The latest step in the unprecedented campaign for the Yale Corporation has been costly dueling campaign mailings, sent by both the Rev. W. David Lee DIV ’93 and the advocates of Maya Lin ’81 ARC ’86 in the past two weeks.
Both campaigns have mailed tens of thousands of dollars worth of materials, raising questions about funding disclosure and access to alumni contact information, in the most hotly contested election in the history of Yale’s highest governing body. Alumni votes will be tallied through Commencement, with a winner announced the following weekend.
The pro-Lin group, called Yale Graduates For Responsible Trusteeship, includes notable alumni like former University Secretary Henry “Sam” Chauncey Jr. ’57, former Corporation member Frances Beinecke ’71 FES ’74 and football great Calvin Hill ’69. In a letter dated March 2002 and sent via first class mail to about 100,000 alumni, the group said it is “critical to the University that everyone vote in this election.” The letter also cites Lee’s past fund raising from unions, which they say he had an obligation to disclose, and implies that Lee will represent special interests.
Lee has denied that he will represent any one particular interest and says he hopes to improve Yale-New Haven relations.
The mailing from the pro-Lin group also included a column written by Chauncey and a masthead editorial from the Yale Daily News opposing Lee’s candidacy.
At 50 cents per letter, the mailing cost about $50,000, and Chauncey estimated that his group has spent $80,000 in total. Chauncey said his group has no further plans that its mailing has been sent out.
Lee said his most recent mailing, in which he states that he does not “believe that Yale has been well-served by the mutual suspicion and discord that has characterized its history of town-gown and labor relations,” cost about $24,000.
Both Lee’s campaign and the supporters of Lin — who has not directly campaigned or spoken extensively to the media — said they used the alumni directory to obtain the addresses of alumni. Association of Yale Alumni Executive Director Jeffrey Brenzel said the AYA has not provided any contact information for alumni.
The pro-Lin letter is signed by eight alumni and says the mailing is financed by the listed names and “some former trustees.”
Chauncey said there are three former trustees who have not yet given him permission to disclose their names.
“We disclosed our ties. We didn’t disclose the names. Has [Lee] disclosed the names of every union member who has contributed? We have disclosed the categories of people,” Chauncey said. “He should disclose the name of every union person who has contributed and the famous $10,000 gift.”
Chauncey was referring to an anonymous $10,000 gift Lee lists on his Web site, as well as to $30,000 Lee initially received in support from Yale’s two largest unions.
Chauncey said he regrets the campaigning but that it is necessary because of the path Lee chose to pursue.
“What you are really talking about is that this has become an expensive proposition, and that is what the Rev. Lee wanted it to be because he decided to run a traditional political campaign,” Chauncey said. “Many of us think that it is better not to have a political campaign.”
Lee has defended his choice to campaign, saying he wants to get the word out about his goal for better town-gown relations.
Despite the large amount of money being spent, the campaign materials are not necessarily achieving their goals.
Peter Spendelow ’74 said the mailing from Alumni for Responsible Trusteeship was off-putting, and said he now plans to vote for Lee because he did not like the letter’s criticisms of Lee.
“Actually it is one of those situations where you receive the piece of mail from a campaign and it can turn you the wrong way,” Spendelow said.