Yale College Council President Kahlil Greene ’21 is steering the YCC ship from an apartment in Maryland, taking on move-out logistics and the Universal Pass/Fail debate with the occasional break to watch pandemic-related movies.
Greene is quarantining in his older brother’s apartment in North Bethesda, MD. He spent the beginning of spring break in California, and upon returning to Maryland he decided to self-isolate in his brother’s apartment as opposed to risking exposing his parents, one of whom is immunocompromised, to the virus. Greene’s county in Maryland has over 1,500 confirmed cases of the virus.
“I’m infinitely busier now [than at Yale],” Greene said. While most of his time at the beginning was spent on moving out, “once the YCC voted on [Universal Pass], it was just full-on activist, advocacy mode, just making sure UP got passed. And luckily it did, so it wasn’t all for nothing. But that definitely was a full-time thing,” he said.
Greene’s advocacy around Universal Pass has taken up much of his time in quarantine. Neither he nor his brother cook very much, so one of their first big expeditions was to the supermarket to buy massive quantities of cereal and milk. Now, Greene jokes, his day mostly consists of waking up, answering emails, going to class and eating cereal.
Greene was involved with the Universal Pass movement since the end of spring break, when a friend of his reached out about expanding Credit/D/Fail. Greene connected him with some YCC senators, who examined different policies and eventually came up with the idea of No Fail Yale.
The YCC could not officially support Universal Pass until a Senate vote was conducted, which could only happen after spring break. But in the interim period, Greene spent a lot of time reading people’s arguments on Facebook, and contacting anyone who seemed to have a strong opinion either for or against the policy. He presented his findings, as well as the results of the Residential College Council surveys and the results of the student body survey to the Senate, which ultimately voted for Universal Pass in a 20-1-1 vote.
“Once the YCC officially voted to support UP, then the gloves came off in that regard,” Greene said. “So I was able to work with all the activists very specifically, come up with arguments and prepare.”
At the first faculty meeting on the issue of a universal grading policy, Greene gave a speech about why many students want Universal Pass.
Originally, a decision was expected to be released on April 2, directly following the meeting. But during the meeting, the faculty appeared to support a universal policy — a change from a faculty survey that was conducted earlier in the week. Due to the discrepancy, Chun announced that he would delay the official decision until after another faculty poll could be conducted.
“[Chun] ended up delaying it on April 3, which happened to be my birthday,” Greene said. “So I spent my birthday responding to emails about Dean Chun’s delay of the whole situation. I got one hour to do a live with my friend. That was absolutely it. Like, I don’t know what happened that day, honestly.”
Greene spoke again at a faculty information session before the second survey was conducted. The survey closed on April 6, and found that 55 percent of faculty members supported a universal policy. The following day, Chun announced his decision to enact a Universal Pass/Fail system. Green said it was a “huge sigh of relief,” after nearly two weeks of nonstop work. Now, he is scheduling meetings with his professors to catch up on the schoolwork that took a backseat to his YCC advocacy during that time.
The YCC is now focusing solely on responding to COVID-19-related issues, and all other projects have been put on hold. Greene says that there were exciting initiatives that were meant to be rolled out in the spring, such as Amazon lockers on campus and a more streamlined certificate program across all departments.
While Greene wishes that those initiatives would have been able to proceed as planned, he says he is “not too pressed” that he will be finishing his term responding solely to COVID-19. His advocacy for Universal Pass, especially, made him feel like he is having just as much of an impact from quarantine as he would have had on campus.
“A student government’s job is to solve issues,” Greene said. “I think, especially with the whole UP thing, I feel very fulfilled, knowing that there was almost a zero percent chance it was going to go through in the beginning, and then it actually passed. So in that regard, I do feel like I’m still having an impact, and I’m still carrying on my duties.”
As the semester closes out, Greene will keep working on the rollout of Universal Pass/Fail, dealing with any issues as they arise. He is also helping to tutor his cousins who are quarantined in Harlem. While Greene does not personally feel scared about the current situation, he said that he is acutely aware of how COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting black, native and low-income communities, and he hopes to learn and do more advocacy around that in the coming months.
When Greene returns to Yale, he will be a senior, and after the YCC elections that are set to take place two weeks into the school year, he will no longer be YCC president. But, once again, he said he is “not too pressed” about his role coming to a close, and that he feels like he is ready to move on.
“The YCC is a very hard role. It’s a lot of work that’s behind the scenes, a lot of thankless work, a lot of emails and a lot of attention you have to divert from your friends and your classes,” Greene said. “All that is to say that it’s a fulfilling job but it’s not the most fun or rewarding job. So I’m not complaining [about finishing it out at home], and also like I still am having an impact, so I’m not getting completely robbed or anything.”
Amelia Davidson | firstname.lastname@example.org
This story is part of a larger series profiling Yale and New Haven community members during the COVID-19 pandemic. To read more, click here.