Surbhi Bharadwaj, Senior Photographer and Courtesy of Reilly Johnson
Just a year after Yale celebrated 50 years of coeducation at Yale College and 150 years of coeducation at the University as a whole, women hold all but one of the Yale College Council’s top officer positions.
YCC President Aliesa Bahri ’22 told the News that she was proud of the work she has devoted to promoting women’s leadership on campus, and she pointed to the creation of different initiatives and programs that help foster inclusivity in both the YCC and at Yale as a whole. Bahri also noted the influence of the Yale students who have come before her in creating the circumstances that led to the election of her and YCC Vice President Reilly Johnson ’22.
“It is because of my predecessors within YCC and leaders across campus who have been tirelessly working to empower marginalized groups that I and my peers are able to serve at the highest levels of student government now,” Bahri told the News.
According to Bahri, while only the president, vice president, events director, Sophomore Class Council president and Junior Class Council president are technically considered YCC officers, the Spring Fling chairs and the First-Year Class Council president are also a part of the YCC leadership.
All of the above positions are elected by the student body, with the exception of the First-Year Class Council president, who is elected by the representatives within the FCC. Furthermore, all of the positions listed are currently occupied by women, with the exception of the Sophomore Class Council president, Juan Diego Casallas Otalora ’23.
Casallas Otalora told the News that he had not even realized that he was the only male in a top YCC position until it was pointed out to him.
“I think it’s proof of progress that a YCC administration is led by mostly women, especially given the historical context with Yale and women,” Casallas Otalora wrote in an email to the News. “I think it is amazing, especially after we just finished celebrating the 50-year anniversary of women being accepted into Yale. However, I think this fact is a long time coming and should have been achieved many years ago!”
Casallas Otalora expressed “profound respect” for the obstacles that women in leadership have had to overcome, and he looks forward to working with the “the strong and powerful women” of the current YCC administration to enact changes that help create a better Yale.
Sarah Laufenberg ’23, director of Women’s Leadership Initiative’s Women’s Empowerment Conference, commented on how YCC’s leadership structure sets the tone for how other campus organizations view the diversity and inclusivity of their spaces.
“It’s empowering to see female-dominated leadership in the YCC, considering that WLI was founded to combat the absence of womxn in a lot of leadership roles on campus,” Laufenberg wrote in an email to the News. “Yale womxn are incredibly capable of leading, they just need an environment which genuinely values their contributions and success.”
Bahri expressed gratitude for all of the work put in by students who came before her to create a more inclusive student government. Saloni Rao ’20 — who served as the YCC president for 2018-19 — was the first woman to serve as YCC president in a decade, and Kahlil Greene ’21 — who served as the YCC president for 2019-20 — was the first Black president of the YCC.
In terms of making the YCC more accessible to the women on campus, Bahri expressed pride in founding the women’s affinity group, which was the first YCC affinity group, as well as co-founding a school-wide mentorship program in tandem with the Women’s Leadership Initiative last year. This year, Bahri is excited about working with the LGBTQ+ Student Cooperative in an extension of the mentorship program.
“Right now, the YCC is more diverse than it has ever been,” Bahri said.
However, despite the historic nature of her administration, Bahri expressed concern about some of the things she and Johnson experienced while campaigning. She pointed to the fact that although every single candidate in the recent election except one had served as a YCC senator, she felt that only her and Johnson’s experiences were counted against them.
According to Bahri, she and Johnson were called “snakes,” “career politicians” and other terms that Bahri believes are gendered during the course of the campaign.
Bahri and Johnson began their terms as YCC president and vice president on Sept. 21.
Julia Bialek | firstname.lastname@example.org