Vartan Gregorian once said the way to become a successful college president is simple: stand up, give a speech on "diversity," then sit down.
Richard Levin, president of Yale, is the longest-lasting president of an Ivy League university, and following Gregorian's sage advice is surely one reason why. Whenever a serious incident occurs at Yale, Levin's first instinct is to put out a resonant but off-key statement stoutly defending a point not really at issue.
• In the Patrick Witt case, how would Yale deal with the destruction of a student's reputation, after it sponsored a leaked "secret" hearing on a rape accusation at which he wasn't allowed to testify? Levin: the Yale administration "thought it was important to provide greater transparency about the entire array of concerns--including verbal harassment and sexual assault...." "there is no place for any form of sexual misconduct on our campus."
• On the decision by the Yale University Press to censor pictures of the Danish cartoons in a book on the subject. Levin: "The Yale Press is not a platform for anyone to speak their mind. Any book accepted goes under a scrupulous process for review. Access to publication on the University's press is not like the opportunity to speak on Beinecke Plaza."
• Should the frat DKE be suspended for five years for a vile satiric chant by pledges? Levin (with Dean Mary Miller): "Yale has policies that broadly protect freedom of expression, but we also value decency and civility....We will confront hateful speech when it has been uttered, and we take this opportunity do so in no uncertain terms..."
• What are the proper parameters of legal police monitoring of some campus Muslim groups, after at least one-time terrorist connections to Queens College, Colorado State, the University of Southern California, Brooklyn College and M.I.T. have come to light? (See Judith Miller's essay today). Levin: "I am writing to state, in the strongest possible terms, that police surveillance based on religion, nationality, or peacefully expressed political opinions is antithetical to the values of Yale, the academic community, and the United States."
Pitch-perfect PC stuff. How could he possibly lose his job?