Editor’s note: The News received the following letters from alumni in response to Yale Corporation’s decision to remove the petition process from its elections.
I agree, in principle, and probably in this case too, with those who’ve objected to Yale’s abolishing the petition process to join the board of trustees. Yale is becoming too “corporate” in an anti-democratic sense, and it should not clamp down on petition bids to join the trustees.
I had let my opposition to reprehensible neo-con petition campaigners — Kirchick and Rosenkranz and their strategists and backers — get the best of my judgment about the process itself. After all, democracy did defeat them. So, let’s keep it. Please feel free to share this around.
Jim Sleeper ‘69
Lecturer in Political Science at Yale
From a 1959 B. A. of Yale College to the Yale Corporation.
Ladies and gentlemen or however you identify,
Your decision to eliminate petition candidates is arrogant and offensive. It shows your open disdain for the alumni and any input it might have on Yale’s diminishing claim
to be a true university, much less a leading one. Yale should never be afraid of free and open elections and should welcome disparate opinions in its governance.
Why is a fresh viewpoint needed? Because Yale has become a place of indoctrination, not education: a place to be taught what to think, not how to think. Why do you and the President refuse to acknowledge this obvious truth? It is tragic and humiliating that Yale has long been the poster child of political correctness because of its undeniable obsession of viewing education through the prism of race, gender, class, indigeneity, victimhood, revisionist history and identity politics.
Tragically, one is tempted to think that is actually what the Corporation wants Yale to be.
Clearly, this ban on petitions will help you self-perpetuate your lock-step groveling to political correctness. Why allow a dreaded outsider on the corporation who might represent reform?
In your memo, you cite two untruths: that Yale follows the Woodward Report and the threat of “causes.” The fact is that Yale, unlike the University of Chicago — the lone beacon of free speech in academia — pays only lip service to free speech. I have talked to numerous students who say they are afraid to voice non-conforming viewpoints in class because they feel it would hurt their grades. As for causes, only a closed-minded, self-perpetuating board of trustees would seek to bar fresh perspectives from a petition candidate willing to work long and hard just to get on the ballot and receive thousands of votes, while the establishment candidate is a complete unknown.
As a once-proud alumnus, I want a corporation member who thinks independently and has a stated perspective of vital issues, political or educational. Only the petition process — the voice of the people — enables that. To run write-in nominees through the YAA is a sham. Everyone knows it just parrots the party line, will not have to disclose who the candidates are and then can make its own choice in secret.
This is another sad day in a long series of sad days in Yale’s decline. Please take a hard look at what the Yale Corporation really stands for. You can’t hide behind the cloak of “fiduciary duty.” A thorough house cleaning must start soon or it will be too late. At this critical moment, it’s painfully clear the process won’t start with a hidebound, self-serving corporation or a feckless president.
James B. Cowperthwait ’59
If the 1960s was a period of revolutionary change, we now live in a period of reactionary efforts to recreate an imaginary past. Proposals to limit the franchise, otherwise known as voting, are the most frightening aspects of new trends in the United States. The Yale Corporation has now seemingly joined those who would limit our choices. Shame.
Father knows best is out of sync with reality and the times.
Associate fellow of Berkeley College
Former president of the Yale Club of New Haven (2019 – 2021)
Although I supported Victor Ashe in the recent election because of his push for more transparent governance, David Thomas ’78 GRD ’86 is to be congratulated for winning the race.
Under the circumstances, however, I believe that he would be doing Yale and himself great service if he declines to serve, since the playing field on which he won the contest was so patently and embarrassingly tilted in his favor. With their shameless change of the rules five days before the 2020 election, it is now obvious that the trustees feel threatened by a more democratic process, and have no intention of relinquishing their ability to control the outcome of future “elections.”
In short, unbeknownst to Thomas, he has been “used.” From what I have read about him and about Morehouse’s mission and values, being party to such overt voter suppression is far from his character and far from everything for which he stands. He did not vote for the surreptitious maneuvering that will maintain a fully self-perpetuating board forever.
Now is the time for Thomas to convey a message far more powerful than any that may result from his stepping into his new position: were he to exhibit such boldness, walking away from his “victory” and leading to overturning the trustees’ move, he could run in the next election, representing the substance and symbol of what Yale needs at this moment, and, by virtue of his decision, he might be elected handily because he’d presumably have the support of the establishment which hailed him in the first place.
Richard B. Platt ’69
Dear President Salovey,
I am disappointed and disheartened at the Yale Corporation’s decision not to accept petition candidates, but not surprised. The spirit of Wokism has permeated the University for a while, and this is its latest manifestation.The board apparently does not want to relinquish power or entertain any dissident view on its governance, no matter what it says. The Woke do not want Light; they know the Truth. End of discussion.
Lee Brock ’69