One would think a school overrun with former student body presidents would care about Yale’s student government. Last year, in a disappointing record-high, the Yale College Council presidential election saw only about a third of student voters turn out. Furthermore, some senators are notorious for their spotty attendance and multiple past YCC candidates have even run uncontested. Given Yale’s reputation for a passionate and opinionated campus culture, one might expect students to either hold the YCC in high regard as a champion of student voice, or in contempt as an ineffective, prestige-driven institution. But many Yale students find themselves somewhere in an ambivalent, disinterested middle. And we think it’s worth asking why.

Publius spoke with current YCC President Julian Suh-Toma and Vice President Maya Fonkeu to better understand the situation. While they discussed their accomplishments in office — among them the formation of the student advisory council to the Presidential Search Committee, a commitment to the establishment of the Middle Eastern and North African cultural space and the explicit consideration of mental health as a reason for a Dean’s Extension — Suh-Toma and Fonkeu emphasized and reemphasized the role of “institutional memory” in the work that YCC leaders can actually get done. They explained that YCC leadership doesn’t exist in a vacuum but rather continues existing initiatives while simultaneously “laying the groundwork” of their own change. Come May, Suh-Toma and Fonkeu can only pass the torch to new leadership and hope that newcomers will keep it lit.

Herein lies the breeding ground for apathy. Students watch presidential hopefuls campaign on grandiose agendas, only to see those elected function as cogs in a much larger wheel of slow, institutional change. At the end of each presidency, we expect a neat bundle of one year’s worth of change. Instead, we receive a messy web of ongoing efforts. Students are left asking, “What does the YCC even do?”, and not unreasonably. After all, how are we to care about the YCC when its gears churn at glacial pace compared to what we expect and for which we vote? 

Maybe it’s time to look at YCC leadership differently. With lofty titles like “Student Body President,” students are led to believe that one ticket alone can enact transformative change — but after reflecting on their roles, Publius finds the title “Principal Liaison” more apt. The roles of YCC President and Vice President are not built to be those of revolutionaries, but rather of listeners and advocates with unique access to administrators and the highest University officials. While they do oversee tens of thousands of dollars in discretionary funding, the money is largely used to channel and promote the policy initiatives proposed by the Senate. Their role is fundamentally administrative.

As we enter the next YCC election, it is important to look for the qualities that make good, tenacious liaisons — experience, organizational skills, and work ethic — and look skeptically at pipe dreams and idealistic promises. We welcome visionary leadership on campus, but we do not think it is realistic to expect immediate results from the YCC’s highest offices. 

This does not change the fact that these students do serious, valuable work. But as we cast our ballots, let’s consider seeing these leaders as President and Vice Presidents in name but liaisons in practice. 

This piece was written by a two-thirds majority of Publius. Members of the body include:


Violet Barnett, Grace Hopper ’25

Miami, FL

Edos Herwegh Vonk, Davenport ’26

London, United Kingdom


Justin Crosby, Silliman ’25

Middleton, MA

Hannah Figueroa Velazquez, Berkeley ’26

Portland, OR

Ami Gillon, Saybrook ‘27

New York, NY

Miles Kirkpatrick, Saybrook ‘27

Whitsett, NC

Adam Tufts, Berkeley ’26

Livermore, CA

Arrow Zhang, Benjamin Franklin ‘26

Anchorage, AK