Marisa Peryer

Yale is set to see six of its seats at the “highest ranks” filled by the end of the spring semester.

The four cabinet positions — which include the deans of the School of Public Health, School of Nursing and School of Music — as well as the roles of Director of Yale Health and University Chaplain, are among the top posts in the University administration. But all are currently occupied by interim or retiring leadership. University President Peter Salovey, who has final say in all six appointments, told the News that he is prioritizing diversity in his decision-making process.

“I’ve challenged myself to continue to try to create more diversity for Yale at the highest ranks — among deans and among vice presidents,” Salovey said. “I think diversity among the leadership ranks sets the example for the rest of campus.”

Salovey said that he expects to permanently fill the Vice President for Communications position, a role currently held by Karen Peart, “quite soon.” He hopes to have names for the deans of the Schools of Nursing and Public Health, as well as the next director of Yale Health by the middle of the semester. Those roles are currently held by Holly Powell Kennedy, Melinda Pettigrew GRD ’99 and Nanci Fortgang, respectively.

The new Dean of the School of Music, who is set to replace retiring dean Robert Blocker, as well as the next University Chaplain, replacing Sharon Kugler — the first woman to serve in the role — are expected to be chosen by the end of the spring semester.

“That total group [of cabinet members] is not large,” Salovey said. “That total group is about 25 people. And so those numbers improve over time. But [I personally work] very hard to try to improve our diversity numbers every time one of those 25 positions opens up.”

For Aranyo Ray ’25, it would be “really encouraging” to see people in University leadership who speak for communities that have been historically underrepresented. He noticed that the University Chaplain was generally someone who came from a Catholic or Christian background, for example, and said it would be nice to see someone from another religious background take the helm.

In other areas as well, the University cabinet has long lacked diversity — which has led to backlash and criticism from faculty and students alike.

Daevan Mangalmurti ’24 emphasized that Yale is a predominantly white, Ivy League institution. The University could expand beyond this conception, he said, by recruiting administrators who come from different backgrounds and would be “more likely to be attuned to the needs of different student groups and student populations.”

“There’s a value to diversity in higher education, especially DEI from the administrative perspective,” Mangalmurti said.

In terms of racial diversity, representation in higher education is lacking nationwide. A 2020 study conducted by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources found that more than 80 percent of senior administrators at colleges and universities across the country are white, and only 13 percent of top executive officers identify as people of color. At least six out of 27 individuals on Salovey’s cabinet are people of color — less than a quarter of senior leadership.

For women, some gains have been made. The study found that more than half of administrators are women — however, they generally occupy the least senior administrative positions. At Yale, women occupy 12 out of 27 of University cabinet roles.

While Salovey has the final say on who gets what position, he told the News that he has charged those who are involved in the searches to choose from a diverse pool of applicants.

“I charge each of those search committees to look far and wide in order to consider candidates from all kinds of backgrounds,” Salovey said. “And I expect every one of those searches to see a shortlist that has diversity.”

According to Salovey’s Chief of Staff Susan Gibbons, who serves on the Committees for the Schools of Music, Nursing and Public Health, the president prioritizes conducting a broad search by which candidates will be evaluated.

“The president asks the committee to pay close attention to the breadth and composition of the applicant pool, including diverse backgrounds and perspectives,” Gibbons wrote in an email to the News.

Henry Chauncey Jr. ’57, who worked as a University administrator with former Yale Presidents Whitney Griswold and Kingman Brewster, said that there were no search committees before the 1970s. A president during this era, according to Chauncey, would generally “make up his mind” without consulting anyone else.

“The president will say, give me your three top choices,” Chauncey said. “And I will really take seriously those three, but I may still choose someone else. So the power of appointment stays with the president. And I think in the long run, you have to have that if he’s going to be the boss of the University as a whole. But the question is, has [the President] made up their mind ahead of time who they want?” 

Search committees began to come into place during the middle to late 1970s, Chauncey said, in part because that was when legal government regulations about diversity metrics began to take hold.

If those committees failed to examine people of all backgrounds, Chauncey said, retaliation with respect to affirmative action — where legal entities could sue if there was no proof that a search included the consideration of a diverse pool of applicants — meant that it was likely that “all hell would break loose.”

Salovey still does not have to commit to names on a shortlist given to him by a search committee, but told the News that it “would be unusual for [him] not to.”

Ray says that while he approves of the effort to support diversity, he called for clarity in how the administration approaches this goal. 

“Even though they say that DEI is at the core of their search, we don’t know for sure until we see the actual data,” Ray said. 

There are four search advisory committees listed on the President’s website — for the CEO of Yale Health and the deans of the School of Music, School of Public Health and School of Nursing.

William Porayouw covered Woodbridge Hall for the News and previously reported on international strategy at Yale. Originally from Redlands, California, he is an economics and global affairs major in Davenport College.