Three candidates nominated for Yale Corporation election in first year without petition process ￼
The Yale Corporation Alumni Fellow election is currently underway and will conclude in late May when a candidate is elected to the Yale Corporation.
Zoe Berg, Photo Editor
The Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee selected three candidates to appear on the ballot for the 2022 Yale Corporation Alumni Fellow election — the first election since the University abolished the petition process last May.
Three candidates will vie for a position on the Yale Corporation: Fred Krupp ’75, Daniel Weiss SOM ’85 and Jessica Herrera-Flanigan ’92. Voting opened on April 18 and will close on May 22 at 11:59 p.m. All alumni except those who graduated in the last five years are eligible to vote.
The candidates for the Alumni Fellow election are chosen by the Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee, or AFNC, which is composed of 13 Yale alumni, including one member of the Yale Corporation, Kathleen Elizabeth Walsh ’77 SPH ’79. In all previous years, alumni could also petition to be on the ballot for the election, but in May 2021 — after three candidates had already announced their intention to petition to be included in the 2022 election — the University abolished the petition process. The decision “outraged” alumni and was condemned by the Yale Graduate and Professional Student Senate.
“This was the first time in 140 years where alumni were denied the right to petition for their own candidate,” said Victor Ashe ’67, who successfully petitioned for candidacy in last year’s election and is now suing the University for eliminating the petition process. “It is a sad and shameful day in Yale history. These three candidates were selected by a fairly unknown nominating committee. We don’t know who applied; we don’t know who else was considered; we don’t know what [the Committee] considered in its deliberations. And if you look at [the candidates’] bios, they are all very similar.”
Yale Alumni Association Executive Director Weili Cheng ’77 wrote to the News that the confidentiality of the AFNC ensures that “alumni are not subjected to any intrusive publicity so that they would be willing to be nominated.”
“As a candidate in two elections, I would not have been willing to be considered if I knew that details of my possible non-selection were a matter of public record,” Cheng wrote to the News, “Additionally, a public selection process would subject AFNC members to lobbying by supporters of various candidates. I personally do not feel Yale’s interests are well-served by such lobbying and a public discussion of nominees.”
The Alumni Fellows make up six members of the Yale Corporation, which has 16 members in total; the other 10 members are chosen directly by the Yale Corporation as “successor trustees.” Each Alumni Fellow serves a six-year term, and one new Alumni Fellow is added to the board each year. Each successor trustee also serves for a six-year term but can be reappointed for additional terms.
E.J. Crawford, senior director of marketing and communications for the Yale Alumni Association, wrote to the News that the AFNC takes into account three major factors in deciding candidates.
The first component the AFNC evaluates is the relevant skills and experience of the current Yale Corporation members to identify “any backgrounds and experiences that might complement those of the existing members.” Additionally, Crawford wrote, the AFNC takes into account “the broad scope of the University’s operations” and the “extent of interest or engagement in Yale that the candidates have demonstrated.”
Cheng also added in an email to the News that the ANC looks for candidates who “have an open mind, are able to assess and consider all relevant information to form an opinion, and then have a well-reasoned, civil discussion with other trustees.”
Despite the committee’s purported diligence, some alumni remain dissatisfied with the candidates on the ballot. Ashe said that the nomination process represents a “secret system,” resulting in candidates who lack diversity of background.
“All are from academic backgrounds,” Ashe said. “None have meaningful business experience. All are active donors to Democratic candidates. None are remotely even moderate Republican backers. … Alumni will have no basis for casting a vote. … Yale’s governing body desperately needs new blood, which does not exist among these handpicked choices.”
When attempting to make contact with the candidates, the News was referred back to senior members of the Yale President’s Office, as candidates are not allowed to speak to media prior to the election.
Cheng wrote to the News that the election process is “led of, by, and for alumni.” Chang wrote that the process is open year-round and they encourage alumni to nominate, and 11 of the 13 AFNC members are alumni volunteers, including the chair.
Scott Gigante GRD ’19 ’21, the founder of Yale Forward, a coalition of students and alumni that supports Corporation candidates who endorse University divestment from fossil fuels and other climate initiatives, said he sees Krupp, the current president of the Environmental Defense Fund, as a potential response to the petition for Maggie Thomas ENV ’15 in last year’s election. Thomas successfully petitioned for a spot on the 2021 ballot but dropped out of the race after accepting the role of Chief of Staff in the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy.
