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Yale 62

YAA Assembly and Convocation November 16-17, 2023

By John Stewart, Secretary, and Larry Prince, YAA Delegate

Our delegate Larry Prince and I, along with faithful visitor Ellis Wisner, spent the better part of two days in New Haven being wooed, challenged, informed, and entertained by the YAA. The name change from the Association of Yale Alumni to the Yale Alumni Association was deemed more inclusive. There was a large menu of guided tours, lectures, and presentations by faculty as well as breakout groups covering aspects of volunteer development, all designed to increase and strengthen alumni loyalty and commitment. Larry and I found somewhat divergent paths through the offerings.

For me Thursday morning began with a tour of the Yale Schwarzman Center, previously known to us as Freshman Commons. It’s doubled in size, not visible from the front, but behind where the kitchen used to be on the ground floor there are now meeting spaces, upstairs a series of retreat rooms, and in the basement, several eating facilities and a dance studio – quite impressive. One issue was the nomenclature. Some of us felt resistance towards calling it the Schwarzman Center, partly not wanting call any building by the name of its donor, and partly because of Schwarzman himself. Yale calls it the YALE Schwarzman Center. Another issue is the presence of Confederate dead in the lovely, cleaned-up war memorial area. This issue remains unresolved.

I missed lunch at the new self-sustaining village at the divinity school, as well as regretfully, a tour of the newly renovated, from top to bottom, Peabody, which doesn’t open ’til January. Mory’s instead – well, you all know THAT cuisine. The Kline Tower has been totally redone as the newly named Center for Engineering Innovation and Design, and the other new building is the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale. This all points to the evolution and expansion of study areas for undergrads as well as new grad programs. Exciting!

Thursday afternoon, I attended a panel chewily entitled “Cultural and Social Implications of Media, Technology & the Economy.” Economics Prof. Hélène Landemore and a younger Columbian Prof. Julian Posada, spoke so fast – she with a French accent and he with a Spanish accent – that I understood about a third of what they were saying. My nearly illegible notes indicate the main concern was the impact of AI in these various environments, the moral and ethical issues. And the question of whether Yale is succeeding in educating moral behavior.

At 5:30, I attended a concert in the Beinecke, of music by undergrad composers, with a mezzo, a vibraphone and percussion instruments. I’d gone to one in 2019, too. For me, it’s thrilling to see how much more music there is at Yale now. President Salovey mentioned the next morning that there are over 300 dramatic or musical performances by undergrads every year! I sat in the front row with Louis Mackall and Patricia Klindienst, my generous hosts for my two nights. Really fun, and you get a sense of the quite varying levels of talent, although all were respectable and worth hearing, perhaps once.

Friday morning began at 8:30 (Hey – I’m retired and that was early!) with President Salovey’s address. For those of us who’ve not heard him, he’s a marvelous speaker, easy, charming, seemingly off-the-cuff, but gets everything said in good order. He began describing the challenge in Yale’s diversity of how to make everyone feeling included, which meant no vigorous antisemitic or Islamophobic outbursts. In fact, the Yale campus remained relatively calm. The population diversity increases, with more low-income, vets, and non-traditional students, as well as those who are the first in their families to attend college. Pell Grants grew from 10% to 22%, and the financial aid picture means that 86% of students graduate without debt. The drama school joins the school of music in being tuition-free. The school of nursing will establish a separate identity from the med school, and a whole new school of public health will soon have its own building. In addition, Yale is fully intent on re-establishing its school of engineering as one of the top in the country not just with its new headquarters building. One other development: the Hall of Graduate Studies houses all the liberal arts faculty, promoting (and this was perhaps his central theme) interaction among and between disciplines. Finally, he mentioned that Yale historian Ned Blackhawk has won a National Book Award for “The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History,” an ambitious and sweeping volume that documents the central role of Native Americans in the political and cultural life of the country.

The rest of the morning was spent with three terrific deans: James Bundy of the Drama School, Jeffrey Brock of Engineering and Megan Ranney, Dean of the new School of Public Health. I am always very impressed with the qualities of Yale’s academic leadership and these three were great. The theme again was cooperation and collaboration among schools.

After lunch at the Omni, where outgoing YAA Executive Director Weili Cheng ’99 was recognized for her distinguished service, I attended two volunteer development sessions: “Collaboration between Time Zones,” where three charming workers talked about strategies to keep alumni connected to each other and “Yale, and Effective Communication Strategies.” I confess, humbly, that I came away from these sessions without many new ideas, but instead, a feeling of great pride in what our communication team achieves on the website, in the coffee hours and the YAM column.

