Levin Leaving; Describes Next Jobs Challenge
by Paul Bass | Aug 30, 2012 5:23 pm
As praise showered on Rick Levin for his soon-to-end tenure as Yale’s president, he gave himself a tough grade in one area: creating new tech-related jobs in New Haven.
“Creating jobs through spin-off science—we’re still at the B minus level. We’ve got a ways to go,” Levin told the Independent in a Thursday afternoon interview in his Woodbridge Hall office (excerpted in the video at left). “That’s been harder than I thought.”
Levin—the CEO of New Haven’s largest employer since 1993 and the Ivy League’s longest-serving president—spoke on the day that he issued a major announcement: He will step down as Yale’s president at the end of the academic year.
The announcement brought immediate praise both in New Haven and nationally for Levin’s success in revolutionizing Yale’s relationship with New Haven, attaining labor peace to the city’s largest workforce, rebuilding his campus, and transforming Yale into a global university.
The praise included Levin’s work in changing Yale’s approach to local job creation. Under his direction Yale has moved aggressively to encourage Yale researchers to launch local companies based on their research. Dozens of companies have sprung up as a result. That has helped fill new Haven’s 300 George Street complex and parts of Science Park and led to the construction of a new 10-story tech-oriented office building as part of the “Downtown Crossing” project.
But as Levin noted, all too often companies hatched in New Haven move elsewhere when they succeed—even when the founder lives here and wants to hire employees here. That’s because investors often want growing companies to locate nearer to sizable, qualified workforces. “We have lots of good ideas. We have had successful start-up companies. But it’s hard to keep them in New Haven beyond the incubation phase,” he said.
That happened within the past year when Science Park-based Hadapt Inc. landed $9.5 million in venture capital, for instance. The deal included a requirement to move near Stanford or MIT, where engineers are hatched by the busload. Yale researcher Daniel Abadi had hoped to keep the company in town. (Read about that here.)
In the interview Thursday, Levin noted the role that the city and state and local schools play in training workers for many of the jobs at emerging companies. But when it comes to engineers and other advanced positions, Yale needs to play a big role, he said. In the past few years Yale has moved to grow its computer science and engineering programs. It just opened a new Engineering Center for Innovation and Design.
“We had 200 students there for the opening event. There’s a growing student interest. We have a great engineering dean,” Levin said. “As our enrollments grow in those technical fields and as we orient students toward more practical activity, we’ll get more talent there.”
Meanwhile, he noted, developer Carter Winstanley (the man behind 300 George, several Science Park rehabs, and Downtown Crossing) has helped boost the biomedical center with state and city help. So one Yale-hatched company, Alexion, is in fact moving back to town from Cheshire to occupy much of Winstanley’s new 100 College St. tower at Downtown Crossing.
Levin gave higher grades to Yale’s other New Haven initiatives.
“If I had to make a scorecard, in terms of helping to stabilize New Haven as a place with safe and attractive neighborhoods where people live, I think we’ve made a lot of progress” over the past 20 years, Levin said. “In terms of downtown development, Broadway development, I think it’s an A plus. I think it’s a huge recovery.
“In terms of [helping public] schooling, that didn’t go anywhere for a long time. The new school change program is really promising. It’s at least a B plus or an A minus.”
A New World, A New City
Levin announced his retirement Thursday morning in a letter to the Yale community.
That letter was emailed and went out instantaneously over the web for everyone to read—something that didn’t happen when Levin took over Yale in 1993. (Read the letter here.)
The world has changed a lot since then. And so has Yale, along with New Haven.
Under Levin’s stewardship, Yale took a leading role—first in China, most recently in a more controversial venture in Singapore—in becoming a “global” university. It expanded joint programs abroad. It extended financial aid to more foreign students. It created a “world fellows” program for mid-career emerging leaders from abroad. The broader idea: In the new shrunken world, leading universities like Yale should cultivate not just a national meritocracy, but a global one. The work made Levin a media rock star in China, though the point never got out broadly in the American media.
