The Dwight Hall Cabinet voted unanimously last week in its monthly meeting to abstain from endorsing either of the two candidates vying for a seat on the Yale Corporation, the Rev. W. David Lee DIV ’93 and Maya Lin ’81 ARC ’86.
Lee, who has promised to bring community issues to greater prominence at Yale if elected to the Corporation, spoke in February before Dwight Hall, an organization that has itself built its reputation on bringing Yale and the city closer together through social service and activism. But fears that an endorsement would politicize Dwight Hall, which is not-for-profit and independent of the University, convinced the cabinet that no such move was necessary.
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Dwight Hall is prohibited by law from endorsing a candidate for political office. While a seat on the Corporation is not officially a political position, some at the cabinet meeting were concerned that an endorsement from Dwight Hall would be viewed as political nonetheless, particularly given the increasingly contentious atmosphere surrounding the Corporation race.
“There were some concerns that endorsing a candidate would go against our status as a separate institution from the University,” said Casey Pitts ’03, a co-coordinator of Dwight Hall.
Abby Levine ’02, who is assisting Lee’s campaign, suggested to the co-coordinators earlier this year that Dwight Hall arrange a meeting with Lee to discuss his campaign.
“Rev. Lee — as his platform says, is trying to represent the community voices of New Haven, and I thought Dwight Hall, as the community service group on campus, would be interested in hearing him,” Levine said.
One month after that meeting, the cabinet, numbering 60 students, considered whether to endorse a candidate. After splitting into smaller groups to discuss the issue, the cabinet voted unanimously against making an endorsement.
“No one was going to endorse Maya Lin and that was pretty much known,” said Mike Bernstein ’04, the coordinator of the Student Coalition for Humanitarian Support.
Bernstein was present at the Cabinet meeting but was not allowed to vote because his group, just recently formed, has not yet formally joined Dwight Hall. Had he been allowed to vote, Bernstein said, he would have voted to endorse Lee.
He said he admires Lee’s promise to meet with students who have any concerns.
“The main fear of people who were opposed to endorsing a candidate — was because they were thinking about the image of Dwight Hall,” Bernstein said. “People just did not, in a straight cost-benefit analysis — see any benefit to their groups.”
Lee did not return calls seeking comment yesterday.
“I was disappointed, but I understand the concerns of people,” Levine said.