Friday night in Woolsey was the annual Harvard-Yale Glee Club concert, last heard there in 2019. I sat with Ellis, a passionate singer himself, and had a great time comparing notes. The Harvard half took an hour and a half. The Harvard Glee Club is still male – the Radcliffe Choral Society led off. They did a couple of joint numbers and in the Glee Club is a smaller group which reminded me of a cappella in our day (“I’m gonna ride the chariot”). It gives me no pain to assure you that the Yale Glee Club is eons better. From their entrance (they run from the back of the hall on to the stage) you knew you would get an energized and committed performance. Jeffrey Douma is a first class and inspiring musician. He conducts everything from memory, including a very difficult prize-winning piece. The other competition, named after Fenno Heath, is for a Yale song. A first year in the Glee Club wrote a charming and witty song including a canine reference, whereupon Handsome Dan materialized and waved at the audience. I wish you all could have been there to sing along with the football medley. It’s simply uproarious, and when everyone sand “Bright College Years” and (if they’ve remembered) waved the handkerchiefs, there was not a dry eye in the very full house.

Respectfully submitted,

John Stewart, Sec’y

 

Larry Prince’s OBSERVATIONS

1. The old part of the campus, the part we lived in, looks just the same as when we were there. It’s in beautiful condition and is kept immaculately clean. Of course, it is traditional architecture, Gothic and Georgian for the most part, but that holds up well and the additions such as the Schwartzman Center fit in nicely. On the other hand, I can’t get used to Stiles and Morse residential colleges and the Beineke Rare Book Library.

2. The new areas, basically the hill up Prospect St., are filled with new residential colleges, classroom buildings, and offices that have been beautifully designed and placed. The Franklin and Murray residential colleges retain the basic design of their older predecessors and the facilities inside are much better than what we knew. For example, “The Buttery” looks like an expensive café in a resort complete with game tables, exercise areas, meeting space, chairs, tables and kitchen facilities that impressed this old TD Buttery manager. There’s a theater, a dining hall, of course, common room with piano, and on and on. And most spectacular, those two bedroom suites that housed four students in our time are now just for two! I was surprised to find that the bathroom on each floor is unisex. When women first arrived at Yale, they had their own entryway. Then they shared an entryway with the guys but had separate floors. Now, there is no separation, and the bathrooms are shared.

3. There was a demonstration outside Commons going on while I was there, and I am pleased to say it was loud but peaceful. President Salovey assured us that this has been the case through the entire month of war in Gaza.

4. Perhaps everyone but me knows that the way students are assigned from the Old Campus to the residential colleges has changed. Now when a freshman arrives he is assigned to a dorm on the Old Campus which is linked to one of the Colleges. Everyone in that freshman dorm moves on to the same college. They all know that from day one, and they are included in their college’s activities right away.

SUMMARIES

1. The discussion of the deans of Yale College, Applied Science, Public Health, and Drama stressed the emphasis Yale is placing on “cross pollination” between the many fields studied at Yale. They have named this “Creative Economy” and presented several examples of the benefits of it. One such led to the new Department of Public Health. That field had been a small part of the Medical School, but is now separate with its own staff and curriculum. The new dean explained that the Medical School’s mission is to heal the sick while public health should be working to keep the public healthy. It’s not only different emphasis but different skills. Yale also has resurrected the old Sheffield School in the new School of Engineering and Applied Science where the traditional curriculum will be combined with digital age programs.

2. Trustees Fred Krupp (founder and head of the Environmental Defense Fund) and Maurie McInnis (President of Stoneybrook University) explained that the responsibility of the Trustees was to supervise the direction of Yale, to be its stewards, and to insure that its best interests were always protected. They explained that unlike most university boards that are 40 or more in number, Yale’s is only 16, a more workable size.

3. President Salovey spoke about achievements over the last few years noting that the number of students with Pell Grant scholarships had doubled; the number of students who were the first in their family to graduate from college had doubled; 86% had graduated with zero debt; and that students at the Music and Drama Schools no longer paid tuition. Salovey talked about the expanded cooperation with the New Haven community including more spending on programs to improve the city and its residents. Finally he spoke about his resignation and the process for finding his replacement.

 
We welcome your comments.

4 comments to YAA Fall Assembly Report, 2023

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