For New Haven, Levin will be remembered as the president who turned around the university’s troubled relationship with its unionized workforce, the city’s largest. Strikes used to be routine on campus; no more. Read about that here and here.
Labor labors for decades used to speak of Yale presidents as hard-hearted foes. Here’s what Laurie Kennington, president of UNITE HERE Local 34, which represents the university’s clerical and technical workers, told the Independent Thursday about Levin’s tenure:
“We think he’s done a really great job. He’s made it a priority to remove labor relations. He put decision-makers at the table. He emphasized problem-solving. That has indeed transformed things in the last 10 years.”
Kennington did add that the union hopes Levin’s successor “will place equal emphasis on the priorities he has chosen,” including an emerging “jobs pipeline.” (Read about that here.)
Levin will also be remembered for overseeing a dramatic improvement in Yale’s relationship with New Haven. The Yale Corporation hired Levin in part with the mission of repairing that relationship, after the murder of Yale student Christian Prince on Hillhouse Avenue revealed how the town-gown divide was costing both human life and the university’s ability to recruit top students and professors. Levin took office the same year John DeStefano won his first term as New Haven’s mayor; they eventually forged a productive and trusting personal working relationship as they oversaw the city’s most important two institutions over two decades. (Click here to read an interview with Levin about his approach to helping New Haven weather the recession as it gathered force in 2008. Click here to read about Levin and DeStefano unveiling the New Haven Promise college scholarship program, which Yale and the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven agreed to support.)
DeStefano Thursday called Levin “a great leader at the right time,” one with a “great temperament.”
“The takeaway here is the university is fundamentally a stronger place. That’s not only good for the university. That’s good for New Haven,” DeStefano said.
“He redefined a host of relationships. He changed the culture of the institution. When somebody puts up a building, you can see a bbuilding and point to it. When you change a culture, I would argue it’s more profound and meaningful, and will benefit the university and the community for a long, long time. More than the building.”
In Levin’s tenure, Yale also undertook a major campaign to renovate its neglected architectural gems and greatly expand the campus, including to a new satellite in West Haven. Levin oversaw the renovation of all 12 undergraduate residential colleges and launched construction of two new ones, along with a new campus for the School of Management.
During his tenure, Levin sought to help the Yale community cope with two local murders of students, Suzanne Jovin and Annie Le. Click on the play arrow to watch his call for compassion the night Annie Le’s remains were found. Click here to read about how Yale and New Haven police learned to work together better on the Le murder case than they had with Jovin.
Levin wrote in his letter that he plans to take a “sabbatical year” to finish a book on higher education. He previously was under consideration for a top job in the Obama administration; the letter doesn’t mention anything about possible interest in a second-term Obama administration post. In the interview Thursday, he said he might also write a book about lessons from the economic downturn; or he may combine both topics into one book.
“It is a source of great satisfaction to leave Yale in much stronger condition – academically, physically, and financially – than it was when I began in 1993,” Levin wrote. “Our faculty is stronger than ever, and our deans and directors all have clear and ambitious agendas that will keep the University moving forward. Our partnership with the city of New Haven has led to great improvement in the condition of our downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. We have transformed relations with our labor unions. And we have become a truly global university – providing international experiences to the great majority of our students, supporting hundreds of faculty collaborations throughout the world, and, influencing the development of law, the effectiveness of health care delivery, and the course of global higher education.”
Tags: Rick Levin, Richard C. Levin, Yale president
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Hooray for Levin, Yale and The Independent. When most university presidents retire, the articles are half-filled with the schools’ athletic accomplishments. Not one mention of sports here. What a relief.
Levin has been a boon to Yale and a boon to New Haven ... and a boon to “Yale-and-New-Haven” together. He profoundly changed the culture at the university, causing Yale to see the city and the institution as inextricably entwined. As a result, Yale began to act accordingly for the betterment of both. He will be a hard act to follow.
Just a correction. Campus West is in both West Haven AND Orange.
From 3 billion to 19 billion dollar endowment under his tenure.
When people tell me Yale is good for New Haven, I tell them New Haven has been very good to Yale.
All those tax free properties are subsidized by my family and other property owners in the city.
