This week’s YDN also featured several strong letters from GESO members and allies. Annemarie Strassel called on Yale to make good on its stated commitment to diversity:
Yale’s workforce is starkly stratified along lines of race and gender, so that women and people of color are concentrated in lower levels — whether they are maintenance workers, office workers or teachers and researchers…GESO and locals 34 and 35 have repeatedly proposed concrete solutions to this problem, yet the administration has repeatedly refused to talk with us about our proposals. Their recalcitrance reached new heights when not one administrator responded to a grievance about diversity submitted by over 300 graduate students last April. When, six months later, graduate students in the African American Studies department asked Dean Butler why the administration had responded to the grievance with only deafening silence, he claimed, incredibly, that it had been lost. When the administration finally mustered a response last month, it was only to refuse to commit to any concrete steps to improve equality in the university’s workforce — or even to hold an open forum to discuss these issues. Given these events, one could be forgiven for suspecting that the University’s commitment to diversity is more rhetorical than it is real. Provost Andrew Hamilton averred to the News that this is “a challenging problem with no quick and easy solution.” We have offered solutions; administrators have failed to act.
Theresa Runstedtler described the implications of academic casualization:
Across the United States’ university system, high quality education with expert instructors and low student-teacher ratios is being overrun by a trend towards content delivery from a casualized, marginalized workforce of temporary lecturers with few resources, negligible job security, and little say in important decisions about curriculum. Let’s look at the numbers. The percentage of part-time faculty has ballooned from 22 percent in 1970 to 41 percent in 1995. Despite these statistics, universities continue to award more new Ph.D.s per year than they hire each year. And, it is hardly surprising that women and people of color are the ones bearing the real brunt of this shift in administrative prerogative, making up 58 percent of the blossoming ranks of temporary faculty while only 30 percent of the increasingly rare full-time, tenure-track positions…It is not pessimism nor a lack of work ethic that drives us but rather our optimism about what the academy can be with a dedicated, respected group of teachers and researchers.
Jay Driskell responded to the NLRB’s Brown decision:
According to the dissent, American universities increasingly rely on graduate students to perform important teaching and other work. According to “Blackboard Blues,” a GESO study from 2003, graduate students and adjunct instructors provide 70 percent of teaching contact hours. As teachers, we are vitally necessary to the functioning of Yale University. The work we perform forms the bedrock of an undergraduate education. It is teaching assistants who grade most of the blue books, read drafts of research papers, teach languages and run the review sessions. Additionally, TAs free up faculty members to write the books and articles that make Yale’s reputation. The economic realities that have brought thousands of graduate teachers into the labor movement over the last two decades will not disappear by legally defining the problem out of existence. It would serve Yale University well to come to terms with these realities. As long as these persist, GESO will never stop fighting for recognition.
Evan Cobb called for pay equity:
In a few weeks new surveys will go out, and just as I have for the past three terms, I will declare that, no, my job description isn’t accurate at all. And just like in past terms, I’ll hope that somewhere, in the spirit of making a contribution to the academic mission of the university, an administrator will see this problem and find a way to solve it. But perhaps more disturbing than the problem itself are the solutions Yale administrators have already proposed. In response to my survey answers last semester, Yale College Associate Dean Judith Hackman wrote to me to explain that language teaching is supposed to be a half-time commitment and that I should meet with my Director of Graduate Studies “to adjust [my] teaching responsibilities.” When administrators would much rather ask teachers to plan less, prepare less, grade less attentively and spend less time with students, instead of dealing with a broken pay scale, it becomes clear that the system is broken. The very deans who are supposed to be guarding and securing excellence in education are actively encouraging its detriment. Last spring, 89 graduate students in the languages and literatures filed a series of grievances with the Graduate School on issues related to pay equity. Dean Butler’s response was simply to reiterate the existing pay scale as though it were a self-defending truth. Next semester, though I’ll no longer be a “Teaching Fellow Program Participant,” I will still be at Yale, teaching for a living, trying to support my research. I will earn less than at any previous point in my time here for doing the exact same work.
And Bobby Proto offered a historical perspective:
For years, Yale’s increasing use of casual workers hurt black and Latino workers more than anyone else. Our union fought to stop this abuse, and we demand that Yale provides everyone with equal opportunity regardless of the color of their skin. So when Yale’s graduate teachers see the same thing happening in the classroom — Yale hiring more and more women and people of color into “casual” teaching positions while reserving the good tenured jobs for white men — then it’s natural that they would turn to Local 35 to learn how to fix the problem. Stick together. Stand strong. That’s how you get Yale’s attention. Local 35 never had an NLRB election. We fought and forced Yale to agree to a fair process, so that the workers that wanted the union got the union. Then, we didn’t stop supporting the unionization of Yale’s clerical workers just because they lost two union elections during the 1970s. In 1983, they won a squeaker election and then went on strike. We respected their picket line, and together we won excellent contracts, reducing the gender pay gap by raising wages for what was considered “women’s work.” We have learned never to turn our backs on any group of workers, and we’ll never forget that lesson. That’s why we’ll continue supporting our brothers and sisters in GESO, who walked our picket lines and stood with us in our struggles.