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Don Edwards '64 reports on the 2016 AYA Assembly

Don Edwards is the representative of the Class of 1964 to the AYA (Association of Yale Alumni), and as such he attends the annual AYA Assembly. Here is his report on the AYA Assembly on November 10-11, 2016.

AYA Assembly LXXVI
November 10-11, 2016

Report to the Class of 1964

The 76th meeting of the AYA Assembly opened the day after the outcome of the 2016 election had become clear, and signs of the impact were everywhere on campus. As I walked across Cross Campus to the opening session in Sprague Hall, I saw many chalked messages on the stones expressing anxiety, resistance, and mutual support for those feeling vulnerable. Bulletin boards on Old Campus and Cross Campus were filled with signs:

The headline in the Yale Daily News read, “Campus Despondent After Trump Victory.”

Don Edwards '64, AYA Representative

While President Salovey would speak about the impact of the election the next day, his opening remarks on Thursday focused on the Assembly theme “Teaching to our Strengths: Yale’s Schools of Art, Architecture, Drama, and Music.” He noted that Yale is the only Ivy with four professional schools of the arts, each of which ranks at the top among their peers (including conservatories). Yale can claim the first college art gallery (1828), the first art department (1869), and the first music school (1894). Each of the four schools is harder to get into than Yale College. Thanks to the Adams gift of $100 million to the School of Music, its students enjoy free tuition. Only the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia offers similar financial assistance.

Salovey’s remarks served as an introduction to a panel of the deans of the four schools. Marta Kuzma was named Dean of the School of Art this year, coming to Yale from the Royal Institute of Art in Sweden. She did not hesitate to claim that her school is the best in the country. 95% of admitted students enroll, and the School is able to cover 83% of financial need.

James Bundy, ’95 MFA, has been Dean of the Drama School since 2002. Drama has a long history at Yale, but the School became an independent entity in 1955. While Yale’s acting alumni are world-famous, Bundy argued that the School’s competitive advantage is its strength in design, directing, dramaturgy and criticism, playwriting, stage management, tech and theater management (a joint MBA program).

New York architect Deborah Berke became Dean of Architecture on July 1 after teaching as an adjunct since 1987. The field has a 100-year history at Yale and enrolls 200 students in four graduate degree programs, as well as an undergraduate major. It offers joint programs with Environment & Forestry and with Management, and has initiated a new Ph. D. program.

Robert Blocker began by noting the scope of Yale’s musical life; 30% of all students participate in music; half the residential colleges and the Medical School support orchestras. Founded in 1894, the School of Music, like the School of Fine Arts, admitted women. Forty per cent of its 200 students (which include the Institute of Sacred Music) are international. Unlike Curtis and Juilliard, Music is a professional school integrated in a university. To the enormous benefit of the Yale community (and those of us privileged to live nearby), it offers over 300 performances a year, almost all of which are free.

The panel of deans was followed by brief presentations from six students and two faculty ranging from “The Dramaturgical Toolkit” to “Textures of the Anthropocene and a New Opera.”  Delegates then fanned out for lunch in the residential colleges. The afternoon offered three sessions of electives. From “Fireside Chats” with faculty and students, I chose “Music I: In Search of Authentic Performance.” For the second session, “Behind the Scenes,” I opted for a hardhat tour of the Adams Center for Musical Arts, which includes both renovations and a major addition to Hendrie Hall that connects it to Leigh Hall, home to the School of Music, but which we may remember as the health service.
My third choice was “Up Close with the King of Instruments,” an interactive recital on the Bozyan Memorial Organ in Dwight Chapel. Only 24 hours earlier, the Chapel was packed for a concert by Shades, an African-American a cappella group, singing We Shall Overcome and other songs of solidarity.

Day One closed with the Volunteer Leadership Awards Reception in the President’s Room of Woolsey Hall. Notable among the awardees was the Class of 2011, which had a 57.2% alumni attendance at its 5th Reunion, the highest of any class at any reunion in Yale history.

I began the second day with a session for Class delegates and picked up some interesting ideas that I will share with our Class Council. Anyone for a joint Birthday BASH! when we turn 75 next year?

President Salovey’s address on "University Priorities and Academic Investments" is covered thoroughly and well by Yale News in this article. He summarized the new mission statement by saying that Yale is the research university in the world that is the most committed to teaching. He also noted that Yale needs to invest $2 billion in science over the next decade (the next capital campaign?). During the Q&A, Salovey said his biggest concerns about the new administration involve research funding (which could be squeezed by new infrastructure spending), immigration restrictions that could impact faculty and student recruitment, and efforts to tax university endowments. He also made a strong case that freedom of speech is alive and well at Yale, and also made a reasonably convincing explanation of why he appointed a committee to develop principles to guide issues of re-naming buildings.

At lunch, the Yale-Jefferson Public Service Awards were presented as described in this Yale News article. The afternoon plenary session was largely devoted to the Alumni Diversity & Inclusion Task Force, and I attended their workshop in the Afro-American Cultural Center in the former Chi Psi House.

The closing dinner in Commons featured the Yale Medal Awards, as described in this Yale News article. Our Class was well represented by two previous Medal recipients, Chris Getman and Terry Holcombe. The third medalist in our Class is Len Baker.

I’m grateful to the Class Council for asking me to participate in the Assembly, and I especially enjoyed this one on the arts, a passion that was deeply nurtured during my undergraduate years. For more detail on the Assembly program, see this Yale News article.