Before 250 alumnae return to campus this weekend to celebrate breaking the glass ceiling at Yale, the University had to break another barrier — cutting the event’s registration fee by more than $200.
The University originally planned to contribute minimal funding to the three-day event, “Celebrating Yale Women,” which marks the 40th anniversary of coeducation in Yale College and the 140th anniversary of women in the graduate and professional schools. But this month, organizers warned that attendance would be lower than anticipated unless the cost of attendance were reduced.
University Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer said Yale decided to give a “special grant” in order to make sure the registration fees were in line with those for other reunions Yale has held in the past two years, such as one for African American alumni and one for Hispanic alumni. Instead of the original fee of about $400, attendees can now pay $180 for the entire weekend or $90 for one day.
Yale spokeswoman Dorie Baker cited similar reasons for the grant, adding that the University realized it had more financial flexibility than originally anticipated.
The University did not offer funding until a few weeks ago, though the event was first advertised in December, said Connie Royster ’72, a member of the alumnae steering committee organizing the conference.
The special funding came a few weeks after the steering committee warned Lorimer that only about 100 women were planning to attend, said Cynthia Brill ’72, who began as a main organizer on the steering committee but said she gradually stopped participating when it seemed the University would not provide what she thought were necessary funds for the event. Brill said Lorimer announced that the University had decided to subsidize some of the event’s costs two weeks later. Since the drop in the registration fee from $400, attendance has risen from 100 to about 250, Brill added.
Three of the women involved in planning the weekend said they wish that the grant had come sooner.
Brill said she thinks the fact that the fee was so high for so long leading up to the conference has hurt the final attendance figures.
“By the second or third conference call, we were starting to talk about fees getting as high as $400, not including the cost of hotel rooms, travel and meals,” Brill said. “At that point, quite honestly, I dropped out of it because I thought it was kind of ridiculous to be doing this in this manner.”
Lorimer noted that she believes “celebrating Yale women” is important enough that alumnae should be asked to pay only as much those who attend other Yale reunions.
For attendees who request it, the AYA is offering financial aid, which would go toward covering the registration fee, according to the event’s Web site. Still, the limited financial funds are not available for those who must travel far to attend, nor will they cover the cost of staying in New Haven for the weekend.
The weekend includes discussions by Yale professors about their current work, panels discussing the transition to coeducation and speeches by women in prominent educational positions across the country.
Melanie Boyd ’90, director of undergraduate studies for Women’s Gender & Sexuality Studies, said in an e-mail that planning for the conference began about a year ago at this time.
“It’s been a huge effort to produce such a robust conference so quickly,” Boyd said.
Boyd will also host a lunch on Friday for lesbian, bisexual and transgender alumnae.
The “Celebrating Yale Women” weekend opens Friday at 9:30 a.m. with opening remarks from conference co-chairs Susan Lennon ’85 and Barbara Wagner ’73.