Tag Archive: Yale College Council

  1. Behind Closed Doors? Bridging the Gap between Students and the YCC

    Leave a Comment

    Michael Herbert likes to imagine the Yale College Council (YCC) as a magnifying glass, or perhaps a laser.

    “Think about light,” he says on a Monday morning over coffee. “You go outside, the sun shines on your face, but it’s very diffuse. Take out a magnifying glass, you focus the light a little bit more, and all of the sudden you can set the grass on fire. You magnify that light more, and you make a laser that can shoot down a plane.”

    “When you use that metaphor, what it shows,” he continues, “is that when we focus, when we concentrate our efforts, we’re capable of doing a lot more.”

    In April, Herbert was elected president of the YCC on the strength of what he calls a “unique” campaign: his promotional materials featured him posing with Batman, or staring into the distance alongside running mate Chris Moates ’16 while American flags fluttered in the background.

    Herbert was elected president without any prior YCC affiliation. His candidacy was distinct as well in that Herbert is a conservative on a campus where 80 percent of students planned to vote for Barack Obama in 2012, according to a News survey from that year. He’s also a member of ROTC at a university where it was only recently reinstated.

    Yet in one way, Herbert’s campaign was similar to those that preceded it: He promised to change a system that many saw as flawed, distant and ineffective. His campaign used a mix of humor, populism and opportunity to convince voters that he represented a new brand of YCC President, one who would engage the student body in a way he felt that previous leaders had not.

    But some, including Ben Ackerman ’16, former YCC Student Organizations director and candidate for president, are wary of whether an energetic and eye-catching campaign will translate to effective leadership.

    “I think the election of an outsider may not necessarily be the best way to resolve the underlying discontent [with the YCC] that students have,” Ackerman says. “Unless the outsider has some outstanding capabilities, I don’t know if he or she is going to be able to achieve more than an institutional candidate could.”

    * * *

    As Yale’s student government, the YCC is the official avenue for students to influence University policy. Representatives are elected by residential college, and serve under the guidance of an executive board chosen in a campus-wide election every spring.

    Despite the importance of its mission, the YCC has suffered from widespread student apathy, which Herbert would eventually latch onto in his campaign. This, according to several past and present YCC members interviewed, has at times trapped the YCC in a vicious cycle: students are apathetic because they don’t see results, but without student investment, results are hard to come by.

    The YCC rewrote its constitution last year with the aim of avoiding such a trap. Led by then-President Danny Avraham ’15, the Council’s new members began reforming internal operations as soon as their terms began.

    Those changes were eventually put into writing by Joseph English ’17, then the Davenport representative. The new constitution was ratified by the Council and approved by the administration over the final weekend of January. Avraham sent a campus-wide email that hailed the document as a long-overdue fix to some of the YCC’s most fundamental problems —“a reputation of inaction, inefficiency and overall ineffectiveness.”

    Through the new constitution, elections were reformed so that, rather than having representatives elected in the fall and officers in the spring, each member took office at the same time. The Council adopted an online platform, Trello, to log all YCC decisions and activity. And individuals, rather than committees, would be held responsible for completing projects.

    According to Andrew Grass ‘16, who has served as Communications Director and FCC chair, “the goal of it was to make YCC actually do its job and not spend so much time reinventing the wheel every year.”

    But more than a restructuring, the new constitution was also a rebranding. Because the Council had come under fire for a lack of communication with the student body, Avraham’s board established the Student Referendum as a means of gauging student opinion on a variety of issues. Furthermore, an official YCC production and design team began publicizing the YCC’s work with easy infographics, flashy layouts and a new logo.

    “The rebranding was a way to say, ‘Hey, guys, something new is starting,’” Avraham explains.

    Initially, it seemed to work. After an active fall semester that witnessed the referendum on divestment, progress on long-term initiatives like gender-neutral housing, and short-term accomplishments like the campus events calendar, the once-forlorn council seemed to be working its way back into the campus consciousness. And by spring, the YCC had become a staple of student conversation, but not in the way it had hoped.

    * * *

    When Dean Mary Miller announced last year that she would be retiring, the search for a replacement began, and the administration weighed several options for involving students in the search.

    When administrators eventually settled on including a student representative on the search committee for a new dean, they tasked the YCC with selecting that student. At a February 22 meeting, open to the student body, the YCC turned to the question of how: an application process, a campus-wide election or an internal vote?

    In what YDN columnist Scott Stern ’15, who was in attendance, calls a “contentious” debate, the desire to involve students competed with the logistical problems of holding a fair election on one day’s notice, as the search committee was scheduled to meet on February 24. In the end, the latter won out, and the Council voted 12-9 to choose the student representative via an internal vote.

    The next decision was easier. In a vote of 17-1 with 3 abstentions, the YCC voted for President Danny Avraham to be the student representative on the search committee.

    But for the seven non-YCC members who attended the open meeting, the decision represented a blatant overreach of the Council’s powers.

    “When we elected the YCC, we elected them to do a number of things,” says Stern, one of the non-members arguing against the decision. He was joined by Sterling Johnson ’16 and News columnists Diana Rosen ‘16 and Tyler Blackmon ‘16. “None of those things was to appoint a student representative to a committee to help choose the next dean.”

    Even though Stern and Johnson felt the process was fair, they were nonetheless disappointed with the result, which they felt gave students no voice. And, according to Stern, others agreed.

    “Judging from the response we got from students, on social media and elsewhere,” he says, “I think there were a lot of people who were like, ‘This is different, this is unusual. We care.’”

    * * *

    Part of this frustration with the decision stems from the 2013 YCC elections.

    That year, Avraham was the only candidate for President after his opponent dropped out shortly before the election. Kyle Tramonte ’15 was the only candidate for Vice-President, and Eli Rivkin ’15 the only candidate for events director. Only 953 ballots were cast in the presidential election—a contrast to the 2,618 and 2,704, respectively, in the two years prior.

    While some saw the elections as evidence of widespread apathy, those affiliated with the YCC offer a different account. They say that when Avraham and Tramonte stepped up to fill voids left when board members took leaves of absence in the middle of the year, they became natural candidates for the next round of elections.

