Dear Fellow Members of the Yale Faculty,
I write to share my response to the recommendations of the Gift Policy Review Committee, which I formed in February to ensure that our practices concerning donations to the university align fully with Yale’s fundamental commitment to the academic freedom of the faculty. I charged the committee to review the university’s current gift acceptance procedures and recommend any modifications to them. I also asked the committee to make recommendations on how best to communicate relevant policies to the faculty, as well as how a faculty member can share with the administration any concerns about the acceptance of a gift.
During the spring semester, members of the committee conducted extensive research on the development of gift policies at Yale and other institutions. They consulted with colleagues across campus and experts at other universities, and they benefited from the thoughtful input many of you submitted through the committee’s webform. In its deliberations, the committee took to heart the Woodward Report’s observation that the very function of the university requires “the fullest degree of intellectual freedom.”
The committee provided me its recommendations in May. I carefully considered those recommendations and the suggestions and comments you made through emails, the webform, and discussions. Over the summer, I instructed relevant university leaders to begin implementing many of the committee’s recommendations to ensure that Yale is clear about the bedrock principle of academic freedom in its engagement with donors. Below I list the committee’s recommendations and the university’s actions.
Clarifying the overarching principles under which gifts may be made and accepted: The committee recommended revisions to the paragraph pertaining to academic freedom within the university’s Gift Acceptance and Review Policy. The current policy now reflects the committee’s recommended changes.
Codifying protocol for university advisory bodies: Members of the committee wrote a statement and advised that it be added to the guidelines used by development officers in their discussions with donors, and they provided a clause for use in those gift agreements that establish advisory bodies. Both recommendations have been adopted, and the university has already begun incorporating the proposed clause in relevant gift agreements.
Specifying reporting mechanisms for the resolution of faculty concern: The committee noted that Yale has mechanisms in place for faculty members to discuss, report, file, and resolve concerns or complaints. The committee recommended utilizing existing procedures, as described in Section III.M of the Yale Faculty Handbook, for resolving or reporting concerns regarding possible violations of the university’s gift policy. In addition, the committee noted that all university community members may express concerns informally through discussion and consultation with relevant university representatives, or anonymously through the University Hotline.
Adding relevant language to the Faculty Handbook: The committee recommended adding to the Yale Faculty Handbook text that states explicitly Yale’s commitment to academic freedom. The following statement is being added to the handbook:
Academic freedom and the spirit of free intellectual inquiry are fundamental to Yale’s mission. Faculty members who believe they have been improperly restrained in the exercise of their academic freedom may seek redress under the provisions of Sections III.L, III.M, or III.N of this Handbook, depending on the nature of the alleged infringement.
Proposing approaches to communication and education regarding gift policy: The committee recommended methods to communicate and provide ongoing familiarity with Yale’s gift policy. The Office of the Provost has updated its website to include the revised gift policy and related information, such as how members of the university community can bring forward questions and concerns through the mechanisms described above. The Office of the Provost also will disseminate the gift policy to staff members involved in the administration of gifts. The Office of Development will continue to educate relevant staff members about Yale’s gift acceptance principles and protocols for advisory bodies. In addition, the Yale campaign website now includes a link to the gift policy, and gift officers will share it with colleagues who are engaged in fundraising work with them.
Specifying related issues that would benefit from further attention: During their deliberations, members of the committee identified several areas outside but related to their charge that warrant attention to further reinforce Yale’s commitment to the free inquiry of the faculty. I value this input and will continue to consider these ideas, some of which have already been addressed. For example, the Office of Development is organizing workshops for staff and gift officers to ensure they are familiar with Yale’s gift acceptance and review principles.
I am deeply grateful to the members of the committee for their thoroughness in seeking input from colleagues at Yale and beyond, for their in-depth research, and for their thoughtful deliberations: Julia Adams, Margaret H. Marshall Professor of Sociology (chair); Erica Herzog, John Slade Ely Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary) and professor of pathology; Paul Turner, Rachel Carson Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Amy Wrzesniewski, Michael H. Jordan Professor of Management; Julie Zimmerman, professor of chemical and environmental engineering, environment, and epidemiology; Cynthia Carr, deputy general counsel; Eugénie Gentry, associate vice president and campaign director for development; and Lloyd Suttle, vice provost for academic resources. I also appreciate all of you who took the time to share your perspectives and advice with the committee and me.
The committee’s work and your engagement with it underscore the centrality of academic freedom to our community. The actions being implemented in response to the committee’s recommendations ensure that practices surrounding gifts to the university—generous contributions that allow us to carry out Yale’s mission to improve the world today and for future generations—remain aligned with the institution’s unwavering commitment to free inquiry. As a community, we are rearticulating and reemphasizing that members of the faculty shape the curriculum and set the course for their research, scholarship, and teaching at Yale.
With best regards,
Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology