Courtesy of Robbie Short

University President Peter Salovey will form a new committee aimed at protecting academic freedom by reviewing Yale’s policies on receiving financial gifts.

Salovey is expected to announce the committee’s membership and official goals within the next few weeks.

The move comes after months of student, faculty and alumni concerns over academic freedom following the abrupt October resignation of history professor Beverly Gage from the directorship of the Grand Strategy program after Yale’s administration failed to stave off donor influence on the program. Soon after, the Faculty of Arts & Science Senate issued a resolution calling for an ad hoc committee of faculty and administrative staff that would survey existing gift agreements and make recommendations on revisions to general gift policy as well as to the Faculty Handbook.

In an email to the News, Salovey described a vision of the committee that resembled one laid out in the Senate’s demands. The committee, when it is officially convened in the coming weeks, will be run separately from the Senate.

“The committee will be charged with reviewing the current gift acceptance and review policy, recommending any beneficial modifications, and recommending how best to ensure that faculty can easily communicate concerns to the administration about gifts or prospective gifts,” Salovey wrote in an email to the News.

Salovey himself will appoint the members of the committee, which will contain a mix of faculty and administrators. According to FAS Senate Chair Valerie Horsley, she provided Salovey with a list of candidates deemed appropriate by the Senate’s executive committee. In line with the Senate’s resolution, Salovey confirmed that the committee will be chaired by a faculty member. 

The committee’s members, however, will not oversee individual gifts to the University, Salovey stressed, but rather will provide input on the “clarity” of the University’s policies concerning gifts and academic freedom, as well as what faculty members should do if they feel that policies are not being followed.

Horsley did reiterate, however, that the Senate hopes the committee will survey existing gift agreements. The agenda of committee meetings will be up to its members, Salovey wrote.

The committee was first announced at a December faculty meeting. History professor John Gaddis, who founded and led the Studies in Grand Strategy program for almost two decades before handing control over to Gage, praised the committee’s formation as an “encouraging development,” but declined to comment further until Salovey reveals more information. 

Professor of computer science Michael Fischer raised concerns about the protocol for appointing committee members, suggesting that Salovey’s role as the appointer of members of the committee places him in a difficult conflict of interest. 

“My perspective is that a faculty committee whose purpose is to serve as a check and balance on the administration cannot possibly function if it is appointed by the administration. … It puts the President in an impossible conflict-of interest-position,” Fischer said. “I would much prefer to see that the faculty choose a committee [itself] to investigate the issue.” 

The FAS meets next on Feb. 2.

Philip Mousavizadeh covers Woodbridge Hall, the President's Office. He previously covered the Jackson Institute. He is a sophomore in Trumbull College studying Ethics, Politics, and Economics
Isaac Yu was the News' managing editor. He covered transportation and faculty as a reporter and laid out the front page of the weekly print edition. He co-founded the News' Audience desk, which oversees social media and the newsletter. He was a leader of the News' Asian American and low-income affinity groups. Hailing from Garland, Texas, Isaac is a Berkeley College junior majoring in American Studies.