Courtesy of Yale Office of the President

University President Peter Salovey expects to travel to Washington more frequently in the coming years as Yale continues to respond to policies put forth by the Trump administration.

“So far this has been an especially intense year with respect to federal policies and speculation about federal policies that affect universities,” Salovey told the News earlier this month. “Presuming that’s still the case, I’ll probably step up the number of times I go down to D.C.”

At the moment, Salovey usually travels to Washington about twice a semester to meet with Yale alumni serving in Congress and to participate in an annual meeting held by the Association of American Universities. His next trip is scheduled for the end of April to coincide with the AAU meeting.

In an interview with the News, Salovey said he typically limits his political advocacy to four key policy areas that directly affect Yale: Federal support for research, funding for financial aid, immigration issues and tax policies on endowments.

“We want to go down when people are available to see us, when Congress is in session. We’ll look at my calendar, we’ll look at their calendar and try to optimize,” he said. “As long as there is a discussion going on about federal policies that have an impact on higher education, I want to be a part of that conversation.”

Over the past few months, as President Donald Trump has pushed for controversial new policies on immigration, health care and a number of other issues, Salovey has faced criticism from some members of the Yale community for his cautious approach to the new administration. He has not given a public speech about Trump, preferring to send campuswide emails explaining Yale’s position on the immigration issue, nor has he traveled to Washington since the presidential inauguration in January.

By contrast, Harvard University President Drew Faust has visited Washington twice in the last two months to meet with lawmakers and oppose Trump’s recent executive orders barring immigrants from certain predominantly Muslim countries. At a roundtable in Washington hosted by Bloomberg News last month, Faust pointedly criticized Trump’s proposed federal budget and called the new administration “unpredictable in many ways.”

Since January, Salovey has taken a number of steps to push back against Trump’s immigration policies. Yale signed an AAU petition denouncing the president’s first executive order, which barred immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries and imposed a 120-day moratorium on refugees entering the United States. In February, the University filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, joining more than a dozen other elite universities in the legal battle against Trump’s order.

According to public records on, Yale spent $500,000 on lobbying activities in 2016, an increase of $70,000 from the previous year but well within the University’s normal spending, which has ranged from $430,000 to $640,000 over the last 10 years.

Richard Jacob, the University’s associate vice president for federal and state relations, did not respond to emailed questions about Yale’s lobbying plans for the coming year.

Will McGrew ’18, one of the leaders of Yale Students for Hillary, called Salovey’s plans to travel more often to Washington “a great step in the right direction.”

“All of us as citizens have an obligation to fight back, and this is particularly the case for those of us in positions of power and influence,” McGrew said. “I hope he takes every opportunity to stand up for Yale’s diverse community as well as the University’s values of inclusion and equal opportunity. I think he will make us all proud by doing so.”

According to history professor Jay Gitlin ’71 MUS ’74 GRD ’02, who teaches a popular course on the history of Yale, past University presidents have traveled to Washington with varying frequency, largely depending on their personalities and professional backgrounds. For instance, Kingman Brewster, who went on to become the American ambassador to the United Kingdom, spent more time in the capital than A. Bartlett Giamatti, an English professor who served as Yale president in the 1980s. During his presidency in the 1960s and ’70s, Brewster was famously outspoken on the issues of the day, including the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement.

“I don’t see Peter Salovey as an heir to Kingman Brewster in form or style or substance, but it’s a different time,” said Glenn Murphy ’71, a former president of the Yale Club of Boston who was an undergraduate while Brewster was president. “He’s acting as a good administrator: making sure that people understand what the University’s position is as best as the University has one.”

The only current Ivy League president to have given a public speech about Trump is Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania.

  • Nancy Morris

    It is, of course, important for Yale to maintain generally good relationships with Congress and its leaders, especially the Republicans who now hold the most important positions. But establishing positive relationships with key members of the Executive, Secretary of Education DeVos comes immediately to mind, is also essential. Yale should direct much of its lobbying effort towards the federal administration, and it is appropriate that additional resources be devoted to what will clearly not be an easy task.

