From the Editor

The theory and practice of lux et veritas

Several years ago, a highly regarded state university hit a trifecta of administrative disasters. The chair of the board stepped down in a conflict-of-interest scandal. The president resigned unexpectedly, in the wake of a snub by the board. And just as the search for a new president was entering its final stage, the board dismissed the entire search committee and scuttled the top candidates.

Everyone in the state could read about these upheavals regularly in newspapers and blogs. But the university’s alumni magazine barely acknowledged their existence. After the search committee was disbanded—when irate faculty and maverick trustees were talking to newspaper columnists and writing op-eds, and people who cared about the institution must have been worried about its future—the alumni magazine gave the subject half a column toward the end of its campus news section.

The short shrift wasn’t the fault of the editor or staff, who were excellent. The problem was that they worked in a university department whose director reported to the acting president, who in turn reported to the board. The editors weren’t allowed to write more than half a column on the controversies surrounding the board: they were writing about the boss.

And that, in a nutshell, is why the words “editorially independent,” which appear on this page beneath our logo, matter so much. An editorially independent magazine can provide a full explanation, with all the nuances and possibly unflattering details, about even the most troubling subject. A magazine that is not editorially independent can’t. Sane people don’t publish in-depth analyses of their supervisors’ difficult moments.

The Yale Alumni Magazine is a rarity among alumni magazines, reader-driven because we are reader-supported. We’re published not by Yale, but by a separately incorporated, alumni-based nonproft. More than half of our budget comes from reader subscriptions and donations, and most of the rest from advertising. Our statement of purpose charges us to deliver Yale to your mailbox “in all its complexity.” Yale hasn’t seen a three-part scandal like the state university’s, but it has its share of troubling subjects; we analyze them for you with all those complex and even unflattering details. When Yale announced its plans for a liberal arts college in Singapore, we interviewed alumni and faculty who object to partnering with a nation whose citizens lack free speech (November/December 2010). On our cover this issue is another fraught topic, the current Title IX complaint against the university.

Delivering this information to you matters—because higher education matters; because Yale is one of the most influential institutions of higher education today; and because Yale’s alumni have a permanent stake in and voice at Yale. Administrators come and go, and even tenured faculty may be wooed away to other jobs. But the alumni have a lifetime appointment.

And our independence also matters because critical thinking—informed intellectual exploration—is Yale’s core value. To the university’s lasting credit, it accepts the presence of an editorially independent alumni magazine in its midst. Yale is confident enough, and has enough respect for the intelligence of its alumni, to welcome lux et veritas when they are applied to its own operations.

As for the staff of the Yale Alumni Magazine: we could not be more honored than to have lux et veritas as our mission, and to have the Yale alumni as our readers. Thank you.  

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