    “It was not anything to do with apathy,” says then-President John Gonzalez ’14. Avraham agrees, simply saying that “When someone decides to run, by virtue of the politics that are involved, a lot depends on who they’re running against.”

    Stern believes that the nature of the 2013 elections further alienated the YCC from the student body. Indeed, as students like Ben Healy ‘15 put it, “No one cares about the YCC. Only a few people are interested in it, and they aren’t representative of the school.” Carly Hafner ‘15 echoes that “YCC seems like a certain friend group, and composed of people who want to be seen as the big people on campus.”

    Stern makes clear that he doesn’t blame the winners of those elections for running uncontested. But had there been more contested races and more student interest, he says he would have been more comfortable with the YCC acting unilaterally on students’ behalf.

    When the decision was made public, its reception wasn’t improved by the misinformation that spread throughout campus after the fact, says Zach Murn ’17, who was involved with the presidential campaign of Leah Motzkin ‘16.

    The prevailing notion, says Maia Eliscovich ’16, the current Vice President of YCC, was that “Danny chose himself.” “It was an awkward turn of events,” she concludes.

    This was nothing new; according to Gonzalez and others affiliated with the YCC, students’ lack of knowledge often allows uninformed and unfair images of the YCC to go unchallenged. No student interviewed was able to describe the Council’s decision-making process.

    In reality, the President has no voting power, which is reserved for the representatives and the Vice-President in the case of a tie. Ultimately, Avraham didn’t have a vote in the YCC’s decision.

    And according to Eliscovich, Avraham recused himself for most of the debate, but few people knew that at the time.

    With students unaware of how the YCC actually worked, they were more ready to see the decision as a dictatorial one. In the end, the decision bolstered the perception of YCC as an empowered clique rather than a representative body. Many students interviewed said they view the YCC as distant and opaque, and some YCC members agreed that their friends felt removed from the Council’s actions.

    “As long as I’ve been here,” says Johnson, “YCC has seemed to be less like a student government and more like a club that works with the Yale administration.”

    * * *

    For Michael Herbert, this gap between students and the YCC was the perfect opening. And the wider, the better.

    While Grass, Gonzalez and Avraham still hesitate to acknowledge student apathy as an important element in the 2013 elections, Herbert, in his campaign, underscored it as the most pervasive problem of all. (Today, however, Herbert allows that 2013 was in fact an unusual year for many reasons.)

    In his April 11 YDN op-ed, Herbert wrote of the 2013 elections that, “student apathy was so profound that seven out of twelve colleges did not even have contested elections for the Council of Representatives.”

    But Herbert wasn’t the only candidate running on a quasi-populist platform, and nowhere was that more apparent than in the candidates’ statements in the YDN. Herbert’s piece was titled “A new YCC for everyone.” Sara Miller’s ‘16 column, “It starts with us,” called for “transparent, democratic student government.” Motzkin, the runner-up to Herbert, titled her statement “Bringing YCC to you,” and lamented the fact that many students didn’t know who their YCC representatives were.

    The only candidate with a significantly different platform—and the only candidate with Executive Board experience—was Ackerman, who wrote about the YCC’s need for executive power over University policy. Despite being the candidate with the most YCC experience, Ackerman finished fourth with 17% of the vote.

    The election became a referendum on the YCC’s relationship to Yale students, with rhetoric sometimes veering into personal attacks on Danny Avraham, the face of the YCC and —fairly or unfairly—the search committee decision.

    But many affiliated with the YCC do not believe the search committee controversy had a significant impact on the elections or on candidates’ decisions to run. Avraham, Gonzalez and Grass all suggest that the urgency of issues like mental health reform and financial aid contributed to the open field and the resurgence of student interest. If anything, Avraham says, the controversy discouraged people from running.

    “There were some people who were very interested in that issue,” Grass says, “but I think overall the real focus on the campaigns stemmed a lot from the fact that there were a lot of people running who had some different platforms and some different ideas.”

    Herbert and Stern disagree. Stern believes that the search committee controversy played a “huge” role in shaping the themes of the election, and he points to the similarities between candidate statements as evidence — similarities that other theories about the election don’t explain.

    “All four [candidates] ran on the same platform,” he says, “essentially an anti-Washington platform. And Michael Herbert won — he was the least affiliated with the YCC. He was literally not a part of the YCC.”

    That would never have happened, Stern thinks, had students not felt alienated from their supposed representatives.

    Both Stern and Avraham credit Herbert with understanding students’ perceptions of the YCC. YCC members weren’t student leaders, Herbert said—they were “student government enthusiasts.” And Herbert was uniquely positioned to deliver such a message. He says his outsider status helped him reach out to communities like Greek life and athletics, who have traditionally had little to do with student government.

    As to the search committee controversy, Herbert says, “I don’t think it hurt me.”

    Johnson, for one, was impressed. “I thought it was kind of cool,” he says “that in spite of all the people with a large amount of YCC experience, Michael Herbert just shows up saying ‘I’m here to be your friend as president’ and he wins.”

    The tongue-in-cheek moments of Herbert’s campaign, like a campaign video composed of snippets of Disney movies, represented a calculated effort to appear uncalculating. A perfect opposite to the image of the earnest, bureaucratic and insulated “student government enthusiast.”

    * * *

    The campaign’s populist theme helped some more than others. Ackerman thinks some saw him as exactly the kind of “institutional” candidate that Herbert stigmatized, and he concedes this may have hurt his campaign. But he thinks Herbert’s focus on engaging students might have come at the expense of substance.

    “I thought Michael Herbert’s campaign was more limited in its appeal to the issues,” he says, pointing out that despite it being a key issue in his campaign, Herbert never offered a clear policy proposal regarding sexual assault.

    But Ackerman says that this won’t undermine Herbert’s term. Rather, he thinks that the biggest question facing the new president will be whether he maintains the enthusiasm he generated during the campaign, especially among groups unfamiliar with the YCC. Ackerman says it’s been tried before.

