The nomination of Maya Lin ’81 ARC ’86 for the Yale Corporation appears to mark the first time the Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee has selected only one candidate for the alumni trustee ballot, Yale President Richard Levin said.
Lin will run against petition candidate the Rev. W. David Lee DIV ’93, who said that he believes both he and Lin deserve to sit on the Corporation but that Lin should be appointed as a successor trustee next year and not elected by alumni this year.
Lin did not return phone calls regarding her candidacy.
Although University Secretary Linda Lorimer said that five of the last 15 alumni trustee ballots have featured only two candidates, Association of Yale Alumni Executive Director Jeffrey Brenzel said this year’s situation is unique because none of those ballots included a petition candidate.
Lee, who has emphasized the relationship between Yale and New Haven while running the first full-fledged campaign in Corporation history, earned a spot on the ballot by collecting more than 4,500 signatures from Yale alumni.
Heidi Hartmann GRD ’74 was the last person to make the ballot as a petition candidate. In 1985 Hartmann, the director of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, ran against five candidates chosen by the alumni nominating committee and lost to former U.S. senator Paul Tsongas LAW ’67.
Lorimer said 16 petition candidates have attempted to win a Corporation seat since 1949. These candidates included S. Roger Horchow ’50 and William F. Buckley ’50, but Lorimer said that only two petition candidates have ever won: Stanhope Bayne-Jones ’10 and William Horowitz ’29.
Lee said he is giving Yale the benefit of the doubt about the nomination of only Lin.
“I hope there wasn’t any other incentive behind it,” Lee said. “She’s a great woman and she doesn’t need to be used or manipulated by anyone and to be thrown in the mix of something — Think of all the things she has done and she stands for and represents. I believe that if she understood the full picture she wouldn’t do this.”
Lee said he would be the first to advocate Lin’s appointment as a successor trustee after current senior fellow Kurt Schmoke ’71 finishes his term next year.
“I get in, appoint her, and you have the best of both worlds and the University would be much greater,” Lee said.
Lorimer said Lin wished not to speak to the media out of concern that any contact would be perceived as campaigning.
Schmoke said he was worried that the Corporation election process was becoming politicized and the role of the trustee distorted.
“What I really worry about is that people in the future will feel — that these elections should become contests along the lines of political campaigns. I can see in the future other interest groups deciding that they want to run a candidate solely to support their interests,” Schmoke said. “I think the people who either seek the alumni slate or put their names as successor trustees generally have been involved in a number of different aspects to the University. They are not there to be advocates.”
The Federation of Hospital and University Employees, a coalition of local labor groups, provided $30,000 to pay for Lee’s first campaign mailing.
Schmoke said Lee’s financial ties to the Graduate Employees and Students Organization — a member of the federation that is attempting to become a graduate student union — make him opposed to Lee’s candidacy. Schmoke said he fundamentally opposes the unionization of graduate students.
“Clearly this election is very different from any alumni election we have ever had,” Schmoke said.
He added that he knew the last successful petition candidate, Horowitz, well.
“When Bill ran, there had never been a Jewish member of the Corporation and he simply felt that that was wrong,” Schmoke said. “He did not run, however, to advocate the interests of a specific group nor did he seek outside funding.”
Horowitz’s son Daniel Horowitz ’60, who wrote a letter of support for Lee early in his campaign but has since declined to comment on Lee’s candidacy, said his father did not campaign for his Corporation seat.
“It was hard to campaign. There was no Internet,” Horowitz said. “The number of signatures you needed wasn’t very high then.”
Brenzel said Lee’s unorthodox campaign has confused alumni.
“There is absolutely no rule against campaigning, but it has been the culture [not to],” Brenzel said.
But despite the controversy surrounding his Corporation bid, Lee said the opportunity to wage a campaign is the reason he loves his alma mater.
“The genius of it is, I love Yale because they give us the option to do it,” Lee said.