Courtesy of Robbie Short

University President Peter Salovey announced on Friday the formation of a committee to review Yale’s gift policy and suggest reforms to safeguard academic freedom. 

The committee is made up of five faculty members and three senior administrative officials. It will be chaired by Julia Adams, a professor of sociology, and will complete its work by the end of the spring semester, according to Salovey. According to Salovey’s email, the committee will be charged with reviewing Yale’s current gift acceptance procedures and recommending potential modifications to them. He noted that the committee will make recommendations as to how to communicate relevant policies to the faculty as well as to how a faculty member can voice concerns about specific gifts. Still, it is not clear whether the committee will have the power to alter Yale’s policy.

Adams will be joined by two colleagues from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences: Paul Turner, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and Julie Zimmerman, professor of chemical and environmental engineering, environment and epidemiology. Also on the committee are two faculty from professional schools: Amy Wrzesniewski, professor of management, and Erica Herzog, professor of medicine and pathology. The three administrators are Cynthia Carr, the University’s deputy general counsel, Lloyd Suttle, vice provost for academic resources, and Eugénie Gentry, associate vice president and campaign director for development. 

“As I wrote to you last October, academic freedom is fundamental to this university and to me, and I want to make sure that Yale is as clear as possible about this bedrock principle in its engagement with donors,” Salovey wrote in the Feb. 4 email to faculty. “This committee provides us an opportunity to ensure that our practices concerning gifts align completely with our unequivocal commitment to the free inquiry of the faculty.”

The committee’s formation comes three months after history professor Beverly Gage resigned as director of the Grand Strategy program due to donor influence in the program’s curriculum. Gage’s resignation prompted faculty to voice concerns about academic freedom on campus, and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate issued a resolution later that month calling on Salovey and campus administrators to form a temporary committee of faculty and administrators to evaluate the issue.

Chair of the FAS Senate Valerie Horsley praised the committee’s formation and said that Adams would make an “excellent chair.”

“I am very excited about the composition of the committee,” Horsley wrote in an email to the News. “Several of the members are colleagues that I have deep respect for their work and their sound perspectives on University policy.”

Still, the committee does not include any members of the FAS Senate, nor any professors from Yale Law School, nor from the history department, where recent concerns about academic freedom arose. 

In a subsequent email to the News, Salovey elaborated on the composition of the committee, including his decision to select Adams to serve as its chair. 

“This is a university-wide committee and the committee’s composition reflects that,” Salovey wrote. “Second, I wanted a relatively small committee so that it could meet as frequently as necessary to get the work done this semester given the importance of the issue.”

He added that he asked Adams to chair the group for a series of reasons, including her experience as a researcher and educator, her time spent in the provost’s office and the support she has from the FAS Senate, whose leadership nominated her to the committee. 

Salovey previously told the News that the committee will not be responsible for overseeing individual gifts to the University, but rather will provide clarity on the University’s policies. Like Horsley, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Tamar Gendler praised the new committee’s membership.

“President Salovey has appointed an outstanding committee from across the university to advise him on this important question,” Gendler wrote. “Its members are wise, experienced university citizens with deep integrity and wide-ranging expertise.”

The University’s last report on academic freedom, the Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression at Yale, more commonly known as the Woodward Report, was issued in 1974.

Sarah Cook is one of the University editors. She previously covered student policy and affairs, along with President Salovey's cabinet. From Nashville, Tennessee, she is a junior in Grace Hopper majoring in Neuroscience.
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.