    Like so many YCC Presidents before him, however, Herbert believes that this time will be different. Among the innovations backing his claim is the Pulse addition to the Yale Mobile app, which Herbert says is ready for deployment “as soon as they need it.” Pulse will allow the YCC to poll students in real time. Herbert is quick to point out that the app could have alleviated much of the controversy over the search committee.

    He and Eliscovich also plan on having weekly dinners with leaders from various campus communities: the editors-in-chief of student publications, sports captains, college council presidents and other. Herbert plans to hold office hours in a different residential college each week, something he says past YCC presidents haven’t done.

    If he maintains the broad enthusiasm he generated during the campaign, Herbert could have formidable student backing when taking proposals on mental health reform, sexual assault and gender-neutral housing to the administration. He says that while mental health is up first, as a YCC report on the topic has already been completed, sexual assault was a key issue in his campaign and a personally important one.

    Yet probably the biggest difference is the new constitution that Herbert will work under—a constitution drafted by the predecessors whose public image he exploited to win the presidency.  Herbert does take pains to acknowledge his debts to the 2013-’14 YCC for drafting the new document, but he might owe them his office as well.

    Ultimately, with a new president, a new constitution and maybe a new reputation, the YCC is poised to take on a more pronounced—and hopefully more positive—role in the day-to-day lives of Yale students. Even Stern is cautiously optimistic.

    “It’s going to be different,” he says, “which I think can only be good.”

     

    Contact David Whipple at

    david.whipple@yale.edu.

  2. The YCC Candidates Who Really Matter

    Leave a Comment

    Which of these candidates will lead us through our Most Important Bright College Years? We are the company of scholars, the mighty Bulldog! We deserve a leader — heck, we deserve several. One who speaks our language. One who joins the numbers. One who understands true beauty. Polls close tonight at 9 p.m: quick, let it go, the aesthetic character of Cross Campus is at stake!

    Screen shot 2014-04-18 at 2.32.57 AM[media-credit id=11498 align=”aligncenter” width=”949″]

     

  3. Overwhelmed: Why Students Are Unhappy with Yale’s System of Mental Health Care

    1 Comment

    55 Lock Street, commonly known as Yale Health among the University’s students, overlooks New Haven’s Grove Street Cemetery like the Death Star hovered in George Lucas’s night sky.

    Black and jagged, the building was completed in 2010 after three years of construction. According to a newsletter released by Yale Health that fall, the new health center was 60 percent larger than its predecessor, “with more than double the examination rooms, more space in the diagnostic imaging area, and increased space for minor procedures.” The same pamphlet touted the relocation with the headline: “From a ‘hole in the ground’ to ‘wow;’ Yale Health Center continues great service in a new home.”

    The inside of Yale Health suggests a more complicated reality. At the end of a brightly lit hallway on the building’s third floor is the Mental Health and Counseling Department (MH&C), which addresses the psychological concerns of Yale’s almost 12,000 total students. Inside the waiting room, there are 11 brown chairs, a modern-looking coat tree, and a barrier of opaque glass that separates the department from the building’s other facilities.

    More than 50 percent of undergraduates will find themselves in this room during their time at Yale. Lorraine Siggins, the department’s chief psychiatrist, reported in a publically available memo in September that MH&C sees about 20 percent of undergrads each year. (Siggins declined to comment for this article, citing “time constraints” in a November email.)

    The numbers are even higher for Yale’s graduate and professional school students, 25 percent of whom visit MH&C yearly. They are also growing; visits have doubled since 1998, now surpassing 20,000 per year. All Yale students are entitled to 12 individual counseling sessions annually, and a mental health clinician can always be reached for emergencies through the Acute Care Department.

    With the rise in appointments have come longer wait-times and more reports indicating insufficient quality of care at MH&C. Based on more than two dozen interviews with University officials, student leaders and alumni, these concerns about Yale’s mental health services finally seem to be making waves within the administration.

    As pressure mounts to reform MH&C from every level of the student body, the 2013-14 academic year appears to present an opportunity for Yale to more actively address mental health. Still, such reforms may take longer than many students are willing — or able — to wait.

    “Negative Perceptions Are Prevalent”

    On December 12, the Office of the Secretary and Vice President for Student Life, headed by Kimberly Goff-Crews ’83 ’86 LAW, sent an email to all Yale students, which said “discussions and collaborative efforts have been underway at all levels” to improve mental health on campus.

    “Living and working in this type of environment, it is normal for students to feel anxious about academic and social pressures,” the email stated. “However, the culture at Yale seems to discourage acknowledging vulnerability; rather, many students feel additional pressure to be ‘effortlessly excellent’…This expectation is not realistic and not healthy.”

    The email did not specify measures for reform beyond updating the MH&C website with more information about mental health care, nor did it mention students’ most pressing concern of all: meeting patient demand in a reasonable amount of time.

    Yale Health employs 28 mental health clinicians — including social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists — 22 of whom work full-time. Given Yale’s student population, this means there are approximately 425 to 550 students for every clinician at MH&C. This means Yale has about twice the number of mental health professionals per student than do schools of similar size, based on 2012 data from the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors (AUCCCD).

    A Yale College Council (YCC) report on mental health published last October revealed that this ratio, while favorable, doesn’t tell the whole story. Authored by three Yale College students, the report compiled data from what it called 50 “structured interviews” with student leaders and administrators, and from a campus-wide, anonymous survey, to which roughly 20 percent of undergrads responded.

    The report included findings about Yale’s campus culture and resources surrounding mental health. Of students who completed the survey, 39 percent said they had sought the services of Mental Health and Counseling — the reasons for their visits ranged from depression and anxiety to eating disorders and academic stress.

    “We do acknowledge the limitations of the data we’ve collected,” Reuben Hendler, one of the YCC report’s authors, says, referring to sampling biases in the survey and interviews. “But that in no way means we can’t learn a lot from it.”

    The report also contained data on students’ perceptions of the quality of care offered at Yale Health, with 31 percent of students rating their experiences as “poor” or “very poor.” Moreover, over half of respondents said they would be “unlikely,” “very unlikely,” or “unsure” about approaching MH&C if they wanted professional counseling.

    “Negative perceptions of MH&C are prevalent,” the report stated. “Some students fall through the cracks.”

