What are the overarching goals of Yale Forward?

Yale Forward aims to establish Yale as a moral and academic leader in the context of the climate crisis, to ensure that Yale’s investment of its endowment is consistent with Yale’s mission to improve the world today and in future generations, and to give a greater voice to students and recent alumni within Yale’s governance structures.

How does Yale Forward plan to achieve these goals?

We will work to elect Maggie Thomas—a recent alumna of the Yale Forestry & Environmental School—to Yale’s Board of Trustees on a platform of climate action, endowment justice, and inclusive governance.

Why did Yale Forward choose this tactic?

We believe that running a traditional organizing campaign will simultaneously boost turnout for the election and demonstrate to Yale that the majority of the alumni body supports our platform. This is about more than the election of any single trustee; this is about building a movement and creating a mandate for change. Additionally, history gives hope for petition candidates’ influence on university decision-making. In the late 1980s, a group called Harvard & Radcliffe Alumni/ae Against Apartheid (HRAAA) successfully elected a number of petition candidates to the Harvard Board of Overseers on a South African Divestment platform, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu. After years of sustained pressure, Harvard decided to shift its investment guidelines. With the recent groundswell in grassroots support for fossil fuel divestment, the time is now to repeat their success at Yale.

How did Yale Forward get started?

You can read our origin story and meet the team here.

How can I support Yale Forward?

Other Yale Efforts

Are Yale Forward and Fossil Free Yale the same organization?

We are not Fossil Free Yale, but we are in frequent communication with them! Yale Forward and Fossil Free Yale are part of a broad coalition of alumni and student groups that have the same goals: to move Yale forward into a position of leadership in the fight against climate change and to grant a greater voice to students and young alumni. Fossil Free Yale and its partners in the Endowment Justice Coalition do great work through on the ground activism, while we’re approaching the problem through Yale’s system of elections. Both approaches are necessary, and we encourage alumni to sign the YEJC pledge and get involved with their work.

Does Yale Forward work with the Yale Endowment Justice Coalition?

Absolutely. Members of the YEJC provided input and feedback for our endowment justice platform. You can find our statement of support for the YEJC’s Puerto Rican Debt Campaign on our platform page.

What other climate-focused efforts exist at Yale?

There are many, ranging from on-campus initiatives to student and alumni Shared Interest Groups. These include:

Campaign Finance

How is Yale Forward funded?

Yale Forward was created by students and young alumni who are passionate about making Yale the leader that it should be. We believe that many alumni share this goal and want to contribute to the cause, so after launching Yale Forward we began accepting grassroots donations to help accomplish our mission. Donations are made to a 501(c)(3) non-profit, The Boarding School, which sponsors Yale Forward's operations.

What is The Boarding School?

The Boarding School is Yale Forward’s major sponsor. TBS was started by the founders of Harvard Forward in partnership with two Young Alumni Trustees at Princeton University. Beyond the projects it sponsors at Harvard and Yale, TBS is developing educational materials and offerings for current and prospective young trustees who serve on boards of universities, foundations, and other companies and organizations. Over the coming years, TBS hopes to continue supporting similar efforts that help young people shape the institutions that impact their lives.

What does Yale Forward use donations for?

Yale Forward uses donations to cover our campaign operations costs. These include:

  • Our website, email server, mailing list, and database;
  • Printing and mailing of business cards and other campaign materials;
and once the social distancing requirements of the global COVID-19 response pass, will also include:
  • Weekly payments to our interns and campaign manager;
  • Shipping physical petition forms around the world;
  • Limited campaign travel (flights/trains/hotels/food costs) for candidates and organizers; and
  • Volunteer campaign meet-ups around the country and world.


What is the Yale Corporation and what does the Corporation do?

The Yale Corporation (informally known as the Board of Trustees) is Yale’s principal governing body. It consists of the University President and 16 trustees who serve six-year terms. Six trustees are democratically elected by alumni, while the others are appointed by the Corporation. Here is what they do, according to Yale’s website: "As fiduciaries, the trustees ensure that Yale’s academic and administrative leadership are guided by sound policies and practices, and equipped with adequate resources, to further Yale’s mission."