    Salovey’s and Yale’s lobbying efforts will perhaps be facilitated by the presence of a significant number of Yale College alumni holding high positions in the current federal administration. That is true especially of Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who has served on the Yale SOM board and is reported to be leading the ongoing drive to rationalize increasingly burdensome federal regulations. The unreimbursed costs of compliance with federal regulations now substantially exceeds FIFTEEN PERCENT of the operating budget of most research universities, a burden in excess of what making Yale’s endowment fully taxable would total.

    Other brilliant Yale College graduates serving in the cabinet are HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Mnuchin’s views will presumably carry great weight with respect to any proposal to tax university endowments or restrict the deductability of gifts to charitable institutions, matters of critical significance to Yale. Yale computer science professor David Gelernter is also said to be a likely candidate for the president’s chief science advisor, although no action has yet been taken there to my knowledge. And, of course, alumni of the graduate and professional schools will no doubt find their way to Washington.

    Obviously such relationships do not and should not constitute any kind of “old boy” network. But they do provide points of contact from which positive understandings can properly be developed and common ground discovered and explored. It should go without saying that while Yale must maintain its principles and stand by them, unnecessary alienation of the Trump administration would be counterproductive and downright dangerous. And unnecessary alienation includes, without limitation, all forms of personal invective.

    As an aside, while it is true that Penn President Gutmann is the only Ivy president to give a speech actually naming Trump as its focus, Harvard President Drew Faust has (in addition to her comments noted in this article) expressed her views about Trump at length, in public, and in remarkably harsh terms, without explicitly using his name. But Faust left nobody in doubt as to whom she was referring. It is not clear, at least to me, what Faust thinks she is doing in treating Trump as Voldemort the way she sometimes has. But when she does it her conceit leaves her listeners convinced that she cannot stand to even utter Trump’s name. Faust is definitely not advancing the interests of her employer or its many people that way. She is also not reported to have engaged in any lobbying of officers of the Trump administration, unwisely restricting herself entirely to Congress. One hopes that Salovey is far more sophisticated and focused, and far less self indulgent, than his counterpart to the north. So far, so good.

    • yalie

      Wilbur Ross did not serve on the Yale Corporation, at least not according to the university’s own web site.

      • ldffly

        I haven’t checked but I too was startled to see Wilbur’s name mentioned as a former trustee. He has been on the board of SOM, but I can’t find a thing as to ever having been a trustee. My suspicion is that if he had been a trustee, things might have gone differently at Yale.

        • Nancy Morris

          You are correct. I confused Ross’ SOM association with his serving on the Corporation.

          Ross is brilliant, especially regarding restructurings. He would make a terrific member of the Corporation.

      • Nancy Morris

        Thank you. Yes, I was confusing his association with the SOM with the Corporation. I apologize for the error.

  • ShadrachSmith

    The Jerry Brown syndrome: The California Governor goes to DC, insults Trump, and begs for $. Genius.

  • ldffly

    How about lobbying for modifications to Title IX? He probably won’t do that. After all, Title IX provides cover for all sorts of politically motivated policies that work against open debate on the campus.

    • Nancy Morris

      Title IX imposes huge costs of compliance on all covered institutions, many of them arising from the egregious and almost certainly illegal “Dear Colleague” letter of 2011 from the Department of Education. The current Secretary of Education DeVos has indicated that she plans to revoke that letter, a single action that could save Yale millions of dollars while restoring due process and rationality to disciplinary proceedings in sexual assault cases.

      Many other federal regulatory reforms are likely, including revocation of the recent specious and politicized NLRB ruling that graduate student teaching assistants are “employees” entitled to unionize.

      • ldffly

        I’ll just say that I second your comment.

  • Robert Boni

    With Yale’s recent actions, good luck.