Every year, approximately 1,300 students graduate from Yale College. We have no idea how many of those students care deeply about Yale. We have no idea how many of those students plan to stay involved with university affairs as alumni. After four years, there is no guarantee that this institution will resonate with us beyond our individual experiences. We are not obligated to consider Yale in its universal context, or even as anything more than a place where we passed some years. For this reason alone I question the outrage of those demanding student representation in choosing the upcoming president of Yale University.
We acknowledge that there are situations when we don’t have the right to demand our voices be heard. If a suitemate has a guest over for a week, we can say something. If the boys down the hall do, it is not our place to comment.
No students currently on campus were involved in the choice of President Richard Levin twenty years ago, a choice that has had far more impact on our Yale experience than this upcoming decision will. Students here now will all graduate and leave Yale early in the next president’s tenure. The Yale Corporation has made many decisions during our time here without our input, or notice. Maybe this debate should be about the role of the President in daily student life, and why it is currently so minimal. But it is minimal, and that has been fine for most of us.
When we chose to attend Yale we were subjected, both knowingly and without realizing, to a thousand rules and regulations already in place. Yet we agreed to attend. As students, we are one part of Yale, and the least reliably invested. If nothing else, the members of the search committee have proven, with their feet, that they care about Yale and are devoted to a long-term vision. Our role within Yale makes us the wrong population to decide who will lead this university long after we’ve been replaced.
I agree that there are aspects of the search committee that should be more transparent. I recently heard a voice clip of Charles Goodyear ’80, chair of the Presidential Search Committee, at the open forum meeting in Battell Chapel answering a student’s question about how counselors were chosen. Counselors are charged with relaying campus opinion to the search committee. Goodyear explained, “they were chosen in a process that the Corporation has, that the senior fellow has.” He continued to not really clarify that the senior fellow chose them in consultation with whomever he decided to consult with.
It seems pretty clear that Brandon Levin ’14 is our Student Counselor because whoever chose such things knew him, and it just made sense. And it probably does make sense. Levin has spent a healthy chunk of his time here working on behalf of students with the Yale administration. But there was no process. That the committee didn’t go out of its way to consider other students bolsters the fear that only an inner circle of individuals who are “in the know” will have a say in this process, and little effort will be made to consider the vast and diverse needs and opinions of the whole Yale community.
These selection meetings are going to be very delicate. Many of us have been in intense deliberations for student board positions. We know that arguing over whether someone is a good fit for a position can be messy. To speak frankly one needs to be in the company of individuals he or she trusts. Such open conversations cannot happen with the ears of the world in the room. Forcing the search committee to release all of its meeting minutes would either make members discuss real concerns in private, outside of meetings, or limit conversation to fruitless, carefully considered and meaningless deliberations. I don’t see how a bold choice can be made if 12,000 Yalies, without even including alumni, believe they have the right to scrutinize the process.
As much as we love this institution, as much as we plaster our walls with “For God, For Country and For Yale,” we are still only students. Only time will tell whether we are invested in a long-term vision for this University.
Shira Telushkin is a junior in Pierson College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column is part of the News’ Friday Forum. Click here to continue.