YaleStation founder Clark ’04 leaves legacy



When he graduates this year, Alexander Clark ’04 will leave behind more than a Web site.

From Yale’s online admissions decision site, which he created in 2001, to the student information portal YaleStation, Clark has helped keep Yale technologically up-to-date since his freshman year.

Since merging with the Yale College Council in April 2002, the YaleStation Web site (www.yalestation.org) has grown in prominence. Starting this semester, the Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee will require extracurricular groups to register with YaleStation to receive funding.

YCC President Elliott Mogul ’05 said registration with YaleStation will organize the groups in a more cohesive way than in the past.

“For groups that register, optional web-space is provided so students can upload files, and use the YaleStation calendar. Over the past couple of days alone, the calendar has become quite busy,” Mogul said.

Mogul praised Clark’s technical knowledge, citing it as the reason the YCC wanted to work with Clark. Mogul said over the past few years, YaleStation and the YCC have collaborated more frequently, and Clark has come up with many ideas for projects.

Clark created YaleStation as a freshman. The Web site’s merger with the YCC his sophomore year incited controversy among students who were concerned that conflicts of interest or censorship issues might emerge.

YaleStation has not been Clark’s only technological project at Yale. While volunteering for the Admissions Office, he designed the first online Bulldog Days site and one of the first online university admissions Web sites in time to notify early applicants of the Admissions Committee’s decisions in December 2001.

I can’t say we are the absolute first to have made such a site, but we’re certainly the first to build a really cutting-edge version,” Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions James Nondorf ’90 said.

Nondorf credited Clark — rather than admissions officers — with ideas for some of the Web site’s innovative features.

All the fun stuff on the Admissions Web site last year, like the map that showed you where other Yalies near you lived, were his idea,” Nondorf said.

Clark began programming in the fifth grade, and got a job helping develop software for Microsoft in the eighth grade. He created network administration systems for his high school, and developed a school-wide internet filtering system that used object recognition technology to prevent students form accessing pornography.

“[Filtering companies] sent me full databases of pornographic images,” Clark said. “I explained, of course, that I was a student and was doing this for my school.


In the summer of 2002, the FBI was called in to investigate Princeton University admissions officials who hacked into Yale’s Admissions Web site and viewed admissions decisions for some students using Social Security numbers of applicants to both schools.

In response, the Admissions Office decided to mail applicants PIN numbers to access their decisions instead of using Social Security numbers as students had done before.

Clark said Social Security numbers were originally used for expediency.

“I’m not sure that it was any one person’s idea [to use Social Security numbers]. We were looking at what we had available on the application and sending PINs via e-mail would have been even less secure,
” Clark said. “The most secure identifiers that we had on the application were Social Security numbers, dates of birth and last names. That combination would make it very probabilistically difficult to happen upon someone’s record.”

Some said they feel Clark’s considerable involvement in the Admissions Office is unusual.

“Although he’s a virtuoso, he has had a surprising amount of access to parts of the administration that other students do not,”
Michael Barbaro ’02 said.

Barbaro is a former Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Daily News.

Since the hacking incident, no great problems have arisen in Clark’s work. This year, he handed over YaleStation to a new chair, Chaitanya Mehra ’06.

“The goal has been for Alex to step back, allowing YaleStation to be more self-sustaining,
” Mehra said. “I still work extensively with Alex, since he did write the backbone architecture of the site. He has taught me a lot.

Clark is unsure of his future career, though he said he has many options in mind.

I would be happy working in the business section of a tech company or dealing with the technical aspect of a non-tech company. I’m also contemplating working with the university after I graduate, maybe in the admissions office,” he said.

Comments