Courtesy of Yale SOM

Amid concerns about the University Cabinet’s lack of involvement in institutional decisions, School of Management Dean Edward Snyder penned a letter to all Cabinet members that expressed concern about the Cabinet being kept at arm’s length during major strategic University decisions and urged the University leadership to hold more “substantive” meetings.

In the letter, Snyder lamented that recent meetings of the Cabinet — a key advisory body for Salovey — had become less robust and comprehensive. According to two Cabinet members — who requested anonymity to speak candidly about Snyder’s letter and avoid offending Salovey — Snyder wrote that members of the Cabinet had been left in the dark about Yale’s gift negotiations with John Jackson ’67 regarding the potential School of Global Affairs. In the letter, Snyder added that the Office of the Development had also ceased to release quarterly University-wide donation statistics, the Cabinet members said. They added that Snyder asked in the letter that the Cabinet meetings involve more strategic discussions about the future of the University.

“The Cabinet is a still a relatively new leadership structure at Yale and we are working hard to … optimize the time we spend together,” Salovey said in an interview with the News. “So I view [Snyder’s] comments as constructive input and welcome that.”

Snyder declined to comment for the story.

Upon his inauguration in 2013, Salovey created a cabinet of academic deans, vice presidents and the provost. At the time, Salovey said that the Cabinet would serve as a “feedback mechanism” and “a way to help deans and vice presidents know what the other is doing and worrying about.”

But in interviews with the News, the two anonymous individuals said that the sentiments expressed in Snyder’s letter are “not an uncommon view” within the Cabinet. They added that recent Cabinet meetings had been frivolous, mostly featuring announcements from Salovey and University Provost Benjamin Polak.

Still, Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun told the News that he “value[s] the regular opportunities to discuss university initiatives and to consult with [his] colleagues” during the monthly Cabinet meetings.

Although the official numbers have not been released, the News reported last week that two individuals with knowledge of the fundraising statistics added up gifts and pledges received by Yale’s budgetary units from October to December and approximated that the University raised around $183 million — a number both of them considered “concerning.” Vice President for Development and Alumni Affairs Joan O’Neill told the News last week that her office stopped distributing donation statistics among Cabinet members “as a result of seeing our internal charts displayed in the Yale Daily News.”

Yale Divinity School Dean Greg Sterling and two other individuals with direct knowledge of the matter — who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the situation — also told the News earlier this month that the Cabinet did not discuss whether Yale should transform the Jackson Institute into the Jackson School of Global Affairs, even though the University had already engaged in negotiations with Jackson about a potential donation. Earlier this month, the News reported that Jackson is planning to donate a figure upward of $100 million for the potential Jackson professional school. The individuals said the Cabinet’s discussions only revolved around the logistics of the new school and said they had hoped for a more robust conversation on how to maximize the University’s social and educational impact.

Snyder’s letter is not the first occasion when Cabinet members expressed frustration with their lack of involvement in developing University policies.

In the fall of 2015, amid heated campus discussions about racism and discrimination, Salovey announced several initiatives, such as increasing funding for the cultural centers and improving financial aid policies for low-income students. But at the time, a News investigation revealed that most Cabinet members, particularly professional school deans, were excluded from the development of these measures. Instead, only an inner circle of Cabinet members — including Salovey, Polak, former Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Tamar Gendler and University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews — collaborated with Salovey’s senior staff to brainstorm the University’s next steps.

At the time, Salovey told the News that substantive engagement from the Cabinet may be impractical in times of crisis. For “actual decision-making,” the University should “take representatives from [the] Cabinet and pull them into a team that can react more quickly and provide good advice,” Salovey said.

Salovey did not directly answer questions about what he plans to do in response to Snyder’s letter. Still, he noted that a subset of the Cabinet meets once a month to set the agenda for the group’s discussions.

“I know that the group will be interested … to think about what are the best issues to bring to the Cabinet,” Salovey said. “The Cabinet’s agenda is not set in a vacuum but by a subset of the Cabinet itself. … The next time the steering committee meets, I’m going to make sure we talk about our agenda for several [Cabinet] meetings going forward and ask ourselves whether we are using our time in the most strategic way possible.”

According to former University Secretary Sam Chauncey ’57, while previous University presidents periodically met with professional school deans, they did not hold regularly scheduled meetings like Salovey does. Meetings with professional school deans were held to discuss policies and decisions that would have implications across the University, Chauncey explained. According to Chauncey, the agenda for those meetings “mostly came from the deans.”

There are 28 members in the Cabinet, including Salovey.

Serena Cho | serena.cho@yale.edu