(This really will end, eventually . . .) Several readers of “My absolutely, positively final word about Yale and the Danish cartoons” came away thinking that I was backtracking on the financial angle to the story. I quoted a friend who wrote taking issue with my earlier speculation that part of the reason Yale had demanded that The Cartoons the Shook the World be published in a text-only, bowdlerized form was because Yale (and the Yale University Press) was assiduously seeking money in the Middle East. “A former university president,” I said,
wrote me to say that, while he certainly thought Yale had disgraced itself, he doubted money was the issue: Notwithstanding its big losses in the stock market last year, Yale still had an endowment in the billions: it wouldn’t, he said, prostitute itself for a mere $20 million.
I went on to say:
Maybe not. But as Martin Kramer noted, Yale has appointed Muna Abu Sulayman, executive director of the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation (which reportedly has earmarked $100 million for compliant Western institutions), a “Yale World Fellow” for 2009. I’d say that Richard Levin, Yale’s president, takes an aggressive approach to cultivating a prospective donor: he arranges a fellowship and has his quarry living close by in New Haven. Who knows, maybe John Donatich will also be able to interest Sulayman in forking over the several million dollars he needs to embark on his on-line Koran project at the Yale University Press?
Perhaps I was insufficiently clear. I do believe, as I said, that “Like many right-thinking (which means left-leaning) institutions these days, Yale is afflicted with a bad case of Islamophobia-phobia — that is, a pusillanimous fear of being labeled “Islamophobic” by one’s politically correct peers.” But that in no way discounts the possibility — the likelihood, I woudl say — that they also acted with an eye to reaping a bit of Arab lucre.
On the issue of what constitutes a lot of money for an entity like Yale, another friend, a Yale alum, wrote to observe:
I would be wary of dismissing the financial component so swiftly. Yes, $20m vs $20B is small, but it’s a question of current funding requirements. As per our conversations earlier on this, Yale has just embarked on a number of large capital projects, including two new residential colleges (i.e., growing the undergraduate college by almost 20%), the purchase of the former Bayer property in West Haven, and myriad lesser improvements. All of those require cash and cash now. The endowment is still worth a king’s (Saudi prince’s?) ransom, but much of it is tied up in illiquid investments such as timber, real estate, and private equity. If the school can raise the cash now, perhaps by bestowing the benefactor’s name on the new college, then they wouldn’t have to liquidate these very long-term investments, ones that will yield a better cash flow in the future, at the bottom of the market…
Excellent point, with which I wish to associate myself. I wonder if President Levin would like to respond?