“Changing needs”: YCC Vice President Iris Li ’24 sets policy ambitions high
The former academic life policy director of the YCC, Li is honing in on academic, hospitality and mental health policy from the outset.
Courtesy of Iris Li
As Vice President of the Yale College Council, Iris Li ’24 is beginning the semester with a renewed commitment to making change on campus through policies originating from the YCC.
Li was elected to the position this spring, and ran unopposed alongside YCC President Leleda Beraki ’24. She has been involved in the Council throughout her time at Yale, most recently serving as the YCC’s academic life policy director.
Li said that her past two years have been characterized by a commitment to student policy that often took place behind the scenes — in her first year, as part of an effort to disseminate summer career opportunities, she individually emailed 600 students, an experience she joked might have given her elbow tendonitis. It is this emphasis on the nitty-gritty of policy work in the YCC that she hopes to preserve in her remaining time as Vice President.
“As VP, you kind of step into the position and realize that a lot of people probably won’t remember your name,” Li said. “I think a lot of people aren’t super aware of who’s in the YCC or what it does, but I think that people are more aware of policy changes that are made concrete. That’s something that will far outlast my time in this role.”
Li’s involvement with the YCC began with former president Aliesa Bahri ’22, a friend from summer camp who encouraged her to become involved with the first-year class council. From there, Li participated in the organization as a finance manager in the Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee, an associate senator on the Career Resources and Civic Engagement Team and eventually as academic life policy director.
Beraki stressed the dedication with which Li approaches her commitments, adding that if she sets out to do something, “she will absolutely do it.”
Li’s commitment to the ticket was also crucial to Beraki’s decision to run for president. According to Beraki, the two decided that if they did not run together, they would not run at all.
“Iris is my best friend,” Beraki said. “I just didn’t realize how much of an incredible person she was until we started working with each other … she has been this perfect partner to me, both in my non-YCC life and in my YCC life.”
When Li and Beraki did commit to running on a ticket, their campaign was oriented around the principle of “accountability.” The candidates committed to addressing accountability in five central areas: academics, health, finances, their roles on campus and internal dynamics within the YCC.
Looking ahead to the 2022-23 academic year, Li stressed her commitment to tangible policy achievements, adding that she was especially excited to continue advocating for expanded Credit/D/Fail opportunities, increasing accessibility to mental health resources on campus and expanding dining hall options.
Beraki and Li’s chief-of-staff Tobi Tega ’24 also emphasized the YCC’s dedication to enacting student policy during the upcoming academic year.
“New students should understand that this is not really your high school student government,” Tega said. “This is a student government that’s really engaged with the administration and a student government that is not content with moral victories. I guess the people who have been here for a little while should know that this is a different YCC, and this is not the same YCC that’s going to be susceptible to some of its past failures.”
At its best, Li said, policy developed within the YCC should aim to “make student life seamless,” and to “make the improvement of student life equally easy.”
Li said that in recent years, the body has been able to do so most effectively during times of crisis. She pointed specifically to the YCC’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic under then-president Kahlil Greene ’22, which saw students inside and outside the body advocating successfully for a Universal Pass policy during the first semester of the pandemic.
“Whenever there’s a crisis, people jumpstart into action,” Li said. “That’s when I think the [YCC] Senate becomes really active. People become engaged because they have the personal stake of, ‘Well I certainly don’t want to see this go one way or the other,’ and that kind of reflects the sentiments of everyone around them.”
But maintaining that momentum in the Senate when the student body is not in the throes of an active crisis could be a challenge, Li said.
Li said the notion that the body remains somewhat disengaged from campus life is “not a totally unfounded assumption.”
“It has to come from somewhere,” Li said. “I don’t think the YCC has really been able to figure out a solution to make students feel like communicating with [the YCC] is easy. I think a lot of the time, communication feels super one-way.”
By facilitating conversation between the Council and the student body, Li said she hopes to humanize the members of the organization. Doing so, she said, will help the YCC represent the student body effectively through the campus policies for which they advocate.
Both Tega and Beraki stressed Li’s competence when it comes to the logistical efforts necessary to realize her ambitious policy goals. Beraki declared Li a “GCal genius” — although Tega noted that all of the events on her Google Calendar are coded the same “terrible” shade of blue.
Li was elected YCC Vice President in April 2022.