Students demand representation in University’s presidential search committee
Students across different schools at Yale are collaborating to make their voices heard in the search for University President Peter Salovey’s successor.
Tim Tai, Senior Photographer
The same day University President Peter Salovey announced his plans to step down this summer, the Yale Corporation announced the names of eight Board of Trustees members who will sit on the 12-person search committee that is tasked with finding a replacement. The other four slots have been promised to faculty members.
Zero spots on the committee have been reserved for students.
Potential student contributions to the committee’s search process are currently limited to attending listening sessions, which have not been scheduled, or to submitting an online form, which the committee does not guarantee it will consider.
“As a student, not seeing representation on the committee immediately could feel like you’re being excluded from the search process, even though there were things they set up such as the online form and listening sessions,” Chris Lindsay GRD ’26, chair of the Graduate Student Association, told the News.
Vice chairs for the search committee include Catharine Bond Hill GRD ’85 and William Kennard LAW ’81. The other alumni representatives include Ann Miura-Ko ’98, Joshua Steiner ’87, David Sze ’88, Marta Tellado GRD ’02 and Michael Warren ’90.
The University has not announced the faculty members who will serve on the committee.
“Students will be directly involved in the search process,” Joshua Bekenstein ’80, senior trustee for the Yale Corporation, told the News. “Input from students is going to be one of the critical factors thinking about the next president, and we hope students will be excited and will give us great input and great advice. We will use that input to develop the characteristics that we’re going to be using in identifying the president.”
Undergraduate and graduate students alike, now, are demanding formal involvement in the decision of who should be the next University president.
Julian Suh-Toma ’25 and Maya Fonkeu ’25, the Yale College Council’s president and vice president, respectively, have been working with graduate students to voice these concerns to the Corporation.
“I sponsored a resolution which was drafted in collaboration with the Graduate and Professional Schools Senate, as well as the Graduate Student Assembly, asking for student representation in the presidential search committee,” Suh-Toma explained to the News. “This would take shape in either a formal student advisory committee or representation on the 12-person committee which already exists.”
The duo, along with the entire YCC Executive Board, held an emergency meeting on Sept. 1 to discuss the need for undergraduate representation. They also announced their plans to work alongside graduate and professional school students to draft the resolution, which calls for at least one undergraduate, one graduate and one professional student to be appointed to the committee, as well as at least one representative from each of Yale’s constituent schools.
According to the YCC resolution, none of the alumni on the committee have been students at Yale since 2002. The resolution also posits that search committees at peer institutions have included more direct student input.
Jonathan Edwards YCC Senator Sophie Schonberger ’26 told the News that while the bill did pass in the YCC senate, there was some disagreement on how student input should be received.
In addition to the joint resolution sponsored by Suh-Toma, graduate students have also independently advocated for a role in the process.
Benjamin Schafer GRD ’27 is one of many graduate students advocating for the inclusion of student voices in the process.
“I was pretty outraged and frustrated,” Schafer said of his reaction to the lack of student inclusion in the committee. “Which is why, within a few hours of Bekenstein’s announcement, I had already drafted a resolution.”
Schafer sponsored another resolution condemning the decision of the Board of Trustees to exclude students from participation in the selection process. Similarly to the YCC’s, this resolution called for the appointment of undergraduate, graduate and professional students to the presidential search committee or the creation of a student advisory committee.
The Graduate Student Assembly, or GSA, an elected representative body of students in the Graduate School, passed Schafer’s resolution with a vote of 81 in favor, two against and three abstentions on Monday.
“There might be students who bristle at the sort of explicit rhetoric to condemn the Board of Trustees,” Schafer told the News. “But I think it really matters that we don’t hold back on what our reaction is.”
Schafer feels that listening sessions and other forms of community engagement outlined in Bekenstein’s announcement do not provide adequate channels for students to express their opinions. He also wondered whether students would feel comfortable speaking their minds in front of members of the committee at listening sessions — and if the Yale Corporation would act on what students mentioned in the sessions.
Charles Lomba GRD ’26, one of the co-sponsors of the GSA resolution, expressed his support for creating more formalized roles for students during all parts of the search to balance out the views of the Board of Trustees.
“This would include active roles in the nomination and recruitment phase, design of the application and interview questions and in the final shortlisting of candidates,” Lomba listed.
Lomba said he recognizes that there might be issues with students being equipped to assess candidates’ professional experience to fill the role, concerns about students respecting the confidentiality of applicants and the amount of time that elected students would need to dedicate to the search. But Lomba noted that slight adjustments to address any issues could be made to allow students to still work on the committee.
GSA Chair Chris Lindsay also told the News he feels there is a need to include students more directly in the presidential search process.
“I think all groups of students should be involved in this process and that could be through getting a student advisory council formed,” he told the News. “They could think about what question we want the Board of Trustees to ask potential presidential candidates.”
Lindsay said that he met with Chrishan Fernando GRD ’25, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, or GPSS, last week. Lindsay and Fernando worked together to draft and send a joint letter to the Board of Trustees asking the Board to create an official channel for students to gather information on hiring practices for the next president. According to Lindsay, they are still waiting to hear back from the Board.
Fernando emphasized the need for unity across all student groups in advocating for representation. He said that he has kept in contact with the rest of the GPSS executive board, the GSA and the YCC as the groups have been pushing for student inclusion in the decision.
“My understanding is that for the last Yale president search, there was only a single student liaison to the search committee. That’s really not acceptable,” he wrote to the News.
Fernando noted that the GPSS will not be able to vote on any resolution for at least a few weeks since it is currently in the middle of an election process and will not have any senators until just ahead of its first meeting on Sept. 21.
Fernando added that the search process will likely move quickly and that when the GPSS is ready to vote on a resolution, it might be too late. In the meantime, he explained, the GPSS executive board is working with the YCC and the GSA to advocate for representation.
“We’re truly undervalued stakeholders in this process,” Fernando wrote. “When you’re talking about things like fundraising campaigns and strategic planning for the University, who else serves to be impacted more directly than students? Undergraduates, graduate students and professional students all have different viewpoints that should all be taken into consideration in this process.”
Salovey intends to step down from the presidency in June.