When University President Peter Salovey looks to a 14-person committee for advice on selecting the next deans of Yale College and the Graduate School, two students — Yale College Council President Danny Avraham ’15 and an undetermined graduate student — will be there to give their two cents.
Last Tuesday, Salovey invited Avraham and Graduate Student Assembly Chair Brian Dunican GRD ’15 to choose a student for the advisory committee. Both Avraham and Dunican chose to place selection responsibility in the hands of their respective elected assemblies.
“I have always been a great supporter of gathering student input when making decisions that affect students,” Salovey said. “The development of the slate of candidates I will consider for these two positions will certainly benefit from student input.”
After a debate over whether the Yale College Council should choose the representative or put the matter to a campus-wide vote, the YCC voted to select Avraham on Saturday evening. Dunican said the graduate student representative will be chosen by a vote of members of the Graduate Student Assembly at their next meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 26.
Although Dunican said that the decision to elect the graduate representative at the weekly GSA meeting is in line with GSA policy, Avraham’s selection by the YCC followed a contentious discussion about how the body should choose the representative.
At the Saturday YCC meeting, YCC Vice President Kyle Tramonte ’15 presented three options for picking the student: nomination and selection by the YCC, an application process vetted by the YCC or a campus-wide election. After an extensive debate, 12 members of the YCC voted for the Council to select the representative, while nine members voted to conduct a campus-wide vote.
During the discussion, YCC members who favored having the Council select the representative argued against both members and nonmembers in attendance who favored a campus-wide vote. Those arguing for selection by the YCC suggested that, as a representative body, the YCC was well positioned to choose a student representative. They added that YCC members have a more thorough understanding of the role of the Yale College dean and the issues he or she will be responsible for handling, and that a campus-wide election could garner a low participation rate.
“We have talked about every facet of the Yale community,” said YCC Representative Ewurama Okai ’17. “The 24 of us probably cover the entire campus.”
YCC representative Saifullah Khan ’16 argued that a campus-wide election would become a popularity contest. Because Salovey wanted the representative chosen by Monday, Khan, along with several others, said the short time-frame made a campus-wide vote impractical.
Still, others disagreed. YCC Representative Khalid Attalla ’16 said that he saw no harm in having a large number of students vote for the position.
Several non-YCC members present vehemently defended a campus-wide vote, including Scott Stern ’15, Tyler Blackmon ’16 and Diana Rosen ’16 — the three of whom are columnists for the News — and Sterling Johnson ’16. Stern argued that the YCC needed to set a democratic precedent for the future.
Noting that he wanted the Council to come to an independent conclusion, Avraham did not speak until near the end of the debate, when he argued strongly against a campus-wide election, pointing to the challenges of conducting an election in which any student could run and of having to infrom the student body about the election within a day.
Avraham said the decision about the process for selecting a representative for the advisory committee should be made by the YCC members rather than by the nonmembers at the meeting because the YCC was elected by the student body.
YCC Representative Leah Motzkin ’16, who is a staff reporter for the News, first suggested electing Avraham to the position during the debate. Several others quickly voiced their support for Avraham as well. Blackmon was also nominated after a discussion about the need for an opposing candidate. Once the process had been determined, YCC members present were asked to vote for a representative. Avraham won 17 votes, Blackmon won one vote, and three members abstained from voting.
Salovey’s announcement that students will be included in the advisory committee comes several weeks after the announcement that the committee would be created. Earlier this month, Salovey said that he expected committee members to consult broadly with students but said the composition of the advisory committee had not yet been determined.
At the time, Salovey and other administrators said having students on the committee raised the issue of confidentiality, because the committee will likely discuss the personal lives of candidates and their abilities to take on the job.
“I am quite confident that when students serve on University committees that require confidentiality, they have honored that obligation by taking it seriously,” Salovey said earlier this month. “The issue now is to think about the juxtaposition of what faculty would be willing to discuss with students in the room versus the need to have a robust process for encouraging and listening to student input. That’s the issue.”
Salovey said on Tuesday that his decision to include students was influenced by student interest in the new deans and his long-standing commitment to listening to student concerns.
Several administrators said the Yale Corporation’s meeting this weekend likely focused on the creation of a Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, a position that would significantly change the role of the Yale College Dean. Should the Corporation and Salovey choose to add such a dean, the 14-member committee would also advise on that appointment. The decision about the faculty dean, along with the committee’s composition and mission, will likely be announced this week.
Administrators interviewed said the 12 faculty members on the committee will likely come from a range of disciplines and will have been at the University for different lengths of time.
Although the YCC meeting on Saturday was publicized in a YCC email, as well as a Facebook post just under two hours before the meeting, none of 14 students interviewed had been aware that the vote would take place.
Students interviewed voiced mixed opinions on the Council’s decision.
“It was a good decision from the YCC,” Petter Wehlin ’17 said. “It makes the process more efficient.”
But Jordan Lee ’17 said that he thought there should have been a campus-wide vote, despite the logistical challenges.
Yale College Dean Mary Miller’s term ends on June 30 of this year.