Some graduate students at Yale University said they felt threatened or intimidated by faculty members for their advocacy of a Yale employee labor union, according to a report released last Wednesday by a panel of professors and legal experts.
Students informed the panel that faculty members at Yale had threatened to hurt students’ academic progress for supporting a union. The Graduate Employee and Student Organization at Yale has attempted to unionize the university’s 2,100 graduate students for the past 10 years, despite the university’s opposition.
“All of this is part of a process trying to persuade Yale to change its opinion on the matter,” Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said. “They are not going to be successful.”
Union supporter Josh Eidelson, a student at Yale, said the administration’s treatment of students attempting to unionize is in direct opposition to the university’s ideals.
“It is unfortunate that this university preaches the rhetoric of democracy and academic discussion and, when it comes to a vital issue like graduate student unionization, top administration and faculty members have been involved in intimidating graduate students,” Eidelson stated.
Conroy said faculty members are informed of the National Labor Relations Act and know what is wrong and right. He also said that none of the actions students are accusing the Yale faculty of would ever be supported or permitted by the university.
“This is a university that places a premium on free speech,” Conroy said. “It is opposed in principle to any behavior that would intimidate anyone or put them in a position where they had a legitimate reason to feel that they couldn’t express themselves freely.”
Conroy also said GESO could approach the National Labor Relations Board at any time and ask for a vote. He said the organization does not do this because they do not have support from a majority of graduate students.
A vote held by the graduate student organization to form a union failed last May. Students supporting the union claimed it failed because students were intimidated and threatened by some members of the faculty and voted accordingly.
Yale sophomore Aaron Kennedy-Schaffer said the resentment that some faculty members show for the protesting students is very apparent. The chair of the political science department hung posters mocking the graduate students and their efforts to form a union, he said.
Conroy said he did not think the recent allegations and the publicity have hurt Yale’s reputation, judging from the number of applications the university receives each year.
“All one has to look at is the students and the faculty who come to Yale and understand that it has no effect whatsoever,” Conroy stated. “Every year the graduate school of arts and sciences at Yale University has a stunning applicant pool, which is as complete and talented and promising as any applicant pool in the entire world.”
“The university has a tendency to be arrogant,” Kennedy-Schaffer stated, and continued to say that both sides need to change in order to reach a conclusion. “Each side has alienated the other, and it is going to take work from both for a resolution to be found.”