25 percent turnout expected in alumni Corp. vote

A little over a week after roughly 60 percent of Yale College students turned out to vote for Yale College Council candidates, the University is holding another election, and anticipating a much smaller turnout.

On Thursday, alumni received electronic ballots for the annual Alumni Fellow Election, which will decide the newest member of the University’s highest governing body, the Yale Corporation. In past years, an average of 20 to 25 percent of Yale alumni have participated in the election — a figure that past Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee Chair Melanie Ginter ’78 GRD ’81 said is actually rather high.

“I’m a psychologist, and usually when you do any kind of general survey, a result above 8 or 10 percent is phenomenal,” she said. “That kind of a turnout is fabulous, and I think it’s a commentary on how active Yale alumni are.”

The Corporation, which meets at least five times a year to discuss University policy and advise high-ranking officers, consists of 10 successor trustees, who appoint their own successors, and six elected alumni fellows, each of whom serves a six-year term. All graduate and professional school alumni and Yale College alumni who graduated at least five years ago are eligible to vote in the elections. This year’s candidates are University of Texas system Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa ’79, health consultant Susanna Krentz ’80, and biotech company CEO David Singer ’84. Ballots will be due May 23.

Only about 10 percent of Harvard University alumni respond in an annual election of five representatives to the Board of Overseers, which plays an advisory role similar to that of the Corporation. Board of Overseers President Merrick Garland declined to comment Thursday.

Despite the comparatively high turnout, Kevin Nelson SPH ’92, chair of this year’s Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee (the Association of Yale Alumni committee responsible for nominating candidates for the fellow position) said he’d like to see voter participation go up.

Nelson said increasing voter response is not one of the committee’s duties, but the AYA and the University Secretary’s office send out several e-mails informing alumni about the candidates, and encouraging them to fill out a ballot. The ballots are available on-line, and alumni have more than a month to return them.

“We need to increase the presence and exposure of the AYA in general, because a lot of alumni don’t understand what the AYA is or how it ties into the corporation,” Nelson said. “If they’re educated and aware, the voter response rate will go up.”

Of four alumni reached Thursday, only one said she planned to vote. Two said they had not heard of the elections, while the third said he was not up-to-date on University happenings and was too busy to vote.

Sarah Scott contributed reporting.

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