Concerned Alumni To Yale Alumni Association: Stand Up For Democracy, Transparency By Restoring Voting Rights & Ballot Access

SEPTEMBER 30, 2021

Concerned Alumni To Yale Alumni Association: Stand Up For Democracy, Transparency By Restoring Voting Rights & Ballot Access

New Petition Calls On Key Committee Members To Right the Wrong of Abrupt Removal of Candidate Petition Process In Alumni Fellow Election

New Haven, CT – As members of Yale University’s highest governing body prepare to meet this weekend, concerned alumni have launched a petition calling for action that would reverse the impact of the cancellation of the petition process for placing a trustee candidate on the ballot.

More than 1,150 “Yale Alumni for Free and Fair Elections” have thus far signed the petition, decrying the abrupt and secretive May decision that ended the Yale Corporation petition option – a decision that eliminated any possibility of a fair, transparent, and participatory election process.

“Free and Fair Elections” petition signers are urging Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee members to right this wrong by using their nominating power in the 2022 election to include the names of the three candidates who registered to seek a seat on the Yale Corporation through the petition process, only to see their plans abruptly and unjustly thwarted.

“We firmly believe that Yale alumni deserve a choice when it comes to who will represent them on the Yale Corporation, and they must be fully equipped to make smart decisions when they cast their ballots,” said former corporate executive and ex-Connecticut state Rep. Gail Lavielle, (MA ’81), one of the trio of candidates who had launched a Yale Corporation candidacy via the petition process.

“While I neither know nor necessarily agree with the views of my fellow candidates who have been denied the right to participate in the petition process, anyone who wants to seek a spot on the ballot should have the right to do so. A transparent and open election for positions on the university’s highest governing body is paramount for achieving this goal.”

The petition process was admittedly onerous, requiring candidates to gather 4,464 signatures from more than 160,000 Yale alumni scattered across the nation and the globe. However, unlike traditional Board contenders, petition candidates were able to establish platforms and express opinions on the many significant issues facing the university. With their elimination, the gag order is now universal.

The petition option was the only pathway – albeit a narrow one – through which to try to improve diversity of thought on Yale’s highest governing body. Its loss not only leaves no room for dissent or debate, but also is antithetical to the university’s commitment to free speech, as stated at length in the Woodward Report.

“Yale has lost its way,” said President of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni

Michael Poliakoff, (‘75), a petition signer. “Let’s work to ensure that the C. Vann Woodward Report is not a dusty trophy but a way of life on the campus we remember.”

Shutting down the petition process is just the latest in a long line of troubling incidents at Yale that threaten to undermine its credibility and diminish its reputation. It also comes as Yale has launched a significant capital campaign, seeking financial support from alumni whose interest in giving has steadily waned. At 25.7 percent, Yale ranks among the lowest of its peer institutions when it comes to average giving by graduates. That is down from 47 percent in 1996-97.

“The downward trend in alumni giving will not be reversed until the university successfully restores trust and faith among its graduates,” Lavielle said. “A move by the Yale Corporation to reverse- or at the very least, mitigate – its anti-democratic decision to curtail voter choice would send a significant and meaningful message that Yale’s leadership is rededicating its commitment to the motto that we all hold dear: ‘Lux et Veritas.’”