University Secretary Linda Lorimer announced yesterday that she has completed the final draft of the ballot biographies of Yale Corporation candidates the Rev. W. David Lee DIV ’93 and Maya Lin ’81 ARC ’86.
The biographies, which have been a point of contention for months, will be mailed to the 115,000 eligible alumni voters in mid-April, Lorimer said.
Lee had asked earlier this winter to write his own biography because of his petition candidacy, but Lorimer denied his request, citing Corporation regulations. Instead, Lorimer allowed Lee to collaborate with her on his biography.
To compose the biographies, Lorimer said she reviewed data supplied by the candidates as well as other information publically available.
“The purpose is to have a true biography, not a statement on issues or positions, and so it is the intention of really having it be a review of the person’s accomplishments, education, volunteer leadership positions, honors and awards, and services to Yale,” Lorimer said. “The regulations explicitly leave it to the secretary’s discretion — but I have always made it a practice to share the draft biography with the candidates.”
Lorimer said that alumni, unlike in years past, showed interest in the composition of the biographies.
“I did receive a number of e-mails from Yale alumni, following the publication of articles in the Yale Daily News, saying that the biographies should include references to some of the public comments Rev. Lee had made in the past year,” Lorimer said, adding that she decided it would not be keeping with her prior work in biography preparation to include several frequently publicized Lee quotations.
Lorimer said she expects to receive criticism because of differences in lengths between the two biographies, but she said Lee requested additional material be included. Lee’s completed biography is 563 words — 95 words more than Lin’s.
“Rev. Lee had offered me a full recitation of the civic organizations he served — ordinarily I [would] have included only a sampling of a candidate’s most significant civic positions — but since it seemed important to him to include the entire list he provided me, I did so,” Lorimer said.
Lorimer said she did not originally include the story of the murder of Lee’s cousin, but decided to include it because she wanted to be “extremely responsible to Rev. Lee’s request, especially in light of the fact he was a petition candidate.”
The events preceding the finished ballot are unlike those in any other Corporation election in Yale’s history. After Lee received over 4,000 alumni signatures to earn a place on the ballot, he launched an active campaign involving mailings, soliciting political endorsements, fund raising and a speaking circuit.
In another first, the Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee selected only one candidate, Lin, for the ballot in contrast to the usual two or three candidates. Lin does not speak to the press on the grounds that she does not want to be perceived as campaigning.
Lee said he preferred the biography he originally wrote over the final version.
“The statement I wrote represents the story of who I am best. I would have preferred it to remain as I wrote it,” Lee said. “However, I am confident that Yale alumni will understand my desire for a new, stronger partnership between Yale and its community regardless.”
Lorimer said Lin made a few changes in longhand in the margins of the draft Lorimer showed her.
“She had fewer suggestions for revising her biographies,” Lorimer said.
Ted Wittenstein ’04, one of Lee’s student campaign coordinators, said that while he understands Yale traditionally writes the biographies, the situation surrounding Lee’s candidacy calls that policy into question.
“You know, it does raise some issues when the candidate is not someone who you endorsed, and you have to take great care in being fair in that situation,” Wittenstein said.
Lorimer said her dealings with Lee have been nothing less than amiable.
“I have found Rev. Lee’s correspondence to be most cordial,” Lorimer said. “He had strong beliefs of what he wanted to include in the biography, and I made great efforts.”
Wittenstein said any friction between the two parties is understandable given the situation.
“In terms of the tensions that are going on, either side would obviously like to see a biography that is more in their interests, but I think we’ve worked it out pretty well,” Wittenstein said.