Over the last four years, Yale College Council presidents have dealt with the campus’ pressing issues, from sexual assault allegations on campus to the universal pass debate this spring.
As the council struggled to deal with low voter turnout, Peter Huang ’18, Matt Guido ’19, Saloni Rao ’20 and Kahlil Greene ’21 have restructured the YCC in their own ways, created new student groups and advocated for diversity on campus during their tenures.
Peter Huang ’18 was elected in April 2016 and focused much of his tenure on improving student life on campus. The YCC created several task forces, such as the disability resources, cultural center and student athlete task forces, to focus on its relationships with organizations and address their issues.
“The task force model allows us to focus on specific issues that we otherwise would not have the resources to address,” said Huang.
The aim in creating these task forces, according to Huang, was to assess the needs of underrepresented student groups and to help administrators address their concerns.
During Huang’s tenure, the YCC also launched the New Ideas Fund, which aimed to provide students with a venue for their ventures in community building and inclusivity.
Matt Guido ’19, who succeeded Huang as YCC president, was elected in a year when undergraduate turnout had plummeted because of uncontested races. Guido ran on a platform of decreasing the number of YCC project teams so that they focused on broader issues in the community. However, for the first semester, Guido maintained most of the teams due to community opinions on the reports produced by project teams.
“[Deans and student organizations] stressed the importance of these reports that contain student data and have peer-institution research,” said Guido. “Over the second semester we transitioned into more broad, issue-based groups.”
The YCC also prompted the reform of Yale’s Credit/D/Fail deadline, which was previously restrictive because it occurred in the beginning of the semester.
“The new policy gives students time to make a more informed decision based on eight weeks of experience and grades in all of their courses,” explained Guido.
Elected in April 2018, Saloni Rao ’20 was the first female YCC president in almost a decade. Rao’s tenure was seen by many as successful in accomplishing many of the YCC’s long-term goals and improving the council’s reputation on campus.
One of Rao’s main focuses was the portrayal of mental health in campus culture. Yale’s dean’s excuse policy was expanded to clarify the inclusion of mental health as an “incapacitating illness.”
“This policy change is an important step forward towards Yale’s recognition of the importance of mental health concerns on our campus,” wrote Rao in an email to the student body.
During Rao’s presidency, the YCC also managed to implement late-night dining at the Joseph Slifka Center, a policy long encouraged by students and supported by the administration to increase the number of juniors and seniors who chose to stay in on-campus housing.
Rao was also responsible for making free menstrual products available in all 14 residential colleges.
Outgoing YCC president Kahlil Greene ’21, the council’s first black president, faced one of the most challenging tenures of the last four years, with the second half of the spring semester dominated by Universal Pass and #NoFailYale.
Greene ran on a platform of having the YCC endorse student activism. The council accomplished that, as the YCC joined the Endowment Justice Coalition which supports ethical investments and transparency within the Yale Corporation.
“We are standing side-by-side with students to ensure the safety of our planet and protection of our most vulnerable communities,” Greene said.
In the last year, the council also spearheaded reform for Mental Health & Counseling, which students have long called for.
The wait time from calling to setting appointments and being designated a therapist has been reduced by half, according to YCC University Services Director Aliesa Bahri ’22. YCC also helped update websites, institute walk-in appointments and make contact information for members of Yale’s religious ministries available.
Following the spring semester’s adjustments to the COVID-19 pandemic, the council voted to support the student-led movement for the universal pass/no-credit grading system.
“This approach best supports the wellbeing of the undergraduate student body,” a YCC statement on April 2 said. “Students must be encouraged to prioritize the health of themselves, their families, and their communities.”
Yale College Dean Marvin Chun eventually announced that the College would adopt a universal pass/fail grading policy with the option to withdraw from a course without record until May 6.
“[It] was a huge sigh of relief,” said Greene of the policy. “I feel very fulfilled … like I’m still having an impact and I’m still carrying on my duties.”
The next Yale College Council elections have been moved to the fall semester as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Beatriz Horta | firstname.lastname@example.org