At the inaugural meeting of the Council of Representatives at the beginning of the fall semester, 232 students attended. At the first Council meeting of the spring semester on Jan. 27, just 23 students attended.
The Council of Representatives is a newly-formed Yale College Council body made up of various student leaders across campus, the meetings of which are open to the general public. YCC president Sal Rao ’20 and vice president Heidi Dong ’20 proposed creating the council during their campaign last spring to foster collaboration between the student body on relevant student issues. At the first meeting of the Council, Yale College Dean Marvin Chun praised the Council’s creation, adding that it could become a space to glean student input about campus-wide issues more effectively.
While many students expressed interest in the idea at its inception, attendance has since dwindled. The 23 attendees also included leaders of the Council — Alex McGrath ’21, Aivy Duong ’21 and Chris Chen ’20.
“We didn’t have many expectations for attendance [at] our last meeting, as the meetings are open to any concerned members of the community, and not required,” Chen said.
Rao added that the issue of declining attendance at Council meetings reflects broader problems for the YCC. Citing various YCC initiatives, such as YCC catch-ups and Facebook videos, she emphasized that there is no way to guarantee that students will actually read or watch what the YCC publicizes. Similarly, she said, the YCC has no desire to mandate attendance for students at the Council meetings.
But Rao maintained that even having just one student attend a Council meeting is better than nothing. She added that the Council meetings are an outlet for any student who wants to know more about what the YCC is doing.
“You can take the horse to the water but you can’t make it drink,” Rao said. “It’s terrifying when things get off the ground and are new, and you don’t know how successful they’re going to be.”
Rao said that since its inception, the Council has worked on reconfiguring its mission, electing leadership and publicizing YCC initiatives. Some topics discussed at the Council’s last meeting included YCC’s plans for providing free menstrual products to students and improving the on campus absentee ballot system. But Rao added that these are just “baby steps” in terms of her hopes for the Council’s development in the future.
Despite relatively low attendance, Rao maintained that the Council of Representatives will “100 percent” continue operating in the foreseeable future. Chen added that being a council officer has already been “an incredibly rewarding experience.”
“I envision the future of the Council as a means for student issues to quickly move from campus groups to the highest level of the YCC and Yale administration and transform into positive action — in a way that further enriches Yale’s campus and broader student community,” Chen said.
The next Council of Representatives meeting will be held on Feb. 17.
Alayna Lee | email@example.com