by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The trustees of Yale University have made it clear that they love democracy — as long as they don’t have to abide by it themselves. Democracy for thee; unaccountable governance for me. In the last couple weeks, the Yale Corporation has purged even the slightest hints of accountability from their “election system.”
One of us, Garry, is a lifelong dissident from the USSR and Russia. The other, Uriel, is a proud alumnus of Yale University — admittedly less proud today than he was a month ago. Uriel attended Yale, loved Yale, and even founded an organization there — the Peace and Dialogue Leadership Initiative — to help contribute to campus life and learning. But we all have an obligation to speak out against anti-democratic actions, especially when they happen at home. Now as the chairman and the executive director, respectively, of the Renew Democracy Initiative, we must respond to threats to democratic norms regardless of where they originate.
Elections to the Yale Corporation are a byzantine, opaque process. Most candidates apply through the Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee. These applicants are not allowed to campaign, reveal their policy positions, or even talk about what they would do if elected. The committee then reveals its endorsed candidates just 24 to 48 hours before voting begins — an election in name only.
However, in order to lay claim to some element of democracy, Yale allowed outside candidates to run by petition if they received at least 4,500 alumni signatures (3 percent of all living alumni). …
… [I]t seems that, despite his electoral loss, Ashe’s calls for a minimal amount of transparency spooked the trustees of Yale. So, on May 24, 2021, they announced that new rules would prohibit any candidates in future elections from running on petitions not approved by the university. The three petition campaigns already announced for next year are now a moot point. Sorry, kids, no glasnost or perestroika for you!