The presidential search committee should not be surprised that few students have proposed a vision for Yale’s next president.
When Yale Corporation Senior Fellow Edward Bass ’67 ARC ’72 created the role of a student counselor to the search committee, he had the opportunity to legitimize the search process and humanize the Corporation. Inviting students to elect a representative, rather than appointing a counselor, would have had practical and symbolic value.
Not only would an election have created necessary student dialogue surrounding the search process, but it would also have shown students that the Corporation — long-viewed as a distant body isolated from undergraduate life — was willing to heed the input of the student body.
Instead, the Corporation decided not to trust student judgment. By failing to ask students for input on the identity of their counselor, Bass created unnecessary mistrust between some students and their counselor. That original disconnect led students to disengage from the search process altogether.
We do not believe Bass aimed to alienate students when nominating the student counselor, but regardless of his intentions, this unilateral appointment sent a clear message to students: Their input would not be considered thoroughly.
But now, the search process is progressing, and the presidential search committee has an opportunity to repair its relationship with the student body. The focus of the committee will soon shift from collecting input to discussing candidates, and these discussions are where many students want to have the greatest impact.
Yet the committee has failed to articulate how students will be represented in these discussions — or if they will be represented at all.
It remains unclear if a student representative will be present in the closed-door discussions of candidates. It remains unclear how student concerns will be addressed as candidates are vetted. And it remains unclear when the Corporation will seek student input once this new stage of deliberation begins.
These questions must be answered.
The Corporation should take this opportunity to clearly outline how students will be represented in the upcoming stages of the presidential search. The Corporation should reflect on the lessons learned in the past several weeks, and strive to create an effective and transparent method of representation that reflects student views.
If the Corporation can provide students with this continuing role in the search process, the student body must direct its discussion to provide tangible, credible and substantive suggestions. Only then will the Yale student body feel invested in the presidential search, and, in turn, the next president of Yale.