The unprecedented interest in this year’s Yale Corporation race between petition candidate the Rev. W. David Lee DIV ’93 and Maya Lin ’81 ARC ’86 has led Yale administrators to delve into the complicated and largely unknown trustee election process.
Administrators shed more light on machinations of the Alumni Fellows Nominating Committee –the group responsible for selecting alumni fellow candidates for the Corporation ballot –which disassembled this week after making news with its choice of a just one candidate for the first time in history. But Yale officials are still treading carefully as they try to educate themselves about the Corporation’s history and practices.
“Before last year, I didn’t know anything about this,” Brenzel said. “One of the biggest challenges is to try to be a source of information because this process and the way it works is really quite complicated. All of this stuff is sort of unprecedented.”
Lin’s nomination last week was the product of the committee’s broad solicitation campaign for suggestions about candidates, which included research and mailing requests for suggestions to over 700 leaders throughout the Yale and alumni communities over several months. Committee chairwoman Susanna Krentz ’80 said the process usually with starts with 50-100 candidates under consideration.
“The committee seeks men and women of outstanding achievement, individuals who are nationally prominent in their career fields, and/or who have rendered conspicuous and important service at the highest levels to Yale,” Krentz said in an e-mail.
Krentz’s committee was appointed by Maureen Doran ’71, the chairwomen of the Association of Yale Alumni Board of Governors. The board is elected by 375 delegates appointed by Yale College classes, AYA Executive Director Jeffrey Brenzel said.
Doran sits on the committee and nominates at least six members, Brenzel said. The committee also contains several ex-officio members with full voting privileges.
With the committees work complete, alumni will soon cast their votes through ballots in the mail. University Secretary Linda Lorimer estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 alumni vote annually in the Corporation election, but she said this year’s Corporation election could have a higher voter turn-out than ever before.
“I certainly believe that all of the correspondence and publicity surrounding this election is likely to result in higher participation,” Lorimer said.
Lee said he also believes alumni voter participation in this election will increase.
“I think the people who signed their signature, I believe, at least 90 percent of them will continue to support the idea,” Lee said. “Only because of the unclear things that are coming out about me — these tactics, these ads — I think those are going to affect people because these are people that love Yale.”
The increased demand for publicity can be directly attributed to the presence of Lee, a local pastor who became the first petition candidate for the Corporation since 1984 after collecting over 4,500 signatures from alumni. Lee has embarked on an active campaign involving alumni mailings, e-mails, political endorsements, and a speaking circuit.
Historically, candidates for the University’s highest policy-making body have not campaigned.
Lin, the famed architect of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Women’s Table at Yale, has not returned phone calls regarding her candidacy, and Lorimer said Lin has no plans to talk to the media because she does not want her actions to be perceived as campaigning.
Krentz said Lin seemed multi-qualified to the committee.
“The committee was uniformly enthused about the fact that she is a national and internationally regarded artist who is also an environmental leader,” Krentz said. “If elected, she would be the first Asian-American woman and the first graduate of the Yale School of Architecture ever to serve on the Yale Corporation.”