On Sept. 27, the 28 newly elected Yale College Council senators kicked off their yearlong terms with their first senate meeting.

The YCC Senate is composed of two elected members from each residential college. During the fall YCC elections, all senate seats were open, and the winners of senate elections were announced on Sept. 19. The new senate has 10 members from the class of 2024, 11 members from the class of 2023, six members from the class of 2022 and one member from the class of 2021. Newly elected YCC Vice President Reilly Johnson ’22 — a former YCC senator herself — will preside over the new senate.

“Attending Senate meetings last year was always fun, and I’m ready to facilitate community-building and collaboration that leads to a more rewarding and productive Senate experience,” Johnson wrote in a Thursday email to the News. “I’m most excited to get to know the Senators — the kind of students that join the YCC are so inspiring because they’re joining this service organization purely out of a passion for making change in their community, and I feel so privileged to befriend such amazing people.”

A common topic during YCC elections was reforming the senate so that senators play more of a role in dictating YCC policy. Johnson told the News that she and YCC President Aliesa Bahri ’22 plan to do this by amending the YCC constitution to create 16 policy chair positions, as opposed to the three that have existed in the past.

These policy chairs will each be in charge of addressing an issue that affects the student body, and will work directly with the YCC president and vice president. According to Johnson, senators are able to serve in these policy chair roles and directly influence policy.

At the first senate meeting, senators also amended the constitution to give themselves the power to approve the policy chair positions each year. Previously, these positions were determined solely by the president and vice president. Senators also added a clause to the constitution allowing any senator to propose and lead their own project, outside any initiative led by the president and vice president.

Of the new senators, 19 are serving their first term. Newly elected Saybrook Senator Joaquín Lara Midkiff ’23 decided to run for YCC senate this year because as vice president of Disability Empowerment for Yale, he felt like he was “shouting on the outside” when it came to advocating for students with disabilities. He hopes that the YCC will give him the chance to advocate more effectively.

“It was really obvious to me at the outset of the campaign that a lot of really passionate people were running, people who were kind of fed up and wanted to make institutional change,” Lara Midkiff said. “And whereas the YCC has historically maybe been a little bit immutable in that stance, I thought that this year would hopefully be an opportunity for change. With COVID, and with the unrest around the country, it just seemed like the right moment. So I thought if I was going to join the YCC at any point, it might as well be this year.”

As a sophomore, Lara Midkiff is not living in New Haven this semester, and he said he thinks it is “very important” that the YCC be composed of people in all different living situations.

Newly elected Davenport Senator Rosie Rothschild ’24, who is currently on a leave of absence, served last year on the First-Year Class Council and on the YCC Events Committee. Rothschild believes that her current state of enrollment would provide a new perspective to the YCC.

Rothschild ran on a platform centered on reforming Yale’s mental health system as well as on advocating for students living at home.

“I don’t think that every Yale student is being treated the same by Yale right now,” Rothschild said. “And I think that having someone to advocate for every class situation and every different personal situation is really important. When we decide what policies we want to encourage the Yale administration to change or to fix, having a student on a leave of absence … having a perspective like that is definitely important in making policy decisions that are going to affect everyone.”

YCC elections took place on Sept. 17 and 18.

Amelia Davidson | amelia.davidson@yale.edu