MIKE MORAND ON THE CANCER CENTER PROJECT

“There are a lot of values here, and they’re not necessarily contradictory.”

– Yale Associate VP Mike Morand, Dwight Hall Debate, Tuesday night

I couldn’t have said it better myself. That’s why the accusation that some of us are soft on cancer for wanting to see the largest development in the city’s history done responsibly is such a baseless and irresponsible one.

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To the Editor:

The New Haven Student Fair Share Coalition, which Associate VP for New Haven and State Affairs Michael Morand called a “small group” making a “partisan press bid,” (“Fair share coalition presses for payment”) represents sixteen undergraduate organizations, from the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project, to the Black Student Alliance at Yale, to the Muslim Student Association, to Peace by Peace, which together are calling for Yale to make an institutional financial investment in New Haven commesurate with Yale’s economic power in New Haven and its aspirations for local and national leadership. Last night, before a vote in which half of Dwight Hall’s Cabinet demonstrated support for the Fair Share Campaign, Yale’s Associate General Counsel referred to the push for the nation’s second wealthiest university to contribute more to one of the nation’s poorest cities as “a zero-sum game” (“Dwight Hall rejects Fair Share proposal,” 4/21). This echoes Morand’s argument in these pages (“Math won’t add up in proposed PILOT cuts”, 3/5) that for an $11 billion institution to spend more money on improving the public school education of low-income children would have to mean spending less money on extending a Yale education to low-income undergraduates. Our coalition is calling on Yale to stop clinging to an 1834 tax “super-exemption” and to show civic leadership at a time of fiscal scarcity when citizens throughout the city will be paying increased taxes for the third year in a row and further cuts to education funding appear imminent (“City ready for cuts in state aid,” 4/14). For the Office of New Haven and State Affairs to pit the needs of undergraduates and those of New Haven’s other students against each other while accusing our coalition of being “divisive” is as cynical as it is ironic.

On today’s YDN op-ed page, Grayson Walker begins by arguing that dollar for dollar, your money does more good going to an anti-poverty organization than directly to someone who asks for it on the street – a position I generally agree with, with the caveat that most people who make that argument don’t end up giving money to either. Unfortunately, he goes downhill from there, recognizing that Yale has a vested interest in ameliorating the appearance of poverty in New Haven but not that Yale has a vested interest in substantive change in the plight of New Haveners or in real partnership with the larger community. The only partnership he suggests is

a coalition that includes Yale administrators and students, local businesses, New Haven city officials, and social welfare advocates

which sounds all well and good – unfortunately this coalition is charged not with addressing the structural inequality whose victims are in the thankless position of asking for money on the streets of New Haven, but with finding more creative ways to police them.

Conveniently laid out next to his piece is one from the head of Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs, Mike Morand, which beneath more artful rhetoric also attempts to absolve Yale of responsibility for real partnership in New Haven. Specifically, he argues that restricting Yale’s tax super-exemption would threaten Yale’s financial solvency without really helping New Haven because the state would respond to any move by Yale to shoulder its own tax burden on its profit-making properties by proportionately scaling back Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) to New Haven from the state. The problem with his argument, besides the irony of New Haven tax payers subsidizing Yale’s exemption, is that the state government has under-funded PILOT consistently over the past years, and thus the percentage of Yale’s tax exemption it compensates has steadily decreased. What would keep PILOT funding secure would be for Yale to step up and pay its fair share and for ONHSA to join CCNE in lobbying for increased PILOT. Unfortunately, that prospect seems to be about as attractive to Levin as joining forces with GESO to fight for international student visa reform.

Looks like Aldermen Mae Ola Riddick, Hazellann Woodall, and Lindy Lee Gold, all of whom received significant support from Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs in exchange for consistent opposition to the movement to bring together the New Haven community to demand real partnership with Yale, have all lost in primaries today. This is good news for New Haven, and in the long term for Yale as well. This is bad news for Alexander, Morand, and Levin.

A few personal experiences and impressions of the past 72 hours:

