Finnegan Schick Mar 01, 2016, Staff Reporter
After a University decision to cut all its funding, Yale’s Climate & Energy Institute will close by the end of June.
The loss of the institute, which for the last eight years has conducted research related to issues of climate change, leaves a hole in climate and energy studies at Yale. Although the Energy Studies academic program will continue within Yale College, students in the YCEI said they were outraged by the budget cuts and subsequent closure of an institute that is one of the only research-focused climate change programs for undergraduates on campus. The announcement came in a Monday afternoon email to the YCEI community from institute co-directors and geology and geophysics professors David Bercovici and Jay Ague, and follows years of cuts to the institute’s funding, according to students involved in the organization.
“While not all good things have to come to an end, sometimes they just do,” Bercovici and Ague wrote. “The YCEI will stop activities and close up shop as of June 30, 2016.”
The YCEI was founded in 2008 with the backing of then-University President Richard Levin. Since then, the institute has hosted conferences, fostered collaborations across science departments and between universities outside of Yale, as well as supported scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships that address the changing climate. The institute also supplied undergraduates with a database of energy-related internships. Bercovici and Ague wrote that the YCEI was founded with “overwhelming enthusiasm from faculty and students across campus.” Bercovici and Ague declined to comment Monday night, citing time constraints.
Students interviewed said that while the YCEI was clearly a priority under Levin, administrative support has dwindled recently. They said they were infuriated by the announced closure and skeptical that it was closing because of insufficient funding.
“It can’t be a budget thing. It can’t be. I don’t want to say that Yale doesn’t support [the
YCEI], but … I think it’s the administration’s lack of interest,” said YCEI New Haven Energy Scholar Intern Matthew Goldklang ’16. “I had no idea we were going to be completely cut. It’s really sad.”
He added that he has received emails from YCEI alumni who were furious with the announcement, and he said there are many undergraduates who are also upset.
The YCEI had an extensive budget under Levin’s administration, Goldklang said. Although Goldklang did not provide specific figures, he said the YCEI had enough money to pay its student fellows, fund research and create new classes in the Energy Studies Program.
The institute was one of the few groups on campus that regularly engaged with Yale administrators to solve issues of climate change, Goldklang said.
The announced closure left students in the institute with unanswered questions about why the formerly thriving group had its funding cut. University Provost Benjamin Polak — who is currently engaged in annual budget talks with every area of campus — did not respond Monday to questions about the reasons for the YCEI’s funding cuts. Salovey was also unavailable for comment Monday evening.