Courtesy of Abey Philip

Abey Philip ’22 and Matthew Murillo ’22 are using their experiences as first-generation low-income students to run on what they call the most progressive and intersectional platform the Yale College Council elections have ever seen.

Philip and Murillo, if elected, would be the first FGLI ticket to lead the YCC. Both point to their FGLI identities as the main reasons for why they decided to run. Philip has served as a YCC Senator, the vice president of the Benjamin Franklin College Council and a sustainability liaison. Murillo has never served on the YCC. 

This summer, both of their family’s suffered from unforeseen health care costs and job loss associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. They said that this exposed many of Yale’s pandemic shortcomings. They decided that heading the YCC was the way that they could reform Yale’s health care system and remove institutional barriers for FGLI students and students of color.

“Our skin is in the game,” Philip said. “Because, if we don’t pay attention to these policies, our families are hurt, we are hurt and our fellow students are hurt. And that kind of skin in the game isn’t usually seen within traditional YCC candidacies. Because at the end of the day they can leave Yale, and nothing will happen, but if we leave Yale, we don’t have health insurance. We’re still food insecure. We’re still housing insecure. We have to pay attention.”

While the two have centered their FGLI identities prominently in their campaign, Philip also pointed to his identity as a queer person of color as an important factor influencing his candidacy. He said that FGLI students and queer students of color are significantly underrepresented within the YCC, and Philip hopes to remove barriers to entry for such students if elected.

Murillo grew up in West Haven, just 10 minutes away from Yale’s campus, and points to his experience living in the area as a unique qualification for serving as vice president. 

“When the student body leaves over the summer, I’m still here,” he said. “I’m still the one that sees the after effects of certain Yale policies that directly impact the city. And I want a voice in [the YCC] that can … push Yale and push Yale policies towards bettering the city and towards making closer connections that don’t have adverse effects.”

The two have divided their platforms into seven pillars: health care and the COVID-19 response, the defunding and dismantling of the Yale Police Department, protection and empowerment of FGLI students, sustainability at Yale and in New Haven, the support of women, gender minorities, and queer and transgender students, YCC reform and Yale’s relationship with New Haven. 

The two told the News that they wrote out their entire platform in a 40-page document, and revised it at least seven times. They said each pillar has been heavily researched and includes specific implementation plans.

The aspect of their platform that Philip and Murillo stress the most is health care reform. Both have had to deal with unforeseen health care costs, and Murillo’s family contracted COVID-19 this summer, with his parents spending significant time in the hospital. They say that their experiences have taught them that Yale’s health care system is, in their opinion, not adequate to protect FGLI students when those students  are not physically on Yale’s campus. They wrote a detailed plan to change the system entirely and met with Yale Health Director Paul Genecin to ensure that their plan was feasible.

“Because we care so much about our communities — whether it is [the] New Haven community, queer communities, low income communities — because we’re in these communities every single day, we took the time to research — meticulously research — every single one of our policies,” Philip said. “ It’s very easy to write down bullet points and platitudes. But we have to care about these policies because if we don’t care about these policies then it’s our communities that are hurt.”

Philip and Murillo also emphasize intersectionality in their platform. When drafting policies for their candidacy, Philip’s rule was that “if it’s not intersectional, it’s not a good policy.” Philip cited his past successes in the YCC — such as subsidized laundry materials, which both help FGLI students and make laundry more sustainable — as indicators that he can create policies that tackle multiple issues.

Philip and Murillo call their platform the most progressive that the YCC has ever seen. They say that they are tackling issues — like health care — that the YCC had previously shied away from because of feasibility concerns. But Philip and Murillo said that they have talked to the relevant administrators, done the research and that their plans are feasible — and necessary — for the moment.

Murillo told the News that often the FGLI communities “are advocated for, but we’re at a point where we need to be represented at the decision making table.” 

When asked why he decided to run for YCC office, Philip said that often students run for YCC positions for “clout or resume building.” 

“But our communities are on the line,” he said. “It’s as simple as that. If we don’t win, and if we don’t get our policies at the forefront of the administration and at the forefront of the YCC, then we’re not going to get health care. … We’re going to still be food insecure and housing insecure. We’re never going to be able to advocate for our communities in as prominent a position as YCC president and [vice president]. We’re in it because it matters. We can’t afford to wait. We can’t afford to stay on the sidelines. And we’re running for our lives.”

Voting for YCC elections will take place on Sept. 17 and 18.