The relationship between Yale and New Haven requires a special responsibility for the University president. Not only must he be a leader on our own campus, but he must be a leader in our city. Few universities have such an inextricable relationship with the city they call home.
When Mayor John DeStefano Jr. steps down from office next January, it will be incumbent on President Salovey to establish a healthy relationship with the new mayor. But no matter how many mayors come and go during Salovey’s tenure, we hope to see him focus on the city itself and, given his limited time and resources, concentrate his efforts in areas where Yale can make a tangible difference.
The current relationship between Yale and New Haven is far from guaranteed. Just over two decades ago, the University president did not even live full time in New Haven. The interests of the University were frequently considered at odds with those of the city. The mentality many at Yale have developed since — that what is good for New Haven is often good for Yale — is something that a Salovey administration must affirm in its decision-making.
Similarly, Yale may not always experience the favorable political arrangement it has seen. In coming elections, Yale may find a mayor or Board of Aldermen less receptive to the University’s agenda. We hope Salovey will be ready to negotiate and navigate these challenges.
We can thank President Levin for his efforts to build our current relationship, and we hope Salovey can continue this progress. Yet merely continuing Levin’s policies would not be enough to ensure a successful relationship, either.
Levin’s commitment to New Haven Promise is laudable, but in the coming years, the program will need to be strenuously re-evaluated to ensure it consistently achieves results that fulfill Yale’s investment. In turn, ensuring the program’s success can help promote New Haven’s emerging high-tech, post-manufacturing economy.
Yale’s physical presence in New Haven must also be evaluated. The Levin administration engaged in an aggressive plan to purchase property around campus and renovate business space. The revival of Broadway and the ongoing growth of Chapel Street are testaments to this program’s success. We hope to see Salovey develop a cohesive plan with University Properties that can revive economically depressed areas while simultaneously combating the challenges of gentrification.
Some reforms must occur closer to campus. A strengthened and supported Dwight Hall should serve as a conduit between service-minded undergraduates and meaningful work in the city. President Salovey will need to define and exemplify a culture of service that translates into plentiful and institutionalized service opportunities in New Haven.
Beyond addressing specific policy platforms, we hope that Salovey will, when appropriate, serve as an active voice in New Haven. The Elm City has increasingly found itself at the center of heated national debates — the role of affirmative action and diversity, the future of immigration reform — on topics that find parallels in campus life. As debate ensues on a national stage, we hope Salovey can take a stand for the University’s values in New Haven.
With active and principled leadership, Salovey can build upon Levin’s successes to ensure greater prosperity for both Yale and New Haven.