What is the difference between the Yale Corporation and the Board of Trustees?

They are one and the same. The governing body of the University was referred to as the Corporation in legislation regarding the University dating back to 1792, in which the members of the Corporation were referred to interchangeably as Fellows and Trustees. Yale started referring to the Corporation informally as the Board of Trustees on its website in 2017.

How are the trustees selected?

Ten of the seventeen trustees are “successors of the original trustees of the University” and are appointed by the current members of the Corporation. Six trustees are elected, one per year, in the alumni election. The President of the University, also appointed by the Corporation, also serves as the President of the Corporation. Additionally, the Governor and Lt. Governor of the State of Connecticut sit on the Corporation as ex officio members.

How do candidates get on the ballot?

Nominees are hand-selected by the Alumni Election Nominating Committee of the Yale Alumni Association Board of Governors. Alternatively, any alumni who wish to run for election can guarantee themselves a place on the ballot by collecting signatures a number of signatures equal to 3% of eligible voters. This year, that number is 4,394.

Who is eligible to vote?

All living alumni of the University, excluding those who graduated from Yale College in the last five years, are eligible to run and to vote.

Why can’t Yale College vote or run for election for five years after they graduate?

Recent graduates of Yale College have been prohibited from voting in the alumni election since the addition of the Alumni Trustees to the Corporation in 1871. While no evidence of the reasoning behind this decision is known, one could presume that it was an attempt to prevent recent graduates, who attended homecoming in larger numbers than older graduates, from having an outsized influence on an election which was at the time held in person on Commencement Day. Elections are no longer held in person, and Yale has no excuse for disenfranchising recent alumni.

What’s wrong with the trustees appointing their own successors?

Quite simply, it’s not democratic. The current system has produced a board that is overwhelmingly old, white, and male. In fact, ten out of the eleven appointed trustees (including the President) are men! A more open and inclusive democratic process will lead to a more representative board, who will be more capable of acting in the best interests of the students, alumni, and mission of the University.

When is the election and how do I vote?

Voting is done by mail or electronically; alumni receive an email with details on how to vote in the alumni election in April of the year of the election. However, to get a candidate on the ballot, we first need to collect 4,394 signatures. Signatures can be collected electronically or on paper from May 18th to October 1st the year before the election. You can sign up to receive updates about the petition process here.

How is Yale Forward going to achieve the goals of its platform with only one seat on the Corporation?

While one out of 17 is far from a majority, having voices in the room who are advocating for greater climate action will be impactful. You can imagine that if the Corporation is naming a new President or taking a position on investor responsibility, it's key to have Trustees in the room asking, "What's your plan to have Yale take more significant climate action?", or “How does this decision contribute to our commitment to be leaders on climate action?” This is just one of the ways in which our candidates can work to make climate action a strategic priority for Yale once they're elected. As Yale Forward continues to be active in the coming years, we will continue to increase the proportion of Trustees on the Board who support climate action. More than anything, the act of electing Yale Forward candidates sends a clear message that alumni care about these issues, encouraging Yale to take action.

Shouldn’t candidates for the Corporation not be “single-issue” candidates?

This isn’t a single-issue candidacy! We are running on a platform of climate action, endowment justice, and democratic governance of the Yale Corporation. These are three topics we feel need to be prioritized to maintain Yale’s excellence and position as world leader. While our candidate Maggie Thomas is dedicated to enacting the Yale Forward platform because she believes it’s in the best interest of the University to do so, Maggie is also an exceptionally intelligent, informed, and driven person with a deep passion for making sure Yale continues to be a world leader and a standard for excellence. In coming years, we hope to increase the representation of diverse backgrounds and experiences on the Yale Corporation to reflect the diversity of the alumni community, particularly the more recent generations. Maggie will thoughtfully and ably perform all Trustee responsibilities and will bring fresh perspectives to the Board that will benefit all.


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