With Yale College Council elections beginning this Thursday, candidates for next year’s executive board sparred Monday over the council’s role in negotiating the boundary between the student body and the administration.
Established in 1972, the YCC is the official link between the undergraduate student body and Yale University administration through which students are able to voice concerns as well as raise project and policy proposals to be considered by the administration. However, the administration is not required to officially respond to or consider all of the proposals that the YCC submits.
Still, both the president and vice president of the YCC hold regular meetings with Yale administrators at varying intervals, for example meeting with Dean of Student Life Marichal Gentry once a week and meeting with Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway once every three weeks. While there is no undergraduate representative on the Yale Corporation, the YCC is granted the ability to select student representatives for the various University Standing Committees.
Each year the YCC hosts elections for four of the executive board positions – president, vice president, financial director and events director. After the new president and vice president are chosen, the two will then work together to assign other YCC members to the remaining seats of the executive board, including chief of staff, communications director, student organizations director, academics director, university services director and student life director.
The campaign period is only one week long and began this year last Thursday afternoon. Once the campaign period is officially underway, candidates are allowed to publicly advocate for their platforms through social media and face to face interaction. On Monday, contestants were also required to provide short opening statements on their platforms along with a debate between the presidential candidates. Polls officially open on Thursday and close on Friday.
Candidates for the four positions — all of which are contested, save the vice presidential race — spoke before an audience of more than 50 students in Linsly-Chittenden Hall, sharing their plans to better serve students by ensuring more robust access to high-level decision makers in the University. The centerpiece of the debate, the showdown among the three presidential candidates, revealed similar priorities yet distinct plans for achieving these goals.
While Andy Hill ’17 has made putting an undergraduate on the Yale Corporation his central promise, Joe English ’17 stressed broader, more grassroots outreach efforts. Ben Martin ’17, meanwhile, touted plans to weave together distinct student groups, such as athletic teams and the cultural houses.
A particular flashpoint was a disagreement over how the YCC should engage with prospective changes to mental health resources and policies. While Hill said the most prevalent problem is a lack of communication between the administration and the undergraduate community, Martin said it is necessary to make sure the administration is following through with its promise to hire more clinicians. Martin said he would advocate for a clearer distinction between medical and disciplinary withdrawals, adding that students who have left Yale for medical reasons often feel “alienated.”
“Students won’t be able to heal if they’re being punished like this,” Martin said. “When an employer sees you withdrew, there’s no distinction from whether they withdrew for medical or disciplinary reasons.”
English, however, refuted the points about communication and hiring clinicians, as he said Yale had already hired two more clinicians, and the YCC had already made its position on the matter clear to the administration.
English currently serves as chief of staff on the council’s executive board, bringing him into close contact with the current president and vice president. English was careful to emphasize these connections, stressing the meetings with Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway and other administrators he had attended with Herbert. Martin currently represents Ezra Stiles College on the council, while Hill represents Berkeley.
Throughout the debate, Hill linked substantive policy questions back to his central focus: putting a student representative on the Corporation. Still, when asked to name three members of the Corporation, Hill said he only knew of Charles Goodyear ’80. He said his own hazy understanding of the Corporation is indicative of the body’s secrecy. Hill said he had already met with Holloway, who pledged his support for a student seat on the Corporation.
In response, English said he, along with Herbert and Sigal, had already secured the support of Holloway for this initiative, but that the dean of the college has no influence in the matter.
English similarly could not list more than one specific individual with whom he would work to execute a plank of his platform, “a comprehensive shift in sexual assault policy and the operations of the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct.” He said he would consult with Marichal Gentry, dean of student affairs, and “administrators in Yale Mental Health and Counseling.”
Further topics ranged from financial aid to the state of the cultural centers, from athletic representation on the YCC to resources for LGBT students.
In a more lighthearted moment, presidential candidates were given 30 seconds to answer a question from the audience: how they would bring Trader Joe’s, and more broadly “affordable food,” to Yale. Martin quipped that he would “take over and destroy” Emporium DNA. English said he would bring University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews a “Trader Joe’s gift basket” to convince her to take up the issue. Finally Hill cited yesterday’s news that a Five Guys burger joint is slated to open downtown as a sign that New Haven is moving in the right direction.
Yamile Lozano ’17, who attended the debate, said she thought all three candidates made strong points. She noted, however, that while she agreed with most of their platforms, English struck her as the candidate with the most experience.
Other members of the audience agreed. YCC member Peter Huang ’18, who also attended the debate, said he thought English understood best how to approach the various issues discussed.
“I personally believe Joe English expressed his ideas with the clearest language,” Huang said. “As this campaign goes on I hope to understand more about the concrete steps that will be taken by each candidate.”
Events Director Candidate Megan Ruan ’17, who could not attend the event due to a scheduling conflict, sent in a pre-recorded video of her statement. She is competing with Amour Alexandre ’17.
Both Daniel Tovbin ’17 and John Risbergs ’17 are running for finance director, and Madeline Bauer ’17 is running unopposed for vice president.