I was on a mission. In my CVS shopping cart: $450 worth of pads, tampons, condoms, Midol, ibuprofen, Band-aids and pregnancy tests. Yale had failed yet again to provide for the needs of the student body. Hundreds of undergraduates were quarantined on campus without access to menstrual hygiene products or safe sex supplies, and the Yale College Council was stepping in for Yale’s oversight.
I had taken on the task of organizing volunteers to make individual trips to CVS, buy hundreds of dollars of supplies as described in a Google Doc full of photos, and deliver these necessities contact-free to campus. I snapped some blurry maxi pad pics, and I was ready for the journey back.
Walking back down Whalley towards Stiles and Morse, I was struck by the sheer gravity of what we were doing. I may have been the one struggling with an armful of tampons, but it was the FroCos labelling the stockpiles in their damp basement laundry rooms. It was the volunteers getting up at 8 a.m. to make a delivery to Pauli Murray. It was a few of us showing up for all of us
It struck me that that moment, right then, was community. It was a moment of getting up and getting out and giving back. We had joined the long line of activists and advocates that have shaped Yale into what it is today.
Being a student at Yale is being part of the tradition of leaving something behind even when we’ve long left. There is so much that I have been given, so much I never had to fight for. I was allowed into this university on the backs of the women who fought so hard in the ’60s to coeducate Yale. I can protest on campus because of the generations of students that have exercised their freedom of expression. When I moved into Stiles, my housing options weren’t limited by gender, an achievement of student organization and advocacy dating back to before I even applied. Yale College is defined by the labor of the students that have come before.
I carry with me the momentum of this progress and I will continue in its tradition. In the coming years, I want students to look back and be relieved by the things they never had to face. I don’t want another student to ever struggle to find mental health care. I don’t want another class of students to live threatened by an unaccountable, private police force. I want divestment protests to be an artifact of history because Yale has become a leader in ethical investment. I want to play my small role in the never-ending reimagination and recreation of this place we call home.
When I saw just how many people volunteered their time and energy at a moment’s notice to provide the necessities of life to our quarantined peers, I saw clearly my vision for the future of the YCC. We will foster a community of support. We will uplift and join in the incredible work of the students of this college. We will show up for each other the way the off-campus volunteers showed up for on-campus students.
The YCC I envision attends to the needs of every Yale student. It combats racism, it supports FGLI students, it empowers women. It shows up for international students, LGBTQ students and students with disabilities. It prioritizes mental health, it works to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct, it strives for sustainability and endowment justice. It centers activists and amplifies their message. In all that it does, it pursues justice, equity and safety.
This year, defined as it is by pandemic and precarity, is about making resources available to students. More than ever before, it’s about paying attention to the needs of every member of our community. No longer can the YCC react to the administration. We must proactively identify, pursue and meet the needs of the student body.
This is especially true given the delayed election cycle. Whoever wins on Friday starts on Friday. That’s why Aliesa Bahri and I wrote a platform that addresses over 30 facets of student life — there’s no time to waste and no issue can go unnoticed. I strongly encourage you to visit our website where you can read about the time, energy and hard work Aliesa and I have put into serving the student body as well as the dozens of specific ideas we have to address every major problem facing the student body.
Those qualifications mean something and so do those ideas — I hope they convince you that I will deliver the change I seek. But if you take anything away from this Op-Ed, remember my vision of a YCC that lives up to the legacy of activism and change we have inherited. Remember the tradition of showing up for our community and vote for who you trust to continue that work.
REILLY JOHNSON is a junior in Ezra Stiles College. She is running to be Vice President of the Yale College Council. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .