Editor’s note: Led by two co-presidents, the Editorial Board is an independent body of the Yale Daily News, separate from the newsroom. The Editorial Board is composed of 12 undergraduate students who represent a variety of backgrounds, interests and perspectives. No members may be editors or writers for the News. 

With an unprecedented number of tickets and candidates, the Editorial Board followed a new process of writing the endorsements this year. Before interviewing the candidates, the Editorial Board internally disclosed conflicts of interests within its membership in order to approach the endorsement process in an unbiased manner. The Editorial Board conducted 30-minute interviews for each ticket, and conducted a 15-minute interview for the presidential candidate without a running mate. After each set of interviews, members deliberated each ticket/candidate independently, without reference to other tickets or candidates. From there, members also attended the YDN x YCC debate in order to be eligible to endorse candidates. 10 Editorial Board candidates attended the interviews and deliberations, and the final endorsement was passed with a ⅔ majority of the members present.

Early Tuesday morning, a draft of this editorial was erroneously published after a member of the editorial board had retracted their vote, leading to further deliberations. Further questions about the endorsement process can be directed to editorialboard@yaledailynews.com.

On Sunday evening, the Editorial Board had the pleasure of meeting with each of the candidates running for the offices of president and vice president of the Yale College Council. With a historic number of 11 total candidates, the largest class in over 20 years, the 2023-2024 YCC election represents a rejuvenation of student life at Yale after the years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each candidate championed their visions for student government at Yale by detailing the issues and policies they were most passionate about. After multiple years of uncontested or lightly contested elections, this year’s candidates represent many diverse parts of the Yale community, each with unique approaches, experiences and ideas for their positions. This year’s candidates are Indigenous leaders, athletes, transfer students, artists, extracurricular board members, student workers, ROTC members, community organizers, YCC senators and executive board members. Together they create an active and colorful portrait of student life and the Yale community at large.

We are astounded by the enthusiasm and dedication of all candidates this year: all tickets were competent and passionate, and we believe that candidates will honorably and responsibly represent the student body should they be elected. All candidates pledged to decline a salary if offered. The president and vice president positions are extremely time-consuming roles that require both dedication and passion throughout the term. In our endorsements, we will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate we interviewed. In doing so, we hope that our endorsements can also serve as a voting guide for those who are seeking to understand the race more broadly.

The Editorial Board endorses Sanya Abbasey ’25 for president and Maya Fonkeu ’25 for vice president. The Editorial Board chose to endorse a split ticket of two different candidates running on different platforms. We chose to do this, in part, because of the ranked choice voting system of the election in which students select their top choice candidate for each position irrespective of their partner. Among all of the extremely qualified candidates, Abbasey and Fonkeu stood out to the Editorial Board for a combination of their vision, efficiency and experience. Together, we are confident that they will effectively represent the student body and advocate for student interests in the coming year.

President: Sanya Abbasey ’25

We, the Editorial Board of the Yale Daily News, are pleased to endorse Sanya Abbasey ’25 for YCC president. We are impressed by Abbasey’s vision and humility, her commitment to mental health, her experience inside and outside the YCC and her determination to empower communities across Yale and New Haven. Abbasey’s extensive experience in other student organizations and grassroots organizing, together with Fonkeu’s pragmatism and YCC experience, will allow them to navigate the bureaucracy of the YCC and Yale Administration together without losing sight of a greater purpose and vision. She will be a president that builds strong relationships between the diverse communities of the Yale student body and strengthens the Yale-New Haven relationship. 

A child of Pakistani immigrants, Abbasey is a sophomore majoring in History of Science, Medicine, & Public Health. In her role as the cultural and religious policy director of the YCC, she helped overcome resistance on religious housing accommodations policy by meeting with administrators and building a movement with other students through organizing a rally. However, her experiences elsewhere at Yale showed us that she is capable of advocating for many communities at once. Abbasey usually has 3 to 4 jobs at a time: she worked for the Admissions Office for rural student outreach, was a peer notetaker for 3 classes in the Resource Office on Disabilities, worked at the Schwarzman Center, is an intramural secretary for Berkeley and a fellow at the Chaplain’s office. A dedicated and tenacious leader, Abbasey works with her community instead of speaking for them: in the past year, she improved Yale Dining’s labeling system for alcohol and allergens and increased accessibility of dining hall food. As president, we are confident that she will actively encourage student voice and discourse on campus, create a climate that will allow for open and honest discussions of issues that face the student community. 

