From gap year to USG presidential candidate, Yee eyes mental health reform, improved freshmen advising

“She overdosed and came pretty close to the brink of death. You cannot experience something like that and not do anything,” Yee said.

Since taking a gap year her freshman year, Rachel Yee '19 has been an advocate for mental health awareness. After an unsuccessful campaign for USG president in winter 2016, Yee is making a comeback in this year's elections. Here, The Tab sits down with Yee to discuss her experiences and visions.

What has been your most significant personal experience so far?

I actually have two really important experiences that I would like to share.

The first is taking a Gap Year after my freshman year. It took a lot of courage. I was already class Vice President at that point and had been working on my sophomore experience plan with the deans of colleges. But I felt really invested in working on my relationship with my family; I realized that I am never going to have more time. After considering a lot between my educational and professional life, I decided to take a gap year. I was able to take time for my family and especially work on my relationship with my mother. Before taking the gap year, Princeton used to be a safe place for me. After my gap year, I actually looked forward to going home.

The other experience involves CPS. One really significant thing that I went through was when a friend of mine was trying to get a CPS appointment and faced great difficulties. That situation turned very serious as she overdosed and came pretty close to the brink of death. You cannot experience something like that and not do anything. My attitude changed away from that of “Everything is great. I love Princeton.” The wait times for CPS is often 3-5 weeks. Such instances, as the one with my friend, go unaccounted for. People do not hear about them. Therefore, I have been working with CPS and Dr. Calvin Chin. I was also the one to put in the application for the annual Ivy Mental Health Conference, and that will be hosted at Princeton this year. I think that not only the culture surrounding mental health needs to change, but there also has to be a resource net there for dealing with mental health.

What are your top 3 areas of focus on your term?

The first is mental health. I want to work towards not only de-stigmatizing mental health but also build a solid resource net. For instance, the way mental health is covered during orientation seems like checking off a box. It isn’t given attention in a meaningful way.

The second is the communication with the USG. The problem is that most people are unaware of what USG actually does in terms of the policy side. And I don’t blame the students for not reading the newsletters. But in terms of working towards a solution, I have talked to professionals on how to revamp the USG communication system.

The third is freshman advising. I personally have had the experience of being paired with a freshman advisor that was unhelpful. As a result, I ended up taking many classes that I did not need to. And now I, like many others, am playing the catch up.

Why they are you running for USG president?

For me, issues like CPS, with my friend, are something that you can’t just live through and not act on. As USG president, you get two meetings with the board of trustees. With the CPUC meetings, you have the power to set the agenda. Most importantly, for me, student council is something I have done since 4th grade. It is a way for me to really get to know the issues through meeting people.

What is the biggest challenge you've faced in the race so far?

This election has become politicized. Therefore, I find myself having to put out little fires. That means I have less time to talk to people one on one. I also do not consider myself a political person. In fact, for me, the phrase student government is a misnomer.

So what are your thoughts on the strange string of events in this USG Presidential Election?

I think, one, it gave USG some visibility. It gave free publicity and made the election more exciting. But two, it also reduced really important issues, like mental health and sexual assault, to nothing. Although making USG more fun is important, that is the job of the USG social committee.

Princeton University