The alumni fellow selection process is led by alumni in every aspect from nominations, to candidate selection, to election.
Yale alumni vote each year to elect one new alumni fellow to the board of trustees (formally known as the Yale Corporation), the university’s governing board. Below, we’ll detail more about how alumni nominate, select, and elect alumni fellows.
The Yale board of trustees is a fiduciary body whose volunteer members are responsible for stewardship of the university and representing the best interests of the university as a whole. Trustees, including alumni fellows, are a governing body acting in service to the university. They do not represent any particular constituency, interest, or issue, and their work is not intended to advance their own interests or those of any particular constituency, interest, or issue.
Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee
The Yale Alumni Association (YAA) oversees the process of nominating and electing alumni fellows.
Alumni nominate candidates year-round using the Alumni Fellow Nomination form. Additionally, the YAA solicits nominations directly from our most engaged alumni – several thousand volunteer leaders and representatives of regional Yale clubs, Yale College classes, shared interest or identity groups, graduate and professional school alumni associations, the Yale Alumni Fund, and others.
The Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee of the YAA Board of Governors is responsible for selecting a slate of candidates to stand for election. This committee consists primarily of volunteer alumni leaders, most of whom serve on the YAA’s Board of Governors.
The alumni fellow election process is managed by staff designated by the secretary of the university. The process is guided by the University’s Miscellaneous Regulations and the University Charter.
The Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee is made up primarily of volunteer alumni leaders, most of whom serve on the YAA Board of Governors, plus
- A current member of the board of trustees (also a volunteer alumna/us)
- The chair of the YAA Board of Governors (ex officio and a volunteer alumna/us)
- The president of the University Council (ex officio and a volunteer alumna/us)
- The vice president for alumni affairs and development or his or her designee(s) (ex officio)
- The secretary of the university or his or her designee(s) (ex officio)
The remaining members of the Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee are selected by the chair of the YAA Board of Governors from among the alumni volunteers serving on the YAA Board of Governors. Similarly, the committee chair is appointed by the chair of the YAA Board of Governors from among the alumni volunteers serving on the YAA board. The executive director of the YAA serves as the committee’s nonvoting secretary.
The deliberations of the Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee (AFNC) function as follows:
- All submitted nominations are reviewed and discussed by the AFNC. Additionally, prior year nominations are reviewed and discussed to the extent the previous year’s committee recommended they continue to be considered.
- In composing the slate of candidates, the AFNC takes into account: (i) the relevant skills and experience of the current university board of trustees to identify any backgrounds and experiences that might complement those of the existing members in fulfilling their role as the university’s fiduciary body; (ii) the broad scope of the university’s operations; and (iii) the extent of interest or engagement in Yale that candidates have demonstrated.
- The AFNC seeks candidates who can represent the entire university and not a particular constituency, interest, or issue; and who have an open mind, can assess and consider all relevant information to form an opinion, and then have a well-reasoned, civil discussion with other trustees. The AFNC does not consider a candidate’s political affiliations nor a candidate’s viewpoint on societal or topical issues.
The confidentiality of the deliberations helps to ensure that alumni are willing to be considered for nomination. Many alumni would not want it publicly disclosed that they were considered but not selected.
Alumni Fellow Process
There are three steps to the alumni fellow selection process, the first being the nomination process. Nominations are encouraged and may be made throughout the year using the Alumni Fellow Nomination form on this website. Annually, the current chair of the YAA Board of Governors solicits nominations directly from Yale’s most engaged alumni– several thousand volunteer leaders and representatives of regional Yale clubs, Yale College classes, shared interest or identity groups, graduate and professional school alumni associations, the Yale Alumni Fund, and others.
The second part of the selection process is the review and selection of the candidates by the Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee (AFNC). The AFNC is appointed by the YAA with a goal to “seek out and present a slate of candidates who are exceptional leaders, thinkers, and innovators both in and beyond their fields and whose expertise and experience complement those of current trustees.”
The third and final part of the process is the election, which is administered by staff designated by the secretary of the university. They prepare the ballot and the collateral print and web-based materials. To ensure the process is carefully, professionally, and impartially handled, the university hires a third-party vendor to send out the ballots, tally the votes, and verify the election results. The current vendor is Election Services Corporation.
The alumni fellow election is not like an election for public office. The alumni fellow election is not a referendum on university policies; the election is to select someone who can be an effective member of a fiduciary board. As such, alumni fellow elections differ from political elections in important ways, including a longstanding tradition that candidates do not campaign. This tradition helps assure that all trustees come to the board without binding commitments to particular constituencies, interests, or issues; promotes deliberative and consensus-based decision-making among board members rather than faction-based politics; and avoids an “arms race” to fund and professionalize campaigns.
This tradition, which has enabled the candidates with the most outstanding and relevant experience to agree to serve without incurring the financial and personal burdens of running a campaign, has been honored and welcomed by candidates in every election. Candidates understand that “campaigning” for this fiduciary responsibility is not in keeping with the commitment they will make to be impartial stewards – stewards who balance the needs and interests of Yale’s constituencies today with the generations of students and faculty they are making sure have the same resources and opportunities in the future.
The election of alumni fellows is provided for in Yale’s Charter, which states that that alumni eligible to vote (“qualified electors”) are: all graduates of Yale College who have held their degrees for five years or more, all alumni of the graduate and professional schools, and all individuals who hold Yale honorary degrees are eligible to vote in the alumni fellow election. The Charter cannot be amended except by an act of the Connecticut legislature. All alumni, however, are able and encouraged to get involved in alumni leadership activities.
Per the university’s Miscellaneous Regulations, alumni may petition to be on the ballot, separate from the YAA nominating and candidate selection process. Petitioners must secure signatures of at least 3% of the number of electors qualified to vote the previous year. The signature review and verification process is handled by Election Services Corporation on behalf of the university.
Role of Alumni in the Process
Alumni determine the slate formation. The slate is selected by the Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee (AFNC). The AFNC consists primarily of alumni volunteers from the YAA Board of Governors, plus other alumni volunteers, including a member of the university’s board of trustees (the Corporation members are alumni) and the president of the University Council, an advisory body to the university president and generally composed of alumni volunteers.
All of the members of the university’s board of trustees are alumni. In the functioning of the board of trustees, no distinction is made between the successor fellows (those appointed by the current trustees) and the alumni fellows (those elected by the alumni). They are all charged with advancing Yale’s mission and exercising fiduciary stewardship over the university’s resources. The trustees represent the entirety of the university, not any particular interest, cause, or constituency.
Yale is a complex institution and candidates do not have access to all the relevant information upon which to base a definitive viewpoint on current issues facing the university. In selecting the slate, the Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee (AFNC) does not research or consider candidate viewpoints on societal or topical issues. The AFNC seeks candidates who have an open mind, can assess and consider all relevant information to form an opinion, and then have a well-reasoned, civil discussion with other trustees.
Finally, with more than 175,000 living alumni, there is a wide range of opinions on any given issue and so not a singular alumni viewpoint.
The AFNC’s goal is to “seek out and present a slate of candidates who are exceptional leaders, thinkers, and innovators both in and beyond their fields and whose expertise and experience complement those of current trustees.” We encourage all alumni to nominate such candidates for the Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee to consider. Ultimately, alumni fellows are elected by the alumni through a process that includes all eligible alumni.