Some departments renew appeal to spare prizes from cap

All spring and summer, English professor Leslie Brisman waited. Asco-chair of the English Department’s prizes committee, he had already resigned himself to accepting a $1,000 cap on student prizes formerly worth several times that amount. But he was still hoping to award money for graduate student essays, prizes that University administrators had told him could not be given.

Brisman had been deniedone request to keep using the James A. Veech prize for graduate students, but English professors asked him to appeal.

“The existence of that prize encouraged our grad students to submit their work for publication,” Brisman said. “The way it stands right now, we’re holding competition for that prize even though we don’t yet know whether we are able to award it.”

If the appeal is denied, most of the Veech money will fall to Yale’s general budget — what Brisman calls “the ravening maw.”

Across campus from the English Department’s home in Linsly-Chittenden Hall, requests and appeals including Brisman’s are stacked high on Deputy Provost Lloyd Suttle’s desk.Prizeseason at Yale is long over, but some departments are hanging onto the hope that Suttle and other administrators will loosen the $1,000 cap they imposed on all student winnings last spring. Instead of letting the remaining prize money drain into Yale’s general budget, where it will be used for financial aid and other University-wide expenses, department chairs and prize committees are pushing the offices of the Provost and Secretary to spare certain prizes they say serve an especially important educational purpose.

Suttle said he has been trying to work through the pile all summer, but he doesn’tknow when he’ll finish.

Now, the Mathematics Department is planning to join the stack as well. The director of undergraduate studies, Roger Howe, who oversees the department’s prizes, saidalthough he and his colleagues thought the capping of some prizes was reasonable, he will write a letter to the Provost’s Office asking for an adjustment of others that serve an educational purpose.

The DeForest Prize for senior math majors, which Howe said he thought had grown too large, was cut from over $23,000spread among 10 to 12 students in past years,to $1,000 each for two seniors last year. But the Barge and Runk Prize, awarded to freshmen and sophomores based on a competitive exam, should be worth much more than the $1,000 it was allottedlast spring, Howe said. Another prize, which pays for a summer research stipend, should also be adjusted, Howe said.

“Certain prizes served an educational function and others were sort of honorificor icing on the cake,” Howe said. “We were upset about not being consulted about the prizes at all.…Some of the prizes we would’ve liked to maintain at a higher level.”

The total funds from the Mathematics Department’s prize funds last year were worth more than $70,000, Howe said, but the department only awarded around $6,000.

Pressure is coming from other corners, too. Five months after Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal first asked the University to turn over records of all of its donation documents, Blumenthal’s office is still investigating Yale’s handling of its donations, which can legally be usedonly for certain purposes specified by the donor, according to the office.

But administrators maintain that they have nothing to fear. The University has cooperated with Blumenthal’s review, both Blumenthal’s office and Vice President for Development Inge Reichenbach said.

“We’re always following the letter of the indenture,” Suttle said, referring to the legal document that accompanies each gift to Yale to spell out how the money should be spent.

Although most indentures for prize donations allowed Yale some flexibility, some left no room for interpretation, Suttle said.

Among the prizes that escaped the $1,000 cutoff: Yale’s so-called “high stand” prizes, which are awarded to graduating seniors on Class Day for high scholarship or character. Yale College Dean Mary Miller declined to release the amounts of these citations, saying they are “never announced,” but administrators have said they are worth considerably more than normal awards.

“I have occasionally run into a stunned-looking undergrad on Class Day,” Provost Peter Salovey said last spring of the Class Day prizes.

Suttle said the indentures of the “high stand” prizes — which include the Russell Henry Chittenden, the Arthur Twining Hadley, the Warren Memorial, the Louis Sudler and the Alpheus Henry Snow prizes — clearly stated that the donations were not to be used for anything but one student prize each.

Still, the recession and Yale’s budget shortfall, which prompted administrators to cap prizes in the first place, took their toll on the high stand prizes: The income on these endowed donations was lower than in past years, Miller said.

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