We are also impressed by Abbasey’s dedication to community organizing and her vision of empowering students and local communities through strengthening the Yale-New Haven relationship. Her vision begins in concrete action: as a tutor in the Dwight Hall program DEMOS, she taught science classes to New Haven Youth; as a tutor for IRIS, she taught the children of recent refugees and immigrants in after-school programs to acclimate them to the New Haven Community. Abbassey’s dedication to healing the exploitative, transactional relationship between Yale and New Haven does not lessen her focus on the student body. We believe that Abbasey’s commitment to holding the administration accountable for student wellbeing is complemented by actionable goals, building on her existing connections to cultural centers, student organizations and advocacy groups. If elected, we trust that Abbasey will bring her experience in community organizing to work towards the goal of “revolutionizing” YCC’s function and identity on this campus. We look forward to Abbasey extending her dedication to the causes she has worked on in the last few years to the entirety of Yale’s campus. Aided by Fonkeu’s administrative fluency and past experience in YCC administrative campaigns, we believe that their leadership will be grounded in both empathy and efficacy. Abbasey and Fonkeu’s unique blend of skills and experiences positions them to effectively tackle the challenges facing Yale students and the New Haven community, and to actualize their shared vision of a more equitable and inclusive campus culture.

Vice President: Maya Fonkeu ’25

The Editorial Board is excited to endorse Maya Fonkeu ’25 for YCC vice president. Fonkeu is both passionate and capable of connecting the YCC to the wider student body. She will be a vice president capable of laying out tangible goals and policies for a year in the YCC.

Fonkeu has used her previous roles within the YCC to organize free headshots for students, subsidize business attire through a policy proposal and lead a career readiness workshop. Having served on the First-Year Class Council and as a career resources director on the Executive Board, Fonkeu knows how to navigate the YCC and work with different branches to ensure student concerns are addressed effectively and efficiently. In her role as vice president, she would push for changes to how Yale deals with mental health and sexual misconduct. Outside of the YCC, Fonkeu is also involved with theater groups on campus and has used her time involved in these settings to connect with her peers and learn about how Yale can better support student groups. 

Confident and adaptable, Fonkeu addressed numerous policy matters with detailed plans of action. When asked how she would tackle specific issues such as bringing a MENA cultural house to campus, Fonkeu laid out a plan for how to help students connect to the MENA community through better organization of peer liaisons while the house is being built. Alongside Julian Suh-Toma ’25, Fonkeu proposed that the YCC should be doing more to “meet students where they are,” stating that even though YCC meetings are open to everyone, oftentimes student organizations can not make the commitment to attend those meetings. As vice president, she would put in the effort to make herself more accessible to student organizations during their own meeting times in order to ensure that all student voices are heard.

Fonkeu wants to further draw back the YCC curtain for students by creating a process to formally track and inform students about policy proposals and where they are in the administrative pipeline. This plan would ensure that members of the student body can hold elected YCC accountable. Despite being a long standing member of the YCC, Fonkeu has avoided being dragged down by the bureaucratic environment of working with administration and is excited to further her role as a bridge between the administration and the student body. Fonkeu’s continued emphasis of the importance of hearing multiple perspectives on student-led issues highlights why she would excel as vice president of the YCC. 

