Last week, the University announced a significant effort to connect the Yale Corporation to students by setting up small forums for discussion between the two parties — but student interest in the events appears to be lacking.
Beginning Wednesday, the University will pilot a series of “University Teas” that will offer students a chance to speak candidly with select members of the Yale Corporation, the University’s highest governing body. However, only one of 45 students interviewed said they planned to attend one of the teas.
Students said they did not sign up because of a combination of apathy and full schedules.
“I had class or work or something at all those times,” Esther Portyansky ’16 said. “If I wasn’t busy, I would have signed up.”
University President Peter Salovey, University Secretary and Vice President Kimberly Goff-Crews and Yale Corporation Senior Fellow Margaret Marshall have characterized the teas as a major effort to increase connections between the University’s governors and current students. For many years, the Corporation’s only institutionalized interaction with students came in the form of a yearly meeting with the Yale College Council.
Goff-Crews said students she has spoken with are curious about what the Corporation does. The teas — which will include a small number of students in order to facilitate discussion — will likely be oversubscribed, Goff-Crews said.
“Over time, we should be able to accommodate students who want to meet Corporation members,” she said. “We plan to keep track of who has signed up and will advise anyone who did not get selected for these teas about future teas.”
But the teas have not been heavily publicized. Instead of a University-wide email, information about the teas has been published on the website of the University Secretary, and only two out of the 12 college masters — Jonathan Edwards College Master Penelope Laurans and Timothy Dwight College Master Jeffrey Brenzel — emailed their students about the teas. Of 45 Jonathan Edwards students interviewed Monday, only one had signed up for the teas. Calhoun College Master Jonathan Holloway said he missed the email from Goff-Crews to college masters about the teas.
Out of roughly 50 students interviewed last week, 23 had never heard of the Yale Corporation and only 16 were aware of its responsibilities. In his email to Timothy Dwight students, Brenzel specifically wrote that the Yale Corporation is the name for the board of trustees and that it is the University’s highest governing body.
One of the teas this week will be with Marshall, while the other will be with Corporation Fellow Joshua Bekenstein. Marshall previously served as the chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, while Bekenstein is a founder of the private equity firm Bain Capital.
Dhruv Aggarwal ’16, the sole JE student interviewed who signed up for a tea, said he has not yet heard whether he has a spot in the Thursday event with Bekenstein.
Aggarwal said he signed up for the tea because it provided a “rare opportunity” to meet with one of the most important figures at Yale. He added that he signed up to hear from Bekenstein, as opposed to Marshall, because most speakers at Yale emphasize public service. Bekenstein, on the other hand, comes from the private sector.
To attend the teas, students had to fill out an online form listing their activities at Yale as well as questions they would like to ask the Corporation member — a step that Aggarwal thinks may have discouraged some students from signing up.
Goff-Crews said the University is using the information from the forms to make sure that Corporation members are able to meet with a “broad range of students based on degrees, interests and backgrounds.”
The Corporation is composed of a total of 18 members.