    Paul Genecin, director of Yale Health since 1997, acknowledges that students’ experiences of MH&C vary, but says Yale Health has quality control measures in place, such as an annual review of clinicians, a member services department, and yearly accreditation by the Joint Commission — a non-profit organization that certifies roughly 20,000 health care programs in the United States.

    “It is a fact of student health across the land: If you ask students what they think, you will find a number of people exercising their critical faculties,” Genecin says. “You can trade out us and put in ‘Athletics,’ ‘Dining,’ ‘Libraries’ — there’s always a seeming disconnect between how people look at a service versus how it actually is.”

    In order to assuage students’ expressed concerns, the YCC report outlined three major recommendations for MH&C: communicating more effectively about appointments, expectations, feedback, and mental health education; hiring additional therapists; and possibly referring certain students to outside clinicians.

    Specific measures included allowing students to schedule appointments over email, instituting mandatory telephone check-ins with students who miss an appointment or wait more than a week to be assigned a therapist and creating “an accessible, well-publicized way for students to provide feedback.” Hendler, one of the authors, says he is confident the report will be given “serious consideration” by the University.

    Genecin states the YCC report did “a good job” of addressing some of the misinformation among students about MH&C’s services. He admits Yale Health should do more public outreach, but adds that his staff is primarily dedicated to patient care, and so cannot focus on outreach as much as they would like. When asked about the long wait times some students experience, Genecin responded that “no health care system can have perfect access to resources” and that doctors must prioritize patients based on the severity of their conditions.

    “I’m much more concerned with treating students who need serious intervention,” he explains. “The question is not what percentage of students did you see in x number of days, it’s what percentage of students did you see who really needed help.”

    But such an approach has led to a dissatisfaction with MH&C that extends well beyond the College: on the same day the YCC released its report, Yale’s Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) and Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS) released their own mental health report, according to which 32 percent of participants in an annual GPSS survey said they were “somewhat dissatisfied or worse” with the University’s mental health services. Ultimately, this was “the strongest student concern with the Yale Health Plan” in 2013.

    Yale: “A Rough Place To Be Sometimes”

    For Julie Botnick ‘14, scheduling an appointment at Mental Health and Counseling was a daunting task. In an October 21 Yale Daily News opinion column, “Don’t neglect us,” Botnick wrote that she sought treatment at MH&C during her sophomore year for a chronic mental disorder.

    Botnick became frustrated, however, when she waited over a month to be assigned a permanent clinician after her “intake” appointment — an hour-long evaluation session typically made within three days of a student contacting MH&C.

    When Botnick finally saw someone, the clinician was a social worker and not a psychiatrist as she had requested, whom she said seemed “bored and unresponsive.” She stopped visiting MH&C after “two or three sessions,” and was never contacted afterwards to see if her condition had improved.

    “It was a waste of my time,” Botnick remembers. “I can’t believe they had never been so busy before and didn’t know what volume of people to expect. They need to meet the demand, no excuses.”

    Multiple factors may explain why students like Botnick experience long wait times and variable quality of care at MH&C. Notably, Yale Health’s triage system prioritizes students who feel they are in dire straits and can articulate it. According to Genecin, those who express suicidal thoughts or the intention to harm themselves are “seen immediately,” which necessarily delays other appointments.

    Nonetheless, as Genecin himself acknowledges, these are rare cases; most students present with an “extremely broad” range of concerns that do not require emergency treatment.

    After intake, each patient is given the contact information of a MH&C clinician, and a schedule is created that is reviewed within five weeks, Siggins, the head of the department, stated in the September memo. Students on medication are scheduled a check-in appointment after four to five weeks of treatment, and Siggins reported that only “about 10 percent” of patients wait longer than two or three weeks to see a clinician.

    Additionally, in her September presentation to the Yale Health Member Advisory Committee — a feedback group composed of about 20 undergraduate, graduate and professional school students, and Yale Health staff — Siggins said her department offers group therapy to students waiting for individual appointments, with about a dozen groups currently running.

    But Genecin concedes that many students are uncomfortable with group treatment because they would prefer confidential, one-on-one therapy. Moreover, students can only join groups in which they do not know anyone else. While in line with clinical best practices, this requirement poses significant logistical problems for a student body as well connected as Yale’s.

    Anna North ’13, a first-year student at Yale’s School of Public Health and a former Freshman Counselor (FroCo) in Silliman College, says although she was offered group therapy after her individual appointments ran out as an undergrad, she was ultimately disappointed with her experience.

    “Hardly anybody will be able to benefit from [group therapy] because they start at a random time and are really disorganized,” North says. “Last year, I tried to join a group, finally got into one, and then found out one of my friends was in it so I wasn’t allowed to join.”

    However, Stephanie Tubiolo ’14, a current FroCo in Silliman College, believes group therapy helped her cope with depression and an eating disorder, which developed after her work supervisor, John Miller MUS ’07, a School of Music employee, committed suicide in 2011. Tubiolo says everyone in her therapy group received the attention they needed, adding that the counselor in charge facilitated discussions without interfering with the group dynamic.

    “It was a really rewarding experience to say I had this issue and someone else would say, ‘That happens to me all the time,’” Tubiolo explains. “Especially at Yale where so few people are willing to show their weaknesses. It’s a rough place to be sometimes.”

    Tubiolo also speaks highly of individual counseling sessions, which she says taught her to “pick [herself] up” on difficult days and now seem like “one of the best decisions [she has] ever made.”

    She says she was surprised by the YCC report’s findings about variable quality of care at MH&C, but admits that not everyone feels immediately comfortable with their clinician because of therapy’s subjective nature.

    Siggins reported that 25 percent of students start to feel better after three or four visits to MH&C. But inevitably each year, the department sees busy times, such as between Thanksgiving and winter breaks, when the stress of final exams and papers may negatively affect students’ mental health.

    “I feel like it’s gotten a bit worse in recent years,” University Chaplain Sharon Kugler maintains. “Students are now stressing two weeks into the semester rather than six. Then we get into Reading Week and everything goes to black.”

