Nick Tabio

Two years after University President Peter Salovey committed to increasing Yale’s presence in the nation’s capital, Yale has levied its institutional influence in Washington to lobby against the new tax on university endowments and more stringent requirements for campus sexual misconduct adjudication, among other controversial new policies, according to the lobbying disclosures filed last week.

According to the disclosures, the University spent a total of $110,000 in lobbying expenses in the last quarter between October and December of last year. Between July and September, Yale spent $140,000 on lobbying, per the Federal Election Committee disclosures. In an email to the News, Salovey said he made three trips to Washington, D.C., in the latter half of 2018. In those trips, he discussed the importance of federal funding for universities and advocated for the repeal of the new endowment tax with members of Congress, think tanks and the Association of American Universities, Salovey said.

“The issues cited in our quarterly lobbying disclosure are part of a continuing conversation with Congressional offices about policies that affect Yale’s ability to accomplish its mission in education, research, and public service,” Associate Vice President for Federal and State Relations Richard Jacob stated in an email to the News. “With respect to some of the issues in the disclosure, Yale remains very interested in repealing or mitigating the unprecedented tax on investment income of private universities.”

Both Jacob and Salovey did not respond directly to questions on which legislations the University plans to lobby for this quarter.

After President Donald Trump took office in 2017, Salovey told the News he was likely to increase lobbying efforts and shift his attention towards Washington. Still, Salovey has taken a cautious approach in responding to the Trump administration’s controversial policies, drawing criticism from members of the Yale community. He has told the News he limits his political advocacy to areas that directly affect Yale. According to Internal Revenue Service guidelines, Yale — which is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization — cannot endorse or oppose political candidates. The guidelines also forbid University leaders from making “partisan comments.”

Among those issues, Salovey has lobbied against the 1.4 percent excise tax on annual endowment returns, which targets 35 universities — including Yale — with assets greater than $500,000 per full-time student. According to a budget update published earlier this month, projected spending from the University’s endowment will grow by 6.3 percent next fiscal year, despite adjustment to the new tax.

Still, in an email to the News, Jacob said that the tax does not make colleges more affordable and penalizes Yale and other institutions that provide the greatest amount of financial aid to their students. He added that charities and churches across the country have raised concerns about another 2017 provision levying a 21 percent tax on their spending on employee parking, campus shuttles and transit passes. The University has also joined charities in seeking relief from that tax, Jacob said.

According to Jacob, Yale also briefed Congressional offices about the University’s concerns with the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed Title IX regulations. In addition, the University worked closely with other higher education associations in December and January to prepare formal comments in response to the guidelines, Jacob said. The new regulations, which would dramatically change how Yale and other schools adjudicate sexual misconduct, are subject to a 60-day public comment period ending on Jan. 30.

Jacob said the University took issue with the requirement that schools permit cross-examination and use the same standard of evidence in adjudicating all kinds of conduct violations, including sexual and academic misconduct. Yale also raised concerns about the lack of clarity on whether institutions may enforce their own sexual misconduct policies outside of the narrowly defined Title IX process, Jacob added.

According to previous lobbying disclosure filings, legislation on the University lobbyists’ itinerary included “potential regulations on Title IX” between July to September last year. In an email to the News at the time, Jacob said Yale, along with its peer institutions, has communicated with the Office for Civil Rights about current campus policies for addressing sexual misconduct.

“The American Council on Education and other higher education associations have engaged the Secretary of Education and the Office for Civil Rights on behalf of the higher education community to discuss campus policies and to raise concerns about the proposed changes in federal guidance concerning Title IX,” Jacob said in the statement to the News in November.

According to the disclosures, the University also lobbied for a potential legislation to “extend DACA or to create a permanent pathway to citizenship for certain individuals who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and are pursuing an education, work, or service in the Armed Forces” in the most recent quarter. Yale lobbied for provisions related to extending DACA in the first quarter of 2018, but did not do so in the second and third quarters.

Still, Jacob said Yale’s lobbying priorities are dependent on the legislation currently on the table for Congress.

“On occasion, we raise issues because Congress is working on them at that moment, and on other occasions, we bring up topics because they remain a priority for Yale even if Congress is not working on the issue at that specific time,” Jacob explained.

According to the disclosures, Yale also lobbied for the passage of the National Quantum Initiative Act during the past quarter, which authorizes government funds to support quantum information science research at the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy and National Institute of Standards and Technology. Quantum science is one of the five top-priority areas identified by the University Science Strategy Committee, a group convened by Yale Provost Ben Polak to identify areas for investment in the sciences.

“The National Quantum Initiative Act could lead to additional support for quantum information sciences at Yale,” Jacob said. “We believe this is the right time, given the state of the science and the pace of research in other countries, for the federal government to initiate a substantial, well-coordinated effort to expand research on quantum information sciences.”

In an email to the News, physics professor and deputy director of the Yale Quantum Institute A. Douglas Stone said the Institute hopes to receive further funding and support through the National Quantum Initiative Act and enhance its research in the field.

Harvard University spent a total of $140,000 in lobbying expenses in the last quarter of 2018.

Serena Cho | .