After weeks of open forums, office hours and surveys, Search Committee Student Counselor Brandon Levin ’14 released the complete data about students’ priorities on the qualifications of Yale’s next president.
Levin released the results of a survey and three reports outlining the student body’s opinions on the presidential search. Though the three reports — compiled by the Yale College Council, the Graduate Student Assembly and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate — represented the entire student body across all of Yale’s schools, half of the students interviewed said they questioned the influence the reports and surveys will ultimately have on the selection of Yale’s next president. Now that Levin has submitted the results to the Search Committee, his role as student counselor in the remainder of the search process is not clearly defined.
Based on the findings of Levin’s four-question survey, which received between 769 and 774 responses for each question, students were divided on whether the next president should hold a Yale degree, with 42 percent answering “Yes” and 56 percent answering “It is not important.” Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the next president should come from an academic background, and 88 percent said the next president should have administrative experience.
Levin said he will remain available to transmit students’ concerns to the Search Committee, as well as to advise the committee if they request his input, though he said he will not be involved in candidate selection and questioning. Levin added that Search Committee Chief of Staff and University Associate Vice President Martha Highsmith is planning to contact with the appointed counselors in the next few weeks regarding any feedback they have received from their constituencies. When asked to describe topics over which the Search Committee may approach the student counselor in the future, Levin said, “I have literally no idea, nor do any of the other counselors.”
“Because we don’t know how the next few months will play out, we also don’t know what point along the process the Search Committee will talk to the counselors and what they’ll want our opinions about,” Levin added.
Still, Levin said he is confident that the Search Committee will consider the surveys in its effort to listen to student opinion. After he showed the committee a draft of the survey questions, he said, the committee members guaranteed they would take the results into account in future stages of the search process.
But six of 12 students interviewed said they were unsure the surveys and reports would have a tangible impact on the selection process.
“I think it’s nice that they are trying to include students, but I’m not sure if they are really understanding our concerns,” Vrishti Mongia ’14 said. “I definitely think there should be more than one student liaison to the Presidential Search Committee. We need to make sure that there is a diversity of interests represented.”
Roman Utkin GRD ’15 said he is impressed with the Search Committee’s promises to consider student opinion. But he said the search process could have been better had the Search Committee responded more frequently to student concerns raised in the survey and through other forums.
Though some students question the future impact of the surveys on the search process, Yale College Council President John Gonzalez ’14 said the number and length of student responses to the YCC survey are proof that the student body is invested in the search. Out of 5,322 undergraduates, 820 responded to the survey, and Gonzalez added that he has received over 20 pages of responses written by students who chose to elaborate on their survey responses. He said that overall, students were most supportive of appointing a president who would be more involved in the daily life of the University.
“Among all the themes in students’ responses, the point that really stood out was students’ desire for a president who is more visible on campus,” he said. “While students understand that a president must be experienced in fundraising and academia, they like seeing their president on campus, at their sports games and in their activities.”
Levin sent his survey to students by email Sept. 6.