Nyché Andrew ’25 and Madeline Gupta ’25: Accessibility, community and Indigenous leadership

Yale has never had an Indigenous YCC president or vice president, and Nyché Andrew ’25 and Madeline Gupta ’25 are more than capable candidates for the roles. Aptly titled “Building Bridges,” Andrew and Gupta are running a deeply meaningful and honorable campaign that is centered around accessibility, inclusivity and community-building. They presented the Editorial Board with a comprehensive platform, with over 100 policies detailing their approaches to making Yale more accessible and empowering student leaders across Gupta’s communities and organizations. We especially appreciate how Andrew’s and Gupta’s vision is connected to specific policies on student organization representation in YCC, access to housing accommodations, providing first-generation, low-income students with laundry stipends and more. 

It is highly significant that Andrews and Gupta would be the first Indigenous President and Vice President of the YCC if elected. Yale sits on stolen land and is complicit in practices of displacement, settler colonialism and slavery. Andrews and Gupta bring their own lived experience and connections with local and national Indigenous leaders, which the YCC has never had. They also noted that they wanted to use Indigenous governance practices, such as oral history, in their leadership of the organization. The combination of Andrew’s insider knowledge and Gupta’s outsider voice makes them an effective team to tackle the challenges facing the many communities they represent. We are confident that they will build bridges between many communities at Yale with the same care and pride they carry for their own. 

Nevertheless, the Editorial Board is somewhat concerned about their understanding of the purpose and nature of YCC. Giving all 1,200 undergraduate organizations an equal voice in decision-making, as they expressed a desire to do, would almost certainly be logistically infeasible and would represent the needs of different clubs disproportionately. We also encourage them to reflect on their sweeping agenda; if elected, they will almost certainly be unable to accomplish all of the more than 100 goals listed in their platform, so we recommend that they identify and prioritize the areas in which they are most invested in order to maximize their chances for a successful administration.

Ezana Tedla ’25 and Kyle Hovannesian ’25: YCC veterans who get things done

Ezana Tedla ’25 and Kyle Hovannesian ’25 together tout an extensive resumé and are well-versed with the inner workings of the YCC, as well as its bureaucratic hurdles and inefficiencies. They demonstrated their impressive ability to overcome opposition and administrative resistance, Hovannesian referencing his previous success in facilitating the installment of water fountains on Old Campus and Tedla discussing his success in igniting a conversation through the Yale Corp referendum. One of this ticket’s greatest strengths is the duo’s capacity to wield their know-how surrounding YCC politics to effect change despite pushback and procedural hindrances. They also delineated clear action items that they aim to achieve upon entering office: continue bolstering student organizations by providing funds and closely collaborating with student group leaders, take advantage of all YCC funds and create a MENA house plan with Dean of Yale College Pericles Lewis. We find these ambitions straightforward and attainable, further evidencing the pragmatism of the Tedla and Hovannesian ticket. They have devoted significant amounts of time towards building their knowledge of Yale’s history and institutional practices, from exploring the archives to learn more about the issue at hand to contacting and facilitating dialogue with administrators. Put simply, they know how to take ideas and render something concrete. 

However, we do have some concerns regarding the overarching vision of their campaign. When questioned about their big picture goals, they failed to illustrate the overall direction they were headed in terms of policy. We found that, at times, they lost the forest for the trees — clearly articulating which specific policy moves they would make but not making reference to what goal all of these efforts were directed towards. In this respect, we find that they are not necessarily policy visionaries, but they are a worthwhile consideration for those who want to see specific changes to Yale student life. 

Austin Montini ’25 and Anouk Schembri ’24: Championing athlete and transfer student representation

Austin Montini ’25 and Anouk Schembri ’24 present a refreshing, comprehensive platform for the future of the YCC by leveraging the synergies between their distinct experiences at Yale. The pair’s backgrounds uniquely encompass the communities of student athletes, transfer students, ROTC, cultural centers and affiliated groups that the Editorial Board believes deserve frontline representation. As students without prior involvement in the YCC, Montini and Schembri’s embrace of their outsider perspectives provides a compelling argument for the next administration to prioritize restoring the greater student body’s trust and faith in its student government. Included under the ticket’s “One Yale” platform, policy proposals such as simplifying the YCC’s bureaucratic structure and streamlining collaboration between different branches affirm a commitment to serving the core interests of students versus the council’s institutional aims. 

