Salovey prioritizes internal communication

University President Peter Salovey has sought to foster transparency through his “Notes from Woodbridge Hall” emails to the Yale community.
University President Peter Salovey has sought to foster transparency through his “Notes from Woodbridge Hall” emails to the Yale community. Photo by Maria Zepeda.

As University President Peter Salovey charts an agenda for his first year in office, he is addressing internal communication with a series of relatively small-scale changes — like his email communications.

After calling for a “more open” and “more accessible” Yale when he was named president last November, Salovey said he has started to implement changes to the ways in which his office traditionally communicates with students, staff and faculty. In particular, Salovey has emailed the entire Yale community every two weeks since he officially took office at the beginning of July in an email series titled “Notes from Woodbridge Hall,” which has been largely made up of Salovey’s personal musings about University and national affairs.

In the spirit of greater transparency, Salovey has also revised some opaque administrator titles to reflect the administrators’ roles more closely, in addition to creating a website intended to solicit feedback about his leadership.

“Because he’s the president, because he has to be in meetings all day, traveling and away from campus, sometimes people wonder, ‘Where’s the president and what is he thinking about?’” said Chief Communications Officer Elizabeth Stauderman.

Stauderman added that she works with Salovey to create a greater flow of information between the president’s office in Woodbridge Hall and the staff, faculty and students — an endeavor that has interested Salovey since his time as provost.

Nine out of 12 students interviewed said they read his emails — of which he has sent five so far — and 10 out of 12 noticed that the president has signed at least one email “Peter.” In general, the students responded positively to Salovey’s emails, though some said they feel the emails are a superficial method of communicating with students, faculty and staff.

“I find his ‘Notes from Woodbridge Hall’ to be very calculated, but perhaps that’s part of his ethos,” Janine Chow ’15 said. “Receiving them, literally none of them speak to me.”

Administrators were more universally positive about Salovey’s emphasis on increased communication.

School of Medicine Dean Robert Alpern said Salovey’s focus on improving internal communications has led to more discussion between the deans and vice presidents, two cohorts that did not traditionally interact. Salovey formed the University Cabinet — a 25-person advisory board made up of the University officers and academic deans — to bring the different administrators together in meetings once a month.

His goal to improve on-campus communication, Salovey said, has also caused him to put more emphasis on job titles that convey individuals’ primary responsibilities.

Salovey added the he decided to revise administrator titles when he heard from different constituents on campus last spring that faculty, staff and students found Yale’s leadership structure to be opaque — a reality that became problematic when individuals were unable to discern whom to contact to resolve specific problems.

Stauderman added that Salovey changed her own title by removing the term “special assistant to the president.” She said the role of CCO encompasses her advising Salovey on communications matters, so the additional title was unnecessarily “mysterious.”

“I am delighted about this,” Stauderman added. “I no longer have to say ‘special assistant to the president’ on my business card. What does the special assistant actually do?”

Similarly, Linda Lorimer saw her position changed from “vice president,” and previously “secretary,” to the more specific “vice president for global and strategic initiatives.”

While Salovey added that the public’s confusion surrounding the actual role of a university provost has become a joke on many college campuses, the job name’s historic use in higher education means he does not plan to touch Benjamin Polak’s title.

Salovey said he came up with the idea of “Notes from Woodbridge Hall” from University Librarian Susan Gibbons’ weekly emails to the library staff.

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