New AYA Class Representative, Deborah Post, Files Report on AYA Assembly
December 16, 2016 in Essays, Events, Notes
DEBORAH POST (SY), our new AYA class representative, has filed the following report on the AYA Assembly held in New Haven last month:
I arrived at Yale for the Alumni Assembly the day after Election Day. It was surreal.
The theme of this fall’s assembly speaks for itself: Teaching to Our Strengths: Yale’s Schools of Art, Architecture, Drama, and Music. The deans spoke and all four schools hosted seminars. For the interactive meeting, I chose to visit the Drama School’s Costume Shop where all the costumes are designed and made for Yale productions. Great fun. If you come across your grandmother’s glittery flapper dress or great grandpa’s top hat while cleaning out your parent’s stuff, think about donating it to Yale. (Nothing after 1950 please.)
President Salovey’s speech to the Assembly received a standing ovation from the alumni. He began by conceding he wasn’t going to order hats that said Make Yale Great Again because Yale is already great. But he continued with a theme of Keep Yale Great. Academic priorities dominated the talk: maintaining Yale’s undisputed top position in the Arts and Humanities while focusing on initiatives to support areas where a university of the future can’t afford to be weak, i.e. stem. “The New Yale Science Building is a buzz of activity across disciplinary boundaries all happening in a cutting-edge science space.”
Admitting he had avoided those questions most put to him by alumni – the election implications, that “unrest” on campus a year ago, and the renaming dilemma – President Salovey addressed all three in closing. But first he adamantly warned, “don’t believe everything you read in the media”. Got that?
• Election implications for Yale are largely financial, the risk of losing federal research funding.
• Yale remains devoted to free expression and embraces the Woodward Report, a paper commissioned by Kingman Brewster just two years after we left Yale to address peaceful dissent, respect and tolerance in speech.
I encourage all to find the Woodward Report on Yale’s website and read it for yourself. Here’s an enticing sample: “To curtail free expression strikes twice at intellectual freedom, for whoever deprives another of the right to state unpopular views necessarily also deprives others of the right to listen to those views. We take a chance, as the First Amendment takes a chance, …”
The president noted that no lectures have been cancelled at Yale, that critics of affirmative action, such as UPenn’s Amy Wax, have spoken on the Yale campus, and that the master who resigned did so after being encouraged to stay.
• The renaming dilemma clearly was felt most personally by President Salovey. After he formally decided against renamings believing it unwise to mess with history, the faculty presented a dissenting petition. Instead of playing autocrat, President Salovey formed a committee to address the renaming question. The Report of the Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming was released in late November and can be found with a google. My quick skim as I jot these notes suggests the committee ducked. Do you agree?
Throughout the president’s speech, I was reminded that the AYA was established in 1972 with the purpose of improving communication between Yale and its alumni. We well know all about the alumni’s revolt when those 1,000 male leaders a year were put at risk, when Yale’s esteemed president queried regarding the possibility of a black revolutionary getting a fair trial in New Haven, and when May Day brought the National Guard to Yale. That alumni revolt translated into a precipitous drop in giving, hitting Yale’s pocketbook hard. First obvious fix: better communication. It is my job as the class’s AYA delegate to communicate what is happening on campus and to “explain” the University, in theory anyway.
Deborah Post, AYA delegate Class of 1972
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