Moreover, their testimonials on improving financial accessibility, for example, gave a humbling reminder that the YCC can benefit by learning from the administrations and policies of institutions beyond those in the Ivy League. Other ideas such as establishing a peer counselor network for students’ “financial health” and mending the dysfunctional athlete bussing system were part of a broader, novel policy stance that resonates with undergraduates.

However, we felt that the ticket’s relative inexperience in the YCC proves to be a double-edged sword. When questioned about how they would handle situations such as student groups being vacated from 305 Crown St. and potential protests on campus, their belief as to the exact role that the YCC should play in representing student interests remained unclear. Their mention of the YCC’s limited prerogative did not seem adequately supported by actionable steps that YCC leaders could take in addressing such issues.

 The Editorial Board believes that candidates’ recognition of the power gap between the YCC and Yale administration is as equally crucial as their clear-cut strategy to working with administrators on core issues. In aggregate, Montini and Schembri are leading a dynamic campaign focused on accountability and the incorporation of students’ diverse perspectives that departs from more traditional candidate platforms witnessed previously.

Daven Yadav ’25: Outsider view on student life

Daven Yadav ’25, who is passionate about mental health reform and changing the social scene at Yale, is the only candidate running without a partner. Yadav acknowledges the respect he has for all those running for the role of vice president and his belief that he could work seamlessly with any of them if elected. Yadav emphasized his departure from the “professional politician” campaigns and described himself as a regular student who wants to represent the needs of our student body. He spoke to us openly about how many of his friends are not aware of what is going on within the YCC or struggle to feel that the decisions impact their day-to-day lives directly. Using his perspective as an “outsider” to the YCC, Yadav wishes to represent these otherwise uninvolved students and show them that their voices matter. Yadav shared concerns about the disconnect between classes of students who began their Yale career online, hoping to alleviate some of that separation with the implementation of events ranging from college galas to gradewide competitions. 

We were concerned by Yadav’s lack of emphasis on the diverse perspectives across campus throughout his interview process. When asked why he supported the Yale Police Department when many other candidates pushed to defund the police or limit their presence in cultural spaces, he spoke on his positive run-ins with police and how he personally felt safer with them around. While we appreciate him bringing in his own experience, we would have liked to see a greater concern for others and an acknowledgement that not all students on campus share the same positive interactions with the Yale Police Department. Additionally, we believe that the directness and clarity of his campaign vision could be strengthened. There were multiple times where, when asked upon which policies he was most passionate about and how he planned to implement them, Yadav responded with a vagueness that suggested a lack of thought put into his platform. Likewise, though an absence of a vice president sets him apart from other tickets, we feel that given this deficit, it was more difficult to see a unified vision coming from Yadav as opposed to the other partnerships.

Sanya Abbasey ’25 and Craig Birckhead-Morton ’24: Empowering mental health advocates and grassroots voices 

Sanya Abbasey ’25 and Craig Birckhead-Morton ’24 are running a unique campaign focused on supporting grassroots movements, amplifying marginalized voices and working to improve the Yale-New Haven relationship. The two have forged a strong friendship and working relationship in their shared advocacy for progressive causes. Their experience in and commitment to both YCC leadership — Abbasey as cultural and religious policy director, Birckhead-Morton as student organizations liaison — and grassroots organizing greatly impressed us. We are confident they have the skills to navigate the intricacies of Yale’s bureaucracy while remaining closely attuned to the pulse of popular opinion in the student body and the broader New Haven community. Their unequivocal support for undergraduate worker unionization and YCC endorsements of open letters and referendums was also admirable. Mental health continues to be one of the most pressing issues on this campus, and we were impressed by their emphasis on giving activists for the cause a seat at the table in their administration. Their interview left us with no doubts that they would give a similar platform to other student leaders, especially members of marginalized groups who have historically lacked representation in the halls of power at Yale.

