Courtesy of Zoe Hsu and Bayan Galal
The 2020-2021 academic year saw the election of two new presidential administrations for the Yale College Council, as well as a renewed advocacy for first-generation, low-income students and student mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In light of the pandemic, YCC elections were postponed from spring to fall of 2020, extending the term of YCC President and Vice President Kahlil Greene ’21 and Grace Kang ’21, respectively.
“The sad reality is that while you have some people who are at homes where they can lock themselves in their offices to run successful campaigns, other students are either struggling to find a quiet place to work or have their minds occupied with something else,” Kang told the News in March 2020. “We are in an unordinary situation, and it calls for an unordinary set of procedures. We wanted to find the best way to accommodate all of the students interested in running for these positions.”
During the YCC election, which was eventually held in September 2020, Aliesa Bahri ’22 and Reilly Johnson ’22 ran on a ticket for president and vice president of the YCC, respectively, opposing Abey Phillip ’22 and Matthew Murillo ’22, who also ran on a ticket for president and vice president. Carlos Brown ’23 ran alone for vice president.
Bahri and Reilly were elected, with Bahri receiving 64.17 percent of the vote and Johnson receiving 44.36 of the vote. Chloe Adda ’23, who ran unopposed for events director, was also elected.
“While we are bracing ourselves for the challenges we’ll face ahead in leading students through this pandemic, we are grateful that we have one another and so many of our peers to lean on,” Bahri said in the interview after her election. “YCC is about stepping up for one another in difficult times and making a difference in our communities. For those who want to be active changemakers within the YCC, you will always be welcome on this team.”
Bahri and Johnson’s campaign platform was based on the pillars “Ideas for a Just Yale,” “Ideas for an Equitable Yale” and “Ideas for a Safe Yale.” Their campaign platform also included policy proposals for disarming and disbanding the Yale Police Department and expanding the University’s COVID-19 support for students enrolled remotely outside of New Haven.
The Bahri-Johnson administration began with an effort to restructure the policy positions of the YCC, dividing the previous roles of University services director, student life director and academics director into fifteen more specialized roles — including directors of civic engagement, sexual wellness, and COVID-19 policy, among others.
During their term, Bahri and Johnson also secured an expansion to the Dean’s Excuse to encompass technical difficulties faced during online learning, introduced a textbook stipend program and called on the Yale Office of Undergraduate Admissions to remove questions about applicants’ criminal records from the Yale College application — a joint effort with Yale’s Justice Impact Movement that resulted in a meeting with Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan. Quinlan confirmed to the News in April that the meeting occurred, but declined to comment further.
The YCC also focused on preserving student mental health during the pandemic, encouraging students to report professors who assigned work during break days to Johnson. The Council also made improving financial aid equity a priority, advocating for increased financial aid for Yale Summer Session students.
“The range of internships, fellowships or other programs in the summer, as well as travel or study abroad options, have all been restricted because of the pandemic, and this makes Yale Summer Session classes even more of an essential option,” said Bayan Galal ’23, then-health and COVID-19 policy chair of the YCC. “For this reason, classes should only become more accessible to all students, not less.”
YCC elections were back on schedule by the 2021 spring semester and elections for president, vice president, events director, class presidents, and senator positions were held in April.
The elections saw Galal and Zoe Hsu ’24 vying for president and vice president, and Joaquín Lara Midkiff ’23 and Jordi Bertrán Ramírez ’24 also running together for president and vice president, respectively.
Galal and Hsu were elected, with Galal receiving 56.4 percent of the presidential vote and Hsu receiving 50.9 percent of the vote in the vice presidential race. Diba Ghaed ’24 began her term as events director, after running uncontested.
“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 told the News in May. “I’m beyond grateful to the student body for having faith in Zoe and I, and we’re ready to get to work.”
In their campaign platform, Galal and Hsu focused on “building a healthier Yale,” announcing their intention to focus on the physical, mental, community, financial and institutional health of the University. Some of their central policy points included the expansion of Yale health coverage to include dental and optical coverage, stipend programs for laundry, textbooks, and storage and the expansion of certificate program options.
Galal has previously served on the YCC as COVID-19 & health policy chair and as a Grace Hopper College senator, while Hsu has served as equity chair and a senator from Berkeley College.
Galal and Hsu’s term began May 1, 2021.