Piersonites petition against master’s departure

Students have filed a petition to keep Pierson Master Harvey Goldblatt from leaving at the end of the academic year.
Students have filed a petition to keep Pierson Master Harvey Goldblatt from leaving at the end of the academic year. Photo by Graham Harboe.

A petition calling for the extension of Harvey Goldblatt’s term as Pierson College master has reopened speculation into what led to his decision to depart after the 2012-’13 academic year.

When Goldblatt agreed to a three-year term in 2010, rumors began circulating that the administration had pressured Goldblatt to retire sooner than he had intended in part because of his resistance to reductions in Pierson’s budget. The petition — addressed to University President Richard Levin — has garnered approximately 700 signatures since it was sent to Pierson students and alums in a Feb. 13 email, said Jeffrey Hartsough ‘12, author of the petition.

“We do not wish to take an adversarial stance against the administration, but rather hope that the administration will reopen discussions regarding Master G’s departure and what appears to be an attempt to make the residential college experience uniform across all colleges,” he said in an email, adding that Goldblatt’s reasons for leaving remain “unclear.”

The administration redistributed funds between the colleges in 2010 to help ensure that students in each of the colleges had commensurate experiences. Pierson’s budget had become larger than that of other colleges in part because of donations from alumni.

Levin told the News in 2010 that administrators and Goldblatt had “agreed mutually” that he would step down in 2013 after serving as master for 18 years. Levin declined to comment Tuesday night on the petition, and Goldblatt did not respond to requests for comment.

All seven signatories interviewed said they signed the petition out of their respect and admiration for Goldblatt, and most said they did not completely understand the circumstances that led to his decision to step down.

Bonnie Antosh ’13 said she signed the petition “in case Master G’s choice to leave[was] not voluntary.”

“Students want to express their appreciation for a man who has contributed so much to their experience of Pierson as a home,” she said in an email. “If he’s being forced to leave because he refused to back down in administrative debates, then I think Piersonites want some honesty about that decision from the administration.”

All Pierson students interviewed praised Goldblatt’s friendly nature and devotion to his students. Sarah Armitage ’12 said Goldblatt has been a strong mentor for her throughout her Yale years, and Elise Brown ’12 said he “makes Pierson feel like a home and a community, rather than just a fancy dorm.”

But Nicholas Aubin ’14, who declined to sign the petition, said he thinks the petition inappropriately exploits Goldblatt’s upcoming departure in order to dispute the equalization of residential college budgets.

“There are deeper issues worth addressing in the structure and arrangement of Yale’s residential college system, but I think it would be disrespectful to Master G to use the occasion of his resignation as a platform to address them,” Aubin said in an email. “Let us instead celebrate the legacy of a great master and a good man.”

Though Goldblatt intends to leave his post in 2013, he will remain at Yale as a professor of medieval Slavic literature.

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