Yale College Council campaign season started this past weekend, which means you’ve been flooded with a wave of GroupMe messages, Instagram stories and Facebook posts from candidates. After the millionth statement that begins with “My name is,” and ends with “please vote for me,” you might be compelled to shut down all of your social media for the week. When this happens, fight the urge. I request this not for my sake, but for your own.
During my campaign for YCC President in the spring of 2019, classmates who stayed involved with the candidacy process pushed me to form coherent and comprehensive plans to address the issues they faced. I had to earn their trust to earn their support. I committed to bold ideas to help the campus community, and because of these public commitments, I was responsible for enacting them throughout my term. This is the importance of the election season.
This past year, we felt the results of the student body choosing their representatives wisely. The YCC’s radical impact on the student experience has been indisputable. Case in point: check your transcript from last semester.
Our progressive effectiveness as an organization began with the 2018–19 administration, but was fully achieved this year, as I guided the YCC with two of my campaign promises: first, to “[be] more responsive to contemporary campus concerns” and second, to “increase our interactions with the campus community.”
In short, our YCC affected more students because, last year, we pledged to work alongside more students. For example, the Universal Pass/Fail proposal wasn’t just implemented because of policy reports and speeches. It was achieved because we leveraged the organizing efforts of #NoFailYale and the dozens of other campus organizations that sponsored the policy. Similarly, the YCC and the Endowment Justice Coalition gained an audience of the dean of Yale College, the director of administrative affairs, and Yale’s chief investment officer to advocate for divestment largely because of the strategic protests that occurred at and around the Yale-Harvard game. And in the same vein, our “Yale Together” campaign raised over $55,000 for racial justice nonprofits because we carried out the initiative with a coalition of over 80 student organizations.
Fittingly, our campaign slogan was “Let’s keep going.” It was meant to convey a specific message: The YCC before ours was a successful student government, but by working with student activists and more student groups, our administration would be more successful than any previous one.
We kept to our word. We kept going.
Soon, though, every single person serving on the YCC will give up their roles. What happens next? Will the organization keep going?
Well, that’s up to you.
As the University struggles to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, high-level decision-makers are more malleable and accepting of creative ideas and reasoned advocacy. While it is my hope that administrators include more and more students in these discussions, right now, their instinct is first and foremost to consult the student body’s elected representatives. YCC members have to advise, argue and advocate to everyone with authority at Yale, from your professors to President Salovey.
Knowing that the new YCC representatives will have this power and responsibility, don’t you want to ensure your representatives actually represent you?
If so, you should engage with YCC elections as much as possible. My predecessors, Sal Rao and Heidi Dong, wrote a beautiful op-ed about the need for students to run for YCC positions. Of course, as I have mentioned, students can fight for what they believe in both inside and outside of student government. But no matter where you are, I urge you to make sure that those in YCC positions still embody the changes you want to see on campus.
With over 100 candidates in total in this election, it is clear that there is a ton of interest in student government. This is because the YCC has not only been very successful, but also very visible. We are one of the few student groups that can still operate entirely in a virtual environment, and we’ve made sure to host numerous welcome events and information sessions for all interested students. This is also the first election season where YCC Affinity Networks have conducted outreach to students from underrepresented groups on campus.
While high interest and diversity are great, ensuring a leader’s policies actually benefit the communities they claim to represent is far more important.
The only way you can do this is by paying close attention to the issues these candidates point out and the solutions they offer to fix them. Forums like the YCC-YDN debate tomorrow will require the candidates to lay bare all of their plans and proposals. But even these structured events have limitations and may not provide all of the information you want personally before casting your vote.
So, you must take initiative. Don’t scroll past the campaign statement that shows up on your feed. Read it. Comment on it. Question it. Critique it. Email candidates to ask what they will do for you. Direct-message them to understand how they will better student government for years to come. Most importantly, vote at the end of this week. You must actively engage with the election process to make sure the YCC’s success continues in the way you need it to.
Now, it’s up to you to make sure we keep going.
KAHLIL GREENE is a senior in Timothy Dwight College. He is the president of the Yale College Council. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .