Yale College Council President Sal Rao ’20 and Vice President Heidi Dong ’20 at a Wednesday interview with the News announced a long list of policy initiatives they want the YCC to undertake this year. First on their list is an internal restructuring of the organization to ensure stronger ties between YCC and the student body, in cooperation with the deans of student life.
During their election campaign, Rao and Dong proposed an increase in student leader representation in the YCC. This academic year, they said, they hope to follow through with that idea by creating a new body within the YCC known as the Council of Representatives, composed of leaders from various student groups on campus, with the goal of creating “grassroots change.”
“It would be a more representative body,” Rao told the News, adding that the new council would “better hold the YCC accountable, talk with administrators and, in the interest of transparency, kind of figure out what’s going on.”
Previously, the YCC was composed of two main bodies: first, an executive board composed of 11 members, including the president, the vice president and a host of directors for all aspects of student life; and second, a council of representatives comprising two representatives from each residential college.
Now, Rao and Dong intend to create a third body. The previous 28-member Council of Representatives will be renamed the Senate, while the new third body, comprised of student leaders, will be called the Council of Representatives.
Rao and Dong said they hope that as a result of this structural reform, students will feel more connected to their representatives and to the governing student organization as a whole.
“The other goal that we should have this year — and we do have this year — is to make students feel that that the YCC is a legitimate body, and to have that buy-in from students,” Rao explains. “[We want] every single student on this campus to say, ‘This is a person on the YCC, and I feel comfortable texting them when I see anything wrong on this campus that I want to see change in.’”
One student who has bought in to that idea is Jordan Cozby ’20, president of the Yale Democrats and head of the newly created Yale Votes task force. Cozby reached out to Rao over the past summer to discuss his goal of increasing voter participation and registration for the November elections. In response, the YCC connected him to the Registrar’s Office and a variety of partner organizations. The end result is a task force of 15-20 student-group leaders from across campus. Their first meeting is scheduled for Sept. 3.
According to Dong, the task forces used to function independently from the old Council of Representatives, which consisted of two elected members from each residential college. In contrast, this year’s task force will be embedded within the new Council of Representatives, allowing members from various student groups greater access to information about such task forces.
Sammy Landino ’21, the YCC’s task force director and a columnist for the News, praised the internal structural reform, describing the new council as one of YCC’s “most ambitious structural innovations.”
“The council’s great because it serves as a direct finger on the pulse of the Yale student body vis-a-vis their input,” Landino explained.
In addition to the structural reform, Rao and Dong are focusing on financial and constitutional reform.
Along with YCC Communications Director Brienna Carter ’21, Rao and the executive team of the YCC have proposed an overhaul of the YCC constitution to better reflect how the body actually functions, Rao said. Members of the YCC will vote upon its ratification at their first meeting.
“Another one of our general initiatives and reforms is financial transparency,” Rao said. “The vast majority of our funds come from the student activity fee money. And so, we are responsible to students for letting them know proactively how their money is being spent. And spending that money in the best way possible, which is something that didn’t happen previously, perhaps, in YCC administrations.”
In February 2018, the previous YCC board used student activity fee money to purchase custom-made Patagonia sweaters for all 13 members of its events committee. Soon after the News contacted then-YCC president Matt Guido ’19 about the purchase in April, Guido sent an email to the YCC members who received Patagonias asking that they reimburse the organization for the sweaters, which the members thought they had received for free.
Rao concluded her interview with the News by discussing the importance of fostering transparency between the YCC and the student body and promising to increase communications. In an effort to do so, Rao said she has expanded the duties of the YCC communications director position, filled this year by Carter.
“[The position] always existed, but we’ve made it much more involved,” Carter explained. “It was sending out emails to the class, writing reports, but this year it encompasses all social media and trying do things that aren’t just posting on Facebook when we have an initiative, but posting regularly, trying to get the student body involved in what we do.”
This year, the YCC also hopes to reach more students through their new Instagram account @the_real_ycc inspired by those of student government members from Princeton and Harvard.
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