The inaugural celebrations usher in the official start of the “Salovey Era.” President Peter Salovey, this weekend, will set the tone and chart the course of the next presidential term — the most recent of which lasted 20 years.
So we celebrate Salovey together. Throughout this week, the community will convene, dance, eat, toast and play Bluegrass music to honor our new, but familiar, leader.
Salovey emerged as the default choice through a quick and relatively opaque search process. As provost and dean, he worked alongside President Richard Levin to establish Yale-NUS and respond to the Recession. Now, he seems freshly eager to connect with the community.
The pomp and circumstance of this weekend will amplify Salovey’s celebrity. We only wish the traditional venue for the weekend’s most consequential event — the inaugural address — had a greater capacity to include a broader swath of the community.
When the weekend is over, once the ribbons are swept away and the presidential collar tucked into safekeeping, Salovey will sit down in Woodbridge Hall and return to the real task of governing. This task will not involve soaring speeches and ardent admirers. It will involve mundane duties and days without recognition.
It will also require the audacity to disagree — and sometimes disappoint. With the inauguration, Salovey has likely achieved the peak of his likeability. But as president, Salovey will not be able to pursue every initiative or fund all worthy programs. Priorities must be set; trade-offs made; some challenges tackled at the expense of others. He cannot please everyone.
A crucial issue that Salovey must consider as he charts the University’s course is Yale’s relationship with its city. Funding for programs like the New Haven Promise, while critical, cannot be a substitute for genuine engagement with the city. Levin unquestionably ameliorated tensions between New Haven and Yale, which had risen to near breaking point by the fall of 1993. Now, Salovey occupies the position to elevate that relationship, and we hope the same collaborative spirit that he shared with Levin will enable him to innovate alongside the city’s new mayor.
The attitude requires more than a financial exchange between town and gown. Yale’s next era must see further integration of Yale faculty, students and alumni into Elm City life. Efforts such as the Homebuyer Program and partnerships with groups such as New Haven Reads and Elm City Squash are good beginnings. But it is time to build upon Levin’s foundations.
Turning toward internal attitudes, Salovey has the pulpit to further incite discussions about socioeconomic inequality on campus, a topic he called our “last taboo” in his freshman address this August. His administration should seek to ensure that low-income students have the resources to apply to Yale and feel no discomfort upon arrival.
Every inauguration is exciting. They do not come often, but they bring, in a small way, the opportunity for us to create our world over again. As Yale throws its grandest party in recent memory, he will find a community willing to bear the collective burden of change, and eager to share in the promise of the occasion.