Reinstate the petition process for the Yale Alumni Fellow election

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Dear President Salovey and members of the Yale Board of Trustees,

On the heels of the 2021 Alumni Fellow Election, which saw the highest engagement with Yale’s governance in a generation, Yale’s Board of Trustees announced on May 24th an end to the 150 year tradition of allowing alumni to petition their way onto the ballot for the Yale Corporation. This move shamefully eliminates the only truly democratic aspect of Yale’s governance and instead doubles down on an outmoded tradition of secrecy and exclusivity. 

But this is nothing new for the Corporation whose current practices include sealing meeting minutes for 50 years—longer than transcripts from secret sessions of the U.S. House of Representatives—and preventing Yale alumni from voting in Corporation elections for their first five years after graduating, despite fundraising from these same young graduates before they even receive their diplomas. 

We—the Yale alumni body—are Yale’s strongest asset. We are leaders, thinkers, visionaries and changemakers trained to improve the world today and for future generations. To deliberately exclude us from active involvement in the governance process, as the Corporation has chosen to do, is both a mistake and an embarrassment—doubly so, because the Corporation has chosen to cloak this undemocratic move by claiming it is being done for reasons of “inclusion” and “fairness”. 

A secretive process run behind closed doors by a handful of people is not more inclusive than a candidate selection process open to all alumni. And a rule that requires Yale Alumni Association–nominated candidates to stay silent about their beliefs is not more fair than a democratic petition process that necessitates a compelling platform and vision to mobilize support from thousands of alumni. 

The role of the 16-member Yale Corporation is to steward the University in perpetuity—as fiduciaries. And yet, it was the 2021 petition candidates, not the current board, who advocated for Yale to more fully address the defining issues of today and tomorrow: transparency, democracy, and climate change. In doing so, this election cycle, more than any before it, has activated the alumni body and reinvigorated the call for the fiduciary to uphold Yale’s mission “to improve the world today and for future generations”. The Corporation’s reaction to this upwelling of participation should not be to dismiss the voices of thousands of alumni by prohibiting their future involvement; it should be to embrace them.

Excluding petition candidates from future elections is counter to the core values of the institution we hold dear: lux et veritas, light and truth. Instead, this move shrouds the functions of the University in darkness and unnecessary opacity. We respectfully demand the Yale Corporation immediately reverse its decision and reinstate the petition process for the Yale Alumni Fellow election. 

Sincerely,
Alumni, students, staff & faculty of Yale University.