To Mr. Levin, bon voyage and you’re welcome!
Levin’s legacy could have been an inclusive prosperity for New Haven, but he was clearly lacking the right partners, and didn’t have the guts to force the issues that really matter to New Haven.
The jobs leave for (or start in the first place in) big cities because of quality of life issues and poor transportation in New Haven, not the workforce. You still can’t easily walk, ride a bike, or take transit in most of New Haven, which is how the vast majority of the best engineers and scientists prefer to get to work. For a campus like Yale not to have a single bike lane is mind boggling.
Unfortunately, the Kelly “a sidewalk can’t be added there” Murphy plan to widen Route 34 into an even more treacherous surface highway and add parking garages—combined with Perez’s incredibly shortsighted move to kill the associated major Federal/State transportation improvement project—will only make economic development matters worse.
With decisions like these it is likely that Alexion will pull out of the project before 2014 - and the “job pipeline” for a few hundred well connected union members will have zero impact on the unemployment rate at the citywide level, while costing millions that could have been put to better use funding quality child care for the thousands of poor working families in New Haven.
Well said, nero.
RCguy, you should see his official residence. I once had breakfast there, and it is gorgeous. My favorite part about the building he works in—besides the wonderful people like Chris Barber—is the ceilings.
Well said, SLP.
Westville man, I find your position to have a disconnect. Yes, New Haven loses the academic, administrative, living, sporting building/spaces from its tax base (but not rental properties), but that does not mean that a commercial enterprise would occupy that space and pay taxes. Look at how long it has taken to replace Winchester/Olin factory spaces with taxable tenants. New Haven without Yale, is Bridgeport only farther away from NYC. Besides Yale PD and voluntary contributions, Yale students and programs bring in a huge amount of revenue to our economy.
Go back to the beginning of Dr. Liven’s tenure here and Yale’s two biggest problems were Locals 34/35, and New Haven. (That is still probably true, but just not nearly as bad.) I opine you ought to be saying “sorry” and “thanks.”
anonymous, you appear to be blending Yale with some other entities. I have never doubted Dr. Levin’s moral courage. Yale’s President never had the power you seam to ascribe to him. Yale is powerful—too powerful for New Haven’s own good—but anything its President wishes to do has to be done in the context of City Hall and Locals 34/35.
As much as I prefer bike and rail transport solutions, my friends who are scientists and engineers seam to be very happy to drive. Can you cite a source for your claims, or is this intuition?
@HhE…‘Seam’ingly you must have gotten a view of the beautiful ceilings of his office while lying on your back…
This post clearly describes your position with the retiring president.
Yale has completely lost sight of its true purpose…
@westville man, if you have a beef with Yale’s municipal tax situation in New Haven, you should take it up with the piece of parchment singed in the 1700s that granted Yale this status. The alternative it to get the city to sue Yale to reverse this…wait…here it comes…CONTRACT. How can Rick Levin be culpable for a contract that was set up prior to the formation of the United States of America?
lkulmann, I’m not sure your meaning about lying on my back, but I am fairly confident you are trying to insult me. Woodbridge Hall is a beautiful building in every way, and the decorative plaster ceilings are its crowning effect. As someone who appreciates beautiful things, I am able to enjoy this when I have been in this building.
Really? From my post You figured out that I once had breakfast with him, that he was at my Dad’s wedding, and that I have bumped into him, and also his wife, on occasion (they know they must know me, but they are never sure who I am). Oh, yeah, my mnemonic for my tags is Richard C. Levin. (Please don’t read too much into that, when I had the Miata of the Apocalypse, my mnemonic was “JED” as a white trash name, and white trash is my natural enemy.) I’m impressed.
So what exactly is Yale’s mission? I thought it was to train and educate leaders. What do I know; besides a one credit, summer art class taught by a former TA, I never went there. My Dad, his brother, their Dad and his brother, and three cousins, did, but whatever. (I do consider it a disgrace that their are no names on Memorial Hall from Gulf War One, Two, or The ‘Stan.)
Well said BeaverhillTom. As I understand cause must always precede or be concurrent with effect, I have no idea what the answer could be.
