Courtesy of Zoe Hsu and Bayan Galal

After a summer of organizing, the Executive Board of the Yale College Council is beginning the academic year by prioritizing the transition to in-person classes and a campus at full capacity.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, YCC meetings and events were held virtually throughout the 2020-21 academic year. YCC President Bayan Galal ’23 and Vice President Zoe Hsu ’24, along with the rest of the council’s Executive Board, are now navigating the transition to an in-person student government amid changing COVID-19 guidelines.

“Over the summer, the YCC has been hard at work on two primary groups of initiatives: laying the foundation for a productive year and ensuring a smooth transition and recruitment process for the Class of 2025,” Galal wrote in an email to the News.

According to Deputy Academic Life Policy Director Leleda Beraki ’24, the YCC began holding Senate and Executive Board meetings over Zoom in early August, and members of the Executive Board have already begun working on policy initiatives and communicating with members of Yale’s administration.

Much of the YCC’s activity over the summer focused on easing the transition to college for the class of 2025. Around 350 people attended a series of virtual blue booking sessions that the YCC organized for first years, according to Galal. The YCC also created a welcome video, handbook and travel guide intended to help acclimate the class of 2025.

Now, the YCC is turning its attention to the transition to in-person classes, an unfamiliar experience for both the class of 2024 and the class of 2025, since most classes were moved to Zoom in March 2020.

“The YCC is working on policy proposals that address concerns surrounding the return to in-person classes,” Galal said. “This includes advocating for the continuation of virtual submissions for all assignments and the recording of in-person lectures. The YCC is continuing to listen to concerns it hears from students and use those to inform the policy agenda throughout the year.”

According to Beraki, the council’s academic life team is also working on expanding certificate programs, allowing students to count Credit/D/Fail classes toward distributional requirements and making STEM programs more accessible to underrepresented students.

Yale’s updated public health guidelines, which limit gatherings to 20 people indoors and 50 people outdoors, have also raised questions about the potential for in-person events the YCC typically plans each year, according to YCC Events Director Diba Ghaed ’24.

“I was on Events during a full pandemic year, so I have that experience,” Ghaed said. “Now, I feel confident in my ability to plan both [in-person and virtual events]; I just need to sit down and decide which ones need to be planned which way.”

Ghaed explained that the changing circumstances surrounding COVID-19 on campus have created uncertainty about the feasibility of holding in-person events on campus this semester. Although Ghaed said that the administration had granted the YCC permission to hold in-person events early in the summer, the emergence of the Delta variant and subsequent new guidelines led to stricter regulations for the fall.

However, Ghaed clarified that the YCC still hopes to hold as many in-person events as possible, referencing the success of the extracurricular bazaar, which was held in person on Sunday, outdoors and with mask requirements. According to Ghaed, the YCC hopes to hold more social events in person and will resort to holding academic and career strategy events on Zoom if necessary.

“Anything that I can safely do in person I would prefer to,” Ghaed told the News. “I just think there is Zoom fatigue, and I think if you are forced to prioritize, then something like meeting with someone to go over your resume can be done over Zoom, whereas something like a scavenger hunt can’t be done over Zoom.”

In the coming weeks, the fall recruitment and election process will become the YCC’s primary focus, as positions open for the First Year Class Council and any vacant seats on the Council of Representatives.

“Running for YCC just weeks after arriving on campus can be an intimidating experience, so our hope is to offer as much information and support as possible to those considering running,” Galal said. “Once elections are complete and we have filled all seats, we will be able to move full steam ahead on our long and comprehensive list of policy goals for the year.”

According to YCC Chief of Staff Julia Sulkowski ’24, the YCC fall elections will be held on Sept. 23-24.

LUCY HODGMAN
Lucy Hodgman covers the Yale College Council. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, she is a sophomore in Grace Hopper majoring in English.