Paul Pineda

The Yale College Council announced Monday that they will postpone all elections until September, delaying the turnover of the president, vice president, executive board and senators.

While elections typically take place at the end of spring semester, the YCC proposed fall voting in light of the COVID-19 crisis. The YCC adopted this motion last Monday as part of a general YCC COVID-19 Operational Plan, with 21 senators approving the plan at large and one abstaining due to concerns about elections overlapping with shopping period. The YCC announced the changes in an email to the entire student body one week after the vote. In an email to the News, YCC Vice President Grace Kang ’21, who is in charge of elections, said the move would allow students to campaign in a more stable environment next semester.

“The sad reality is that while you have some people who are at homes where they can lock themselves in their offices to run successful campaigns, other students are either struggling to find a quiet place to work or have their minds occupied with something else,” Kang told the News. “We are in an unordinary situation, and it calls for an unordinary set of procedures. We wanted to find the best way to accommodate all of the students interested in running for these positions.”

YCC President Kahlil Greene ’21 echoed Kang, stating that elections require a lot of time and technological resources, which many students do not have during this time. He cited this potential barrier to access as the main reason YCC developed the resolution to push, which Greene and Kang drafted in consultation with two past YCC presidents, Joe English ’17 and Saloni Rao ’20.

Greene also pointed out the stress that accompanies elections, and said that the YCC does not want to add an undue burden to students who might already be struggling due to the COVID-19 crisis. Although Greene recognized that inequity still exists for students running campaigns in the fall, he said that pushing elections was still the best way to ensure that every student gets a “fair chance.”

“We do not feel there was any way to viably run an election in the current crisis that we are experiencing — at least in a way that gives every student a fair shot at being elected, and protects the well-being of candidates,” Greene wrote in an email to the News. “The same pool of potential candidates will all be given the opportunity to run in the fall.” 

Generally, the YCC holds elections in the spring, allowing the president and vice president to use the summer to select their cabinets and plan for the upcoming year. But due to the coronavirus outbreak, all turnover will take place in the fall — when the YCC typically holds elections to fill senate vacancies left over from the spring.

Although the eventual president and vice president will not have the summer months to prepare, Greene said that he and Kang will be reaching out to all candidates over the summer to help them formulate concrete plans and “hit the ground running” should they be elected. Greene said that he will hold information sessions over the summer to give advice to all candidates. He also said his eventual role on the YCC Board of Trustees will be a way for him to stay involved and ensure a smooth transition in the fall.

“We will be right there, side by side with the new people to get them started because of the shortened timeline,” Greene said. “We believe that with the proper accommodations and proper planning ahead, it won’t affect too much of the administration for next year.”

Tyler Bleuel ’20, the former YCC Events Director, took to Twitter following the Monday email announcement to condemn the delay of elections. He told the News that as a former events director, he knows how much large-scale, event-planning is necessary during the summer, and he is concerned as to how YCC operation will work without summer preparation.

In a message to the News, Bleuel also expressed concerned with the lack of student input in the decision. He pointed to the lack of any announcement about the vote on YCC social media, or any available link to the senate meeting, as indicators that the YCC should have been more transparent with the process.

“While the senate technically has the power to make such amendments, I feel like such a drastic change should have involved some student-body input,” Bleuel wrote. “I think they should recognize that this feels like a major decision made with minimal/no student input, and that it’s not a perfect solution. If there was more student engagement and awareness, we wouldn’t be so caught off guard, even if the outcome were the same.”

Bleuel is a senior, meaning that he will be unable to vote in the fall elections. He said that given seniors’ wealth of experiences at Yale, he feels that the YCC will be missing out on “important insights” by not including them in the vote.

The “FAQ” section of the YCC resolution responded to this issue, saying that it is more representative to have the Class of 2024 vote than to “stratify voters based on access to resources” — which is what would happen if the council were to hold a virtual vote this semester, the resolution stated.

In addition to election postponement, the YCC COVID-19 Operational Plan laid out how the YCC expects to operate during the crisis. The approved plan relaxed all YCC duties, and only asked members of the executive board to stay on to perform “critical duties” until the next elections, barring individual extenuating circumstances. Greene said that the YCC will focus on responding to COVID-19 and “holding down the fort” until the next election cycle.

The plan also allowed senators to opt-in to YCC duties for the rest of the semester, but the council did not require individuals to continue work. One such senator — Saket Malhotra ’23, one of Pauli Murray’s reps — chose to continue his work on the YCC, but said that he was grateful that those in difficult circumstances could excuse themselves.

“I am in a position where I am able to continue service without too much difficulty at the moment,” Malhotra said. “As we advocate on behalf of students in making this sudden transition to home life as easy and equitable as possible, the YCC needs as many hands on deck to help out.”

In addition to voting on the COVID-19 Operational Plan, the YCC also voted last Monday to support a Universal Pass grading policy.

Amelia Davidson | amelia.davidson@yale.edu