Yale University – an oligarchy exposed


If you want to see the operations of an oligarchy exposed – the same sort of oligarchs who appear to have seized control of the USA as a whole – look no further than the governing board of Yale University.

Yale is a nonprofit corporation and a very wealthy one, whose alumni are supposed to elect its governing board. Ordinarily, Yale alumni get a ballot containing two candidates for each open slot on the board. The two candidates are chosen by . . . the board.

You can vote for whichever one you like, but the candidates are forbidden from taking any positions on any issues. The biographical information that comes with the ballots is scanty and, as I can attest, almost entirely useless in deciding whom to vote for.

Until recently, there was a safety valve: A candidate who could gather enough petitions could have his or her name placed before the alumni, too, running against the two candidates the board nominated. The last time that happened successfully was the first time a Jewish candidate, William Horowitz, was elected to Yale’s governing board. That was in 1965.

But this year, a distinguished Yale alumnus, Victor Ashe, a former mayor of Knoxville and ambassador to Poland, ran his own petition campaign. 

Ashe wanted to end the secrecy that defines Yale governance. (How secret? The minutes of board meetings aren’t released until 50 years later.) In particular, Ashe had questions about the operation of Yale’s endowment, which, though huge, hasn’t been managed as well as some other schools’, though one board member’s investment firm has reaped multimillion-dollar management fees, according to Yale’s 2018 tax return.

Ashe, in other words, ran a campaign on openness and reform. And he lost, which was a disappointment, but not a disgrace.

The disgrace was that, even before the election result was announced, the Yale board met in secret and abolished the petition process. Apparently, even the possibility that an outsider might challenge the insiders’ choices was intolerable.

The net effect is that a small group now controls a multibillion-dollar corporation, with no real accountability. As Ashe told me, “They’ve seized control without any outside supervision. . . . It’s a $31 billion corporation. That’s not pocket change.”

There’s more at the link.

The arrogance and insularity displayed by the board are absolutely breathtaking in their impudence and insouciance.  Challenged to be more open, honest and accountable, instead they slam the windows shut, preventing even one single breath of fresh air from penetrating the fusty, stale frowsiness of their once-venerable institution.  Allow greater transparency?  Allow alumni a greater say in the running of their alma mater?  Perish the thought!

I don’t know whether, or how, it might be possible to challenge and overthrow this unelected, dictatorial board of governors, but if it can be done, it should be done.  They’ve just demonstrated their complete and utter lack of fitness for their positions – not to mention exhibiting what appears to be at least underhandedness, possibly pandering to self-interest, perhaps even gross dishonesty, in the ethics of their governance.

How can anyone be proud of graduating from a once-great institution such as Yale, a former bastion in the evolution of what was once the greatest democracy in the world, when it’s now seemingly governed by undemocratic, arrogant oligarchs who’ll blatantly feather their own nests at the expense of their alumni?



  1. This is the same big mega question for many organisations. Where is the accountability and to whom? Student unions are a classic case when it comes to this.

  2. Having worked in higher ed, I can tell you how you hurt them, and it's nothing but a variation of what you do to hurt any business-hit'em in the wallet. In this case, you get the alumni to withhold contributions. You go after corps who underwrite research. Get them to stop encouraging promising young students to attend.

    The problem, as with any boycott, is getting them to do it. Most alums of large, famous universities have a near pathological love for their alma mater. It extends down into smaller schools as well. It's all those warm memories of fall football games and spring breaks with your friends, all of whom happen to go to your school. They forget the endless hours of drudge work in the name of "education" and the crappy instructors who didn't want them to think, but just barf their notes up on the test sheets.

    I enjoyed some of my time in school. Some of it sucked. But most people submerge the later and enshrine the former. Beats me why.

  3. Soooo, one could be voted onto the Board…but couldn't vote? Why would anyone go along with that? Still, it gives me the opportunity to say that the STUPID is STRONG in Yale ones.

  4. If they weren’t ‘old school’ I’d wonder why the minutes of the meetings hadn’t been hacked. As it happens there are two schools of thought on that. Primus they only exist on paper locked in a vault. Secundus, they have been hacked repeatedly and the board has spent billions to get them back from hackers. This would explain the poor performance of the endowment.

  5. After what Ivy League 'intellectuals' have done to America, a bullet to the back of the head is the only 'reform' they deserve.

  6. Always said that Stalin was a moron with his "whoever counts the votes" idiocy. Power lies with the guy who gets to pick the candidates. They win no matter how the votes are counted.

  7. Get enough alumni to vote no confidence on the lot of them. I know, fat frikkin' chance….

  8. The only thing new about this story is that we're seeing this story. You don't think that this is exactly how University Boards have been run since they were first conceived over 1,000 years ago? Even your Homeowner's Association Board is run like this. 5 US presidents and 19 Supreme Court Justices came out of Yale. And they like it this way.

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