YCC president and vice president face student backlash over abandoned $4000 self-compensation proposal
The proposal, raised by Yale College Council President Leleda Beraki ’24 and Vice President Iris Li ’24, would have compensated both of the two two leaders $4000 a year.
Tim Tai, Photography Editor
Students voiced opposition to a budget proposal raised by Yale College Council President Leleda Beraki ’24 and Vice President Iris Li ’24 that would pay the two leaders $4000 each from YCC funds.
Beraki and Li first brought the proposal to the YCC on March 5, but delayed voting on it until the following YCC meeting on April 2. Beraki and Li told the News that they independently decided not to bring the proposal to a vote before students returned from spring break, after they were unable to find precedent at other universities for student government leaders retroactively paying themselves.
In the week prior to the meeting, an image of minutes from the March 5 meeting detailing the proposal was posted to the campus chat app Fizz, generating widespread criticism from anonymous student posters. The proposal was ultimately not on the agenda for the April 2 meeting, and was not discussed or voted on.
In a joint statement to the News, Beraki and Li wrote that the primary purpose of the proposal was to remove barriers to access that the positions of President and Vice President presented.
“In order to keep up with the demands of YCC and our academics, we both had to either quit jobs or relinquish numerous hours of work,” the statement read. “While both of us are able to take a reduction to student job hours without the loss of those wages significantly impacting our Yale experience, we recognize that not all students here would be able to run for Yale College Council office given that financial restriction.”
Funding for this proposal would have come from the YCC endowment, which constitutes a portion of YCC’s funding. The remainder of YCC funding comes from the $125 student activity fee that is factored into each student’s tuition and fees. Beraki and Li told the News that they did not intend for any money from the student activity fee to be used for this proposal.
According to Speaker of the Senate Ryan Smith ’24, the conversation was pushed from the March 5 to the April 2 meeting because multiple senators took issue with the proposal and did not feel prepared to vote on it. One senator, Viktor Kagan ’24, also suggested reaching out to Barnard College’s Student Government Association prior to voting on the proposal to inquire about a similar policy they passed last year. Had the proposal been approved, it would have gone into immediate effect.
“Some thought it was wrong to pay ourselves this year, some thought it was unfair to pay only some members of the YCC and not others, and some thought both,” Smith told the News.
Beraki and Li told the News that, following Barnard’s SGA informing them on March 6 that their policy went into effect the next year, they determined not to bring the proposal up for a vote during the April 2 meeting.
The minutes for the March 5 meeting, including notes on the compensation proposal, were sent out in an email to the student body on March 8. When the minutes were anonymously posted to Fizz on March 31, they were met with a wave of opposition from other student posters on the app.
“Like most of the student body, I learned of the proposal from an anonymous whistleblower on the Fizz app, who had discovered it in the YCC meeting minutes,” Andrew Beingessner ’26 told the News.
According to the version history of the agenda document for the April 2 meeting, Beraki and Li’s proposal was on the initial version of the agenda created on March 27 by Smith. On March 31, Li edited the name of the proposal on the document, which initially included multiple provisions in addition to compensation that were voted on in the March 5 meeting, to reflect that the proposal to compensate Beraki and Li was the only portion the YCC did not previously vote on. On April 1, Beraki removed the proposal from the agenda entirely.
Two additional proposals — one that would pay everyone currently in the YCC and one that would pay all future members of the YCC — were added to the agenda for the meeting, but were not called for a vote. Students also raised issues with these proposals when a picture of one of them circulated on Fizz following the release of the April 1 agenda.
Both of these proposals were authored by Pierson College Senator Viktor Kagan ’24, who introduced them in opposition to the original compensation proposal from Beraki and Li. The proposals he raised would have allocated $50,000 a year to compensate the YCC president and vice president, in addition to the senators and delegates this year and for all future years. In previous messages from Kagan in the YCC Slack channel, he expressed support for these proposals, but Kagan told the News that he never intended for the proposals to be voted on and does not actually support allocating $50,000 towards compensating members of the YCC.
“I just wanted to make a statement that compensating some YCC members, but not all, is as ridiculous as paying all of us for this year,” Kagan wrote in an email to the News. “We cannot retroactively pay ourselves.”
