Home Faculty meeting FAS Senate calls on Yale to include academic freedom guarantees in gift policies

FAS Senate calls on Yale to include academic freedom guarantees in gift policies


The Senate released its resolution after its inquiry into the resignation of history professor Beverly Gage from the Grand Strategy program.


Yale Daily News

On Thursday, the Senate of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences released a resolution calling on the University to include protections against donor influence in its donation policies.

Last month, history professor Beverly Gage resigned from her position as Director of the Grand Strategy Program Directorate, citing outside influences from prominent donors. The move sparked conversations about academic freedom and prompted an FAS Senate investigation in academic freedom at Yale. The Senate has since spoken to Gage and a roster of trustees, including University President Peter Salovey, University President Scott Strobel, Vice President of Global Strategy Pericles Lewis and FAS Dean. Tamar Gendler. On Thursday, the Senate held a meeting and issued a resolution to faculty members.

The Senate resolution calls on the University to create a new faculty committee to review existing agreements with donors and recommend gift agreement policies that protect academic freedom. The faculty committee would also establish an appeal process for faculty to voice concerns about violations of academic freedom.

According to FAS Senate President Valerie Horsley, a professor familiar with the Grand Strategy program said her 2006 endowment agreement was created with no intention of interfering with the curriculum. Horsley did not name the professor. Still, senators unanimously passed the resolution aimed at increasing university-wide transparency around academic freedom.

“It was clear that the faculty was concerned about academic freedom,” Horsley told the News. “We, as the Senate, wanted to ensure that the University provides transparency and establishes principles for the protection of academic freedom that are clear to faculty and anyone else who may interact with faculty and trying to interfere with academic freedom. “

The resolution asserts that the influence of donors on specific programs, the hiring of professors and the direction of research may constitute “threats” to academic freedom and notes that the “events of recent years” have raised concerns. as to the influence of donors on the activities of teachers. He also claims that the faculty manual “lacks specific policies to protect academic freedom from donor influence” and directs administrators to incorporate those policies into the manual.

University spokeswoman Karen Peart did not comment on the resolution, but highlighted the Web page of the University’s current $ 7 billion fundraiser, who stipulates that only gifts which “do not infringe upon academic freedom†are accepted.

“The University fully shares the desire of the FAS Senate to defend academic freedom,” Peart wrote to the News.

Law and political science professor Akhil Amar ’80 LAW ’84, who was invited to speak at the meeting on the relationship between academic freedom and the First Amendment, said Yale’s current discussions on the academic freedom reflect the discourse of the past.

“I insisted that just as the faculty 50 years ago played a leading role in defining first principles in the context of the conflicts of that time, the faculty should also play a leading role. plan trying to think about academic freedom issues. involved by recent developments, â€Amar said.

Amar pointed out the 1975 report of the Free Speech Committee at Yale, commonly referred to as the Woodward Report. In her 2014 freshman speech, Salovey praised the report, which was written in response to outcry over several canceled speeches with controversial figures including George Wallace and William Shockley.

However, university lawyers have recently argued in Bandy Lee’s MED ’94 DIV ’95 free speech lawsuit that Yale is not contractually obligated to report, and is primarily a “statement of principle.” Lee’s attorneys claim she was fired from her medical school professorship over a tweet she wrote saying Alan Dershowitz LAW ’62 and other Trump supporters have ” a shared psychosis â€.

Gendler told the News that academic freedom is “fundamental” to the university’s mission and that Yale is “uncompromising” in its commitment to support such freedom.

Yet unlike the policies of the capitalization campaign, Yale’s policy University-wide gift policies do not currently explicitly mention the protection of academic freedom and allow donors to impose certain restrictions on the spending of gifts. The policies state that gifts should not “contradict†the mission of the University.

Several other universities have policies that contain language regarding academic freedom.

Horsley specifically pointed out George Mason University in Virginia, which was sued in 2019 for creating giveaway agreements that gave donors influence over faculty affairs and now has several clauses explicitly protecting academic freedoms in its policies.

that of Harvard policy guide explicitly names academic freedom as a “general consideration†on donation conditions; University of North Carolina requires that faculty be consulted on the effects of a donation on the curriculum during the donation acceptance process. Stanford University faculty manual contains a formal process for faculty to appeal decisions they consider violations of academic freedom. Meanwhile, Brown Politics defines gifts as gifts “for which nothing in return is promised, expected, implied or forthcoming to the donor.

Gendler told the News that she was delighted the University made explicit commitments to academic freedom during the recent fundraising campaign.

Horsley began her one-year tenure as President of the FAS Senate in September.


Isaac Yu writes about Yale faculty and academics. He’s also the production and design editor for the News, and has previously covered transportation and urban planning in New Haven. Originally from Garland, Texas, he is a sophomore at Berkeley College majoring in urban studies.


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