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YDN Abets Bass Grant Revisionism
April 1996

One year after Lee Bass requested the return of his $20 million gift for a program in Western civilization, a pair of articles in the Yale Daily News suggest that the wrong history has been inherited from the episode. In its recent two-part retrospective, the paper does not even review its own previously reported nagging questions. Instead, the articles rehash the events in a light so favorable to the administration that they could have been written by the Office of Public Affairs.

The YDN first repeats the line about Yale not lacking for Western civilization classes. This observation was a red herring from the time that President Levin first uttered it in December, 1994. Directed Studies could be dismantled and Levin’s statement would still be true. Yet few would greet the loss of D.S. with the observation that Yale is already strong in Western civ. Yale approached Bass requesting funding for a new program, not vice versa. The university knew its curricular strength at that time. The point was to enhance a strong existing program with a unique new course. Blocking that course dealt a blow to Western civilization at Yale.

Next, Dean Brodhead is quoted dispelling the “slanders and misrepresentations put into circulation last year.” But many of these so-called misrepresentations remain to be answered. Yale never fully explained why Lee Bass was not informed of plans to change the course he approved. Nor did the university ever explain then-Provost Judith Rodin’s recommendation against the Bass program.
The Daily News’ stories also perpetuate the idea that uncertainty from the Schmidt administration doomed the program. Nothing, however, should have been uncertain. Benno Schmidt, Donald Kagan, and Lee Bass himself were all available to clear up any uncertainty. Levin and company claimed confusion after the fact, after they had already alienated Mr. Bass by scheming to change the program without consulting him.

In its second Bass story, the YDN dutifully reports that the university’s fundraising drive has not suffered as a result of the Bass fiasco. This is simply untrue. The drive may be ahead of schedule, but it is at least $20 million behind where it would have been. Moreover, several alumni have written Yale out of wills and decided not to make planned contributions. But even if Yale had not suffered financially, that would not excuse deceiving a donor.

The next canard included in the article claims that Bass insisted upon choosing teachers for his program. In truth, five of seven senior Bass professors had been named before Bass’ request. Bass wanted oversight of the last two senior appointments and the four junior appointments because he distrusted the Levin administration after it misled him. True to the saying, “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me,” Bass wanted assurances that the program he funded would not become something other than what he was promised. He asked for the money back when the Levin administration proved incapable of instilling confidence.

Most egregiously, the YDN suggests that the straightforward approach of the President has enabled Yale to put this scandal behind it. But President Levin has in fact led the disinformation campaign. If giving to Yale has not suffered, it is because Levin’s campaign has succeeded, not because he has come clean. Why has the YDN chosen to abet the administration’s coverup? In so doing it does a disservice to the Yale community. This was too important a story for Yale’s newspaper of record to get wrong.


The Yale Free Press is published by students ofYale University. 
Yale University is not responsible for its 
contents. By the same
token, The Yale Free Press is not responsible for the contents of Yale



Designed by
Joseph A. P. De Feo

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