    Addressing the Information Gap

    Administrators like Kugler play an important role in getting certain students to receive treatment at Mental Health and Counseling. In an environment with a high demand for services and a limited supply of clinicians, residential college masters, deans, freshmen counselors and chaplains can significantly accelerate the intake process by advocating for students.

    “If something gets to a level where day-to-day support from deans, administrators, and friends is not going to help, then we contact MH&C,” Jeffrey Brenzel, Master of Timothy Dwight College, says.

    Many undergraduates do not know where to go until they face an acute situation. As the YCC report outlined, students may be “confused about how to navigate [Yale’s] extensive network of resources.

    Such confusion is unsurprising: Yale resources include everything from student organizations like Walden Peer Counseling, Queer Peers, Peer Liaisons (PLs), Communication and Consent Educators (CCEs), Freshman Counselors (FroCos) and Mind Matters — a mental health awareness group — to institutional resources like MH&C, the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education (SHARE) Center, the Chaplain’s Office, the Resource Office on Disabilities, the Office of LGBTQ Resources and the four cultural centers. Currently, comprehensive information about campus resources is not centralized.

    “I felt like FroCo training was the first time where I fully knew about Yale’s mental health resources because it was my job to know,” Margaret Coons ’14, a Silliman FroCo, recalls. “People going through emergency situations might not have the luxury to wait.”

    Five current FroCos said freshman orientation should include more information about Yale’s mental health resources and campus culture. Although every FroCo must meet with the staff of MH&C and participate in mental health role-plays before freshmen arrive on campus, Michael Sherman ’14, a FroCo in Pierson College, says he was disappointed with this year’s training.

    “When we did the role-plays,” — simulations of students approaching FroCos with mental health concerns — “the professionals who were there gave almost no feedback and left it up to the group,” he says. Sherman added that a mandatory tour of Yale Health was part of orientation, but because it was scheduled on Labor Day, there were no officials present to greet and guide freshmen. “We quickly realized we were the tour guides and we didn’t know the adequate information.”

    Anna North ‘13, the alumna at the School of Public Health and former FroCo, agrees with Coons’s assessment of the information gap, adding that she was “extremely nervous” the first time she visited MH&C during her sophomore year because she didn’t know what to expect. North, who was experiencing regular anxiety attacks, only approached MH&C once she felt she was on the verge of leaving Yale if nothing changed.

    The result of general ignorance about MH&C is that rumors circulate among undergrads regarding the consequences of receiving treatment, North claims, which may deter some students from seeking help. Such rumors include being sent to the Yale-New Haven Psychiatric Hospital, where treatment could become expensive, and being asked by the University to take a medical leave of absence, which could threaten a student’s chances of graduating on time.

    It’s no wonder then that for many students, a certain deal of anxiety surrounds scheduling an appointment at MH&C. Robert Peck ’15, a former staff reporter for the News, had a Kafkaesque experience there during his sophomore year, when he had to wait over three months to be seen by a permanent clinician.

    Now a YCC representative on the Yale Health Member Advisory Committee, Peck says he was told he would get to see a clinician within a month of his intake appointment in November 2012. When that did not happen and he returned home for winter break, Peck emailed his intake counselor but received no response. And when he called MH&C in early January, he was simply told that December was always a busy time.

    It was not until his dean called MH&C several weeks into the spring semester that he had an official appointment scheduled for February.

    “You would think that was the end of it, but then the therapist I was assigned decided not to show up for work on the day of my appointment,” Peck remembers. “I was so thoroughly poisoned by the experience that I left and didn’t go back.”

    Peck admits his condition was not as severe as those of others he has spoken with, but says it would be unacceptable for Yale Health to define success only in terms of treating its most pressing patients.

    “Of course Yale Health is probably better than many [university health care] programs in the country, but that doesn’t get them off the hook for not fully helping the student population here,” he asserts. “If we’re to have faith in our university, for a service we pay for through tuition, there has to be some legitimate reason they can’t meet demand in a timely fashion. So far, I haven’t heard what that is.”

    “A Legitimate Reason”?

    A potential answer to Peck’s question may involve how the University determines Yale Health’s annual budget, which Stephanie Spangler, deputy provost for health affairs and academic integrity, currently oversees. She previously served as Director of Yale University Health Services from 1990 to 1995.

    In November, Spangler declined to comment on the magnitude or percentage that Yale Health’s expenses make up of the University’s overall budget, but said Yale Health’s four biggest costs are medication, staffing, hospital expenses and those to outside providers and delivery systems.

    Genecin and Lorraine Siggins are the two people primarily responsible for managing the budget for mental health, Spangler said. Although Genecin declined to provide specific budgetary figures, which total in “the millions of dollars,” he notes that a significant amount of MH&C’s funding comes from the endowment, through donors who specifically want to support Yale’s mental health services.

    However much money is allocated to MH&C, the University’s limited finances and budget priorities may impede changes to Yale Health for some time. As of June 2013, Yale faced a $39 million budget deficit, which University President Peter Salovey and Provost Benjamin Polak announced in mid-November would need to be reduced through cuts to administrative departments. At the time, Genecin told the News that Yale Health is always looking for ways to contain costs, and that budget pressures fluctuate throughout the year.

    Reuben Hendler, one of the YCC report authors, admits that hiring extra clinicians at MH&C would cost more than other reforms, but says it would be “the silver bullet” to lowering student wait times. In turn, Hendler explains, undergrads would have more positive perceptions of Yale Health. “It’s simple: If there are more therapists, then people can be seen more quickly,” he says. “Obviously that takes resources. We think those resources are well spent.”

    “Barring unforeseen circumstances, I expect we’ll be talking about adding more staff as the new residential colleges are built,” Genecin says. The two new colleges are scheduled to be completed in August 2017, which will allow Yale to admit roughly 15 percent more students each year, bringing total undergraduate enrollment to more than 6,000.

    Genecin declined to speculate as to whether the ratio of mental health clinicians to students would also change.

    Ernest Baskin GRD ‘16, chair of the Yale Health Member Advisory Committee, says he is optimistic that mental health resources on campus will improve, but maintains that it will take “broad student initiatives” to make the Yale Corporation aware that mental health is such an important issue. “It needs to be heard by the trustees who control the purse strings and can influence the allocation of funds, at the very highest level of decision-making,” he asserts.

