Ladies and gentlemen of Yale campus: it’s time for an attitude change.
It’s time to start appreciating the great gift of a Yale education and stop shaming ourselves for our endowment’s recent financial success. It’s time to start showing respect for our professors and administrators and to stop asking our pedagogical mothers and fathers to take stances on issues unrelated to their roles as teachers and administrators. It’s time, colleagues and friends, to stop worrying about the political positions of our professors, deans and presidents and to start worrying about our own.
Let me be clear. President Levin is currently not employed as a politician. Nor is he employed as a lobbyist, a policy maker, a union leader, a religious figure or even the great scientist he once was. At most, he serves as an educational ambassador whose foremost responsibility is to support his students in the best way possible, namely, to give them the resources that they need to succeed during their academic stage of life and beyond. And as far as I’m concerned, he’s doing an outstanding job at doing just that.
I’m not interested in his stances on Iraq. I don’t care what he thinks about the Yale-New Haven Hospital dispute or China’s human rights violations. His position on the state of city government is completely irrelevant to me.
While President Bollinger’s words from earlier this month ring true to me as any I’ve heard, and while the opportunity for Columbia students to hear from such a controversial political figure was tremendous, the idea that the Columbia president should be applauded for his selfless contribution to the world is ridiculous at best.
I’m amazed that while the editors of this paper denigrate President Levin’s stance on “the need for self-serving growth,” they fail to see the selfishness of the forum created by President Bollinger, specifically, one that was anything but free and open but rather one that placed his University, as well as his own likeness, on the front page of every newspaper in the world and failed to provide his students with any meaningful debate about the issue at hand.
Rather, what I do care about, and what is important for this University, is the stance President Levin has taken on Yale’s role in education; it’s clear that this has never been an issue that he has shied away from.
In recent years, he has made it clear that his goal is to establish Yale as the premier global university, equipped with all of the resources it will need to exist for as long as the Western world is free.
He’s told us that he believes in globalization and integration, and he’s taken action by increasing the presence of international students at Yale and the number of opportunities for Yalies to learn abroad. He’s recognized the capability to globalize is bounded only by the imagination of our leaders and the financial restraints placed upon them and as such has managed to find and retain perhaps the greatest endowment manager in the history of finance — a task only complicated by the financial rewards waiting for Mr. Swenson if and when he decides to leave for Wall St.
Most importantly, President Levin has made it clear that he has faith in his staff. He believes in the professors and administrators below him and trusts in their ability to enact social change in the classroom and in the colleges. He trusts in his students to take their own action and to formulate their own beliefs, and he understands that the most meaningful thing he can offer is a free and open forum for thought and discourse, one in which the president doesn’t stick his nose every time he thinks something’s gone wrong.
These stances might not be as glamorous as the one taken recently by President Bollinger, and they may not hold the political significance as the one taken by President Hadley in Woosley Hall almost 100 years ago, but they are meaningful and necessary all the same.
So to you, President Levin, I say thanks. Thank you for not telling me what to believe and how to believe it. Thank you for surrounding me with professors, masters and deans that inspire and bewilder and that rarely back away from a student’s desire for political or intellectual debate. Thank you, for giving me Yale and making sure it’s not going anywhere any time soon.
Alex Wolf is a sophomore in Berkeley College.