Threefifths, so what? My Grandfather was, as was a Great Uncle. Its an honorary society and dinner club. Next we will learn how The National Honor Society kids are part of a conspiracy if they have a favorite restaurant.
@ Hhe - a disconnect? The tired analogy of new haven without Yale being Bridgeport belies the fact that Yale has grown exponentially with New HAven subsidizing it through increased property taxes on its citizens. That’s a fact, not a fiction.
@ Beaverhill Tom- I’m aware of the contract of which you speak. Much like the contract used back then to purchase enslaved Africans, no? Or the contracts to keep Blacks and others from owning land? Or those with the Native Americans? My point is that NO ONE ever thought Yale would become a 20 Billion dollar corporation. Give me my house and business tax free for a few years and I’ll donate a few thousand to the City and hire a few kids to cut my lawn and teach a class at my office. Sound like a deal?
Here’s my modest proposal: Set up a two hundred million dollar trust fund for the City (.1% of endowment) whereby Yale can control it with a few other city reps. The principal cannot be touched and therefore Yale loses no money. The interest and earnings from the trust can fund much needed City needs. Conservatively, that would be approximately 10 million dollars in addition to Yale voluntary contributions each year. That would be a great start to real town-gown improvements..
So what.Did you uncle lay naked in coffin as part of the skull and bonesinitiation,Prescott S. Bush joined Skull and Bones Aldolf Hitler joined the German Brotherhood of Death Society Skull Bones in 1919.Skull and Bones Members collaborated with the Nazis.
Still think it is a honorary society and dinner club.
Skull(s) and Bones
It’s so secret we can’t talk about it.”
—-President Bush on Meet the Press, February 8, 2004
posted by: streever on September 2, 2012 3:13pm
I think Hhe is really on the right of this—it took us how long to replace the coliseum?
People imagine that if Yale just disappeared, all those spaces would be full of tax-generating successful businesses, while completely ignoring the large number of empty and vacant businesses that Yale doesn’t own.
Look, I’m not trying to say that Yale is the savior—I’m just wondering why people seem to think that Yale NEEDS to be our savior.
We absolutely possess the means, the knowledge, and the energy to save ourselves, by taking advantage of the help that Yale DOES provide.
The incessant demonization of Yale—an entity, as Hhe puts it, which is serving a mission of educating their students—gets really tiresome.
I think anonymous is closer to what is really happening, with the assertion that Yale lacks real local allies to make some of the changes we need.
Yale is nothing more then doing Land grabbing.In fact all of these big collages do the same thing. Columbia University does this in Harlem.
Court Deals Blow to Columbia’s $6.3 Billion Harlem Land Grab (Updated)
NYU does the same in the village.In fact didnot yale buy bayer in west haven and just like new haven pay no taxes.Ask the people of west haInven how many of there homes were grab by UNH.Check it out.Yale is now moving into west haven.
Threefifths, your link was to someone’s silly conspiracy website. No evidence, just rumor and innuendo. Typical.
I don’t know if my Grandfather was ever naked in a coffin: I was 12 when he died, and it never came up. A lot of college kids do things that are silly, dumb, or outright dangerous. I wouldn’t make too much of that. As a rule, I don’t talk about my sexual history with people. That doesn’t mean I have something to hide, it just means there are things that are not talked about. I do remember when we made a felt tablecloth for his 65th Birthday party; one of the items was 322 in the same color as the background.
You want to know something really scary? I once belonged to a secret society. People selected for membership had to sleep outside alone for one night, eat little food for one day, and not speak as they labored. Then, we would put on Native American costumes, and perform an initiation ceremony at night. The name of this secret society is The Order of the Arrow.
westville man, the analogy is entirely sound. Both cities were thriving manufacturing cities in their heyday. They had, and have, similar populations. They are in the same state, coastal cities, and are even on the same rail line to New York. New Haven has Yale, and Bridgeport does not. Which city is in better shape? I’ll give you a hint, the one that is not in Fairfield County.
