University sued for shutting down Corporation petition process
Two Yale alumni are suing Yale for allegedly illegally ending the alumni petition process to the Yale Corporation
Zoe Berg, Senior Photographer
Two Yale alumni — Victor Ashe ’67 and Donald Glascoff Jr. ’67 — are suing Yale for breach of contract following the controversial termination of the petition process for election to the Yale Corporation, the University’s highest governing body.
In 2021, former senior trustee of the Yale Corporation Cappy Bond Hill GRD ’85 announced that the Corporation would be ending the petition process by which alumni could be nominated to the board, making official nomination the only path to trusteeship. Ashe and Glascoff allege that in doing so, the University breached its obligations to its alumni as outlined in the Connecticut state charter. Ashe sought a seat on the Yale board through the alumni petition process in 2021, but was ultimately unsuccessful in gaining a seat on the board.
“Yale’s attitude towards the alumni is that we want your money, but we don’t want your vote,” Ashe told the News. “We have a choice between two handpick candidates by the Yale Alumni Association who will not tell you what they believe in.”
The complaint alleges that the Corporation is engaging in voter suppression and is denying the rights of free expression of opinion that have been granted to Yale alumni since 1872.
There were previously two paths onto the Yale Corporation ballot. One was by nomination from the Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee, made up of a group of alumni and administrators. The other was by gaining the requisite number of signatures as a petition candidate.
“By this action, the plaintiffs seek to enjoin the unilateral termination of the petition process and otherwise prevent Yale from violating the Charter and to protect alumni rights originally granted by the Connecticut General Assembly and now in the Charter,” Ashe and Glascoff wrote in the complaint.
University spokesperson Karen Peart could not provide comment on Thursday night.
The Yale Charter was amended in 1872 by the Connecticut General Assembly to replace the six senators from the general assembly who sat on the Yale Corporation with six alumni of the University. The text of the 1872 Amendment grants alumni the right to vote for any eligible graduate of the University that they want and to put themselves up for a vote as a candidate, the plaintiffs argue.
They further claim that the Amendment does not give the University the right to alter the process for electing alumni to the board.
The complaint argues that the charter represents a contract between Yale and its alumni and that by accepting the 1872 Amendment, Yale agreed to grant all graduates the right to elect one of their own to the Board.
“By instituting the Candidate Restrictions and terminating the Petition Process, Yale has breached the Charter with respect to the rights granted to Yale alumni in the 1872 Amendment,” the plaintiffs argue.
In terminating the process, Bond Hill said that candidates often run a quasi-political campaign in order to collect enough signatures to get onto the ballot and receive backing from special interest groups. She wrote that trustees should be open to a variety of ideas, rather than be beholden to specific interests.
The Trustees reviewed “relevant literature from experts in governance and discussed best practices with others who serve as fiduciaries at universities and nonprofits,” Bond Hill, chair of the Trusteeship Committee, wrote in a previous email to the News.
Ashe called the University’s argument “malarky.”
“The Corporation deemed it necessary to eliminate the Petition Process to prevent the ‘wrong’ kind of people from being elected to the Corporation and the ‘wrong’ types of opinions from being openly discussed within the Corporation,” the alumni wrote in the complaint. “In doing so, the Corporation deemed it necessary to suppress Yale alumni voting rights and to substitute its judgment for that of Yale alumni … and in doing so violated the Charter and alumni’s rights granted under the Charter.”
The complaint concludes with the demands of the two plaintiffs, which include the reinstatement of the petition process, the removal of high barriers for signatories and a declaration of wrongdoing from the University. Finally, they request that the judge impose a permanent injunction preventing Yale from holding elections for alumni trustee positions as long as the petition process is not in place.
The Yale Corporation meets five times per year.