Over a week after Vietnamese authorities arrested Yale alumnus and American citizen Will Nguyen ’08, University President Peter Salovey has yet to make a public show of support for Nguyen, despite calls for action from alumni.
Last Friday, Mary Alice Daniel ’08, one of Nguyen’s Yale friends and advocates, sent an email to University President Peter Salovey requesting that Yale pursue “any way you might be able to help” Nguyen. According to an email that Daniel provided to the News, Salovey’s chief of staff, Joy McGrath, responded to the message on Wednesday morning to say that Yale is “doing what we can to help” by working with the State Department, the National University of Singapore and Nguyen’s family.
That message came as a disappointment to Nguyen’s supporters, who are hoping a public statement by Yale would accelerate the State Department’s efforts to secure his release. Nguyen’s supporters and former Yale classmates are circulating a digital petition calling on the “Yale administration and community to do everything possible to help ensure Will’s safety.” Bradford Galiette ’08 SOM ’11, who helped coordinate the petition, said that so far 183 of the 1,285 members of Nguyen’s class have signed. McGrath said Salovey has not received the petition.
“[Nguyen is] literally in a dark cell somewhere with no outside contact and we are fed up with silence from anyone whose statement might put pressure on the State Dept,” Daniel said in an email to the News. “Has President Salovey SEEN the videos of his arrest? Maybe that might prompt a comment.”
McGrath and Vice President for Communications Eileen O’Connor referred comment to Pericles Lewis, Yale’s vice president for global strategy, who described Nguyen’s detention as “very concerning.”
“We have been following the situation closely and have been in touch with Will’s family and with U.S. government officials who are working on his behalf. We are hopeful that he will soon be released and allowed to return home,” Lewis said.
On Thursday morning, Lewis is scheduled to brief Salovey and other top University officials on Nguyen’s case.
At the time of his arrest, Nguyen was participating in protests against the creation of special economic zones in Vietnam for foreign investors, a plan that has raised concerns about Chinese incursions into the country’s territory. Videos of the protest show a group of men dragging Nguyen through the streets, his head bloodied.
On Tuesday, he appeared on state-sponsored television in Vietnam to say he “regret[s]” breaking the law by disrupting traffic during the protest. He also pledged to no longer participate in any “anti-state activities.”
A State Department spokesperson said Tuesday that consular officers engaged with the Vietnamese government “as soon as they learned of Mr. Nguyen’s arrest.”
“We were deeply concerned by videos showing injuries to and the initial treatment of William Nguyen on June 10 in Ho Chi Minh City at the time he was taken into custody, and we have made those concerns known to Vietnamese authorities,” the spokesman said. “During our visit with Mr. Nguyen on June 15, he appeared in good health and stated he did not require medical treatment.”
Three California Democrats in the House of Representatives — Alan Lowenthal, Jimmy Gomez and Jose Luis Correa — have publicized their efforts to lobby the State Department to secure freedom for Nguyen. All three signed letters addressed to President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting that they intervene to help Nguyen.
Nguyen was a member of Davenport College.