Yale Assembly Notes, from Ezra Doner

Yale Assembly Notes, from Ezra Doner

March 20, 2023 in Notes

Dear Classmates,

This past fall, class officers asked me to serve a three-year term as class delegate to the Yale Assembly, and on November 10-11, I attended my first Assembly.

The Assembly is held annually in November, usually on the Thursday and Friday just before the final home game of the football season. (As you may recall, traditionally, Harvard is the last game of the season, and Princeton the second to last.) Due to Covid, this was the first in-person Assembly since 2019.

Classmates I saw at the Assembly included Class Secretary Rob Bildner, Class Treasurer Frank Krejci, plus Connie Royster, Steve Calkins, and Michael Shaffner.

By the way, “Assembly” is a shorthand. The event’s full name is Yale Alumni Association Assembly and Yale Alumni Fund Convocation. On the event page, https://alumni.yale.edu/yaa-assembly-yale-alumni-fund-convocation, YAA describes the Assembly as its “signature program for volunteer leaders.” The role of delegates, like myself, is to “represent their constituency at the Assembly and Convocation and share information about Yale today with that constituency.”

This year, delegates attended on behalf of more than 150 organizations and affinity groups, including more than 50 Yale College classes, half a dozen (or so) Yale graduate and professional schools, and something like 70 regional and international clubs (the latter as far flung as Bolivia, Korea and Vietnam). Also represented were such cross-degree year, cross-region groups as Yale Day of Service, 1stGenYale, Yale Latino Alumni Network, Yale GALA: LGBTQ Alumni, and the Whiffenpoofs.

Assembly activities included speeches, panel discussions, awards to alumni leaders, tours of new campus facilities and, of course, eating. This year’s theme – Yale’s Global Initiatives – was on display during many of the panels and award ceremonies, as was the broad gender, ethnic, and racial diversity of Yale’s alumni community.

Maybe it’s just me, but what I didn’t hear at the Assembly was anything new about mission. In his welcome remarks, President Peter Salovey stayed with the familiar, saying “It is Yale’s responsibility to share light and truth [. . .].” While acknowledging the “alarming consequence [of] the dissemination of falsehood around the globe,” he just emphasized that “we work toward the discovery of truth on campus[.]” For now at least, the mission of “light and truth” continues as it has been.

On top of that, the information flow at the Assembly seemed plainly designed as one-directional. There was no formal channel for attendees to pose questions or offer feedback. The role of delegates may be to “share information about Yale today,” but that’s to be based on the information presented.

Here’s one question I arrived and left with. By way of background, every two weeks, I zoom with members of my Morse freshman cohort, and just before the Assembly, I asked them: “What do you want to know about Yale?” As it turned out, they wanted to know why Yale hasn’t spun off new businesses which serve as a growth engine for New Haven, the way Stanford has for Silicon Valley, Harvard and MIT for Cambridge, and Duke, UNC and NC State for the Research Triangle. At the Assembly, there was no obvious forum for this question. But I will try to tee it up for the next Assembly.

To be clear, the premise of my unanswered question may be incorrect. Maybe Yale is spinning off new businesses which serve as a local grown engine. I don’t know . . .

If any of you have any questions about Yale, feel free to get in touch. Maybe I’ll be able to get answers.

In closing: In preparing this report, I found these useful links about the Yale alumni community:

This page lists events open to and in some cases hosted by the Yale alumni community.

List of 380 Yale alumni organizations and shared interest groups.

List of 178 regional clubs

List of volunteer opportunities

This is the YAA’s own report of the Assembly.

Ezra Doner

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