In a letter mailed to alumni Thursday, the Yale Corporation announced that no restrictions would be placed on campaigning for the University’s highest policy-making body.
The decision comes three months after former Corporation senior fellow Kurt Schmoke ’71 sought alumni feedback regarding the “politicization” of last spring’s alumni fellow election between the Rev. W. David Lee DIV ’93 and Maya Lin ’81 ARC ’86.
Current senior fellow John Pepper ’60 said the majority of the 1,000 alumni respondents advised against “radical change” to the procedures.
“Several hundred alumni were concerned about the degree of campaigning and wanted it to be curbed or eliminated, but an even larger number of graduates believed that we should not jump to the conclusion that this past election signals a trend,” Pepper wrote in Thursday’s letter.
“We found this approach to be wise counsel, and we have decided to take a wait-and-see approach rather than make any changes now to the long-standing process for electing alumni fellows,” the letter said.
Yale President Richard Levin and Pepper discussed the results of the survey at an on-campus meeting in late August, and Pepper said the Corporation was also consulted in the drafting of the letter.
“The key to this, I think, is to not do anything that will stop the best people from running,” Pepper said in an interview. “We shouldn’t overreach [with restrictions]. We should take a pause here to see. I think that’s the right thing to do.”
Pepper added that another aim of the letter was to seek suggestions for the alumni fellow nominations, and he said he hopes to see more names submitted.
Gaddis Smith, a professor emeritus and expert on Yale history who had previously called potential changes to prohibit campaigning “foolish,” said the Corporation’s verdict did not come as a surprise.
“I think it’s sensible to leave the bylaws how they are,” Smith said.
Lee, who led the most active campaign in Corporation history, said he was inspired by the results.
“You know, it just continues to emphasize the fact that people believe in the process of democracy,” Lee said. “I think that’s wonderful, especially for the alum of Yale, because it’s just a wonderful thing and again; just hearing my confidence in the alum of Yale University that eventually the partnership will come to fruition.”
In the months following his landslide loss to Lin, Lee has remained a vocal supporter of Yale’s unions, and he said he has also met with Levin to discuss various town-gown initiatives.
Lee added that he is not ruling out the possibility of another bid for the Corporation through the petition process, if he feels his voice is not being heard.
“I always want to give [Levin] the benefit of the doubt, so I think he’s genuine,” Lee said. “But actions speak louder than words, and we have to see if rhetoric lines up with action. Time will tell.”