Yale Secretary and Vice President Kimberly Goff-Crews has spent 16 months on the job. Though not a prominent face of the administration to students, Goff-Crews’s behind-the-scenes work on undergraduate and graduate student policy has affected student life all across campus.
Years ago, Goff-Crews roamed Yale’s campus as an undergraduate, participating in Berkeley College events, spending time at the Afro-American Cultural Center and directing the Yale Film Society, all while balancing classes as an English major. She attended Yale Law School and later served as the Director of the Afro-American Cultural Center at Yale for six years.
After working at the Af-Am Center, Goff-Crews took a position at Lesley University where she gained a broader understanding of K-12 student life. As Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students for the University of Chicago, she noted the similarities and differences between Yale and one of its peer institutions.
In fall 2012, Goff-Crews returned to her home institution with a plethora of knowledge, a personal invite from then-University President Richard Levin and the promise of the Secretary position and a new title — Vice President for Student Life.
Goff-Crews is quick to admit that the job has not changed much despite the added title. The University Secretary position, she said, has historically always been a fluid role that, to some capacity, encompassed student life.
“The title just makes it more obvious,” she said.
But Goff-Crews has made students her focus. She has met monthly with leaders of student governments, including the undergraduate Yale College Council, the Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS) and Graduate Student Assembly (GSA). She said she has tried to pinpoint not just the problems of individual student bodies, but also where all students’ concerns overlap.
One project that Goff-Crews and student leaders have collectively taken on is off-campus housing. What appears to be only a graduate and professional student issue, Goff-Crews said, also affects undergraduates who choose not to remain in the residential colleges.
Because students and off-campus housing landlords have traditionally not been communicative with one another, Goff-Crews said she and the student leaders hope to facilitate constructive discussions between landlords and their student tenants. According to GSA Chair Brian Dunican GRD ’15, Goff-Crews put together a graduate student housing committee comprised of graduate and professional students alongside members of the Yale administration. This group has already met with the leaders of Pike International to discuss student needs, Goff-Crews said.
“We’ve been asking for a solid review of this for some time now, and [she] was able to put it together,” Dunican said, calling the committee formation a “concrete win.”
Another initiative on which Goff-Crews spent much of her time working is mental health reform. In contrast with off-campus housing, she said this issue began with undergraduate concerns, though she eventually found that graduate students who interact with undergraduates, primarily through teaching fellowships, genuinely care about the issue as well.
Although she is not sure about the timeline for the mental health initiative, student leaders commended her dedication. YCC President Danny Avraham ’15 said Goff-Crews attended many meetings in order to get a better understanding of the status quo, and that she has done a good job promoting the issue both to decision-makers in society at large and students on campus.
But in spite of the many student-targeted projects that Goff-Crews took on, 17 out of 17 students interviewed could not identify the Secretary by name, though four said they recognized her name from emails.
Kevin Chen ’14 said Goff-Crews should not be blamed for not being recognized by students. He said students generally pay little attention to the administration and their respective titles past those in the highest positions, such as University President Peter Salovey and Yale College Dean Mary Miller.
But Goff-Crews seems to have picked up on this.
“The sense of community and experiencing one Yale has been central to my conversations with student leaders,” she said. Many students feel there is a palpable gap between the administration and students, she added.
Goff-Crews and other leaders plan to hold a series of events featuring one Yale administrator or member of the Yale Corporation in conversation with a group of student leaders from a variety of groups and organizations, she said, expressing hope that these events will complement other opportunities or interactions with administrators and members of the Yale Corporation. Goff-Crews added that it is a rare occurrence to get all types of students and administrators talking together.
Goff-Crews hopes the first in this series will happen sometime in February.
In the meantime, though students remain unfamiliar with Goff-Crews’ position and role in the University, those with whom she works — administrators and student government leaders — are happy with her contributions. In an email to the News, Salovey noted that Goff-Crews is excellent at approaching challenges involving students across all the University’s schools and departments, such as housing.
“I was instantly impressed with [Goff-Crews’] ability to operate at both extremely sympathetic and high order of thinking and her interest in the granular, the kinds of details that are necessary to really make change,” said Miller who first worked with Goff-Crews on the 2011 Marshall Report on Sexual Misconduct.
Avraham also spoke highly of Goff-Crews, singling out her responsiveness and interest in engaging administrators with student government.
“Not everyone in the University administration is like that,” he said.
Including Goff-Crews as Secretary and Vice President for Student Life, the University currently has eight separate vice presidential positions.