Roger’s Rules

A Yale University Press author complains. Plus: Who are those donors?

In the September issue of The New Criterion, the Notes & Comments section is devoted to a summary of the controversy surrounding Yale’s decision to forbid the publication of any images of Mohammed in Jytte Klausen’s book The Cartoons that Shook the World. Regular readers of Roger’s Rules know that I have written about the episode several times in this space (see here, for example), lately with a sense of impatient weariness.

I’ve already promised not to say any more about it, and, really, this current post is not so much about the fate of Professor Klausen’s book as it is about the steady mutation of the controversy. In the October issue of The New Criterion, we will publish a letter responding to our September Note from the classicist Sarah Ruden. Yale published Ms. Ruden’s much praised translation of the Aeneid and her translation of Apuleius’s The Golden Ass is on press. So outraged was she by Yale’s behavior that she calls upon fellow YUP authors to show “solidarity” and protest Yale’s censorship and announces that she is henceforth banning YUP from bidding on any future books by her.

This is, first of all, a self-protective move. I don’t think there’s any coffee good enough that I’d enjoy being told over it that my finished, fully edited manuscript is going to be neutered because of a report I’m not allowed to see without swearing secrecy. Since I write about politics and religion, such a scene is a likely danger for me. But I would urge all authors who are even considering a relationship with the Press to stay away from this non-publisher. A doctor who prostitutes a patient, selling her body, shouldn’t be called a doctor anymore but a pimp. Yale Press, after breaking a crucial relationship of trust with an author’s mind and work, should be called a lickspittle of fanatics and forfeit any respect or consideration from other authors.

The whole of Ms. Ruden’s letter is available in advance of its publication in The New Criterion here.

Ms. Ruden’s letter made me ponder a recent communication to Yale faculty, staff, and alumni from Richard Levin, the president of Yale and Peter Salovey, the Provost. It’s titled “Yale 2009-10 Budget Update” and it retails in a dispassionate way some of the carnage suffered by Yale’s endowment over the last year or so. According to a separate story in The Wall Street Journal, the loss is about 30 percent: What had been an endowment valued at $22.9 billion in June 2008 is now likely worth about $16 billion.

Yale’s chief fiscal problem at the moment is cash flow. A large part of its endowment is invested in illiquid assets that have not experienced the sharp rebound the equity market has enjoyed over the past 6 months. According to the budget update, the university faces annual budget shortfalls of $150 million for the next few years even after strenuous cost cutting measure. Nevertheless, President Levin announced, the university has

secured donor support to continue the design of the [two] new residential colleges and to undertake site clearance, the first phase of which will occur this fall. We also have secured full funding from donors for completing the renovation of the Yale University Art Gallery.

Way to go, Dick! But who are these donors? He doesn’t say. I made a few inquiries: Mum’s the word in New Haven. Perhaps Martin Kramer or Diana West, both of whom have made some startling revelations about Yale’s courting of Arab money, can ferret out the source of those generous benefactions. For myself, I wonder whether it’s Sheikh So-and-So or Prince What’s-his-name from Saudi Arabia, perhaps. We’ll know in the fullness of time. But it would be interesting, to say the least, if Yale’s financial woes were eased by some oil-rich Middle East potentate just at a moment when the Yale administration forced the Yale University Press to bowdlerize a book because they feared it might be “offensive” to Muslims.