Lee addresses College Democrats

His audience may not have consisted of eligible voters, but Yale Corporation candidate Rev. W. David Lee ’93 is not letting the undergraduate community go ignored.

In a speech to the Yale College Democrats at Dwight Hall on Monday night, Lee — who has embarked on an ambitious campaign circuit to win support for his unorthodox Corporation bid — vowed to become the most accessible member of the Corporation to the undergraduate community if elected.

“I’m one vote but I promise I’ll bring your concerns to the table if elected,” Lee told his audience. “I’m a public servant. You will always have access to me.”

This year, Lee became the second person in Yale’s history to earn a spot on the trustee ballot by petition campaign. The 16-member Corporation is the University’s highest policy making body. Six of the fellows are elected by the alumni for six-year terms, but candidates are usually nominated by an alumni committee.

While Lee has been actively courting alumni votes, the election of alumni fellows has traditionally not emphasized campaigning.

Lee called himself a die-hard Yale fan, but he said Harvard does have a strength over Yale.

“Harvard has a slight advantage — Cambridge — to compete with,” Lee said. “We can make New Haven as strong of a community as Cambridge is.”

University Secretary Linda Lorimer said the announcement of the other alumni fellow candidates was imminent.

“It is likely to be this week or next week,” Lorimer said.

A marked presence in the approximately 20 member audience were members of the Yale College Council. Ted Wittenstein ’04, Samuel Asher ’04, Abbey Hudson ’03, and Brad Kahn ’04 were all in attendance. Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04 was also present for Lee’s speech. Asher said he and Wittenstein are the unofficial student coordinators for Lee’s campaign.

Yale Democrats President Samantha Jay ’04 said she invited Lee to speak because she perceived a lack of first-hand knowledge among students about Lee and the Yale Corporation.

“People don’t know why it [Lee's campaign] is such a big deal. People don’t know who Rev. Lee is or what the Yale Corporation is,” Jay said. “Hopefully this was kind of the first step in educating people.”

Tuesday, Lee will speak at the Afro-American Cultural Center, and three other campus appearances have already been planned.

Asher recognized that the timing for potential Lee endorsements by student groups is still premature.

“It is kind of a funny time frame, so it is awkward for groups to make endorsements,” Asher said. “I would be amazed if there were another candidate who was as accessible as Lee.”

With Asher and Wittenstein organizing his campus appearances, Lee said he also hopes to have alumni events in Philadelphia and New York City, and spoke earlier this year to alumni in Boston. He said he was exhilarated by the reception he received in Boston — an enthusiastic response he says is typical of how his campaign has been received by alumni.

“The idea is so powerful,” Lee said. “People are loving it.”

And at this point in his campaign, Lee cannot be characterized as anything but optimistic.

“I believe and have the confidence that it is going to happen,” Lee said.

This year’s Corporation election will take place on May 26.

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