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Ben Carson ’73, a retired neurosurgeon and former alumni fellow on the Yale Corporation from 1997 to 2003, was appointed Monday morning by President-elect Donald Trump to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Carson, who was formerly a rival to Trump in the Republican primary, but later endorsed him, is the fourth Yale College alumnus to join the Trump administration in the past week, after the appointments of Steven Mnuchin ’85 as secretary of the Department of the Treasury, Wilbur Ross ’59 as Secretary of Commerce and Stephen Schwarzman ’69 as chair of Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum. As HUD secretary, Carson will execute federal housing policies, as well as direct programs for low-income families, combat urban blight and support struggling homeowners. Yale students and faculty interviewed, however, expressed skepticism about Carson’s ability, citing his lack of experience in housing policy.
“I am honored to accept the opportunity to serve our country in the Trump administration,” Carson said in a public statement. “I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly by strengthening communities that are most in need. We have much work to do in enhancing every aspect of our nation and ensuring that our nation’s housing needs are met.”
Carson will visit Yale on Thursday and deliver a lecture on the value of common sense for the William F. Buckley, Jr. Program. Buckley president Joshua Altman ’17 said the program is excited to host Carson, and expects a rise in attendance after Carson’s appointment.
“We already were anticipating a full house, but what we’ve seen today is that there has been an increase in interest from the time that he was nominated as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development,” Altman said.
Though Trump once called Carson inexperienced and dishonest during the Republican primary race, the president-elect praised his once-rival in a Monday statement announcing the news, calling Carson “a tough competitor” who “never gives up.”
Trump credited Carson with intelligence and passion for building communities and empowering families.
“[Carson] shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a presidency representing all Americans,” Trump said.
In response to Carson’s appointment, some Yale students and professors expressed doubts about his qualifications to lead HUD. Political science professor Eitan Hersh acknowledged Carson’s medical success, but doubted his political competency.
“Carson is a smart guy, so there’s a chance he’ll do fine at HUD,” Hersh said. “Just like there’s a chance that I’d do fine if I started practicing neurosurgery on live patients.”
Seven out of nine students interviewed by the News believed Carson was “unqualified” for the position. He has no prior experience in housing policy. Carson, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Yale and a M.D. from the University of Michigan Medical School, ran for the White House on a platform of being a political outsider.
“I’m kind of confused because I have no idea what experience he has in housing,” Vivek Suri ’20 said. “I don’t really see what he could do in that department specifically.”
Maya Rodriguez ’19 agreed that Carson was inexperienced for a public policy position but acknowledged his past success as a neurosurgeon.
Rodriguez added that the appointment was a wise decision for Trump, in light of his past legal issues over housing discrimination. A federal lawsuit was brought against Trump and his real estate company in 1973 for allegedly discriminating against racial minority groups at company-owned New York housing developments. The case was settled two years later.
“It might have been a smart move on behalf of the Trump campaign to appoint an African-American man in charge of Housing and Urban Development,” Rodriguez said. “Especially because Trump has been criticized in the past for housing discrimination against African-Americans.”
Carson is the first surgeon to successfully separate twins conjoined at the head.
Correction, Dec. 6: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Ben Carson ’73 will visit Yale on Dec. 7. In fact, he will visit on Dec. 8.