Campaign leaflet by campaign leaflet, the Yale Corporation election is starting to look more and more like a Cold War-style proxy battle, with Yale and its labor unions throwing their financial and ideological backing behind opposing candidates in the race.
The Rev. W. David Lee’s DIV ’93 has clearly been a union representative from the start, when he accepted an invitation from the Connecticut Center for a New Economy — and $30,000 from the unions closely tied to CCNE — to initiate a petition bid for the Corporation. CCNE President Lillian Daniel DIV ’93 explained it best at a town meeting a few weeks ago: “I guess if it wasn’t David, we would have found someone else.”
When asked their opinion of Lee’s proxy candidacy, the University and the Association of Yale Alumni responded succinctly and appropriately. The Corporation is for alumni with tremendous life experience and distinction. Campaigning for a seat can be problematic. Members must not be tied to special interest within Yale’s operation.
But as the months have passed and the campaign has intensified, the University and the AYA have managed to contradict even their strongest principles.
For instance, the AYA Board of Governors told all alumni in a late March letter that it was “concerned about the campaigning and the politicization of the process.” The board was right to be concerned: If the process becomes overly politicized, the Corporation will turn into a board of political brokers, not a group of diverse trustees interested in guiding the University.
But the AYA certainly has no right to criticize Lee for campaigning. Last week, the board sent a letter to all alumni objecting to Lee’s “unprecedented” aggressive campaign. It declined to mention, however, the group of alumni led by former University Secretary Henry Chauncey ’57 that has organized a similarly aggressive and unprecedented counter-campaign, or even the AYA’s unprecedented decision to nominate only one candidate, Maya Lin ’81 ARC ’86, for the ballot.
The administration has hardly been more consistent. Yale President Richard Levin repeatedly denounced campaigning after Lee’s initial mailings, but he has said nothing to condemn the campaign from Chauncey’s group.
The reality is that the AYA and the administration are against campaigning — campaigning against their preferred candidate, that is. Together, the AYA and Chauncey’s group have now spent about $145,000 defending Lin, while Lee says he has spent $55,000. The AYA response to the campaign has become a campaign itself, and the AYA is engaging in the very practice it claims to condemn.
Finally, while operating an expensive campaign in the silent Lin’s name, the AYA and Chauncey’s group have turned Lin into just the kind of puppet they’ve criticized Lee for being. She deserves better than that, and Yale’s 115,000 alumni deserve more than the plain hypocrisy they’ve received from the AYA.
Lin ought to win this election — she would make a far better trustee for reasons we have enumerated before — but it looks like she’s going to have to do that in spite of her backers.