Buckley Institute Founder and Executive Director Lauren Noble published an op-ed in RealClearEducation about reasons for pessimism in Yale’s presidential search.

NEW Op-Ed: Is Yale about to Repeat Harvard's Mistakes?

On March 7, 2024, Buckley Institute Founder and Executive Director Lauren Noble ’11 published an op-ed in RealClearEducation about reasons for pessimism in Yale’s presidential search and the kind of models Yale should look to in choosing its next president: 


Having launched its presidential search in late August, well before recent controversies elsewhere, Yale could be one of the first to find its new leader.  And yet, if the progress of Yale’s search is any indication, the higher education reformers of the world ought not to celebrate too soon.

One reason is the Washington Free Beacon’s January report that Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken was a contender for the Yale presidency. As the Beacon thoroughly documents, throughout Gerken’s tenure, the Yale Law School has been at the center of numerous free speech controversies. With Yale’s reputation having declined in recent years, in part, owing to these incidents, her appointment would signal the Yale Corporation’s commitment to doubling down on that negative trend.

Another issue is that the Yale Corporation seems to be overlooking growing concerns about free speech voiced by faculty, students, and alumni throughout the search process. The search committee may be holding “listening sessions,” but are they really listening?

Yale Corporation Senior Trustee Josh Bekenstein’s January 29th update on the process suggests perhaps not. Bekenstein summarized various themes his committee heard, yet neglected to mention freedom of speech even once

If the governing boards and search committees at elite universities have learned the lessons of the last few months, they should broadcast that they are looking for leaders who understand that universities cannot continue on their current course. Instead, they might look for candidates in the mold of Ben Sasse or Mitch Daniels to forge a new path.

In contrast, Yale ranked 234 out of 248 schools in the 2024 rankings and won FIRE’s Lifetime Censorship Award in 2022. Harvard ranked dead last with an “abysmal” free speech rating. The University of Pennsylvania was in the bottom five. Columbia, dead last in the 2023 rankings, still settled at a paltry 214 out of 248.

It’s difficult to imagine Ivy leadership taking a similar stand. Today, as Jewish students face antisemitism on campus, top college presidents do not seem able to condemn antisemitism without caveats about Islamophobia. Instead, they expand and empower their DEI efforts.

What university campuses need are presidents who understand that it’s past time for universities to renew their commitments to their core missions.

Read the full op-ed here.