Report from YAA Assembly and Convocation



November 10-11, 2022


Richard G. Bell ’54, YAA Delegate

With the retirement of Jim Monde, Dick Bell is now our Class of 1954 Yale Alumni Association Delegate. Dick’s stimulating report of the recent Assembly and Convocation is found below. Please note: the links througout this report will provide you with more information about the presentations mentioned.

– Dan Strickler, Class Secretary

This year’s Assembly and Convocation, held by the Yale Alumni Association and Yale Alumni Fund on November 10th and 11th, was entitled, “Yale’s Global Initiatives: Impact for Humanity.” Three online programs preceded the actual event. One of these was an update on University affairs by President Peter Salovey, and one was by Dr. David Bercovici, Co-Director of the Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture, explaining that organization’s role. The third was a YAA procedural.

On the weekend of the Assembly, New Haven’s Omni Hotel was the focal point of activity, Yale’s Sprague Hall the favored lecture site. “Yale’s Global Initiatives: Impact for Humanity” was the ambitious but fitting title of the event. I did not get the registration, but my guess is 200–250.

I confess to a slight touch of skepticism at the outset. This was my first exposure to a YAA event. This is the Alumni Fund as well as the Alumni office, right? It’s all about money. So I listened to the opening awards presentations with a Chamber of Commerce eye and ear. I began to think it was too repetitive and was going on too long. Wrong. A kind of subtle hum of buzz was developing and it dawned on me that this was a silent “WOW” as the geographic reach and extent of the effort and influence of the YAA became apparent. It was a case of quick conversion, capped by the fact that the attractrive young lady sitting next to me was here from the Yale Club of Belgium.

President Salovey’s update included the following: discussion of current fundraising efforts which were more than satisfactory; the need to grow the faculty in response to the recent increase in student population – there are, for instance, 37 present openings in science and engineering; dealing with the grad student request for a Union, which would be easier for Yale were it not for the Union’s concept of management “neutrality” as “prohibiting expression of a point of view,” which is unacceptable (such unions have been recognized elsewhere, e.g. Harvard, MIT); reacting to the widely publicized comments of a U.S. District Judge saying he didn’t want Yale Law School grads because they’re too liberal, a comment criticized by several other judges; more new buildings are on the horizon, with both the Public Health and Drama Schools looking for new homes, and the largest new building yet being considered for Science Hill; and finally, a fourth COVID booster will be required of students.

Yale has made an astonishing commitment to address the major problems of the world in a broad-front, interdisciplinary manner. The umbrella for this effort is Yale’s Planetary Solutions Project. Under this umbrella, the tip of the spear, so far as the greenhouse gas impact on climate change is concerned, is the Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture, Co-Directed by Dr. David Bercovici, as noted above. Its assignment can be stated simply enough: find ways to (1) draw down the carbon which has been emitted; and (2) reduce future emissions to a safe level. The gravity of this charge is apparent, especially when one reflects on the fact that the goals of the Paris accords of a few years ago, which we disavowed, may already be insufficient.

Dean James A. Levinsohn of the newly minted Jackson School of Global Affairs enthusiastically described his vision for this new endeavor. It will take about 30 students a year, the very best that can be found, from around the world. The interdisciplinary studies at Yale will be bolstered by the services of teaching fellows from the real world of the various subject matters. Jackson will offer degrees to both undergraduates and graduates.

Finally, President Salovey turned to the political disunion of the day, and the fragile standing of Truth in the market place of ideas. There are those in or seeking power who can manipulate alleged facts, or invent them, and dress them into fanciful lies such as the Big lie or the Big Steal. It is the role of a great university to both find and defend truth. It is so that everyone has a right to his or her own opinion on matters of opinion; but not to their own facts. A university should, ordinarily, go further by offering platform, not solely to those in the right, but to the miscreants as well, so they can be heard and judged. After all, the imperative is Lux et Veritas!

Respectfully submitted,

Richard G. Bell ’54