In recent years we have watched with growing alarm as issues that threaten to undermine Yale’s credibility have diminished its reputation on multiple fronts.
Many alumni appear to be losing faith in their storied alma mater, with the university ranking among the lowest of its peer institutions when it comes to alumni giving. According to U.S. News & World Report, the university’s average alumni giving rate is 25.7 percent. That is down considerably from 1996-97, when, by Yale’s own account, the rate was 47 percent.
We believe in Yale and its ability to reverse this downward spiral and reclaim its rightful place among the most respected and high-performing institutions of higher education in the world. But for this to occur, improvements must take place across a broad spectrum of issues.
Areas of great concern for Fight For Yale's Future include but are not limited to:
A look into the lack of information and transparency being provided to alumni and other stakeholders.
How Yale is falling short of its ideals in critical areas of freedom of speech and viewpoint diversity.
Yale has fallen behind its peers in a number of important respects.
Understand how Yale has become top-heavy, adding too many bureaucrats.
While there is a broad spectrum of issues that need to be improved, one of the greatest areas of concern is the governance of Yale University. The Yale Corporation has abdicated its responsibility to the university’s mission, failed to be transparent with and accountable to stakeholders, and shut out dissent. The substantial reforms required at Yale cannot happen without the leadership of the Yale Corporation.
- The Yale Corporation moved in May 2021 to cancel the petition process for placing a trustee candidate on the Alumni Fellow Election ballot. This decision eliminated any possibility of a fair, transparent, and participatory election process and dampened any hope of allowing diversity of thought on the university’s highest governing body.
- Alumni are provided no information about the Yale Corporation candidates for whom they are asked to cast a ballot, nor are they afforded any opportunity to question those contenders on their positions about the many issues facing the university. Candidates do not engage in any public debate regarding the institution’s future or their vision for its success.
- The Yale Corporation meets behind closed doors and does not allow or encourage public participation or observation of its proceedings. In addition, it has a 50-year embargo on releasing meeting minutes and does not even provide regular summaries of its decisions.
- The governor and lieutenant governor of Connecticut are members ex-officio of the Yale Corporation. But these high-profile individuals are routinely not invited to participate in board proceedings – an apparent violation of the Yale Corporation’s own bylaws. It appears neither the governor nor the lieutenant governor was present – nor informed in advance of – the May vote to cancel the petition process at a time when preservation of voting rights is a top priority for elected officials around the state and nation.
The Yale Corporation’s move essentially to quash any nonconforming ideas and views by shutting down the petition process is sadly not unusual. In fact, it is the latest in a string of incidents at Yale that have systematically undermined its ostensible commitment to free speech – as defined at length in the Woodward Report – and its own motto, “Lux et Veritas,” or “Light and Truth.”
- In 2015, a university lecturer faced angry recriminations from students after she penned an email questioning a heavy-handed attempt by school leadership to advise students on Halloween costumes, resulting in a campus debate over free speech becoming a national news story. The lecturer, Erika Christakis, and her husband, Nicholas Christakis, ultimately resigned from their leadership roles at Silliman College while the students who infamously hectored Nicholas in the courtyard received awards at graduation.
- A Yale-NUS course on “Dialogue and Dissent” was canceled in 2019.
- In 2021, PEN America, an advocacy organization that defends free and creative expression, criticized the university for suppressing access to a recording of a lecture given by Aruna Khilanani that generated controversy.
- Nearly 75 percent of 2,054 students representing views across the political spectrum who responded to a 2016 Yale Daily News survey said they believe the university doesn’t provide a welcoming environment where conservative students can share their opinions on political issues. (Just under 12 percent of respondents described themselves as “conservative” or “very conservative”).
- Yale placed 33rd out of 159 schools in the 2021 College Free Speech Rankings.
- Yale ranked near the bottom at 131st for student comfort in expressing their thoughts in writing, in class, and among their peers and professors.
- Yale also ranked poorly at 143rd for student perception of university support for free speech.
- The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) gives Yale a “yellow light” rating, indicating policies that, “by virtue of vague wording, can too easily be used to restrict protected expression.”
Though the Woodward Report pre-dates the Chicago principles by close to 50 years, it is the University of Chicago, not Yale, that is now leading the way to championing a commitment to freedom of speech and expression on college campuses across the U.S. Eighty-two institutions of higher education had adopted the principles as of June 2021; Yale is not among them.
The ability of any institution of higher education to excel in its stated mission relies significantly on the quality and satisfaction of its faculty. But Yale is falling short in this area.
A 2018-19 FAS Senate Research and Scholarly Excellence Report revealed dissatisfaction among faculty members around salaries, departmental rankings, and the university’s academic priorities. Indeed, the results were such that a Yale administrator urged the FAS Senate not to release the report, “saying it would reflect badly on the university administration.”
The report noted: “A number of factors have emerged over the past 50 years that put Yale at a competitive disadvantage.”
Many faculty members expressed concern that Yale had “reduced rather than increased the competitiveness of its salaries” and “reduced rather than increased the size of its faculty relative to its peers,” even as its endowment outperformed that of its rivals.
The report found that faculty salaries had “declined dramatically relative to other major universities” between 1970 and 2017, noting that “In 1970 Yale was 11% above its peers, and in 2017 it was 13% below, having lost 8% in the last nine years.”
According to the Yale Daily News, the report indicates that “69 percent of tenured faculty members said they do not believe that their respective department ranks within the top five in their respective fields.”
The Yale Daily News also reports that “longtime faculty members feel that the ‘quality’ of their departments has declined” and “57 percent of tenured faculty disagreed with the statement that they are ‘energized by the administration’s vision for my department.’”
A 2018 report by the Committee on the Economic Status of Faculty notes that “Yale’s average full-professor salaries in the biological sciences, physical sciences and engineering had fallen by seven percent relative to the university’s peers, compared to a loss of three and four percent in the humanities and social sciences, respectively. Assistant professors’ salaries had also fallen by about seven percent compared to Yale’s peers.”
Despite Yale’s push for increased diversity among faculty members – specifically regarding race, gender, and sexual orientation – a number of professors have voiced concern that this effort does not extend to improving diversity of thought, and that the university’s climate stifles political discourse. A 2017 survey found that almost 75 percent of Yale professors described themselves as liberal.
In recent years, Yale has become increasingly top-heavy, adding multiple layers of bureaucrats who arguably neither further the university’s mission of academic excellence, nor improve its oversight capabilities – as evidenced by its embarrassing involvement in a national college admissions bribery scandal and $30 million fraud scheme.
Yale ranked fifth in a 2018 Chronicle of Higher Education survey of student-to-manager ratios among private nonprofit institutions, with 81.1 full-time bureaucrats for every 1,000 students – the highest of any of the Ivies.
- Meanwhile, the cost of tuition, room, and board for a single year has risen to $77,750 for the 2021-22 academic year – more than double the cost of $34,030 in 2001-02.
- In 1995-96, there were 2,589 professional and managerial staff at Yale – a number that jumped to 5,042 in 2020-21. This figure now even exceeds the total number of faculty, including non-ladder faculty, that the university employs.