For Peter Salovey, the job of university president extends far beyond Woodbridge Hall.
Since classes began in August, Salovey’s travels have taken him to Singapore, New York City and Cincinnati, with plans to go to Washington, DC and Beijing in the coming weeks. While the events — ranging from a College Board meeting at Yale-NUS to a celebration honoring the 150th anniversary of the first Yale Alumni Club — bring Salovey all over the globe, students and administrators interviewed said Salovey’s on-campus presence remains strong.
“I don’t really think that [his busy travel schedule] detracts from his presence or his role as president, but actually the opposite,” Tiwa Lawal ’17 said. “I think it just makes him a really active member of the community.”
Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway said that Salovey is the type of person who would want to spend time with students in the dining halls or in meetings with faculty members, but the demands of the job make that kind of accessibility difficult to secure.
Salovey said that in a typical day in New York City, he might have six one-on-one fundraising appointments, plus another couple of conversations over lunch and dinner.
“The fact of the matter though is that his schedule is surreal,” Holloway said. “When he’s on campus, he has wall-to-wall appointments often, and there are moments where people like me will say ‘I need 20 minutes of your time in the next three days.’ The time that could have been spent going to a residential college dining hall just to see people is actually spent in the latest emergency … that he needs to attend to.”
Still, Salovey’s busy travel schedule seems to figure little in how students and faculty perceive the president, now in his second year on the job, and his presence on campus.
To some, Salovey — who was spotted on Monday eating lunch in Commons — is a figure working from behind the curtain, while others feel he is as engaged as ever.
Silliman Master Judith Krauss said it is more important for a university president to be accessible on campus when needed than to have a consistent campus presence. She added that Salovey is very much in touch with campus leadership while maintaining a global travel schedule.
Yale College Council President Michael Herbert ’16 said Salovey’s time spent away from campus has not affected the YCC because the council’s current policy initiatives have yet to be fully developed and require more time before Salovey’s presidential review. He added, however, that later in the academic year it will be more important to communicate with Salovey face-to-face.
Herbert also said he thinks Salovey’s weekly emails — dubbed “Notes from Woodbridge Hall” — increase his connection to campus, a sentiment echoed by Eve Houghton ’17.
“President Salovey’s email communications make me feel in touch with him since they often have a more personal tone, even when he is away from campus,” Houghton said.
Other undergraduates interviewed say they sympathize with Salovey’s need to spend large amounts of time both on and off campus, adding that they believe Salovey manages to find a healthy balance.
Some students said even though they do not often see Salovey around, they do not think that causes any problems for the University or Salovey’s on-campus presence in general.
Aaron Troncoso ’17 said even though he has never seen Salovey “not in front of the podium,” he does not think Salovey is disconnected from what is happening on campus.
Tyler Caldwell ’18 agreed, adding that Salovey’s absence from campus only goes to show how busy he is in his position.
“I guess I’ve seen him twice: Once was at a speech to the freshmen, and another time I just saw him passing by on the street,” Caldwell said. “I’m fine with it. I don’t feel like he’s somebody I need to see that frequently since behind the scenes he’s doing so much for the University.”
Julietta Garbasz ’18 said she interacted with Salovey when he attended a meeting of the “Great Big Ideas” seminar, in which Garbasz is a student. However, she noted that the visit was the only time she had seen Salovey in a more informal setting.
According to Salovey’s Chief of Staff Joy McGrath, his travel schedule is the same as what it was by October of the 2013-2014 academic year.