David Zheng

Yale has the right to regulate alumni appointments to the Yale Corporation, a Hartford district court ruled late Sunday night. 

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed in March 2022 by alumni Victor Ashe ’67 and Donald Glascoff ’67, alleging that the Corporation’s 2021 decision to end the alumni petition process for a position among the governing group was a violation of Yale’s 1872 charter.

“Don Glascoff and I are disappointed in the decision on the Yale Corporation,” Ashe wrote to the News. “We are reviewing our options but an appeal is likely. This decision, if not reversed, means Yale can deny any meaningful alumni participation in the election of Alumni Trustees.  Alumni views can be ignored.”

Before its abolition in 2021, the petition process allowed alumni who acquired three percent of eligible alumni voters’ signatures to have their names on the ballot for the alumni fellows election. Six of 19 spots on the Yale Corporation are reserved for alumni fellows.

The decision was made to prevent “issue-based candidacies,” and candidates who sought to gain a seat on the Corporation to promote specific platforms, according to a 2021 announcement made by then-Senior Trustee Catharine Bond Hill GRD ’85. 

University spokesperson Karen Peart wrote to the News that Yale is “pleased” with the decision.

Ashe, Glascoff and Eric Henzy, the lawyer representing them, allege that the University’s decision is an overstep of the regulations outlined in an 1872 amendment to the University’s charter – which designates six seats on the Yale Corporation for alumni and allows them to vote on candidates.

Specifically, they claim that the Corporation can only regulate the time, place and manner of the elections. Other restrictions, such as removing the petition process and raising the number of signatures required, are in violation of the amendment’s original language, they argue.

Yale, represented by Connecticut law firm Wiggin and Dana LLP, says that the University is entitled to full regulatory authority of the elections process. 

Judge John Burns Farley concurred with this claim in his decision and granted the University’s motion for summary judgment.

“The charter does not impose on [Yale] an obligation to conduct alumni fellow elections in any particular manner,” he wrote in the decision. 

Opponents of the change argue that it allows the Corporation too much control over Yale’s direction. The only other path onto the ballot is through the Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee, which is made up of several Yale Alumni Association officers, three University officials and one successor trustee from the Corporation. 

Scott Gigante GRD ’23, co-founder of the climate activist organization Yale Forward which supported a petition candidate in the 2021 election, told the News that he does not consider the decision reached in the case as a loss in the fight to reinstate the petition process. Instead, he said he sees the decision only as a confirmation that “the fight” will not be won by legal means.

Gigante added that although he cannot speak to the legality of the decision, he believes it was “morally” incorrect. 

“The fight to reinstate a petition for alumni to be able to get ballot access for the alumni election, independent of a body run and organized by Yale, will continue,” Gigante said. “When you’re playing a game where your opponent controls the rules it’s very hard to win, and you have to be very creative so we’ll have to figure out what that creative solution looks like.”

Per the Alumni Fellow Election website, this year’s election for Alumni Fellows will launch in early spring and close on Monday, May 19. The University Charter states that all alumni and honorary degree holders are eligible to vote, but Yale College students are only eligible if they have held their degrees for five years.

Benjamin Hernandez covers Woodbridge Hall, the President's Office. He previously reported on international affairs at Yale. Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, he is a sophomore in Trumbull College majoring in Global Affairs.
Ben Raab covers faculty and academics at Yale and writes about the Yale men's basketball team. Originally from New York City, Ben is a sophomore in Pierson college pursuing a double major in history and political science.