Following a special meeting of the Association for Yale Alumni Board of Governors Sunday, the AYA will make public today a Web site providing information about the upcoming Yale Corporation election, which will pit New Haven pastor the Rev. W. David Lee DIV ’93 against famed architect Maya Lin ’81 ARC ’86.
AYA Board of Governors chairwoman Maureen Doran NUR ’71 sent a letter to all 115,000 eligible alumni voters notifying them of the new site and encouraging alumni to inform themselves about the election.
The first AYA-sponsored Web site of its kind, Brenzel said the site — www.aya.yale.edu/election — is an “information service disclosing information on the public record” for alumni in an unorthodox election year characterized by Lee’s active campaigning, the most vocal and widespread in Corporation history. Brenzel said the Web site should be available around the middle of the day.
The AYA’s move is yet another first in this year’s highly unorthodox Corporation election featuring Lee’s petition drive to get on the ballot for the University highest policy-making board.
William Horowitz ’29, the only petition candidate to ever win a seat, was elected in 1969.
Unlike Horowitz and previous candidates, Lee has actively campaigned for a position on the 16-member board, receiving campaign contributions and soliciting local and state political endorsements. In turn, the Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee — for the first time in AYA history — chose to nominate only one alumni candidate, Lin, instead of the traditional two or three candidates.
Yale President Richard Levin declined to comment on the Web site and letter, saying the decision was made by the AYA.
Brenzel said the letter and the Web site, which has been in the works for the past week, constituted no implicit endorsement on the behalf of the AYA.
In her letter, Doran stressed the importance of alumni educating themselves about the election in the wake of Lee’s “unprecedented campaign” and his ties to Yale’s unions.
“Contrary to tradition, Rev. Lee has undertaken a very active campaign for the position, one that has been financed largely by the labor unions that represent some Yale employees,” Doran wrote.
Lee received $30,000 in funds from Yale unions for his initial mailing to alumni but has said repeatedly that he no longer receives support from the unions. Lee said he has disclosed every contributor to his campaign on his own Web site and asserted that the attention to his union ties results from Yale’s acrimonious labor relations.
“It’s Yale’s unions. Why do they feel bad about them helping me? It’s that tension,” Lee said. “I’m a pastor. I would love to help ease that tension … so the community could move forward and the morale in the community can be the highest.”
Lin has remained quiet about her candidacy, and, in an e-mail to three students representing the United Students at Yale and the Women’s Center who had separately inquired about her candidacy, she said she did not wish for any communication with the press to be construed as campaigning.
“In the past, Yale alumni have always relied on the record of the proven accomplishments and prior service of candidates in determining who would be the best stewards for the entire University,” Lin wrote. “In ways I hope you will respect, I think it preferable to rely on my background, accomplishments and affection for Yale rather than some new comments that might be interpreted as trying to garner votes.”
Brenzel said the AYA site would contain a statement from Lin on her candidacy and her wish not to campaign.
In January, Brenzel issued a statement to alumni leaders regarding Lee’s campaign in response to a slew of questions to his office.
“This [campaign] has been a source of confusion up to this point … ” Brenzel said. “One of the challenges for alumni, in addition to being unfamiliar with campaigning, is that many alumni aren’t familiar with the [election] process and don’t vote. Even the people who vote have never seen a campaign.”
“The AYA’s Board of Governors is concerned about the campaigning and the politicization of the process,” he added. “The board has never been faced with a situation in which there was a politicized campaign being mounted.”
With the site, Brenzel said the AYA seeks to make any information that is on the public record available. He said that opinion pieces and biographies of each candidate are featured, in addition to selections of media coverage.
Sam Asher ’04, one of Lee’s student campaign coordinators, said he thought the AYA letter to alumni and Web site overstepped the organization’s boundaries.
“I think there is an implicit bias against Rev. Lee, and it is unfortunate,” Asher said, referring to the AYA’s mention of Lee’s union ties.