A celebrated artist, a chief justice and a dignified assortment of rich people will gather today in Woodbridge Hall at an undisclosed time. Sometime in the next two days, at their covert summit, they will take a vote. The results of the vote and records of what they say will be sealed for 50 years.
And nothing short of the fate of Yale’s 12-college universe will hang in the balance.
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Responsible for that fate are the 19 men and women of the Yale Corporation, the University’s highest governing body. After a year of anticipation — and almost a decade of behind-the-scenes preparation — the Corporation is expected to vote this weekend to greenlight the next step in planning for the addition of two new residential colleges, with a final authorization expected to come in June.
But for a decision that has inspired vigorous debate on campus for months, this weekend’s decision will be made in relative quiet, away from students and without any fanfare whatsoever.
That much is the norm: Corporation meetings are routinely shrouded in secrecy, with Corporation members forbidden from speaking to the press and the meeting’s time — and, technically, location, not to mention its agenda — kept confidential.
And this week’s meeting is unusually hushed, even compared to the normal level of secrecy. University President Richard Levin, who acts as the de facto spokesman for the governing body, has been unavailable for comment this week because of a family emergency. Levin is not expected to return to New Haven for today’s meeting, although he will be in communication with the Corporation by telephone during its meetings, according to aides.
But the vote — which was already delayed from December to this month in order to provide more time for two committees studying the possible impact of expansion — is still expected to occur, regardless of Levin’s absence.
“Everything is on schedule,” said Nina Glickson, the assistant to the president, in an e-mail Thursday.
Levin is the only University administrator who sits on the Corporation.
While the meeting will continue as planned, the University will not say exactly what that plan is. Glickson declined to comment on the details of today’s meeting?, citing Yale’s policy of not discussing Corporation meetings, and the administrator charged with Corporation affairs, Associate Secretary Patricia Zandy, referred comment to the Office of Public Affairs.
Helaine Klasky, the director of OPA, declined to comment. “We never discuss [the] Corporation agenda, nor logistics,” she wrote in an e-mail message.
According to officials familiar with the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the secrecy surrounding the governing body, members of the two committees charged with examining the proposal to build the new colleges — one regarding student-life issues, the other Yale’s academic resources — will brief Corporation members this morning on their report on expansion, released Monday.
The vote will follow either late in the day or on Saturday.
But even on the eve of that vote, there is little suspense to be found. For months, it has been seen as little more than a formality.
“I do believe the president, the officers of the University and the Corporation are enormously interested in this,” said former Calhoun College Master William Sledge, the chairman of the student-life committee. “They want to see it happen.”
But the precise results of the Corporation members’ vote will not be public knowledge anytime soon.
Corporation minutes are stored for safekeeping in the Yale University Archives, but they are kept sealed for a full half-century, according to the Corporation bylaws. So Yale students interested in finding out what really went on behind closed doors regarding the proposed expansion should mark their calendars for February 2058.
One thing that is certain, at least, is that not all 19 members of the Corporation will be present this weekend. Aside from Levin, the two other ex-officio members of the governing body, Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell and Lt. Governor Michael Fedele, will not attend, said a spokesman for the governor, Adam Liegeot ’94.
The rest of the Corporation comprises 10 successor trustees, who select their successors, and six alumni fellows elected by Yale graduates.
On Monday, Levin endorsed the expansion plan, which calls for the construction of two new colleges behind the Grove Street Cemetery on Prospect Street. Under the plan, the Yale College enrollment would increase more than 10 percent, to about 6,000 students.
Levin said at the time that he would ask the Corporation for permission to direct the Provost’s Office to develop a preliminary budget for the new colleges and the Development Office to develop a fundraising plan for the buildings, the cost of which a preliminary budget projection placed at no less than $600 million.