Despite the removal of the petition process preventing Yale Forward from petitioning for their own candidates, Gigante told the News that Krupp’s nomination “certainly” shows that indirect advocacy without the petition process can work. Gigante told the News that Yale Forward will “continue to represent alumni” who wish to see action on climate and more inclusive governance, as well as advocate for those causes through “public channels” and direct advocacy to the Yale Corporation and Yale Alumni Association.
“[The AFNC] has clearly heard that voice and recognized it by putting a candidate with strong environmental credentials on the ballot,” Gigante said, “Of course, the petition process gave us an avenue in which we were able to nominate a candidate that we preferred, and while Krupp maybe would not have been our preferred petitioning candidate, certainly he has stronger environmental credentials than anyone the Yale Corporation has nominated, I would argue, in the last 20 years.”
Gigante explained that Krupp would most likely not be chosen by Yale Forward as a petition candidate due to Yale Forward’s focus on “inclusive governance,” which aims to include more young people and historically underrepresented groups in the Yale Corporation. This effort is aimed at correcting the fact that the Yale Corporation has historically been “disproportionately white-male compared to the Yale alumni body,” Gigante said, and disproportionately older. The group is also working to remove the restriction on recent graduates voting in the election.
Gigante said that Cornell, Brown and Princeton all have young trustee programs to include young alumni as trustees and added that those programs typically have positive results in improving governance.
Beyond Krupp, Gigante said the other two candidates “fit the trend” of typical candidates nominated by the AFNC. Gigante pointed in particular to Weiss, who is the former president of Lafayette College and Haverford College, as following the trend of having former and current college presidents on the Yale Corporation: Maurie McInnis GRD ’90 ’93 ’96, president of Stonybrook University and David Thomas ’78 GRD ’84 ’84 ’86, president of Morehouse College, were recently added to the Yale Corporation. Weiss is also the president and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The third candidate, Herrera-Flanigan, is the vice president for public policy and philanthropy for the Americas at Twitter and a long-time D.C. corporate lobbyist. She was named the top corporate lobbyist by The Hill in 2021.
“There is a typical mold of both personal and professional background for people who sit on the Yale Corporation,” Gigante said. “Two of the three candidates we can see fit that mold pretty cleanly.”
Cheng, when asked about the backgrounds of Alumni Fellows wrote that there have been recent fellows that have not fit Gigante’s trend of being from business and finance, pointing to Ann Miura-Ko ’98, a venture capitalist, Carolos Moreno ’70, U.S. ambassador to Belize and Thomas.
Cheng also added that there are representatives from Yale classes from the 1970s, 80s and 90s from both Yale college and professional schools.
Gigante said that having members of the Yale Corporation with corporate ties like Herrera-Flanigan can create an “overly corporate board or a board dominated by corporate interests” that will “think in a particular way.” This lack of diversity in the background of the board, Gigante said, leads to missed opportunities.
“It’s not necessarily that individual board members are making bad faith decisions but simply that they don’t have the personal and professional background to be able to think of the full range of possibilities of action, and that leads to a weaker governance of the University, and that’s really a loss for all of us,” Gigante said.
Ashe maintains that the University has a history of designing the rules of the Alumni Fellow election to ensure that its preferred candidates are elected, with the recent removal of the petition process being no exception.
According to Ashe, when the candidate petition process was still in place, it was the University’s practice to nominate only one candidate when it “had the right to choose up to five.” Ashe claims that this tactic was used to create a two-way race that would give the University-nominated candidate better odds of winning the election.
“The last time a petition candidate was elected to the Yale Corporation was in 1965 when William Horowitz became the first Jewish member,” Ashe said. “And one reason he won was that there were four candidates — three nominated by the Alumni Association and he, by petition — and he won with 35 percent of the vote.”
Ashe and other alumni in support of the lawsuit contend that the University-backed candidates have insufficient interest in challenging the status quo due to their uniform ideological viewpoints.
This past December, Ashe helped to create a legal defense fund named Restore Yale to support his lawsuit against the University, which he is filing alongside Don Glascoff ’67. So far, about 260 alumni from more than 32 classes have donated.
“[The candidates’ ideological similarity] is stultifying in the sense that you avoid serious discussion of issues from different points of view because everyone is philosophically in lockstep with each other,” Ashe said. “Yale would be strengthened by having a board with different views on various issues. … You have three university presidents. What about the rest of society? What about somebody under 40? What about somebody over 70?”
The next meeting of the Yale Corporation is on June 11.