We at the News were pleased to see a larger, more diverse pool of candidates running for YCC president this election season. It is encouraging to see increased engagement in our student government, particularly after last year’s elections in which only two candidates — both male — ran for the position. Still, we acknowledge that quantity is no substitute for quality, and we have reservations about each candidate.
There is a front-runner in the race, in our opinion. Saloni Rao ’20 impressed us with her experience, competence and enthusiasm for the position. Both in her meeting with the News and her statements in Tuesday’s debate, Rao proved she is knowledgeable about how the YCC works and prepared to defend her ideas when challenged. Her platform is comprehensive yet pragmatic.
Unlike the majority of her opponents, she spoke realistically about the student income contribution, not promising to make huge leaps in a gridlocked policy area but describing incremental reforms such as providing resources for incoming first years trying to navigate Yale’s financial aid system. Her mental health policy objectives, like forming an inter-Ivy mental health coalition and creating counseling support groups, struck us as lofty but feasible. Rao has been remarkably proactive, already reaching out to student groups and incorporating into her platform the policy goals of uncontested incoming Events Director Caleigh Propes ’20, such as finalizing Spring Fling funding earlier in the year.
Admittedly, her plan to restructure the YCC is a radical change that leaves some lingering questions about effectiveness and inclusion. We applaud her efforts to make the YCC a more representative body by creating a council of student representatives in addition to the existing leadership structure, or senate. Increasing the size of the governing body may involve risks, but Yale’s student body will also be growing, and we think this attempt at engaging with less-represented members of student groups is laudable.
At the forefront of our reservations is the potential that many of Rao’s objectives involve increasing red tape in an already bureaucratic institution. Although she advocates a less top-down administrative approach, we worry that her restructuring proposal and her comfortable reliance on the YCC establishment may slow her down in her efforts to deliver. Still, she has given us reason to believe that she can navigate this bureaucracy nimbly and even broaden it to include a wider range of voices. With that said, we endorse her for president.
The other candidates brought less to the table. We admire Azaria King’s ’20 desire to lead the YCC on the basis of her disappointment in its lack of women of color. However, the lack of deliverable policy goals in her platform and in our conversation with her were disappointing. She spoke about leaving her platform purposefully vague in order to craft an agenda based on student feedback, while simultaneously calling attention to the lack of engagement students have with the YCC — even though she served as student outreach director this past year.
Christopher Moeckel ’20 stood out for his bold and proactive proposals, but we have concerns about his ability to effectively represent the entire student body. He lacks YCC experience and know-how, yet wants to significantly shrink and restructure the Council. His view of the YCC as an “activist body” seems potentially divisive, and out of all presidential candidates he struggled the most to name all of campus’ cultural centers in his meeting with the News.
While we acknowledge the importance of a YCC that acts fiercely on behalf of students, we are concerned that his plans for doing so will fracture the Council’s relationships with administrators. We appreciate Moeckel’s positions regarding mental health and the creativity apparent in his plan for reducing the student income contribution. Still, his plan to offer the administration an ultimatum for eliminating the student income contribution before creating his own 501(c)(3) nonprofit raises many logistical questions about sustainability, feasibility and productivity — and none of Moeckel’s answers to these questions left us satisfied.
Shunhe Wang ’20 has the drive and experience to do the job, but his policies seem largely unactionable. For example, his proposal to establish a campus wellness center did not address the fact that a similar center, Breathing Space, already exists. It is also unclear how exactly he plans to make headway on complicated initiatives like staggering dining hall hours. Nonetheless, we appreciated many of his ideas, such as his proposal for providing scholarships to students paying for the student income contribution who are heavily involved in Yale activities.
Similarly, Aadit Vyas ’20 undoubtedly has the experience, as the only candidate to have served as president of both the Freshman and Sophomore Class Councils and the Events Committee. Ultimately, though, his overcrowded platform pushes for vague reforms without specific roadmaps for each one. His expertise was clear, but the order of his priorities and the extent of student demand for some of them were less so.
The role of YCC president is demanding, and this campus demands a leader who will listen to the voice of every student and, in turn, speak loudly and persuasively to the administrators who must hear them. Rao’s extensive previous leadership roles in the YCC, combined with her desire to open up the organization to a wider audience, assure us that she is the right choice. Her sound proposals, prior experience and proactive approach position her well to bring the YCC forward.
Members of the managing board with personal ties to candidates in the race recused themselves from the conception and execution of this endorsement. The News considered each candidate in each race individually, irrespective of those running on tickets.