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Dueling petitions at Yale have faculty divided over classroom politics

One calls for objective teaching, other emphasizes ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’

Hundreds of Yale University faculty have taken sides in a battle over the future direction of the school ahead of coming changes in the top administration.

One petition by a group known as Faculty For Yale calls for a return to the university’s mission of preserving, producing and transmitting knowledge by teaching objectively without an activist standpoint.

The petition, signed by about 150 faculty over the past five months, supports the avoidance of partisan influence in lesson plans.

“Yale as an institution should not prescribe any moral or political positions as institutional orthodoxy or treat the failure to endorse such a position as grounds for sanction or exclusion, whether formal or informal,” it states. “Doing so thins our collective knowledge and experience and diminishes the truth-seeking enterprise in which we are all engaged.”

Accounting Professor Rick Antle, who signed the petition, said political issues do not come up much in his classes. But he said he sometimes uses current events as examples.

“For example, we have discussed the accounting rules for personal financial statements as the issue arose in the New York v. Donald J. Trump, et al and the particular objections to the financial statements that the defendants submitted in the process of obtaining loans,” Antle told The College Fix in a recent email.

“In my classes, I try to model being open minded and logical. I also try to stay focused on the task at hand – helping students learn, develop critical thinking skills, etc.,” he said.

The petition emphasizes the need for “robust free expression,” critical thinking, and a broad spectrum of viewpoints at the university.

It also asks for more administrative transparency and a commitment to objective teaching first and foremost, according to the petition website.

Second petition supports ‘diversity,’ inclusion of BIPOC and LGBTQ+

After Faculty for Yale released its petition, another faculty group issued a different list of priorities for the university in the form of a letter to the next president. Current President Peter Salovey recently announced his plan to step down.

The letter, which had 215 signatories as of April 10, urges the next president to commit to “the advances that have changed Yale for the better in the recent decades,” including greater inclusion of “BIPOC and LGBTQ+” communities.

Yale must “reject faux-populist” and “politically motivated” attacks on universities and their DEI programs, the letter states. It also says “critical thought and free speech on campus require structural support and protection,” and “there is no excellence without diversity.”

“…[W]e call on you to reject calls to ‘Make Yale Great Again’ and continue to work toward making Yale a model for inclusion and diversity – the true guarantee for excellence,” the letter states.

The Fix contacted twelve signatories three times by email in recent weeks, asking if the letter is a direct response to the Faculty For Yale petition and what they believe Yale’s guiding principles should be. None responded.

Meanwhile, quantum physics Professor Thomas Appelquist, a supporter of the Faculty For Yale petition, said he believes the letter was written in direct reaction to theirs.

“I hadn’t seen this petition … It does seem to be a response to the [Faculty For Yale] statement,” Appelquist told The Fix in a recent email.

Antle told The Fix those who teach from Faculty For Yale’s perspective believe in talking about divisive issues from all angles and with an open mind.

“My goal is to be objective and fair, but also to underscore the fact that objectivity and fairness are essential in the preparation of financial statements,” Antle said. “That said, judgments are inevitably involved in preparing financial statements, and there is room for professional disagreement.”

The petition comes amid concerns about a lack of ideological diversity at Ivy League campuses. A recent Yale Daily News investigation found 93% of political contributions by Yale faculty went to Democrats.

Karen Peart, associate vice president of communications, did not respond to three requests for comment from The Fix, asking about the petitions, faculty political donations, and the possibility of meeting with both groups to discuss their ideas.

MORE: Yale University employs nearly one administrator per undergrad

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Morgan Kromer is a student at Columbia College Chicago where she studies journalism. Previously she was an associate editor at Missouri Baptist University’s student news organization.