How to Be President of Yale Forever (At Least)

Vartan Gregorian once said the way to become a successful college president is simple: stand up, give a speech on “diversity,” then sit down.

Richard Levin, president of Yale, is the longest-lasting president of an Ivy League university, and following Gregorian’s sage advice is surely one reason why. Whenever a serious incident occurs at Yale, Levin’s first instinct is to put out a resonant but off-key statement stoutly defending a point not really at issue.

•  In the Patrick Witt case, how would Yale deal with the destruction of
a student’s reputation, after it sponsored a leaked “secret” hearing on
a rape accusation at which he wasn’t allowed to testify? Levin: the
Yale administration “thought it was important to provide greater
transparency about the entire array of concerns–including verbal
harassment and sexual assault….” “there is no place for any form of
sexual misconduct on our campus.”

•  On the decision by the Yale University Press to censor pictures of
the Danish cartoons in a book on the subject. Levin: “The Yale Press is
not a platform for anyone to speak their mind. Any book accepted goes
under a scrupulous process for review. Access to publication on the
University’s press is not like the opportunity to speak on Beinecke

•  Should the frat DKE be suspended for five years for a vile satiric
chant by pledges? Levin (with Dean Mary Miller): “Yale has policies that
broadly protect freedom of expression, but we also value decency and
civility….We will confront hateful speech when it has been uttered,
and we take this opportunity do so in no uncertain terms…”

•  What are the proper parameters of legal police monitoring of some
campus Muslim groups
, after at least one-time terrorist connections to
Queens College, Colorado State, the University of Southern California,
Brooklyn College and M.I.T. have come to light? (See Judith Miller’s
today). Levin: “I am writing to state, in the strongest possible
terms, that police surveillance based on religion, nationality, or
peacefully expressed political opinions is antithetical to the values of
Yale, the academic community, and the United States.”

Pitch-perfect PC stuff. How could he possibly lose his job?


  • John Leo

    John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

One thought on “How to Be President of Yale Forever (At Least)”

  1. Exactly what is so “vile” about the satiric chant of “No means yes! Yes means anal!”? It’s a brilliant parody of what women’s studies programs have been saying about male sexual attitudes for decades. Any vileness, such as it is, comes from the all-too-deserving targets of the satire. Not the satire’s creators.

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