A group of Yale students called for a more democratic Yale Corporation this weekend as the University’s highest decision-making body convened on campus for its third official meeting of the academic year.
Last week, Will Tanzman ’04 sent an e-mail on behalf of the Student Committee for Corporation Reform, inviting members of the Yale Corporation and Yale College to an open meeting Feb. 7. The Corporation, whose agendas and meetings are confidential, already had a meeting scheduled during that time and was unable to meet with the group, University Secretary Linda Lorimer said. Senior Fellow John Pepper ’60 had replied to Tanzman’s request, saying the Corporation would not attend the meeting.
Despite the absence of Corporation members, Tanzman and six other students met in the Woolsey Rotunda at 5 p.m. Friday, where Tanzman set up a table with 12 place settings and chairs.
Tanzman, who led the meeting, asked the other students to stand around the table instead of sitting in the chairs, “in case [the trustees] show up.”
“It looks like they decided not to show up,” Tanzman said at the meeting. “I guess that means they’re meeting in secrecy somewhere.”
Calling for “a more democratic style” of governance, the group met for 20 minutes. During the meeting, the students spoke about financial aid, town-gown relations and sweatshops, discussing what they would do if they were members of the University’s highest decision-making body.
Cathy de la Aguilera ’04, who attended the meeting, said she wanted to see a change in the structure of the Corporation so students could voice their concerns in open meetings with the group.
“I am going to continue to pursue that end,” de la Aguilera said. “[But] it’s kind of hard to know how to do that when so many means of communication that Levin and the University propose to meet student concerns end up leading nowhere.”
Pepper said Corporation members meet with students before virtually every gathering and give full reports to the Corporation at the meetings. He said the Corporation members take notes of these reports and consider them seriously.
“It’s very important that we hear from students,” Pepper said. “I think there’s a great concern and interest on behalf of the Corporation.”
Tanzman said that although he had hoped the trustees would attend the meeting, the Students for Corporation Reform would not be dissuaded from attempting to meet with the Corporation in the future.
“It’s too bad the Corporation wasn’t here,” Tanzman said. “But I think they know our chairs are always open for them at our table even if their chairs aren’t open for us at their table.”
Tanzman e-mailed the Corporation again on Sunday, inviting them to another open meeting when they return to Yale for their next meeting in April.
Pepper said he would probably respond to Tanzman’s latest e-mail in the same way he responded to the first one, inviting Tanzman to contact Pepper, Yale President Richard Levin, or Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead directly with his concerns.
“I think that’s the appropriate channel here,” Pepper said.
Lorimer said she doubts Tanzman will be successful in his attempt to meet with the Corporation.
“I doubt that open meetings will be considered by the Corporation to be a useful vehicle,” Lorimer said. “If Mr. Tanzman has any specific issues he wants to address, he might want to think about relating them to the Corporation — in writing.”
Lorimer said students are encouraged to bring issues to their residential college deans or to Levin, who has open office hours.
“The president is a member of the Corporation, so that’s the way in which I think it’s intended for student issues to get raised,” Lorimer said.
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