Courtesy of Leleda Beraki

Leleda Beraki ’24 and Iris Li ’24 were elected as Yale College Council president and vice president, respectively, after voting ended in an uncontested election on Friday. 

The election also determined the 2022-2023 events director, junior and sophomore class council presidents and residential college senators. Beraki’s win sets a historic precedent for the Council. She will be the first Black woman to serve as YCC president.

“Being the first Black woman in this space means the absolute world to me,” Beraki said. “It’s an opportunity to uplift often drowned out voices on campus, but also use my background and experiences to reshape the YCC. I know how much it would’ve meant to see someone like me in this position as a kid, and I am literally shocked that I could be that person for someone else.”

Agastya Rana ’24 was elected as events director with 410 votes, 233 more votes than his competitor, Liz Carter ’24, who had 177 votes. Agastya won with substantially fewer votes than did the previous YCC events director, Diba Ghaed ’24, who ran unopposed and won with 1,852 votes. 

This election cycle saw the lowest voter turnout in recent years: while there are currently over 6,000 students in Yale College, Beraki received only 615 votes to be elected president.

The total number of votes fell by nearly half this election season after a steady decline in voter turnout since the onset of the pandemic. 

Outgoing YCC president Bayan Galal ’23 won her 2021 election with 1,131 votes while former YCC president Aliesa Bahri ’23 was elected in 2020 with 1,694 votes. 

“[The low voter turnout] speaks to the problems of YCC engagement with our constituents,” recently re-elected Pierson College Senator Viktor Kagan ’24 said. “People don’t think YCC does anything and therefore do not see it as a great space for change. Uncontested elections are a result of our failed engagement, which is something I’ve stressed over and over as a fact that needs addressing.”

Kagan said that the YCC Senate had “almost entirely committed” one of its meetings to the organization’s “failed communication,” but that no changes have been made to improve the YCC’s structure since.

Beraki told the News that the biggest challenge she anticipates facing during her tenure is working to change the YCC culture “both internally and externally.” She believes that productivity in the YCC will come once people work “cohesively” and only if the student body “believes in the work” and “feels heard.” 

Ijeamaka Achebe ’25 speculated that the elections for YCC president and vice president were uncontested in part because students had doubts about the impact of the YCC’s work. 

“While YCC definitely did try to get things done this year, at least I saw many emails about what they were working on, not much actually came to fruition,” Achebe said. “I think this school is just really bureaucratic and people might have felt discouraged from running given the current council’s track record. Like in all honesty, would you still run if you knew you wouldn’t be able to meet your goals?”

Achebe also expressed excitement about the incoming executive board. She said Beraki and Li’s platform addresses many of the goals she hopes to see achieved, and that Beraki, who she knows personally, “truly puts her all into everything she does.”

Raymond Jin ’25, a returning Branford College Senator, was surprised that the election was uncontested, originally expecting the presidential race to be “competitive.” 

Still, Jin said his platform shares many values with Beraki and Li’s, and he hopes to increase communication between students and the administration during his term.

“My primary goal is to create an active and ongoing dialogue between YCC and the student body. It appears that many students do not know exactly what YCC does, how we do our work, what challenges we face, and how students can help us mitigate those challenges,” Jin said. “There should not be a barrier between the populace and their elected representatives in a representative student government. My goal is to break this barrier and replace it with throughways of communication.”

Li said that she is excited to alter the structure of the YCC to make it more inclusive and an “empowering” space for students. She also said she is also looking to reshape the relationship that the YCC has with other student organizations. 

Beraki similarly expressed her excitement to work with student organizations, and hopes that student groups can feel a “direct” connection to the YCC, and thus to administrators, as well. According to Beraki, she hopes to accomplish this in coordination with a reinstated Council of Representatives — composed of student organization representatives — as well as with the newly created Student Organization Liaison. 

Beraki added that she also wants to work with the people of New Haven to give them the “tools” to define what she and Li see as a functioning relationship between Yale and the City.

In his role as Events Director, Rana also expressed excitement to bring back a number of traditional Yale events that have not been held since pre-pandemic times.

“I can’t wait to facilitate a return to the Yale normal,” Rana wrote in a statement to the News. “I’m so excited to unveil the exciting, vibrant, and rewarding array of events that are in store for the undergraduate community next year!”

Kagan outlined that there are many reforms he would like to see the YCC make next year. He pointed out that the lack of communication between the YCC and students is due to their “bare” website and poor enforcement of the YCC constitution, which outlines that the YCC must publish its meeting minutes and policy efforts.

“We need to channel student frustration and our masses into our advocacy and stop gatekeeping the false power [that] administration grants us,” Kagan said. “We need to see students as partners in our work to change Yale and that involves real transparency and communication with the communities we represent.”

Kagan said he is “excited” to work with Beraki and Li next year, and said that he has worked with them both in the past. 

Specifically, Kagan commended the “clearly outlined policy efforts” for Beraki and Li’s executive board, as well as their emphasis on building a close-knit community within the YCC. Beraki underscored that this vision, and their corresponding campaign, was not just full of “empty promises,” and that they want to be held accountable for making positive changes.

“For me, this is a really empowering opportunity to enact the vision that Leleda and I have,” Li said.

The new YCC administration began their tenure on Saturday.

Paloma Vigil is the Arts Editor for the Yale Daily News. She previously served as a DEI co-chair and staff reporter for the University and Sports desks. Past coverage includes religious life, Yale College Council, sailing and gymnastics. Originally from Miami, she is a junior in Pauli Murray College majoring in Psychology and Political Science.