    For now, at least, those hopes may not be far off.

    “One thing in the [YCC] report that concerned me was the observation that students could be unhappy here and feel they have to hide it,” Spangler says. “We have a great opportunity to change that.”

  4. YCC releases alcohol report

    Leave a Comment

    In an email to the student body this morning, the Yale College Council announced a report including five recommendations for improving the University’s drinking culture based on the results of a survey of nearly 1,500 students, open forums and discussions with individual students.

    The report recommended firstly that University President Richard Levin make a public statement supporting a reconsideration of the legal drinking age. The current legal age limit of 21 has repeatedly come up in discussions among students and administrators as one of the main challenges to creating a safe drinking environment, according to YCC President John Gonzalez ’14, and the best way to address such as a “macro level” issue is to join a movement advocating for long-term change.

    Yale College Dean’s Office Fellow Garrett Fiddler ’11 said there is a general awareness on college campuses that reducing high risk drinking might be easier with a drinking age of 18, particularly because it would allow universities to teach students how to drink responsibly upon entering college.

    “One idea would be that freshmen could drink with their master and dean at a reception when they came to campus if they were legal,” Fiddler said. “Drinking in a social situation with adults would be a much less risky initial drinking environment than pre-gaming in a suite.”

    However, Fiddler said he thinks the end goal of improving Yale’s drinking environment by attempting to change the legal drinking age is unrealistic and unlikely to happen in the near future. While the current legal drinking age impedes alcohol education on college campuses, Fiddler said, the law has many other reasons for being in place, such as preventing drunk driving.

    The report also recommended the creation within a year of a dry, large-scale dance or other event where students can socialize on weekends. The YCC has found that there are limited late night options for students under 21, Gonzalez said, and providing alternative outlets is important.

    In addition, the email advised the University to clarify their alcohol disciplinary policies and that Yale Police and administrators do not ask students where they received their alcohol. The survey found that over 200 students have chosen not to seek assistance when intoxicated due to fear of disciplinary repercussions.

    According to the email, the YCC plans to meet with Levin, President-elect Peter Salovey and Yale College Dean Mary Miller over the summer to reevaluate Yale’s alcohol policies.

  5. YCC election winners announced

    Leave a Comment

    The Yale College Council elections concluded on Friday afternoon at 5 p.m., and all but one of the races ended with a decisive result.

    Of the contested races, Andrew Grass ’16 was elected YCC Secretary and Leigh Hamilton ’15 won the YCC Treasurer race, receiving 50.64 percent of the vote and 60.71 percent of the vote, respectively. Ben Ackerman ’16 won the race for Undergraduate Organizing Committee chair with 32.13 percent of the vote.

    Danny Avraham ’15, Kyle Tramonte ’15, Eli Rivkin ’15 and Layla Khuri ’16 were elected YCC President, Vice President, Events Director and Sophomore College Council President, respectively, in a YCC race that was the first in YCC history to have more than one uncontested position.

    There will be a runoff election for Junior Class Council president between Rachel Tobin ’15, who received 29.21 percent of the vote, and Nancy Xia ’15, who received 32.58 percent of the vote. According to YCC election rules, any candidate who does not receive a majority of the vote must win be a plurality and at least 5 percent more than the nearest candidate. If neither of these conditions is met, the race will go into a runoff between the top two candidates.

    Voting for the run-off election will take place next Monday and Tuesday.

  6. WEEKEND WANTS DEMOCRACY

    Leave a Comment

    Don’t you dislike one-man elections? Don’t you think they decrease the legitimacy of the institution at stake? The saying goes, “Vote or DIE!” but here at WEEKEND, we just cannot take the Yale College Council elections seriously this year. We were hoping for the first female YCC president in recent memory, or a Brandon Levin ’14 surprise bid. Instead, we got three uncontested races. What. The. Fuck. So long, healthy competition. So long, government by the people. For the sake of democracy, though, here’s our list of potential candidates for the YCC presidential election. No, but actually — consider these honest contenders! Read their candidacy statements, “like” them on Facebook, tell your YCC representative to include these four names in the ballot. WE WILL NOT STAND FOR TYRANNY!

    Caleb Madison’s Super Awesome Presidential Platform Just For YOU!

    // BY CALEB MADISON

    Hey, you! Yes you, reading this right now. I want to introduce you to a cool new candidate for YCC president. This person is awesome, cool, funny and smart. Sounds like the perfect candidate, right? I bet you can’t wait to meet this person. Good news: You don’t have to wait, because you can see this person right now. Take out your iPhone, open up your camera app and press the twisty camera icon on the top-right corner. That’s right. The candidate is you.

    The Constitution once said, “We the People!” The Gettysburg Address once said, “Of the people, by the people, for the people!” These famous American words are why I am running for YCC president. I believe that normal, everyday Americans like you, me, or an autistic man with a heart of gold and a passion for ping-pong can truly make a difference in people’s lives. Yale is a perfect place, and everyone here is so wise, amazing and talented. I wish everyone could be YCC president!!!! But they can’t. 🙁 That’s why I’m running for YCC president: for you.

    I’ve always wanted to have a leadership position in my college student government because I’m selfless. First and foremost, I want people and my friends to be happy. If I were YCC president, I would organize fun events around campus so that everyone was happy. Still not happy after all the events I’ve organized? Send me an email at my email address, and I will make you happy! After all, that’s why I’m running for YCC president in the first place: you. I’m coming to YOUR dorm and talking to YOU about why I’d be a great president. I’m inviting YOU to a million Facebook events about voting for me. I’m taking pictures of YOU with a sign that has my name on it. So when you have the ballot in front of you next Thursday, whom are you going to vote for? Someone else who isn’t you? Or yourself? I think the answer is clear.

    Yasmine Hafiz for YCC President: An Advocate for Riotous Chilling

    // BY YASMINE HAFIZ

    Does anyone really give a fuck about academic minors at Yale? I’m currently on the senior thesis strugglebus and have neither the time nor the inclination to have another random title on my diploma, a document which will probably vanish into the recesses of my grandmother’s basement along with the other things she likes to save and hoard for posterity — a collection of molded straw hats, photos in slide form and various other knickknacks.