To make you case of New Haven residents subsidizing Yale, requires demonstrating that the cost to New Haven of having Yale here is greater than the revenue the city receives because Yale is here. To prove, or disprove, that would take some doing.
Costs? Police? No, Yale has its own. Fire? Fair enough. Street cleaning and maintenance for public roads that are surrounded by Yale buildings? I’ll give you that. I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch, so please list them for me.
Revenue? Well the $10 million in voluntary payments is obvious. Then there is the incredible boost to our downtown from Yalies eating out, shopping, and all that. Why is East Rock so desirable to live (read: high property tax)? Because it is a good place for Yale Professors and grad students to live. Yale is New Haven’s largest employer (and largest property tax payer), which is a big help to a lot of people who live and pay taxes in New Haven.
We can add to that, that thanks to Yale, we have a very good natural history museum. It may be smaller than AMNH or the Smithsonian, but its quality is on par with these. Thanks to Yale, we have the largest collection of British art this side of the pond, and it is free to see. We also have Yale’s other art museum, which is free, and while smaller than the Met, is on par with it. We have really good theater, because Yale subsidies that, and concerts that are free or at a low cost thanks to Yale.
End of part one.
You don’t want to “subsidize” Yale, you could still move to Bridgeport, and “subsidize” The University of Bridgeport. You want really low property taxes? Move to Greenwich.
As I have posted before, property taxes are an obsolete method of taxation with structural and systemic problems. They are predicated on the idea that property (farm, factory, rail road, ship) is the primary if not sole source of income, and that property is nearly the only thing one can do with wealth. This idea has never been even close to true in my lifetime.
From this idea of taxes from wealth producing property, comes the idea that non-profits ought not pay property taxes. Would New Have get a much need shot in the arm if it could tax all of Yale? Of course it would. It would also stand to gain from taxing all church property; on The Green and storefront. Change the state law, and your problem is solved: but that is changing the state, so you’ll need to go up to Hartford.
Westville man, your proposal has some problems. “The principal cannot be touched and therefore Yale loses no money.” – except the $200,000,000. Another problem is that would do nothing to the city’s systemic problem of spending money it does not have.
Why does Yale have such a large endowment?
1. People, typically Yale Alumni, give to Yale because they believe in Yale. If they believed in New Haven, they would just send the cheque to city hall. Start spending that money in ways these donors take exception to, and they will stop donating.
2. Strict spending protocols. Yale spends its endowment under strict guidelines based upon the size of the endowment, not what Yale wants or wishes to do.
3. The wise investment by David Swensen.
One can learn more by reading…
Now, before lkulmann accuses me of sleeping with Mr. Sweensen for money, I have only met him once or twice. I doubt either of us could pick the other out of a line up, and I have never had a meal with him. In all fairness, my father did write the introduction to this book, and my copy is signed by Mr. Sweensen.
End of part two.
Streever – as usual – is right. Just because Yale is here, and has a pile of money, doesn’t mean they ought to save us. We can save our selves. New Haven has an incredible brain trust. It has legions of people of good character. We are still a transportation hub, and much of our city is walkable and cycleable. It is a place that many people choose to live in (the only other place in Connecticut I could ever care to live in is the Whitneyville section of Hamden). People ought not expect their rich uncle to keep bailing them out – wither that uncle is a rich man, or a university.
End of part three (and good night).
posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on September 3, 2012 2:26pm
I think it makes a lot of sense for non-profit educational facilities like classrooms, libraries and perhaps professor’s offices to be tax-exempt. What I don’t understand is why non-educational facilities like dormitories, dining halls, and health services are allowed to be privatized, monopolized and made tax-exempt. I don’t understand the difference between a retail property that Yale owns, and student housing that Yale owns so why is one tax-exempt and not the other? Can churches start building tax-exempt houses for the members of their congregation?
It’s true that Yale students do dine out occasionally, some rent housing in the city, and I imagine they contribute a significant amount of funding by shopping, but by allowing private universities to monopolize housing, eating and service providing for the vast majority of students the housing, food service and health service markets in the city are massively suppressed. Prior to the creation of the residential college system, the State of Connecticut funded Yale’s dormitories (and most of their other buildings) and only a small portion of students lived in them. most students rented apartments in New Haven, shopped at grocery stores and sought out services in the private market - they were essentially ordinary citizens of New Haven.
