In 1995, Yale President Richard Levin had the courage to return a $20 million gift to the Bass family because he and Yale were unwilling to accept the intrusive level of donor input and control that that donor demanded concerning faculty and curriculum.

In contrast, in 2006 he apparently signed off on a secret agreement allowing a donor-controlled advisory committee for the Grand Strategy program to be established. In 2021, President Salovey acquiesced to the donors’ demand to appoint such a committee, including particular individuals who represented not only a non-diverse and ideologically one-sided point of view, but also a vision of “Grand Strategy” that many respected historians now regard as having failed disastrously — Henry Kissinger and the Vietnam War; Stephan Hadley and George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, which some historians have described as the “worst foreign policy decision ever made by an American president”. The faculty director of the program disagreed with these appointments but was overruled, and she subsequently resigned.

President Salovey should have followed the example of his predecessor in returning a gift that came with excessive donor influence. Yale has such an abundant endowment that if it cares about this program it could easily pay for it itself, without kowtowing to partisan and ideologically driven donors. It would thus have a truly distinguished, forward-looking program rather than one shaped by the discredited “experts” of past foreign policy failures.

RICHARD ANDREWS ’66 is the Professor Emeritus of Environmental Policy in the Department of Public Policy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Contact him at