Beverly Gage and fellow Yale professors sound the alarm on academic freedom after resignation
The historian’s decision prompted professors to call on the University to make a firm commitment to shield academia from donor influences.
Courtesy of Beverly Gage
After announcing her resignation from the Grand Strategy program, history professor Beverly Gage expressed concern about the influence donors have on academic expression at Yale. As fellow professors sounded the alarm bells about academic freedom, University President Peter Salovey pledged to more rigorously assess the University’s approach to giving.
Gage, who resigned last week, attributed his decision to leave the program to the ultimately successful attempts by Nicholas Brady ’52 and Charles Johnson ’54 – who endowed the Grand Strategy program in 2006 – to pressure administrative officials to appoint a conservative majority to a new – set up an advisory board to oversee nominations to the program. She told the News that other special programs like Grand Strategy, whose endowments lie outside Yale’s academic departments and general funding streams, are particularly vulnerable to pressure from donors. Greater transparency and accountability should be added to the donation process in order to protect academic freedom in the future, she said.
Salovey told the News that the administration plans to make limited systemic or procedural changes to the donor process. The University needs to make sure, he said, that “everyone has a common understanding of where the lines are, what is appropriate donor involvement and what would be donor involvement. inappropriate donor “.
He further explained that the University must balance its obligations to both its faculty and donors.
“There are probably two principles that are really important to honor,” said Salovey. ” The first is [that] the academic freedom to teach and study in an unhindered way… is sacrosanct at the University.
The second principle, he added, is that the University “[has] an obligation towards our donors to respect the agreements to honor the agreements that we conclude with them.
In the days following the announcement of her resignation, Gage saw a “wave” of encouragement from dozens of faculty members and historians, she told the News. Individual professors have expressed disappointment with the University on Twitter, and the history department has posted a declaration support for Gage Friday.
“The last few days have been really encouraging for me to see how seriously people take the issue of academic freedom, to see the level of attention it receives and the response that has been requested from the University” , Gage said.
The Senate of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which issued its own press release Friday, will begin an investigation this week. The executive board plans to meet with Gage and Salovey this week and determine appropriate measures to prevent future incidents, Senate Speaker Valerie Horsley told The News.
Asked about specific policies that would strengthen protections for academic freedom, Gage suggested that a university official could be appointed as an ombudsman, or neutral third party, in the event of a dispute. Increased transparency requirements regarding donor agreements and administrative actions could also help, she said.
Meanwhile, Gage colleagues continue to voice concerns about the threat to academic freedom.
“It sounds like a textbook violation of academic freedom,” philosophy professor Jason Stanley told The News. “The University is an extremely rich institution, and we have an enormous endowment. There is no reason why we should even suggest to donors that they can have control of our program.
University president Peter Salovey accepted the responsibility last Friday, saying in a declaration that he “should have made more efforts to improve the situation”. Yet, as the News reported last week, Vice-President Academic Affairs Pericles Lewis denied that donors exercised undue influence over the program and reiterated that the new board had no influence. than on practitioner appointments, rather than program decisions.
Gage said he was briefly shown part of the 2006 gift deal outlining the five-member advisory board, and that the powers of appointment to the Grand Strategy advisory board were explicitly granted to the chairman of the University. The News did not review the 2006 giveaway deal.
According to Emeritus Professor of History Glenda Gilmore, the University has “catastrophically” failed to properly balance these two principles.
“Academic freedom is sacrosanct, but Salovey and Lewis’s comments suggest they tried to please donors while trying to persuade Gage to acquiesce to their interference,” Gilmore wrote in an email. “At the first complaint from donors, whether it is Bryan [Garsten’s] op-ed or Gage’s lesson plans, they should have made it clear that such conversations were inappropriate and would be prohibited in the future.
“If there is one thing the administration owes to the faculty, it is the protection of academic freedom. If they were so wrong, what else could happen? Gilmore added.
Stanley further noted that public universities in various states currently face outside influence when it comes to teaching subjects such as critical race theory. A wealthy private institution like Yale, he said, has “no excuse” for allowing outside pressure on academia.
Salovey wrote in his initial statement that he had heard concerns from professors and alumni about academic freedom and was committed to making changes accordingly.
The Great Strategy program was created in 2000.