Tuesday’s Yale Daily News (“Two campaigns for the Corporation,” 4/17) took the Association of Yale Alumni’s Board of Governors to task for expressing its views to alumni about the current Yale alumni fellow election. But the editors failed to take into account some important facts in evaluating the board’s actions.
First, the Board of Governors is made up of 25 elected and nine ex officio alumni representatives, none of whom is a member of the Yale administration. While two members of the board are members of the Yale Corporation, the board as a whole is not part of the Yale administration and plays no role in Yale’s governance, which is solely the responsibility of the Corporation, the faculty and the administration. Third, the Board of Governors neither made public statements about nor criticized either the campaign or the petition candidate before March 26, whether in the press or in messages to alumni.
During the seven months of the Rev. W. David Lee’s DIV ’93 campaign prior to March 26, the Board of Governors did send one statement about the election to a limited group of alumni who serve as the volunteer officers for classes, clubs and graduate and professional alumni associations. In that message, the board responded to those who had requested information as to whether the AYA was providing contact information for Lee’s mass mailings and mass e-mailings, or whether the AYA was endorsing or sponsoring the petition candidate. We indicated to the alumni volunteers that the AYA had no involvement in the petition campaign and was not providing alumni contact information to Lee.
During the time from September through March, however, the board was monitoring the election process closely. With growing concern over the unprecedented tactics and the campaign materials being sent to alumni, we finally voted unanimously as a board on March 24 to authorize the two messages that were sent to eligible alumni voters, one from the board chairwoman on March 26 and the second from the entire board on April 11.
Why did we do so? First, the board saw a clear and evident disparity between Lee’s past statements on the public record about Yale and his self-presentation in petition and campaign materials sent to alumni. Second, the board was concerned about Lee’s board member and officer roles with advocacy organizations that were issuing harsh criticisms and specific demands of Yale, none of which were being mentioned in petition and campaign materials sent to alumni. Finally, the board noted that Lee’s campaign was being financed in significant measure by Yale’s labor unions, yet this fact also had not been acknowledged in petition and campaign mailings and e-mails sent to alumni.
Though these matters were being revealed and acknowledged in the local New Haven media, alumni who do not live in New Haven have little access to this information. The AYA board finally concluded that it would constitute a violation of its own duty as steward of alumni interests in Yale’s governance in these unprecedented circumstances if it failed to ensure that alumni voters had access to the full and complete range of information on the public record. We also trusted that Yale alumni would fairly and carefully evaluate the election and campaign, so long as full information was available to them.
Both of the AYA messages to alumni reported facts on the public record and both urged alumni to inform themselves fully by going to the AYA election Web site at www.aya.yale.edu/election, which is the only location hosting complete coverage of the election. It should be noted that this coverage includes the full range of articles critical of both Yale and the AYA as well as articles, opinions and letters supportive of Lee.
Finally, we believe that it is important to bear in mind the distinction between politicizing a trustee election — which is what we believe that Lee accomplished over a seven-month period using mail, e-mail, advertising, political endorsements and phone banks — and the AYA’s decision after seven months to respond publicly to this politicized campaign by presenting the full public record to alumni. The board recognized that some would criticize us for exercising our responsibility to inform alumni and for exercising our right to express our concerns. We stand by our decision to do so.
Maureen Doran graduated from the School of Nursing in 1971 and is the chairwoman of the Board of Governors of the Association of Yale Alumni.