YCC Presidential and Vice-Presidential Candidates: Saloni Rao and Heidi Dong
ASL offered for credit. The Domestic Summer Award. The First-Year Handbook.
This past year, the YCC has been instrumental in instituting a number of major changes on campus. These came as the result of advocacy and careful thought, and though they took a lot of time, their implementation was the culmination of a lot of dedication and work.
But there were also things that the YCC did not accomplish. In many ways, the YCC failed to reflect the diversity and wishes of the students that it serves. Yes, the YCC has the power to effect meaningful policy change. But it also can – and should – be better. It can do a better job of reaching out to student organizations and of listening to student needs. It can do a better job of ensuring that YCC representatives are invested in their work and dedicated to their projects. It can do a better job of connecting students and administrators, encouraging meaningful dialogue and collaboration.
We are running for YCC President and Vice President because we care about this organization and its work, but we want it to be better.
Internal reform will drive external effectiveness. Currently, the YCC struggles to reach out to many students, simply because they are not represented on the Council itself. The position of Student Outreach Director was created to form connections with organizations across campus, but to ask one student to touch base with hundreds of groups leads to inevitable gaps in communication and failures to contact many of them. Instead of a single person reaching out, why not let student leaders speak for themselves?
We propose a new YCC that would include two student bodies. The first, the Senate, would function much as the current YCC does, as a policy-making and policy-advocacy body. The second, the Council of Representatives, would bring together representatives from most student groups on campus, ranging from cultural centers to residential college councils to service organizations to graduate student government. This structure would serve as a sort of student forum – a place where students from across campus can choose to attend open meetings and foster powerful discussions of campus issues, allowing the YCC to hear student ideas and concerns and tackle projects that the student body cares deeply about. Additionally, the Senate could present its own work for student feedback, allowing members to take into account comments directly from students and also allowing student organizations to share support of proposals. Through this structural transformation, the YCC would gain the leverage and power to hold administrators accountable and to better advocate for change. We believe that this new structure would help make Yale one connected campus.
Beyond this internal change, we also have policy ideas that we want to pursue. In the past week, we have spoken to dozens of student group leaders to compose concrete plans, not just a simple platform. Along with suggestions for university policy reform, we aim more broadly to improve sexual climate and mental health on campus. We propose improving the processes of filing sexual harassment and assault complaints, increasing the availability of mental health and counseling support groups, and expanding the menstrual hygiene products program, amongst other things.
But we’re not pushing these ideas without the know-how to back them up. Both of us have served on the YCC for our entire time at Yale. Sal served as an associate representative as a first-year, while Heidi was one of the elected Morse representatives. This past year, Sal was the Academics Director and Heidi the University Services Director on the YCC Executive Board, and we also led the Sexual Climate working group and the Mental Health working group respectively.
Through our experiences, we have been in contact with students, administrators, and organizations on countless projects that delivered actionable results. Whether it’s composing the First-Year Handbook, offering free menstrual hygiene products in residential colleges, improving shuttle services, pushing Shopping Period pre-registration reform, or hosting town halls on faculty diversity or the residential college system, we have not just worked on change but actually helped drive it.
But even though we’ve seen that the YCC can be effective, we also know that the YCC has much to improve. The YCC often fails to reach out to many student organizations. The YCC often sets its own priorities and policy projects without considering what students want to see. The YCC can be slow to act and inaccessible to students.
We plan on using our YCC experience to couple achievable and concrete goals with the extensive YCC internal reform necessary to achieve them. We’re running for these positions because we believe that the YCC has the ability to grow into a more diverse, representative, powerful, and effective organization. While the issues that we aim to tackle are tough, we believe that we have the experience to know what is possible and how to get things done. Just because change is difficult, it does not mean that we should give up on it altogether.
We believe that the YCC has the potential to be so much more. We believe that Yale has the potential to be improved in substantial and meaningful ways. And we believe that we are the right people to make this happen.
The Politic solicited op-eds from all Yale College Council candidates. We have published those that we received.