The Real Yale Corporation
I am writing in response to the first installments of what is to be a four-part series on the members of the Yale Corporation.
The Yale Corporation is the University’s secretive, autocratic governing body, a group completely unconnected from Yale students, yet one that makes so many of the major decisions governing this University. Most Corporation members have run companies or institutions — like Bain Capital, J.P. Morgan or TransCanada — that are destroying our planet or widening inequality. Worse, these men and women often guide this University in ways that help their own bottom lines. For instance, when Yale expanded into Singapore in 2011, three current or recent Corporation members had direct financial ties to that country’s repressive government. Any series about the Corporation that fails to dwell extensively on these facts is doing readers a grave disservice.
The first installment was a laudatory profile of Margaret Marshall LAW ’76. This piece — which quoted Marshall as saying she takes student input “very seriously” because of her background as a student activist in South Africa — completely failed to mention the fierce criticism she faced following her appointment to the Supreme Judicial Court for consistently benefiting from the racist structures she claimed to oppose. The Boston chapter of the NAACP marched against her nomination. It failed to mention her decades of work at corporate law firms, representing clients like the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, which, with Marshall’s help, successfully defeated a graduated income tax that would’ve helped low-income families. It barely mentioned her tenure as Harvard’s general counsel, during which she was widely criticized for allegedly whitewashing investigations into discrimination. Finally, it failed to note the galling hypocrisy of a woman claiming to take student input “seriously” yet working for a body unelected by students that meets just a handful of times a year and makes its decisions behind closed doors; the hypocrisy of a woman who heroically opposed apartheid working for a group that delayed divesting from South Africa for years because at least four Corporation members had direct financial ties to the apartheid government.
The second installment was even more offensive. Indeed, in its very first sentence it called Charles Goodyear IV ’80 a “business titan” and a “servant to the University.” Goodyear, a spoiled, wealthy triple-legacy at Yale, is the former CEO of BHP Billiton, a fossil fuel company that has lobbied hard against carbon pricing. He is also a former member of the Board of Directors of Anadarko, yet another fossil fuel company. Thankfully, and commendably, it mentioned these connections and the criticism of Goodyear for serving on the Corporation, a body that has declined to divest from fossil fuel companies, possibly as a result of Goodyear’s and others’ financial connections to the fossil fuel industry. But it was spent most of the article quoting University officials’ vapid statements about Goodyear’s “extremely thoughtful” service to Yale and reprinting Goodyear’s own bland pronouncements. The article did not delve deeply into the financial motivations that may undergird Goodyear’s tenure on the Corporation; it did not mention at all the allegations of immense harm wrought by the companies Goodyear has led.
I sincerely hope that the final two installments of this series will bring a more critical eye to examining this powerful institution, one about which Yale students know so little.
Scott Stern is a 2015 graduate of Branford College and a former staff columnist for the News.