I think it makes sense to have a special (reduced) tax for private university non-academic facilities.
posted by: HhE on September 2, 2012 9:02pm
Threefifths, your link was to someone’s silly conspiracy website. No evidence, just rumor and innuendo. Typical.
Sorry but you skeptics will not face the truth.People said the The Tuskegee Syphilis Study was a silly conspiracy.But it happen did it not.In fact the late Antony C. Sutton who studied at the universities of London, Göttingen, and California wrote a book call America’s Secret Establishment.
In fact Sutton wrote.Those on the inside know it as The Order. Others have known it for more than 150 years as Chapter 322 of a German secret society. More formally, for legal purposes, The Order was incorporated as The Russell Trust in 1856. It was also once known as the “Brotherhood of Death”. Those who make light of it, or want to make fun of it, call it ‘Skull & Bones’, or just plain ‘Bones’.The American chapter of this German order was founded in 1833 at Yale University by General William Huntington Russell and Alphonso Taft who, in 1876, became Secretary of War in the Grant Administration. Alphonso Taft was the father of William Howard Taft, the only man to be both President and Chief Justice of the United States.
Jonathan Hopkins, I’m going to have to disagree. The college I went to, SUNY Oswego, did not pay any property tax to the town or city of Oswego—the campus was owned by the State of New York. Of all the town/gown issues and complaints I heard, I never heard, “They take all that nice land on the lake, but don’t pay property tax.” or “They do not hire enough locals.” Oswego is a depressed city, far smaller than New Haven, and with less crime.
Yale’s commercial properties are just that, commercial. While the reason is to provide an array of goods and services suitable and desirable to the Yale students and staff, they are properties that are rented out to businesses.
Just as Yale freshmen are required to live in the residential colleges, non-commuting freshmen at Oswego had to have a full meal plan. I could see your argument if residential colleges were profit centers.
I believe that sober houses are property tax free, and yet charge their residents. I suspect that churches could provide housing, without paying property taxes, provided they were not for profit.
I opine that our state ought to at least reduce the importance of property tax in municipal budgets, if not eliminate it altogether.
Well threefifths, you have upped your game from personal web site of a musician and Ron Paul supporter to a reference from a book written by someone who also claimed that the Bolsheviks were sponsored by Wall Street to eliminate Tsarist Russia as a competitor. (Which ignores a lot of things like, the Bolsheviks’s repudiation of all debts.)
You do a great disservice to the victims of The Tuskegee Syphilis Study, when you link them to silly conspiracy theories.
Hhe, Just a few points of clarification. I am not one of those people who “demonize” Yale. I think they are a huge asset to New Haven. I have family that work for them.
I also agree with you, as I have in past posts, that a town by town property tax revenue system is archaic and unfair.
Understand a few things. I can live anywhere I want. We chose New haven. My business is here and I live here. My point is that given the system as it is, New Haven taxpayers shoulder a large portion of tax-exempt properties. Yale is a leader in those properties.
Many of their benefits which you and I enjoy also are enjoyed by many who do not live here.
Yale can easily step up and pay more in line with their fair share- not full taxation on their property, but a fair share.
To not acknowledge how this tax structure has benefited Yale over the years is to ignore reality. We, as NH tataxpayinghave subsidized them, no doubt about it.
And preempting any follow-up posts- yes, we need to do a better job on reigning in expenditures. I havent voted for this admin in over 10 years.
westville man, what exactly is “Yale’s fair share,” and how would you define it? Would other non profits (schools, churches…) also be on the same hook?
I could see an argument based upon the cost to New Haven in supporting Yale. (The danger could be Yale’s potential counter argument of their cost of being in New Haven, as well as the risk we might discover that Yale was contributing more than its cost already.)
I really think the proper way forward to move away from property tax state wide. Having lived in Greenwich, all I can say is “good luck with that.”