to make the information on sexual assault and misconduct reporting more accessible by creating a 24-hour live-chat with Yale’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education Center. In addition, she aims to form an Inter-Ivy Mental Health Coalition to collectively pressure University administrators to make more mental health resources available. Rao, who is running alongside YCC vice-presidential hopeful Heidi Dong ’20, also hopes to increase student engagement with the YCC by creating a new legislative body within the Council composed of representatives from various student organizations.

Born in California, raised in Wisconsin and now living in Washington, D.C., Rao told the News that living in different environments has taught her how to connect with all types of people. Coming to Yale, she joined YCC to help make the Yale experience better for all students, she said.

As an associate representative on the Council last year, Rao worked on compiling a handbook of useful information for incoming first years. Hearing how helpful the handbook was for prefrosh who were nervous about making the transition to college was one of her proudest moments on YCC, she said.

This year, Rao has served as the academics director on the YCC executive board. On top of working with Council representatives to implement standardized First-Year Counselor training and piloting first-year specific OCS workshops, Rao took the lead in planning the YCC, GPSS and GSA Faculty Diversity Town Hall and chaired the YCC working group on sexual climate.

Current members of the YCC characterized Rao as a passionate and committed student and a natural leader. Kiran Damodaran ’21, who recently worked with Rao as a member of the working group on sexual climate, told the News that while YCC is often criticized as being inefficient or out of touch with student desires, Rao embodies exactly the opposite.

“She is passionate yet level-headed, committed but collaborative, and focused on making important change, while remaining creative and effective,” Damodaran wrote in an email to the News. “As a leader, she is extremely communicative and open-eared, which has allowed our group to be most effective in its review of sexual climate at Yale.”

Ryley Constable ’21, who was also part of Rao’s working group on sexual climate, similarly praised Rao’s leadership, commending her ability to bring people together toward a common goal. Rao’s dedication to the project also motivated other members of the committee to get more involved, Constable said.

Chloe Gonzalez ’20, who is on the Yale Color Guard Team with Rao, told the News that working with Rao is “an actual dream.”

“If she wants to get something done, she gets it done while being so smiley and cheerful the whole time,” Gonzalez said. “Even when things get unorganized and deadlines get a little close, she is always one step ahead.”

If elected, Rao will be the second woman to lead the YCC in the past decade. She told the News that deciding to run for YCC presidency was especially daunting given that no woman has held the position in the recent past.

“In the past, the YCC has faced difficulties in equitably representing all parts of the campus,” Rao said. “In particular, the lack of female representation made it difficult to decide whether to run for this role.”

Serena Cho | serena.cho@yale.edu