story | Dexter Lin, Contributing Reporter
photo | Dexter Lin
After a week of campaigning, Yehoon Ahn ’23 won the election for Class of 2023 Representative in the Student Government Senate with 77 votes, running on a platform of modifying the ‘Green Lunch’ scheme and tackling serious issues on campus, such as reviewing the Latin Honors system and combating sexual misconduct. The election saw 65 ‘no’ votes – a greater number than the votes for the other three candidates combined.
“I think [my victory] had something to do with making time to know people personally. I would try to meet people one-on-one and understand their concerns,” said Ahn. During the election week, he would speak to students individually in the Saga College buttery, shaking hands with them and taking down notes of the concerns they raised.
“I’ve spoken to him, and I feel that he has the qualities of what makes a good leader,” said Roy Lara ’23, who was won over by Yehoon’s efforts during his campaign.
Ahn seems to acknowledge this. “I hope I can be a competent representative for my class. My voter base is diverse, so I will try to find a middle ground to make as many people as possible happy,” he said.
This has not stopped him from running on a particularly controversial policy – modifying the polarizing ‘Green Lunch’ scheme, in which meat-free lunches are served in the Elm Dining Hall on Tuesdays and Thursdays. “The goal for me would be to find a compromise between meat eaters and vegetarians – perhaps by putting meat back on the menu in Elm on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” he said.
Ahn’s proposal has drawn the ire of some students. Ingrid Fredrika Aakerman ’23 said that she is “deeply disappointed” with his stance.
“I don’t understand why he would want to do that, especially in light of the pressing climate change issues. Moving towards a plant based alternative diet is one of the more effective steps towards reducing our impact. Revoking [vegetarian Tuesdays and Thursdays] would destroy the progress in that area,” she said.
Indeed, the vegetarian community in Yale-NUS College had fought long and hard for years to implement one day each week catered to vegans and vegetarians in the school. In a survey conducted by Student Government in 2016, around 69% of respondents supported Meatless Monday dinners to reduce the college’s carbon footprint if they were limited to one dining hall. Green lunches in the Elm Dining Hall were introduced in January 2017 through the joint effort of the Student Government, the Yale-NUS Association for the Protection of Animals from Cruelty, I’dECO and Yale-NUS’ South Asian Society.
As class representative, Ahn will have to bridge the rift between these conflicting factions. “I would love to start a dialogue about this and hear from both sides,” he said.
His other goals include “exerting influence to change the Latin Honors scheme” and “addressing the alarming rate of sexual misconduct in Yale-NUS.” He expanded on his proposed Latin Honors system revamp, saying, “I hope to change [the Latin Honors system] to a grade-based system from a percentile based system, so people still have some incentive to work hard without the insane competition.”
He went on to elaborate about combating sexual misconduct: “[According to a] student services survey, almost 40% reported that sexual assault happens very often, often, or sometimes. That’s pretty alarming. I want to work with the Dean of Students office and ask them if there’s anything student government can do to help raise awareness.”
Despite coming out on top, Ahn wants to adopt the policies of other candidates. In particular, he singles out Harshil Ved ‘23’s policy of pushing Yale-NUS to be more active in the community by doing charity runs. “I think that his idea of planning trips out of campus and into the local communities is a wonderful idea,” Ahn said.
However, with just one senate seat, it is hard to tell if Ahn will be able to exert much influence.
The election saw 65 “No” votes – about 84% of Ahn’s total, representing the student body’s low confidence in any of the candidates to be their Class Representative. Nevertheless, the enthusiasm shown by the Class of 2023 overshadows the paltry turnout for voting for class representative amongst the upper classes – the Class of 2022 and 2020 each fielded only one candidate and no one from the Class of 2021 ran for the position.
Ahn addressed this, saying: “I think perceived legitimacy of Student Government is imperative in keeping students interested. If they think Student Government has the power to sway the administration, they’d be more involved.”
“What I can do as a member of the Senate is to make a real impact and make decisions that reflect the interests of the student body. It’s up to us to establish Student Government’s position in the school,” he said.