    In addition to the academic minor pointlessness, my opponent’s platform apparently includes restoring reading week, making the YCC “stronger and more relevant” on campus, and overhauling alcohol policy. As a super-senior I have three things to say: Reading week/fall break is for drinking, YCC doesn’t matter, and when it comes to alcohol, always eat dinner first.

    So here’s my suggestion for the betterment of Yale. It’s fucking nice outside, so everyone should be hanging out and chilling in the sunshine, preferably with some music and a beer or two. No matter how stressed you are, stop procrastinating with Netflix and messing around on your computer and GO OUTSIDE.

    In order to push this initiative forward, I have created the Picnic Panlist. Our manifesto and welcome message is below. If you can figure out the new Google Groups situation, then you are welcome to join us. Let the riotous chilling begin!

    “Welcome to the Picnic Panlist. You are receiving this invitation because you have either attended/expressed interested in picnics. Messages will be sent out to alert members when picnics are occurring (usually on Cross Campus). Message the group if you are organizing a picnic of your own, but please DO NOT SPAM!

    ‘A picnic is a pleasure excursion at which a meal is eaten outdoors (al fresco or en plein air), ideally taking place in a beautiful landscape such as a park, beside a lake or with an interesting view and possibly at a public event such as before an open air theatre performance, and usually in summer.’ — From the Wikipedia entry on picnics.

    See you soon for drinking and sunbathing! If you would like to be removed from this panlist please email me.

    For a Clean Candidacy

    // BY YUVAL BEN-DAVID

    Hello. My name is Yuval Ben-David, and I am running for president.

    Listen closely. Do you hear the stirrings of a 2032 White House campaign?

    No, you don’t. Kids, I’m not just using this as a stepping-stone to greater things. There are no greater things out there. This is it, the endgame: Yale College Council.

    I’m not one of those vest-wearing brats who’s just gonna write about this on his “Grand Strategy” app. Nuh-no. I’m clean. I’m moral. I’m so dedicated to the YCC I read the salad dressing reports.

    Speaking of which, that last one was a little short, don’t you think? (See what I did there? I asked you a question. I invited you to a “public discussion” about pressing issues. Democracy comes naturally to me!) Anyways, Mr. Gonzalez, I’d have really appreciated news on whether the blue cheese dressing is compatible with my gluten-free, macrobiotic diet.

    I’m not going to make cheap promises, but allow me to outline some ideas:

    1. Expand the alcohol “safety first” policy to marijuana. Under my command, the YCC will work aggressively to supply parties with pure, untainted medical marijuana. It’s ethical, too! No more of that blood-diamond Mexican stuff.

    2. Work with Blue State to introduce a platinum membership for those of you who squat there, like me. (Perks will include preferred access to the comfy chairs.)

    3. Send the Mafia after the folks at U.S. News and World Report who ranked Yale third.

    4. Work with President-elect Salovey to find the most tactful way to avoid an athletic recruitment policy.

    5. Expand grade inflation. You’re all above average. Ubermenschen, really. Way, way above average.

    Thank you. God bless you, and God bless America.

    Dear Leader: The eternally glorious hero Yale deserves

    // BY KARIN SHEDD

    To the Comrades of what will henceforth be correctly referred to as the Democratic People’s University of Yale (DPUY):

    This Thursday, in a landslide election enacted by you, the loving Comrades, WEEKEND will take its rightful place as the Dear Leader* of the YCC, henceforth known as the Supreme Undergraduate Assembly (SUA).

    As the hero responsible for single-handedly releasing Comrades from the oppressive yoke of the inferior Communists at Harvard, as well as establishing the DPUY in 1701, WEEKEND’s assumption of this title is not only deserved, but three centuries late.

    As restitution for this late acknowledgment of WEEKEND’s birthright and to maintain the happiness and superiority of all Comrades, the following resolutions will be put into effect immediately:

    1.     All media will be condensed under WEEKEND’s umbrella, with the exception of the communistic Rumpus, whose current staff will have the honor of serving as the practice run for resolution 5 (see below).

    2.     The “$10K Challenge” will be officially renamed the “$10K Celebration of Our Heavenly Leader,” to be used every year for the purpose of honoring the deserving WEEKEND. This year, those funds will be used to correct the statues on Old Campus from the defectors Nathan Hale, Theodore Dwight Woolsey and Abraham Pierson to appropriate likenesses of the Dear Leader.

    3.     Once a year, all Comrades will feel a powerful compulsion to pay homage to their Dear Leader by making a pilgrimage to the Dear Leader’s birthplace (202 York St.).

    4.     All musical and performing arts groups will be condensed into the Company for the Adoration of Our Dear Leader. They will spend the whole year rehearsing for the annual Mass Games — a replacement of the communistic glorification of outsiders known as “Spring Fling” — for the purpose of celebrating our Dear Leader’s role in the glorious establishment of the superior DPUY.

    5.     Ezra Stiles, Morse, Silliman and Timothy Dwight colleges will be restructured into re-education and rehabilitation camps for Comrades who fall out of line with any of the aforementioned resolutions.

    All glory to the Dear Leader’s eternal reign over the DPUY!

    *Alternative acceptable prefaces for the title “Leader” are any combination of the adjectives “Heavenly,” “Grand” and “Eternal.”

  7. YCC appoints new secretary

    Leave a Comment

    Effective today, Andrea Villena ’15 will replace Leandro Leviste ’15 as the secretary of Yale College Council, taking the helm after Leviste announced earlier this month that he would take the spring semester off to work on his mother’s re-election campaign in the Philippines.

    Villena, who represents Silliman, previously served on the YCC’s Academics and Events Committee. She was selected after the YCC Executive Board met today to determine the new secretary, a procedure in accordance with its constitution, which requires the board to vote after hearing speeches from two finalists. This year, the finalists for YCC secretary were Villena and Grant Fergusson ’16.

