Friday, January 24, 2014

A Pair of Interesting Letters to the Editor

This month's Yale Alumni Magazine actually has something of interest, a brief (too brief) interview with Sandra Boynton, one of the best living writers for children under the age of four. It also contains a telling letter to the editor (buried in here) by Claude Thau, which reads in part:
I think this is my first letter to your magazine, stimulated by what appears to be a disingenuous response by communications director Elizabeth Stauderman to Charles Thomasson’s criticism of redistribution of gifts from one residential college to another.

Ms. Stauderman seems to say that because of the designated gifts to some residential colleges, other normal funding was diverted. The net effect is that the designated funds’ intended impact appears to have been significantly compromised. It seems that the donors wanted to benefit their residential colleges, but Yale is playing an accounting game to replace the donors’ intent with administrators’ goals.

The goal of similar experience for students regardless of residential college is understandable, but that end does not justify inappropriate means. Before doing such redistribution, Yale should secure permission from the donor (or a deceased donor’s representative).
Thau goes on to note that Yale is not the only university to replace donors' intent with administrators' goals. He suggests that there are other ways for a donor to "assure that her wishes are reflected in the use of the money."

Another letter writer, Leight Johnson, questioned Yale's use of funds:

Browsing through my alumni magazine the other day, I learned that Yale had recently renovated the president’s residence for 17 million dollars. I recognize that the leader of a prestigious university deserves first-class living quarters, and that he probably does a lot of entertaining, but I find it hard to imagine what must have been done to the building to cost that much. The United States Supreme Court building was constructed in the 1930s for less than 10 million dollars. The Empire State building, 102 stories high, was built for just over 40 million (land included).

After thinking it over, I carefully tore up the check to the Alumni Fund that I had just written. It seemed the right thing to do.