Yale Corporation holds meeting in Britain

The Yale Corporation is trading Yale’s 1930s-era gothic architecture for the real thing this weekend, as it holds its first meeting of the academic year at the University of Cambridge — 500 years Yale’s senior — in the United Kingdom.

The Corporation, the University’s highest decision-making body, is holding its annual retreat meeting at Cambridge this year, where officials at the two universities will exchange ideas on commercial research and discuss residential life at both of the institutions, Yale Secretary Linda Lorimer said in an interview from Cambridge Thursday. Corporation fellows will also set some long-term goals for Yale this year and discuss ways to attract investors to the University’s research facilities, she said.

“We use the first meeting of the year to look at the larger issues facing the institution, academically, financially, and policy-oriented things, and then to set some specific goals for the academic year,” Lorimer said. “Beyond that, we think it’s an occasion to step aside from the regular committee work and focus on one or two big issues of consequence.”

Yale has numerous academic partnerships with Cambridge, and officials said they chose to meet there this year in part because Cambridge’s vice-chancellor, Alison Richard, served as Yale’s provost from 1994 to 2003, Corporation senior fellow Roland Betts ’68 said.

During the weekend, Corporation fellows will attend a panel discussion on Cambridge’s residential life. Cambridge students, like Yalies, generally live in residential colleges which provide students with educational support, dining halls, and facilities like snack bars, gyms and music rooms. But, in contrast, Cambridge students apply directly to one of the university’s 31 colleges, some of which are restricted to women or graduate students. Lorimer said she does not expect Yale’s system to change drastically.

“Their system is in many ways quite different from Yale’s, but we think studying it might give us insights on how we might improve our own situation,” she said.

Today, the Corporation will also take a look at ways Cambridge has attracted venture capitalists and major companies such as Microsoft to its research facilities. As Yale develops its facilities on Science Hill, University officials want to find ways to attract private-sector investment to its research labs, Lorimer said.

Thursday morning, Yale and Cambridge officials discussed strategies for long-term campus planning with David Adamson, Cambridge’s director of estate management and building services. Officials at both universities discussed ways they are trying to cut down costs and environmental sustainability in new buildings, Adamson said.

Yale’s various construction and renovation projects will not top the trustees’ agenda as they often do. The Corporation’s buildings and grounds committee met two weeks ago in New York to discuss the status of projects such as the new art and architecture buildings and the new art history buildings, Betts said.

“We have so much construction going on, we want to make sure decisions we have to make are made,” said Betts, who chairs the committee.

Cambridge unveiled plans for a $1.8 billion capital campaign this week, and Yale is also set to begin a major fundraising drive next year. The two universities may also discuss fundraising strategies, Lorimer said. Cambridge, like many overseas universities, has traditionally not relied on alumni donations the way Yale and similar institutions do.

Levin will also debrief the Corporation on Yale’s most recent visit to China last week and update trustees on the status of ongoing dean searches at the School of Public Health, the School of Art, and the School of Music.

The Corporation usually convenes off campus during the first meeting of the year and generally visits another university every other year. In recent years, Corporation fellows have met at Stanford University and the University of Virginia.

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