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Faculty and students question Yale’s fundraising priorities


Yale Daily News

Yale’s latest fundraising campaign, which spear on October 2 and aims to raise $ 7 billion, sparked discussion among students and faculty about Yale’s growing importance to science, as well as how Yale’s $ 31.2 billion endowment can be allocated in the most efficient and ethical manner.

The fundraising campaign takes place once during the term of each president. University President Peter Salovey’s campaign to raise $ 7 billion for various science and leadership initiatives is called “For Humanity”. Members of the Yale community took issue with the campaign’s focus on science – given Yale’s historic strength in the humanities – as well as the size of the University’s fundraising goal compared to his voluntary contribution to New Haven.

“This campaign seeks to raise $ 7 billion, and Yale’s annual contribution to New Haven is $ 13 million,” said Logan Roberts ’23. “If they are successful in this fundraising campaign, they will successfully reap 538 years of contributions to New Haven. It’s wonderful to want to serve humanity, but humanity starts here. It starts with listening to unions and students.

Roberts, who is the director of affordability for Yale College Council and chairman of the Yale First-Generation and / or Low Income Advocacy Movement, pointed out that Yale’s previous fundraising campaign, which ended in 2011, followed a recession. . Since the current campaign begins amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Roberts said, the university should continue its fundraising efforts with the interests of low-income communities in mind.

Activists both on and off campus pleaded for Yale to allocate its endowment more equitably by increasing its investment in the city of New Haven. In the past, university officials have pointed out that Yale has increased its voluntary payment to the city in times of need – the figure rose to $ 13 million last year, a 50 percent increase over several years ago. But residents contend that the contribution remains a small fraction of the University’s endowment.

People also objected to where Yale allocated money within the University.

Philosophy professor Jason Stanley took issue with the campaign’s launch event in particular, noting that the event’s main faculty speakers were overwhelmingly from STEM fields. For Stanley, this erasure of the humanities in the campaign’s opening speakers was indicative of a broader “attack” on humanities fields in the United States that Yale is not doing its part to help prevent.

“The humanities at Yale are tough, are incredibly sterling,” Stanley said. “They are just amazing, and you can’t take that for granted. I think science is expensive and it takes a lot of money for science. We should actually fundraise for science. Bring the sciences to the level of the humanities. But constantly putting scientists as spokespersons for what humanists do is wrong. And Yale does that all the time.

While Stanley acknowledged that scientific fields also deserved recognition in the fundraising campaign, he suggested that Yale was “hiding the humanities” rather than raising them sufficiently.

However, Josien van Wolfswinkel, assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology, stressed that science-oriented fundraising efforts are needed more immediately due to the price of reagents, equipment and analytical services. In January item Per the News, Faculty of Arts and Sciences dean of humanities, Kathryn Lofton, said Yale’s humanities programs are already receiving all the resources they need from headquarters.

“Other institutes have been going a long time ago and have started funding their science departments and graduate student programs from endowments,” van Wolfswinkel said. “Frequently, successful science teachers leave Yale because they find [a] better environment for science elsewhere. If Yale is to keep science, they have no choice but to start spending money on it. “

Van Wolfswinkel added that Yale spends about $ 50,000 each year on materials for every science student.

Associate professor of the history of science, Bill Rankin, however suggested that Yale could benefit from a conversation between the humanities faculty, as well as between the faculty and the administration, about the impact of financial support on social science.

I have my own thoughts, mostly related to the issues I see on a daily basis as a faculty member, but the point is to have a larger conversation, not just fund my own ideas, ”Rankin said. “I guess the University can invest money in the sciences and the humanities, and transformative support for the humanities will prove to be quite cheap in comparison.”

Rankin further stressed the importance of funding Yale’s science programs, noting that funding science often involves making decisions about immediate needs, such as equipment, lab space, and research personnel, for example. opposition to the longer-term nature of funding for the humanities.

In general, Rankin said, Yale’s fundraising mission is worth it, providing opportunities for more faculty and research, and a more substantial partnership with New Haven.

“If we think Yale should be devoting more of its energy and resources to some priorities than others, or should do more, say, to defend academic freedom, then I think that’s a good argument for work to influence Yale’s priorities, not an argument against fundraising, ”Rankin said.

The students told the News that they were having general issues with the size and allocation of the University’s endowment.

“Yale’s endowment is rooted in the displacement of indigenous peoples and the Atlantic slave trade,” Josephine Steuer Ingall ’23 wrote in an email to the News. “At its current value of $ 31 billion, it is worth more than the GDP of a hundred sovereign countries. Yet Yale refuses to pay its fair share of taxes.

Ingall, an organizer of the Yale Endowment Justice Coalition, said that more than half of Yale’s real estate value is not subject to property tax because it is owned either by the nonprofit university or Yale New Haven Hospital, and therefore can benefit from an exemption.

University spokeswoman Karen Peart told the News that Yale’s endowment consists of donations made to the university during its lifetime, often with restrictions on how donation income invested can be spent.

“Yale’s endowment is limited to various aspects of the university’s primary mission – from financial aid to faculty salaries, research and scholarships, and student activities,” Peart wrote in a e-mail to News. “The endowment fund supports thousands of good jobs in New Haven – faculty and staff, union and non-union jobs. ”

Peart added that the University spends about a quarter of its endowment every five years.

The Endowment Justice Coalition advocates that Yale divest itself of its endowment from the fossil fuel industry or other industries that members consider unethical. Coalition members recently refused to pay their student activity fees of $ 100, Ingall said, collectively redistributing $ 4,000 to local organizations and self-help projects.

“Yale spends each year well below its expected return on investment ranges,” Ingall said. “If they wanted to contribute to city services and fund climate-resilient infrastructure in low-lying black and brown neighborhoods particularly prone to warming-induced natural disasters, they could, and they could do it now.” If they wanted to invest in Yale’s academic mission, improve accessibility and health services, get rid of the student income contribution, or even eliminate tuition fees, they could. If they wanted to “transform society, deepen human understanding and open the doors to greater prosperity and greater well-being for millions of people,” as Salovey said at the meeting. [campaign] throw, they might.

Peart told the News that the University is already spending as much as it can to support the New Haven community “without unfairly taking on those who will come after us.”

Peart added that no city in America receives a larger voluntary payment from a university than New Haven, and that the university continues to support the city through “various volunteer programs and efforts.”

But for EJC organizer Moses Goren ’23, the university’s continued investment in the fossil fuel industry is a problematic contradiction to the fundraising theme, “For Humanity”. In September, Harvard University engaged to disengage from the fossil fuel industry.

Salovey’s campaign is scheduled to end in June 2026.

Isaac Yu contributed reporting.


Lucy Hodgman covers student life. She previously covered the Yale College Council for the News. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, she is in her second year at Grace Hopper majoring in English.


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