As the pandemic continues to disrupt the traditions of a normal year at Yale, one group of class representatives, the Senior Class Council, has quickly adapted to still provide some semblance of community to the senior class.
In a typical year, the SCC hosts various events for seniors, such as a welcome back event, wine and cheese nights, senior week events and the Masquerade Ball. This year, however, it is no longer feasible to hold many of the events in their traditional in-person forms due to the pandemic. Still, the SCC has developed ways to approximate some of these class bonding experiences through modified versions of the events — with both online and in-person components — and other new initiatives.
“Our events help seniors reinforce their existing friend groups, but also expose them to other elements of the class they might have overlooked so far, creating the potential for new friendships,” Class Treasurer of the SCC Curtis Colvett ’21 told the News. “We tried to the best of our ability to keep that spirit alive, but it’s definitely looked different this year.”
The SCC is composed of 16 members with two elected class officers who, in turn, appoint 14 other members onto the council. The majority of the SCC’s budget is composed of senior class dues — small fees that seniors pay on top of regular per-semester costs that go toward class events. However, this year, the SCC is working with a lower budget, as more seniors are taking a leave of absence than usual. The council also reduced this year’s senior dues from $60 per semester to $50 per semester.
The main event of the first semester was the senior class picnic, held on Oct. 24 in place of what would normally be the senior college dinner — when each residential college would host a formal dinner for the seniors in their college dining hall. During the picnic, seniors picked up their catered sandwich meals from Nica’s Market at one of the three locations around campus.
“We felt it would be a good idea to take on the responsibility of offering a bonding meal to the seniors,” Class Secretary of the SCC Bryan Owens ’21 told the News.
The rapidly changing COVID-19 situation made planning and hosting the picnic difficult, according to Ciaran Hassan ’21, a member of the SCC. The original plan for the picnic was for seniors to pick up their meals and have picnics outside in small groups of five to seven people. However, a week before the picnic, Yale raised its alert level to yellow in response to an outbreak among the men’s ice hockey team. In response, the SCC scrapped the group meal plan. Instead, it had seniors pick up the food to take back to their rooms and also included virtual components such as games and trivia over Zoom.
Hassan also explained how he and Colvett worked with the Public Health Coordinators to ensure that health measures were followed. For example, volunteers who were passing out the sandwiches had to switch gloves every 20 minutes, and soccer cones were laid down 6 feet apart to promote social distancing while students were waiting in line. According to Hassan, around 400 seniors registered for the picnic, with a 60 to 70 percent turnout.
“We are proud of the picnic,” Owens said. “To our knowledge, during this COVID era, this picnic was the first large on-campus event in the Ivy League that involved an in-person component.”
The council also plans to remain flexible with its programming, Hassan said, as cases continue to rise across the country and in New Haven.
In addition to planning events within Yale’s senior class, the SCC is also working with the senior class councils of Princeton University, Harvard University and Stanford University to plan future joint events, such as the “Friendship Pact.”
Similar to the Marriage Pact — which matched Yale students via algorithm to potential romantic partners earlier this semester — seniors will fill out questionnaires, and software will use the data to group people from different schools together to “go out of the bubble of their own university,” Owens said.
“It’s the exact kind of thing you would be doing at a Harvard-Yale game or a basketball game with Princeton or whatever means we would have had to engage with other colleges before,” Colvett explained.
The council is also planning to send out care packages in early February, an effort that would include remote students as well. The packages will contain special Yale-branded masks, designed specially for the class of 2021.
“Years from now, when people are shuffling through their boxes of mementos and see these masks, hopefully they will remember how we, as a class and as a community, rose to this challenge,” Hassan said. “There is nothing normal about these circumstances, but we should leverage this lack of normalcy to create experiences that are nevertheless memorable.”
Hassan explained how most of the SCC’s initiatives this year have been geared toward trying to deepen existing friendships. Colvett said that they might undertake more projects next semester that allow new people to meet each other.
“We want to deliver a senior class experience, but we want you to be safe,” Hassan said. “We want to try to find that balance.”
Owens and Colvett will continue to serve as SCC class officers for five years after graduation, until their terms end at the five-year reunion in May 2026.
Sai Rayala | firstname.lastname@example.org