Ellie Park, Photography Editor

Maurie McInnis’ GRD ’90 GRD ’96 announcement as Yale’s 24th president sparked mixed reactions among students. 

McInnis has been praised for her academic achievements, which center around the themes of how art relates to early American politics as well as race and slavery in the American South. Moreover, she has been lauded for her efforts in fundraising $500 million in an unrestricted endowment donation from the Simons Foundation to Stony Brook University. 

Of the seven students the News spoke with, three commended the University for selecting McInnis as she will be the first woman to serve in the role in a non-interim capacity. Four expressed concerns over her previous leadership decisions as president of Stony Brook and provost of the University of Texas at Austin.

“With Maurie McInnis’ appointment, I hope we will see a shift in how the presidency is approached day-to-day,” Juan Borrego ’26 wrote to the News. “The president should prioritize the needs and concerns of students, faculty, and staff. By focusing on uplifting our community, the president’s ultimate goal of maintaining Yale’s standing as a leading global institution will follow naturally.” 

Students reflect on the search process, Student Advisory Committee

Last fall, following student advocacy, the University created the Student Advisory Committee, composed of 12 students — four undergraduates, four graduates and four from professional schools. The SAC was tasked with gathering students’ thoughts and sharing them with the Presidential Search Committee. 

“I am appreciative that there was a committee formed as an outlet for student input and that they gathered input from our peers,” Celene Bennett ’26 told the News. “But I’m curious whether their opinion was valued and applied in the process.” 

Michael Garman ’25 described the administration’s inclusion of student input as “window dressing,” saying that he felt that there “wasn’t communication about the type of leader or vision that was desired.” 

Andrew Alam-Nist ’26 shared a similar sentiment, saying that “nobody really knew what was going on behind closed doors” regarding the search. 

Joshua Ching ’26 described the committee as “a good start to increasing transparency” but “certainly not an end.” Due to rising questions on the value of campus diversity, Ching hopes that future searches will include “dedicated and intentional” consultations with the University’s cultural centers. 

Four members of the SAC, who recently spoke to the News, shared largely positive sentiments about the process and their role in it. 

Two students emphasized the significance of McInnis’ role as Yale’s first non-interim female president. 

Borrego wrote to the News that he opened the announcement alongside his younger sister thinking that the appointment of a female Yale president could provide “new opportunities for change.” 

“It’s about time [to appoint a female president], and she’s clearly incredibly qualified,” Alam-Nist said.

Previously, from 1977-78, Hanna Holborn Gray served as interim president after former president Kingman Brewster ’41 resigned from office.

Concerns over McInnis’ administrative history 

In 2019, McInnis faced backlash from both students and faculty at UT Austin over the lack of disciplinary action taken against two professors who were accused of sexual misconduct. 

Kellsie Lewis ’27 described her initial reactions to McInnis’ appointment as the first non-interim female president as “revitalizing” and “awe-inspiring.” Yet, her positive feelings were “shattered” when she read about McInnis’ handling of sexual misconduct allegations against professors while she was Provost at UT Austin. 

“It is deeply alarming to know that our first female president was complicit and complacent in sexual assault allegations … while at UT Austin,” Lewis wrote to the News.

Lewis added that she worries about student safety and free speech on campus under McInnis’ tenure. She expressed further concerns on how McInnis will handle civic engagement on Yale’s campus. 

In an email to the News, McInnis wrote that “student safety has always been my top priority.”

She explained that while she was provost at UT Austin, concerns regarding misconduct by two faculty members were brought to her attention and that student advocacy in response to the #MeToo movement encouraged them to look anew at their policies. She said they hired an outside investigator who worked with their committee of faculty, staff and students to review and revise their policies.

“I believe the university was better off because of these changes, and I’m proud of the students and community members who encouraged us to do better,” McInnis wrote.

McInnis added that at Stony Brook, she stepped in to suspend a fraternity accused of sexual misconduct and “worked hard” to improve the university’s reporting channels.

On March 26, nine students were arrested at a pro-Palestine sit-in at Stony Brook. In April, the News spoke with faculty members who stated that they felt McInnis was unwilling to engage with community concerns following these arrests. On May 2, two faculty members and 22 students were arrested for their involvement with pro-Palestinian protests. 

Ching said he is “cautious about the commitments” McInnis enters the university with over her choice to arrest the 29 protestors at Stony Brook and her participation in the Yale Board of Trustees’ rejection of divestment from military weapons manufacturing

Garman shared similar concerns, stating his initial reaction to McInnis’ appointment as “disappointed but not surprised.” He said that he felt the University prioritized McInnis’ successful fundraising skills above the concerns regarding her responses to campus protests and cases of sexual misconduct. 

In an email to the News earlier this month, McInnis defended her decision to arrest Stony Brook students, citing University policies on “content-neutral time, place, manner restrictions.”

“I understand that many are upset by my decision on this matter, and no president wants to request that authorities intervene to disperse student protests,” McInnis wrote. “We did all we could to avoid arrests, and our decision was guided by the imperative to protect the well-being of our entire community and allow access to campus for everyone.”

Aaron Chen ’27 described McInnis’ administrative history as “spotty” and also said that he had some concerns about her appointment. However, Chen affirmed that he is “rooting” for McInnis and hopes that the current student concerns are “unfounded.” 

Hopes for change under McInnis’ presidency

The students the News spoke with hope for increased direct engagement between Yale’s president and the student body.

Borrego said that he hopes for a “shift” in how the presidency is approached and that the president involves students in decision-making. He highlighted mental health, a diverse campus following the ban on race-conscious admissions and free speech as issues that he hopes McInnis addresses. 

Bennett said that she wonders how McInnis will deliver the statements made in her opening speech of spreading Yale’s “pursuit of excellence” to create global impacts. Bennett also told the News that she is curious whether McInnis will use Yale’s influence to “uplift and protect people beyond our campus and beyond our country.” 

Alam-Nist cited appreciation for Salovey’s leadership style, stating that it was capable of achieving “radical change.” He hopes that McInnis’ presidency is marked by a similar style. 

“I think President McInnis will bring a certain level of continuity with Salovey’s leadership and priorities — which I imagine the Board of Trustees was looking for —  in consideration of the national atmosphere around academic freedom, free speech, and diversity,” Ching wrote to the News.

McInnis was president of Stony Brook from July 1, 2020, to May 29, 2024.

Karla Cortes covers International Relations at Yale under the University Desk. She is a first-year in Silliman College majoring in Political Science.
Chris is an associate beat reporter for Student Life. He is a freshman in Morse studying Ethics, Politics, and Economics.