However, we were concerned by the lack of specificity in their responses to questions about policy proposals. Improving the Yale-New Haven relationship and amplifying student voices are admirable goals, but they are also difficult to measure and achieve through policy. Moreover, their ambitious agenda for community outreach might be constrained by regulations limiting the scope of YCC’s influence and funding. We encourage them to think carefully about how their theory of change will function within the limits of the YCC.

Julian Suh-Toma ’25 and Maya Fonkeu ’25: YCC insiders for a transparent Yale

Under the tagline “A Transparent Yale”, Julian Suh-Toma ’25 and Maya Fonkeu ’25 share a strong ticket with a comprehensive platform of clear, actionable policies. They are both YCC insiders who have worked across the YCC, with Suh-Toma serving on the senate for Benjamin Franklin College and Fonkeu having served in Events and on the Executive Board. They emphasized the importance of transparency and communication from both the YCC and the Yale administration, pointing to recent examples of failures in communication in the 305 Crown St. eviction orders and the religions accommodations mishap. 

As the only ticket to have experience in all three branches of the YCC, we felt confident that they are in a unique position to leverage their knowledge and experience to make the YCC more efficient and more transparent. We liked Suh-Toma’s passionate focus on the importance of safeguarding mental health and implementing a centralized leave of absence office, and we felt that his time on the YCC’s Health and Accessibility Policy Team showed that he had the drive and knowledge to make real change. 

We did feel that the policy focus of their platform meant that they had less of an overarching vision for the role and structure of the YCC, in contrast to some of the other tickets. Their fully-insider status, though clearly bringing some benefits, is not without its negatives. The ticket did not outline some of the YCC’s internal issues as other candidates did, but their focus on transparency and track record of partnering with student organizations may remedy this. We believe Suh-Toma and Fonkeu would be effective in negotiations with the administration. Furthermore, although a part of their selling point is their experience in the YCC, there are other candidates with more substantial YCC track records with regards to policy implementation.  On the whole, Suh-Toma and Fonkeu’s experience makes both of them likely to succeed in navigating administrative bureaucracy on behalf of the student body.  

Final thoughts: Yale administration must commit to working with YCC

Policy proposals and personal achievements aside, we noticed a common thread in each of our interviews. All of the candidate tickets mentioned the difficulty of working with the Yale administration, either in their past roles in the senate or Executive Board or in their expectations about their work if elected. Candidates spoke candidly about the Yale administration’s unilateral decision-making in cases such as eliminating religious housing accommodations, eliminating summer storage options and evicting student organizations from the 305 Crown Street offices. 

Candidates also spoke about the challenges of advocating for student communities in front of the Yale administration. Cultural and identity-based student groups, such as Indigenous students, Middle Eastern/North African students, FGLI students and transfer students, as well as activity-based student groups, such as student athletes, performers and ROTC students, struggle to gain adequate recognition and support from the Yale administration. While no ticket could speak for all of the identities represented at Yale, we are confident that our chosen candidates have the experience, the confidence and most importantly, the humility to listen to and understand their fellow students, and to bring their respective concerns to the administration effectively. 

Candidates also spoke about the difficulty of getting individual administrators to hold themselves accountable for their decisions, and how deans and assistant deans would often redirect inquiries to each other in an infinite loop of bureaucracy. In the same way that students are expected to be accountable for their actions, both in and outside of YCC, we encourage all Yale administrators to engage in good-faith discussions with the YCC leadership, executive board and senate. 

The Editorial Board will conclude this endorsement with a message to the Yale Administration. As students, we are proud to uphold the democratic processes of student governance: this Board and other student organizations write endorsements, the Yale Daily News profiles the candidates, each of whom is running a passionate and honorable campaign with the genuine goodwill of the student body in mind. But no amount of student enthusiasm and no extent of student advocacy can be effective if the administration is unwilling to work with its students and listen to their concerns. The Yale Administration must start to uphold its own values by engaging in open dialogue with both the YCC and other Yale student leaders, so that the democratic processes of student governance can thrive.

Contact the Editorial Board at editorialboard@yaledailynews.com.