Around 25 people gathered in Linsly-Chittenden Hall on Tuesday night to listen to Yale College Council candidates during a debate co-hosted by the YCC and the News. Compared to last year’s election — which featured nine candidates — this year’s election pool is considerably smaller. The president and vice president positions each have one candidate, while two are competing for the events director post.
Though the YCC requires that any organization that chooses to endorse a candidate must attend the debate, only three organizations —Branford College Council, Fans of the New England Patriots and Dwight Hall at Yale — showed up.
The debate consisted of three segments, beginning with a debate between the two candidates for events director — Chloe Adda ’22 and Steven Orientale ’21 — and continuing with the uncontested candidates for vice president and president, Grace Kang ’21 and Kahlil Greene ’21 respectively.
According to the YCC website, the events director is responsible for leading both the Events Committee and the Spring Fling Committee in their efforts “to host engaging and accessible events for the student population at large.” While both candidates agreed that the events committee should more accurately reflect Yale’s student body and that there is a need for greater financial transparency, they each had a unique proposal for accomplishing these goals.
Orientale said that although the events committee is funded by a student activity fee that is attached to Yale’s tuition bill, there is a “lack of accountability and transparency to the student body as a whole,” preventing students’ voices from being fully heard. Part of Orientale’s platform includes publicly publishing the events committee’s spending budget. He noted that only two surveys of the student body were sent out this year, and added that he would like to implement initiatives such as an open forum or suggestion box as well as introduce more surveys in order for events to better reflect what students would like to see.
Adda, whose platform includes establishing a fund for students who want to participate in events but financially cannot, agreed that incorporating student voices into the events committee is important for the future. But she noted that there is a “divide between the student body and the YCC events committee,” and said that many students do not even know that the committee exists. Logistically, Adda said that the process for creating her proposed fund has already begun. She said that this past year, the Events Committee has earmarked costs leftover from planned events. In the future, she added, they can centralize this money and send out surveys for students who may need the money to give them the chance express interest in using it.
In response to a question asking if the candidates believe the YCC Senate should have more or less oversight over the spending of the Events Committee, Orientale’s and Adda’s opinions diverged. While Orientale said that the Senate should have more oversight, again citing the student activities fund and how the YCC Senate is meant to represent the student body, Adda said that she does not “think that is necessary.” From Adda’s experience on the events committee this past year, she said that the events budget is already approved by the YCC Senate. She said that adding more oversight would hinder the process, as the committee already faces difficulty in executing events with the time left over after the YCC Senate approves the budget.
The candidates also disagreed when answering a question asking which they would choose if deciding between four lesser known artists or one headliner act for Spring Fling. Though both candidates agreed that the four artists would help reflect the diversity in students’ music tastes, Adda also said that four artists could prove much more expensive. She added that since most of the money for Spring Fling goes towards production costs, she would first have to “consider budgets, how much four acts cost and [how this would] affect other events.”
Orientale responded in a rebuttal that the four artists would not “eat away at the budget,” since the YCC specifically allocates money for hiring Spring Fling acts. In another rebuttal, Adda maintained her position, adding that due to the expensive nature of manual labor, production costs make up most of the budget.
During candidate-specific questions, Adda was asked to explain one of the main points of her platform, which involves splitting the events director job into two separate posts and giving the co-director position to Nicole Zhen ’22, one of the other deputy events directors. Adda was also asked to justify why this position should be split, since other extracurriculars on campus require similarly strenuous time requirement and another candidate is willing to take on the position’s full responsibility.
“To me, the biggest disservice I could do is sit up here and say that I can properly run two committees, 40 to 50 hours a week, and actually execute it in a way that’s going to be reflecting what the student body wants and what it needs,” Adda said.
She added that this is not a position that can be compared to other extracurriculars, as the committee creates events that “families take money out of paychecks to pay for.” She clarified that in her proposed plan, she and Zhen would not each oversee separate events, but rather, they would work together for the entire committee.
Although Orientale has not served on the YCC Events Committee in the past, he said that his experience as a YCC Senator and President of the Jonathan Edwards College Council has provided him with the necessary policy and events-planning skills. Orientale, who has made integrating YCC policy goals into the events committee’s purview a large part of his campaign, added that he would be able to “handle all experiences.”
Following the contested events director debate, Kang, who is running for vice president, and Greene, who is running for president, took the stage.
Kang said that her experiences as YCC Student Life Director this past year have helped her learn “how policy advocacy works at Yale.” She added that the most important issues for her next year will include figuring out how to structure the organization internally.
She said that the main shortcoming of YCC’s policy work this past year was the length of time it took for problems to be researched, which made it more difficult for solutions to be implemented. Kang’s platform also emphasizes improving mental health at Yale, which she said could be accomplished through a budget proposal for Yale’s capital campaign.
“The current ratio of mental health clinicians to students is 460 students to clinician,” Kang said. “That is ridiculous.”
Greene, the sole candidate for president, was asked questions covering topics that ranged from the student share, to divestment, the role of fraternities at Yale and the future of the Program of Ethnicity, Race and Migration.
One of Greene’s campaign’s main pillars is a commitment to working with student activists on campus, which he said would involve the YCC taking a supporting role. He said that the YCC could help activists by providing publicity, access to administration and manpower. Greene also said that he believes issues like eliminating the student effort, colloquially known as the SIC, and divestment are “worth our time,” and that he cannot promise to solve them, but that he can “promise to make incremental reforms.” Additionally, he noted that he is “well aware of the safety concerns of fraternities,” and hopes to increase the amount of late night social spaces on campus.
“Yale has been in the news a lot this past year, when it comes to the Hall of Graduate Studies racial profiling incident, the admissions scandal and most recently the fight for ethnic studies,” Greene said. “Unfortunately, the YCC has remained silent on a lot of these issues, and I want that to change.”
Karen Li ’22, who attended the debate, said that though she is not sure which events director candidate she will vote for, they “both brought up very convincing arguments” and “have very different platforms.”
Another attendee, Daniel Guerra ’22, also said he does not know who he will vote for in the events director position. But he added that he particularly admired the presidential and vice presidential candidates, calling them “passionate and knowledgeable about how the YCC works.”
“I think in choosing a new events director, students should pay particular attention to who will be a responsible steward of what comes down to over 300,000 dollars of student money,” current YCC President Saloni Rao ’20 said.
Voting will open on Yale Collect at 9 a.m. on Thursday, April 11 and will close at 9 p.m. on Friday, April 12.
Alayna Lee | firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction, April 16: A previous version of this story said that the YCC election rule requiring that any organization that chooses to endorse a candidate must attend the debate was enacted this year. In fact, it has been in place for several years.