As the unorthodox campaign of Yale Corporation hopeful the Rev. W. David Lee DIV ’93 continues, University administrators have taken steps to inform alumni that Yale does not endorse Lee’s candidacy.
In response to Lee’s campaigning, Association of Yale Alumni Executive Director Jeffrey Brenzel sent out an e-mail to approximately 850 alumni representatives saying that the AYA and Yale have no association with Lee’s Corporation bid. The comments prompted Lee to say that he is frustrated with the administration’s response to his candidacy.
Lee, who is advocating more Yale involvement in New Haven affairs, gained a spot on the ballot as a petition candidate after amassing more than 4,500 signatures from Yale alumni. He became only the second alumnus to become an official candidate through this process; a subcommittee of the AYA traditionally chooses the candidates who will run for alumni trustee positions.
Lee has been running a more substantial campaign than any previous Corporation candidate, and a Yale official said some Internet addresses associated with Lee’s campaign confused alumni.
Lee Strieb ’86, who is a member of the general executive board of the Hotel Employee and Restaurant Employee International union, sent an e-mail on Dec. 5, 2001, advertising a Web site called Yaleinsider.org. The e-mail encouraged recipients to read an article about Lee’s candidacy on the site, which is run by the local Yale unions. HERE is the parent union of Yale’s unions.
In addition, Lee’s own campaign Web site is called Yalealum.org.
“There was a fair amount of confusion about endorsement,” the Yale official said. “If you were a Yale alum and got something from Yalealum.org, you would think it was an official endorsement.”
University spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said the AYA received more than 100 questions and complaints about Lee’s campaign, prompting Brenzel to clarify Yale’s relationship to Lee’s campaign.
Lee said he was “at a loss for words” about Brenzel’s comments.
“I am disappointed in my alma mater — to treat one of its own as if we are not one of them,” Lee said. “If you feel that way about one of your own alumni, how do you really feel about the community that you partake of and that you say you want to be partners with?”
Yale President Richard Levin said Lee’s attempt to win a spot on the Corporation marks the first real campaign for such a position, even though there was a previous petition candidate in 1969.
“Signatures have been gathered pretty much with a low-budget approach and no subsequent campaigning [in the past],” Levin said. “The names were simply on the ballot.”
Lee’s campaign included an initial mailing funded by $30,000 donated by local unions, but in an interview last week Lee said he no longer receives funding from the unions.
“That is so far from the mark,” Lee said. “But I can understand why they are saying it because unions put out the first — but since then money has come in from the mailings.”
Lee raised $6,000 in a fund-raiser for his campaign last month at his church, Varick Memorial AME Zion on Dixwell Avenue, and he said alumni have donated $15,000.
Although the University denied his request for a list of alumni e-mail addresses, Lee has sent e-mails and mailings to Yale alumni.
Brenzel said he did not know where Lee obtained contact information for the alumni.
“It could be compiled from a number of sources — some are copyrighted,” Brenzel said.
Sam Asher ’04, who serves as one of Lee’s unofficial student campaign coordinators, said he is displeased that the University is questioning how Lee’s campaign acquired the alumni contact information.
“That sort of implies he is doing something devious or has somehow gotten his hands on classified information,” Asher said. “It has been the result of hard work and the cooperation of alumni who have been putting together a lot of work putting together these lists.”
Brenzel said his attempts to clarify that Yale and the AYA have no official connection to Lee stemmed from a desire to educate the alumni.
“To give you an idea, we were getting a lot of complaints from alumni saying, ‘Why are we receiving this material, have you been giving our name out, is the AYA or Yale running a campaign for this individual?’ Rev. Lee’s campaign was sending out mass e-mail, mail and telephone calls,” Brenzel said. “And so we were getting a lot of questions on these, and a lot of complaints, part about the e-mail, saying, ‘This is spam, make it stop.'”
Lee said Brenzel’s statement to alumni does not surprise him, although he initially was shocked at the Yale administration’s reaction to his campaign.
“I am somewhat perplexed about the reception from the Yale side. I thought they would be more receptive of the idea,” Lee said. “I just think it is another way of Yale being Yale in the sense that they feel threatened by my candidacy. But they really don’t have any reason to be threatened because, I believe, I would be an asset, not a liability.”