Citing a policy platform with 30 sub-sections and a total of eight student government titles between them, Aliesa Bahri ’22 and Reilly Johnson ’22 say they are prepared to take on the respective roles of Yale College Council President and Vice President.
The decision to run as a pair came naturally to Bahri and Johnson, as they served together as president and vice president, respectively, on the First Year Class Council, and then reversed roles on the Sophomore Class Council. Bahri, the current YCC policy director, and Johnson, former Ezra Stiles College Council president, have also both served in the YCC Senate, with Bahri as an associate senator and Johnson as a senator.
“We decided to run together because we felt that combined, we had a pretty robust knowledge of policymaking at Yale and activist culture at Yale,” Bahri said. “Combined between Reilly and I, we have served at every level of student government leadership. And we’ve probably tackled just about every campus issue, and if we haven’t tackled it, we do have a plan to.”
According to Bahri — who, if elected, would be the fourth female YCC president in the past two decades — student government experience is especially important this year, because unlike in years’ past, elected students will not have the summer to prepare for the term. Instead, they will start the job effectively immediately after the votes are tallied. Bahri said that even without these summer months, she and Johnson have already cultivated important relationships with administrators through their prior roles.
Although they both highlight their prior experiences in their platform, Bahri and Johnson want to make it clear that the two are not “establishment” candidates. They say they are running on a platform of reform: one that includes internal changes to the YCC that would involve eliminating the policy director position in favor of a committee-based model that could involve students in and out of the YCC
Bahri and Johnson also want to draw on their experience in organizations outside of the YCC to foster more collaboration between the council and other activist communities at Yale.
“I think the most distinctive difference between us and our predecessors is that we’re going to center organizations that have never received the attention of the YCC to the extent that they deserve,” Johnson said. “We’re going to center organizations tackling, for example, Yale paying its fair share to New Haven. We’re going to center organizations like Black Students for Disarmament, we’re going to center organizations like [the Endowment Justice Coalition]. Not only are we going to collaborate with them, but we’re going to amplify them and lend them the institutional power the YCC has built up since we were founded in 1972.”
Their platform is split into three sections: “ideas for a just Yale,” “ideas for an equitable Yale” and “ideas for a safe Yale.” Within those sections, the platform is subdivided into a total of 30 different issues that the two plan to tackle.
To create a more just Yale, Bahri and Johnson hope to engage in more social justice movements on campus. They want to address what Bahri calls the “moral atrocities” for which Yale is responsible, pointing to the Yale Police Department and the investment of the endowment. They say they plan to support efforts to defund and dismantle the Yale Police Department, support the Endowment Justice Coalition and support initiatives to ensure that Yale is paying its fair share to New Haven.
To create a more equitable Yale, Bahri and Johnson are focusing on “tackling lines of marginalization including gender, LGBTQ+ status, income, race, ethnicity and disability,” according to Johnson. This involves increasing funding for technology and dining subsidies, forming committees focused on diversifying academic curriculums and fostering counselling and mentorship for students who are not living in New Haven.
With regards to safety, the two are promoting initiatives meant to keep students safe during this global pandemic. They plan to disseminate information regarding testing guidelines and ensure students out of state are still receiving proper support and guidelines from Yale. They also want to push for the diversification of the staff of Yale Mental Health and streamline the process of scheduling telehealth appointments.
“[COVID-19] has changed our priorities … it’s never been clearer that students facing financial insecurity, housing insecurity and food insecurity need our support, and they need it badly,” Johnson said. “And that is the role of the YCC under Reilly and Aliesa, it’s prioritizing student needs.”
According to Bahri and Johnson, they have created a policy platform that plays to their strengths and their ability to collaborate. Although the two stressed that they have the utmost respect for standalone candidates, they feel that their partnership is “stronger than the sum of the parts,” Johnson said, and they encourage voters to cast their ballots for them as a team. Of the five candidates for president and vice president, Carlos Brown ’23 is the only one who is not campaigning with a running mate.
In speaking to the News, Bahri also addressed her and Johnson’s statuses as female candidates. There have only been three female YCC presidents in the last 20 years, she said, and Bahri said she feels that she and Johnson are often subject to scrutiny not applied to male candidates. Bahri said they frequently receive the label of “snakes” or “power-hungry.”
“Reilly and I are running because we genuinely care about student government, and because we feel like we are good at our jobs and want to keep doing it because we want to make a difference at Yale. And we’re no different from other candidates in those intentions,” Bahri said. “So I really hope in this election that regardless of who wins, our candidacy is considered fairly by our peers.”
Voting for YCC elections will take place on Sept. 17 and 18.