    “I have heard some complaints from students about too many YCC emails in their inboxes,” Villena told the News. “This year I want to carve out a more comprehensive image of YCC publicity, and keep better track of what we are putting out to the student body.”

    Leviste will remain on campus until Friday to meet with Villena and transition his responsibilities to her.

  8. YCC Secretary Leviste ’15 to leave post

    Leave a Comment

    YCC Secretary Leandro Leviste ’15 will take the spring semester off to work on his mother’s re-election campaign in the Philippines and plans to leave his YCC position vacant, Leviste announced in a Thursday night email to the YCC.

    He said he plans to stay on campus until Feb. 7 or Feb. 8 to help “tie up all the loose ends and manage a smooth transition.” His departure marks the second time a YCC Executive Board member has left Yale in the past month, following the earlier departure of former YCC Vice President Debby Abramov ’14.

    According to the rules outlined in its constitution, the YCC will elect a secretary in the same way it elected new vice president Danny Avraham ’15 this week. The YCC Executive Board will choose Leviste’s replacement from current members of the YCC subsidiary bodies, including the Freshman Class Council, Sophomore Class Council, Junior Class Council and the Undergraduate Organizing Committee.

  9. YCC selects new vice president

    Leave a Comment

    Effective today, Danny Avraham ’15 will replace Debby Abramov ’14 as the vice president of Yale College Council, taking the helm after Abramov announced earlier this month that she would not return to Yale this semester.

    The YCC Executive Board met today to determine the new vice president according to its constitution, which require the executive board to vote on two finalists. The two finalists this year were Avraham and Benjamin Ackerman ’16, who made the last round out of the seven initial applicants for the position. YCC President John Gonzalez ’14 said that as the previous chair of YCC’s Academics Committee, Avraham will bring a variety of crucial skills to the position.

    “Danny has exhibited a lot of leadership, from micro things like being responsive over email, being on time for meetings and selling tickets for events, to macro things like serving as YCC’s point person for Yale’s dean of academics,” Gonzalez said.

    Abramov is working on a handbook to inform Avraham more about the expectations for the position, Gonzalez said. Avraham said he is looking forward to implementing strategies for the YCC to become more “efficient and productive.” Once Avraham determines his new time commitments as vice president, he will decide whether he can continue serving as the chair of the academics committee. If he cannot, the YCC will determine a new chair internally, according to Gonzalez.

  10. YCC releases campus safety report

    Leave a Comment

    The Yale College Council released its “campus safety report” today, presenting an array of Yale safety issues ranging from inadequate lighting to safety services.

    The report aims to synthesize student feedback generated from a form on the YCC’s website, a crowdsourcing Google Document that was sent to all undergraduates on Nov. 13 and a “lighting patrol” conducted by YCC representatives to investigate areas of campus reputed to suffer from poor lighting.

    YCC President John Gonzalez ’14 told the News Tuesday that the report aims to strengthen ongoing conversation with Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins.

    “We have been in constant contact with Chief Higgins, and often brought many student concerns to him,” Gonzalez said. “We thought what would be the most effective thing for our relationship moving forward would be to compile a campus safety report that he and the YPD could look through and begin addressing.”

    Despite nine reported crimes on or near Yale’s campus so far this academic year, the YCC report concludes that “the biggest concern that students had regarding student safety dealt with inadequate lighting around campus.”

    In response to a purported outcry for better lighting on campus, the report lists in detail student-reported lighting problems in addition to those “recorded by further investigation.” According to the list, high-risk areas include Temple Street in front of Timothy Dwight College, York Street in front of Davenport and Pierson colleges and Sachem Street by Ingalls Rink. Other issues reported include a poorly-lit Blue Phone behind Pierson College and two lights flickering outside of the Slifka Center.

    On the question of safety services, the report largely relates student satisfaction with the nature of current resources, including the desire to increase the quantity and availability of services such as safety rides and shuttles. According to the report, students looking to avoid wait time want more vehicles making the rounds. It can take “30 minutes plus,” the report quotes one student as having said, to use such services. One other suggestion includes allowing groups to preschedule safety rides after weekly meetings or other previously planned events.

    In a section of the report devoted to alcohol safety, the YCC excerpted a handful of comments that raise concerns about the University’s focus on discipline, which the report said dissuades students from getting the medical attention they need. Specific recommendations from students include no longer asking students at the hospital where they got their alcohol and creating “disciplinary amnesty for anybody who willingly goes to Yale Health.” Students also commented on the worrisome effects of Yale’s pervasive alcohol culture, with one student reporting that he or she is “uncomfortable to venture out on a Friday [and] Saturday night.”

     

  11. YCC trolled by all of Yale

    Leave a Comment

    At 8:53 p.m., the Yale College Council attempted to solicit student input on improving campus safety. Its plan? Share a Google Doc with the entire campus community.

    Students were all too excited to participate.

    The document spawned some productive suggestions before being rapidly overrun by Internet “trolls.”

    As of press time, some popular suggestions ranged from “i feel like the weather is too cold at night in the winter time,” “we should make it warmer outside,” “They’re really rough on us at Bass about books” and “I think we should build a footbridge over Elm Street!”

    At several points during the process, the entire document was wiped clean, replaced by a series of “o’s” and a note that a “ghost” was around. At 9:22 p.m., one person wrote in bold “leandwtf” at the top of the document.

    But the document’s creators put up a hefty fight.

    “YCC WILL NOT TOLERATE TROLLS,” was written at one point, followed by “YOU SHALL NOT PASSSSSSSSSSSS.”

    Some highlights:
    “Halloween wasn’t very fun this year. Can we make it Halloween again?”
    “Wall St. sidewalk near BK North has some bricks that need to be recemented. Very dangerous as they shift as you walk on them.”

    As of press time, Yale College Council President John Gonzalez’s ’14 Facebook status read “TROLLS WILL NOT STOP THE YCC. Don’t mess with [YCC Secretary] Leandro Legarda Leviste.”

    Editing for the document was disabled at 9:43 p.m, before reopening a few minutes later.

    UPDATE 10:26 p.m.: Due to trolling, the YCC has locked the Google Doc and is asking students to fill out a form with their suggestions. Any ideas will be immediately added to the document.