Neither Beraki or Li supported either of Kagan’s proposals. In their statement to the News, they wrote that they proposed compensating only the YCC president and vice president because these are the only roles which they believed could demand students leaving on campus jobs to fulfill the duties of the seat.
The YCC did vote on April 2 to pass a Constitutional amendment, proposed by Smith, that requires a student body-wide referendum to be held prior to any vote to compensate YCC members. The amendment would require not only that a referendum happen, but that over 50 percent of the student body approve of the compensation proposal.
Smith affirmed that he was not opposed to having a debate on whether YCC members should be paid in the future if the rest of the student body supported it, but told the News that “paying ourselves this year should never have been on the table.”
Two senators voted against this amendment: Kyle Shepherd ’25 from Timothy Dwight College and Carter Dewees ’25 from Saybrook College. Dewees is a former staff reporter for the News.
“I voted no on the constitutional amendment proposed on 4/2 to require a referendum prior to any vote to compensate YCC officials because the duty of Senators is to vote on YCC budget proposals on the behalf of the student body,” Shepherd told the News. “Now that a referendum is required prior to any vote to compensate YCC officials, a referendum can also be required before any other Senate budget vote that is controversial.”
Dewees voted no on the Constitutional amendment because he believes that a referendum on questions of compensation would only be redundant. The YCC already has mechanisms for fielding student body opinion, Dewees told the News.
“We already run a survey in the fall and I think that’s a much more efficient way to go about this conversation,” Dewees wrote in an email to the News. “If a majority of the student body does not support stipends for members of YCC on financial aid, I won’t either. I just don’t see the need to hold an entire referendum on this one issue.”
Shepherd told the News that he and other YCC senators were aware of student backlash to the issue of compensation ahead of the April 2 meeting. Kagan made a point to discuss the proposal with his constituents in Pierson prior to the Apr. 2 meeting. He told the News that students in Pierson “were angry for good reason.”
One student, Leon Lufkin ’24, told the News that he believed the 20 hours per week that Beraki and Li stated the positions demanded was not significantly greater than other club leadership positions on campus. Lufkin is a former data editor for the News.
“Just about every student leadership position at Yale is unpaid, most of which require more than the 20 hours a week the president said she spends on YCC,” Lufkin told the News.
Lufkin added that although he believed the YCC typically acts in the best interest of students, it “sometimes fails to do so in very public ways.” He called the incident an “updated and more egregious edition of the Patagonia sweater fiasco,” referencing a 2018 incident in which the YCC used money derived from the student activities fee to purchase Patagonias for 13 members of the events committee in 2018.
The funding for Beraki and Li’s proposal did not derive from the student activities fee. But Beingessner told the News that he believed a lack of communication from the YCC regarding proposal funding contributed to student discontent.
“The confusion as to whether this remuneration would have been derived directly, indirectly, or not at all from the Student Activities Fee is a communicational shortcoming that the YCC should take responsibility for,” Beingessner told the News.
Beraki and Li maintain that they communicated the source of the funding for the proposal during the March 5 meeting where it was first raised and in the follow-up discussion on the proposal on April 2.
They also maintain that the process by which they raised and discussed this proposal did not differ in any way from any other budget proposal raised this year. According to Beraki and Li, they followed the YCC protocol that they have followed all year in terms of the presentation, discussion, editing and publicization of the proposal.
They wrote that they welcome the student input on proposals raised in the YCC, but denounce the anonymous commentary on Fizz.
“Student feedback is never taken as backlash by either of us, and we are grateful to receive it, but feedback becomes less productive when it is anonymous posting or misinformation,” Beraki and Li wrote.
The meeting on Apr. 2 was the final meeting of the YCC before the upcoming election.
Polls for the YCC election upon on Wednesday, Apr. 12 at 9:00am and close on Thursday, Apr. 13 at 9:00pm. Results of the election will be announced on Friday, Apr. 14 at 9:00am.
Update, April 20: This article has been updated to include additional context regarding the timeline of Beraki and Li’s decision not to put their proposal to a vote, as well as additional context surrounding the April 2 proposals from Kagan.