November 8th, 2012 | Cross Campus

Forum: President Salovey

Peter Salovey was named Yale's next president on Thursday.
Peter Salovey was named Yale's next president on Thursday. Photo by Julia Zorthian.

In this edition of the News’ Forum, students react to the announcement that Provost Peter Salovey will serve as the next University President.

Nathaniel Zelinsky, Staff Columnist | Senior in Davenport College

Habemus Popem. A few reactions, in no particular order, to Provost Salovey’s appointment as president.

First, this is a great day for teaching at Yale. As a professor, Salovey was charismatic. He filled lecture halls and drew overflowing crowds. As Provost, he co-taught an experimental seminar, Great Big Ideas. This is someone who gets education, not just in the abstract — he understands what it means to inspire students in classrooms.

Second, a lot of people assume that, because he served President Levin for a decade as an administrator, Salovey will be like his predecessor in both governing style and policy. I find that line of thinking unconvincing. Salovey is his own person, with his own personality and his own ideas. And, as a broader point, let’s avoid making brash judgments or specific predictions (“Salovey will do such and such…”). Give the president-elect some space and time to breath.

Third, we should resist the temptation to peer into the internal machinations of the Corporation. Until the records of the search committee are released (under Yale’s current archival policy, that will happen in seventy years), we will not know if the search process was pro-forma or real — and it makes no sense to guess.

Fourth, we all owe President Richard Levin our thanks. He has served this place for two decades. He rebuilt Yale. He grew our endowment and made financial aid sustainable. It’s a shame, but history rarely remembers institutionalists. By nature such leaders aren’t demagogues. They don’t dominate the present and, consequently, they are often forgotten by the future. President Levin deserves a spot in the Yale Pantheon.

Scott Stern, Staff Columnist | Sophomore in Branford College

Peter Salovey is a fine choice, and, I believe, will be an able and well-liked president of Yale. From what I’ve read and heard, he was a great researcher, professor and administrator. As the first Yale president who was the chair of his academic department, it seems likely that he is uniquely suited to cater to the wishes of faculty members. Salovey’s a fine choice, but he wouldn’t have been my first choice.

Salovey was the obvious choice, yet I found myself rooting for an underdog. Salovey is a white male, yet I found myself hoping Yale would join nearly every other top-tier school and allow someone to crack that glass ceiling in Woodbridge Hall. (Hillary Clinton, anyone?) This by no means suggests that we should veto all white men, but I wonder if two months was enough time to survey all the options.

Harvard, Princeton, MIT, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown and many, many other schools have been led by women or people of color. In what I fear is a larger trend, Yale remains stuck in the past. As the News described in an article last February, Yale is markedly behind on its stated goals for achieving faculty diversity and hiring more women. Yale continues to give a significant admissions preference to largely white, largely wealthy legacy applicants. Sexism is still very much a part of our campus, as evidenced DKE’s and Zeta’s obscene pranks and the need for a Title IX investigation.

Yale has made tremendous strides in diversifying its traditionally homogenous campus, but we must not become complacent. There is still so much work to be done. Diversity is not sought for diversity’s sake, but for that which diversity brings to a campus. I believe that President Salovey will do an excellent job, but he must use his post to give new opportunities and bring new perspectives to the school we call home.

Yale’s new president faces a veritable onslaught of challenges, but keeping our school relevant in a changing world is surely one of them. As another race for another president recently indicated, relying solely on white men is not always a recipe for success.

Diana Rosen, Guest Columnist | Freshman in Pierson College

At approximately 2:45 this afternoon, a few months earlier than expected, we received an impersonal email announcing President Levin’s successor, Peter Salovey. In it, Edward Bass briefed us on Salovey’s history with Yale, from graduate student to Provost. Bass also expressed his “deep gratitude to the many members of the Yale community who participates in the process.”

Well, Ed, I appreciate the thank you, but I’m not entirely sure what I’m being thanked for. I filled out a YCC survey and stood in front of search committee members to explain how I felt about the presidential search process, but I never received a single response. So, as far as I’m concerned, I didn’t participate in the process.

Yale students make up the vast majority of the said, “Yale community,” yet not a single student was a part of the “unanimous and enthusiastic” selection of Peter Salovey. Students at Dartmouth and Princeton sit on search committees; Yale students get emails informing us of the decisions made by eight corporation members and four non-elected faculty members. That doesn’t make much sense to me.

Procedural complaints aside – congratulations, President-elect Salovey. I just wish students could have been a legitimate part of the process that selected you. From what I hear, you have a great reputation with undergraduates. So, I have a request to make of you – when you assume your position in June, give those students a real voice. Make sure that no future Yale President will be selected without an elected student representative sitting on the search committee. Give the Yale community the democracy it deserves and, in the words of Ed Bass, we will be “enthusiastically welcoming.”