As the academic year draws to a close, the class of 2013 will share its final moments on this campus with those of University President Richard Levin in Woodbridge Hall.
We all owe Levin our sincere thanks. He has built a stronger Yale — the testament of two decades of hard work and intelligent policy.
Over the past semester, we have editorialized on the policy questions that Levin will leave behind. These are long-term decisions of how to make our University more effective and more efficient.
But we must consider a different type of decision facing President-elect Peter Salovey — a matter of principle, not policy. Before the guard changes, it is essential to evaluate the work and the worth of the University presidency.
Being president of Yale is a tremendous opportunity to lead. President Levin, for instance, has dealt with policy issues masterfully. But he has done so outside the spotlight. At the beginning of his tenure, Yale faced more pressing issues than whether its top administrator represented the University in national conversations.
But other University presidents have led vocally. University President Kingman Brewster ’41, a former chairman of the News, used his position in Woodbridge Hall to publicly criticize the Vietnam War, while still ensuring freedom of expression on campus for its proponents.
Not every president will face the same issues. But regardless of the times in which we live or the challenges we face, the presidency of Yale demands moral leadership.
Yale needs a president who is more than a chief administrator; a president must be a principled and purposeful voice. Yale has values: among them rigorous academic inquiry, an appreciation of diversity, and a belief in free and open discourse both inside and outside the classroom. Our president must address the pressing questions of our time, and actively defend the values of the University when they are challenged.
By virtue of his position at of one of the world’s most prominent universities, Salovey must use the spotlight to his advantage. He must influence national political conversations in which the University and its students have a stake. He should be our advocate, using the power of his pen in publications, panels and speeches to engage with the leaders of our nation. And as colleges and universities confront the changing economics, demographics and purposes of higher education, Salovey can lead conversations amongst fellow university presidents.
We cannot meaningfully question a leader if he fails to tell us where he stands. We cannot take pride in a University that does not articulate the morals and values that guide it. To take brave stances is to exemplify the same leadership we are taught to take with us as we leave Yale.
On each of the issues we have addressed in this series, we have broached questions not merely of Yale policy, but of Yale principles. It is time to hear where Salovey stands. We have many policymakers at Yale, but only one president.
President Salovey, we wish you the best of luck.