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Yale Corporation Board of Trustees Election Should Interest You

By Roman Weil

Maggie Thomas, Victor Ashe during the Chicago Yale Club Zoom

Two different but determined Yale alums have surprised Yale.  They seem certain to be on the ballot in 2021 to oppose the University’s chosen nominees for the one open position annually to serve a six-year term on the Board of Trustees. It could be quite a battle. Have fun following the skirmishes.

The two independent (some might say insurgent) alums, Victor Ashe and Maggie Thomas, undertook the intentionally difficult process of securing more than 4,000 signed petitions to get their names on the ballot.  Both appear to have succeeded.  Yale will announce after October 1 whether they did.  A well-known conservative columnist criticized the process here. 

These two candidates believe they can help make an even better Yale, despite being political opposites, different gender, more than 40 years’ age difference and offering different presentation styles. For now, they work together, having signed each other’s positions. I signed both and know of several classmates who did the same, even though we all know whom we prefer for the final ballot.  Because one person can sign both petitions, we cannot know the total number of alums signing petitions, but Victor has more than 6,500 and Maggie more than 4,500. Despite having different main focus, the campaigns agree that their platforms both call for more openness.  For example, Board meeting minutes are hidden for fifty years and official alumni candidates may not  comment nor take positions during the campaign. Maggie reports that when she asked for the minutes from 1970, Yale told her it could not conveniently retrieve those just now, during pandemic.

As of now, the challengers will have campaigning and communications technology to them­selves to gather support and raise awareness, which could lead to advancing their proposals for change in Yale’s opaque policies. A few savvy classmates have suggested to me that Yale might change some policies including announcing their slate sooner in response to Victor’s and Maggie’s suddenly serious challenge. covers this evolving situation because Class leaders want classmates to understand and exercise their right to vote.

I learned much about their efforts from their virtual presentations recently to the Yale Chicago Club, recorded here, where both discussed their backgrounds and goals plus responded to questions. If you react the way I did to their appearances, you’ll find that they agree that Yale’s procedures need more light.  The eighty-minute meeting  introduces the two attractive candidates and is easy to review.

Update 9/22/20 Still time to see this one: today (Tuesday, September 22, 5:15p CT), there will be a “Virtual Town Hall with Maggie Thomas and Victor Ashe” (via Zoom), where they will again describe their efforts to open Yale’s corporate kimono, this time at this virtual Yale Alumni Association of the Northwest Club meeting. Here is the link directly to the Zoom (click at 5:15pm CT to access the meeting). Other such meetings also are scheduled, notably one later this week (Thursday) with Maggie Thomas and Bill McKibben. To RSVP for the McKibben event, here’s the link:

The Chicago group also invited Yale to participate but received a “no thanks,” without explanation, from Kimberly Goff-Crews, Secretary and Vice President of University Life.  Kim has run the election for some years.   By coincidence, I knew her as Dean of Students and Vice President at the University of Chicago when I ran faculty governance there about twelve years ago.  She proved a delight to work with—transparent in all regards.  I attribute her stonewalling at Yale to suggestions from higher-ups.

Roman Weil

Roman Weil

Both Victor and Maggie are independent Yale alums seeking to pierce the Corporation’s veil of secrecy.  Victor, YC ’67, is a former mayor of Knoxville and former Ambassador to Poland. He has the backing of the William Buckley Foundation. Maggie is a 2015 graduate of the Yale School of the Environment [formerly Forestry and Environmental Studies], and an ardent professional environmentalist who worked on the Presidential campaigns of Governor Inslee [Washington State] and Senator Warren [Massachusetts]. She is the candidate of climate change champion, Yale Forward, which is associated with Harvard Forward, which elected three candidates this year in a somewhat different process.

Victor gives data on his website, here, that only 12% of Yale’s 146,000 eligible alums voted in last year’s election.  He attributes the apathy in part to Yale’s secrecy and the required lack of participation from the designated candidates.

Some may remember that last year, conservative lawyer, Nick Rosenkranz, son of ’62 classmate Bob Rosenkranz, failed to get the required petition signatures.

After the expected verification of Victor and Maggie, the next step will be Yale’s. This is the first potentially serious challenge to the system in almost two decades.


We invite your comments below.

4 comments to Yale Corporation Board of Trustees Election Should Interest You

  • David Toole

    Yale needs to be shaken up a little bit. As starters I am not happy about Halloween costume fiasco, name change of Calhoun College, the dismissal of basketball Captain without due process and the stupidity of not maintaining the Yale golf course during the early stages of COVID shutdown.

  • Chris CORY

    My vote is decidedly not a forgone conclusion but I lean toward youth and the environment
    Chris cory

  • Jan Greer

    The only way in which I disagree with Dave Toole, as you all know by now, is I would have said, “a whole lot” rather than “a litle bit.”