Courtesy of Surbhi Bharadwaj, Khalil Greene, Matt Guido and Kristina Kim

When Bayan Galal ’23 and Zoe Hsu ’24 took office as president and vice president of the Yale College Council on May 1, they inherited a legacy of past YCC presidents and vice presidents who focused on enhancing the mental health services of the University, working closely with the student activists, creating representation for the student body and diversifying academic offerings.

When the class of 2021 arrived on campus, Matt Guido ’19 was the YCC president. During his term, Guido focused on restructuring the YCC before pursuing broader campus reforms. He eliminated several positions within the Executive board and organized members into fewer and more streamlined policy teams. 

“I think [an ideal YCC president] is someone who genuinely cares about the issues — someone who is not going to be afraid to roll up their sleeves and get down in the weeds about past policies related to an issue, the current student sentiments on the topic and what people across campus think about it. They should really engage with issues from a lot of perspectives,” Guido told the News in April 2018.

Institutionally, Guido focused on reforming Yale Mental Health and Counseling, improving the student-athlete experience and taking steps to eliminate the student income contribution and expand the cultural houses. 

During the 2018-2019 school year, YCC president Saloni Rao ’20 left a legacy behind that aimed to create “actionable change” and increase the YCC’s standing in the students’ eyes and their engagement with the Council. 

“The question was: How do we take a massive, institutionalized, well-funded but historically mismanaged organization and turn it into something that’s vibrant, reactive and legitimate in the eyes of students?” Rao told the News in an interview.

Under Rao’s presidency, the YCC expanded Dean’s excuses for athletes and students who were experiencing mental health problems, launched a program in all 14 residential colleges that provided free menstrual products and started new initiatives such as the New Haven Interns program. According to the Yale College Dean Marvin Chun, Rao was an “excellent partner” to work with and she led the Yale community in “actionable change[s].”

In spring 2019, Kahlil Greene ’22 became the first Black president of the YCC by winning 89.72 percent of the total votes in an uncontested election. Greene emphasized that he thought his election symbolized the progress that the university made and he wanted to continue the progress. 

“Yale should continue working to become a more diverse and representative place. I’m grateful for the role that I will have in making that happen,” Greene told the News.

Among Greene’s accomplishments was spearheading the “No Fail Yale” movement, in an effort to create a Universal Pass system during the spring 2020 semester in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Greene dedicated a significant amount of time to listening to students’ concerns on Facebook and contacted students who had strong opinions regarding the policy. After Greene presented his findings to the Senate, along with the results of the Residential College Council surveys and the student body survey, the voting resulted in favor of Universal Pass in a 20-1-1 vote. Greene went on to present his findings to Chun and other faculty members. Chun eventually adopted a universal pass/fail policy for the entirety of Yale College.

In his reflection on his presidency, Greene told the News that he was proud of his legacy of partnering with student activists and of being a student “who was always visible and who always showed up whenever there was an issue on campus that needed to be addressed.” 

Aliesa Bahri ’22 was the fourth female YCC president and won the election by winning 64.17 percent of the votes. The results were announced by the former YCC Vice President Grace Kang ’21 in a Sept. 19 2020 email to the Yale student body. 

Unlike in previous years, Bahri didn’t have the summer to prepare for the term due to COVID-19. She began her term immediately upon her election.

Bahri ran for presidency by pairing with Reilly Johnson ’22 who served as the vice president. The pair’s platform was split into three sections: “ideas for a just Yale,” “ideas for an equitable Yale” and “ideas for a safe Yale.” Within these sections, their platform was further subdivided into a total of 30 different issues that the two planned to tackle.

Bahri and Johnson aimed to engage in more social justice movements on campus. They supported efforts to defund and dismantle the Yale Police Department, supported the Endowment Justice Coalition and initiatives to ensure that Yale pays its fair share to New Haven.

Their policies also included “tackling lines of marginalization including gender, LGBTQ+ status, income, race, ethnicity and disability.”  This involved increasing funding for technology and dining subsidies, forming committees focused on diversifying academic curriculums and fostering counselling and mentorship for students who were not living in New Haven during the 2020-2021 school year.

To foster programs for a safe Yale, the two also promoted initiatives meant to keep students safe during the global pandemic. They worked to disseminate information regarding testing guidelines and ensure students out of state were also receiving proper support and guidelines from Yale, in addition to working for the diversification of the staff of Yale Mental Health and Counseling and streamlining the process of scheduling telehealth appointments.

Galal, the current YCC President, ran on a ticket with Hsu. Galal won 56.4 percent of the votes. The campaign season began April 23, 2021, and included a debate held on April 26, when candidates discussed their platforms and goals for Yale. Galal has previously served as a senator for Grace Hopper College, as well as the YCC health and COVID-19 policy chair. 

“So much work went into this campaign, so many people supported me along the way and seeing it all come together was so exciting,” Galal said. “I’m beyond grateful to the student body for having faith in Zoe and I, and we’re ready to get to work.

Galal and Hsu’s campaign was centered around the idea of “building a healthier Yale” and focused on five principles: the physical, mental, community, financial and institutional health of the University.

Correction, June 1: This article has been updated to reflect Hsu’s correct class year, which was previously mislabeled.

Gamze covers music news for the Arts desk and writes for the WKND. She is a sophomore in Pauli Murray majoring in psychology and humanities.