While the endorsements keep coming for Yale Corporation petition candidate the Rev. W. David Lee DIV ’93, his opponent, famed architect Maya Lin ’81 ARC ’86, obtained her first official endorsement.
In the last two days, the Women’s Center Political Action Committee and Alumni for a Better Yale have officially announced their support of Lee’s candidacy, and the New Haven Register endorsed Lin and denounced Lee’s campaign. In another development in this unprecedented campaign year, students at Yale associated with Lee’s campaign have been making phone calls to alumni over the past week.
Lee, a New Haven minister, and Lin are vying for a spot on Yale’s highest policy-making body. Lee has solicited political support for his bid, another first in a process unlike any previous Corporation election.
After gathering more than 4,000 alumni signatures to obtain a place on the ballot, Lee embarked on an active campaign complete with mailings, a speaking circuit, and endorsements from politicians including Sen. Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67 and state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73.
A month ago, the Black Student Alliance at Yale and Black Pride Union endorsed Lee as their choice for the Yale Corporation. U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown ’74, D-Ohio, state Sen. Toni Harp ARC ’74 and Rabbi James Ponet ’68, the director of Yale Hillel, also have all recently expressed their support for Lee’s candidacy.
Lee said in an e-mail that he has been pleased with the enthusiasm of his supporters.
“I had no idea that so many Yale alumni and student groups would get this excited about the idea of having a trustee who would build bridges between Yale and New Haven, and who would be accessible to the current student body,” Lee said. “Every day I get a number of unexpected e-mails or calls from supportive alumni.”
While most of the endorsements continue to favor Lee, on Sunday the New Haven Register endorsed Lin. The paper’s editorial focused solely on why Lee would be an inappropriate candidate, saying Lee was conducting his campaign as if he were running for the Board of Aldermen.
“As a community activist, Lee has had plenty to say, much of it undercutting his claim that he wants to serve Yale,” the Register wrote. “Lee’s positions are identical to those of locals 34 and 35 and its affiliated research group. The unions are currently in contract negotiations with the university. Lee, in fact, is the union’s man.”
Lee continues to receive student support, although only alumni who graduated before 1997 are eligible to vote in the election.
Josie Rodberg ’03, a chairwoman of the Women’s Center Political Action Committee, said the decision to endorse Lee came after the group made an effort to contact Lin and discuss her nomination. She called Lin’s mass e-mail response “disheartening,” but said that Lee came and met with the group for 45 minutes in mid-February.
Following Lee’s official position, the group said it believes Lee should win the election and Lin should be appointed as a successor trustee to replace Kurt Schmoke ’71 in June.
Mackenzie Baris ’01, the founder and interim secretary of Alumni for a Better Yale, said the almost year-old organization has several hundred members. The organization has taken a stance on issues involving the University and town-gown relations, and Baris said that in general the organization supports unions.
“We have a set of broad principles and we support the right of employees to unionize. It is just the general principle that most of our members share,” Baris said.
Baris said the organization voted by an 80 percent margin to endorse Lee, and said group members voted to endorse Lee over the group’s e-mail discussion list.
Julianna Bentes ’04, a president of BSAY, said the organization made its decision to endorse Lee before they even knew of Lin’s nomination.
“We doubted that Yale would be able to find another candidate more able to represent the community,” Bentes said. “Given what Yale needs at the moment, he seemed like the ideal candidate.”
Bentes said BSAY and Black Pride Union may become involved in a student phone-bank effort to enlist alumni support for Lee’s candidacy.