The eight Yale retirees (three of whom had to leave for medical reasons, five of whom held out for the full 24 hours) are real heroes whose perseverance is a model to all of us and whose victory presses the movement forward and raises the bar for everyone within it – and within this community. Their victory demonstrates the combination of strategically savvy and symbolically appropriate tactics, solidarity of workers, clergy, students and community, media scrutiny, organizing strength, sheer numbers, and iron will necessary for a victory like hasn’t been seen here since the ’84 strike. The whole episode, from the moment the eight declared that they weren’t leaving David Swenson’s office without a meeting to the moment that – poised to arrest them – Yale announced that it would instead grant their request, also dramatized both the shameful lengths to which Yale will go to perpetuate injustice and the potential and urgency to save Yale University from the Yale Corporation. The three times I was turned away and/or threatened with arrest by Yale police for trying to enter the Investment Building with hoagies for the retirees – who’d been hold up in the office for hours without food or use of the bathroom for several hours at this point – spoke volumes, as did the necessity for New Haven police to take jurisdiction because my University refused to allow food or bathroom facilities to a few elderly employees who showed up after decades of service to the University to confront the man who’s been quietly investing their pension fund in insider trading rather than in decent pension offers for the next generation of Yale workers. It was the sight of fifteen riot police entering the building to drag out five senior citizens, however, that was most deeply infuriating, and Yale’s last-minute realization that to have them do so would shame Yale’s leadership such that it would become more difficult to carry forward its regressive agenda was small comfort. It’s shameful that when light and truth rear their heads at Yale, Yale tries to lock out the light and starve out the truth.

The TV media did a better-than-usual job of covering the sit-in, in part because it was visual and in part because of Rev. Jackson’s presence. The most salient facts – why the retirees went in, that they won, and that Yale was poised to have riot police drag them out – came across on pretty much all the channels. The print media, including the YDN, was unfortunately dismissive of the drama, giving on average a sentence at the end of an article contextualizing the strike about a successful sit-in calling for a meeting but giving no sense of how or why it happened – or that it lasted 24 hours.

As in the last strike, few experiences are more powerful than walking the lines and talking to workers about why they’re out and what they’re fighting for. There are few ways someone in this city of any political perspective (including, perhaps, readers of this site) could be doing with an hour on a weekday morning than talking to the men and women who, yet again, Yale has forced to the point of challenge and personal sacrifice for lux and veritas. I met a fourth grader who’s walking the picket lines for the fourth time because, he explained, of a very greedy man who isn’t very good at sharing his toys.

Jesse Jackson, Emelio Hernandez, David Lee, and others have brought home over the past few days a point that cannot be emphasized enough: the civil rights movement cannot be separated from the movement for economic justice without destroying the integriy of the movement and insulting the dignity of those who compose it. On day after the anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, this point has a particular urgency. It’s strange how much more easily middle class Americans tend to believe that the liberty of bosses is contingent on their right to private property than that the freedom of workers is contingent on their right to wages. A classmate once accused me of disgracing the memory of MLK by wearing a pin with a photo of him at an SEIU 1199 rally (the union he often described as his “favorite union”). When I asked how it was inappropriate to celebrate a photo of an event that actually happened he suggested that MLK must have been caught by coincidence standing in front of an SEIU podium. To say that where a woman can sit on a bus is a moral issue but whether she can raise enough money to feed her family is merely a political question is a convenient but fundamentally unjust contention.

Today was one of the most intense freshman move-in days Yale has seen. The civil disobedience was of a much more serious and more dramatic character than last September, and the picket lines were some of the thickest and loudest I’ve seen here. The UOC gave out several hundred copies of our new pamphlet to freshmen and families, most of whom came off understandably as mostly overwhelmed, confused, anxious, and eager to get more information. Yale forced our table off of Old Campus on the grounds that, in the words of Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg, we were there “to bias freshmen, not to orient them.” Meanwhile, the Office of New Haven and State Affairs had three tables set up trying to get students on board with their agenda of condescension and division by giving our lollipops and tape measures. And the crew team had a thirty foot boat in the middle of campus. Yale police also stopped us from entering dorms to poster; one man told me I wasn’t allowed to enter with the poster I had and when I asked whether I could go in to put up, say, a capella posters, he referred me to his boss, who told me no one was allowed to enter with any kind of poster and then asked to see my posters. When I confronted Dean Brodhead about this he told me that I wasn’t being forced off of Old Campus myself, and so democracy was intact.

As we already knew, Scott Marks is a much better speaker than Jesse Jackson; John Wilhelm is a much better speaker than John Sweeney; Howard Dean is a much better speaker than Joe Lieberman.

Yale’s last minute decision to postpone tomorrow’s freshman invocation, an event which to my knowledge has never been cancelled in the University’s history (including during, say, World War), on the grounds of “the threat posed by our unions,” represents a resounding acknowledgement by Yale that contrary to their publicity, business is not going on as usual here, and the crisis is not under control. John Wilhelm was right to say, of of Yale’s prior claims that hardly anyone was out on strike and there was no disruption, “That’s exactly the problem – you do all the work here, and Yale can’t see you.” He also added that – as Yale’s contract offer makes clear – Yale can’t count. This was abundantly clear when Yale produced statistics purporting to show that strike turnout was low which left out 800 Yale workers – guess where they were? Perhaps one of them was Associate VP for New Haven and State Affairs Mike Morand’s secretary, who despite getting ample exposure to Yale’s side – which Conroy et al claim the union leadership is blinding the workers to – is out on strike.