“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.


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.

Faced with a compelling narrative Tuesday – students come together in a broad and diverse coalition to demand that Yale cease redlining Fair Haven, and the head of ONHSA shows up to announce a dramatic change in University policy after years of organizing in the community for change, the YDN and the Reigister found a peculiar way of covering it: The YDN wrote a story about the student demand which downplayed the concession by the administration, and the Register wrote a story about the change in University policy which downplays the students’ demand for it…This is one of those cases where you would need at a minimum to read both stories to begin to get a sense of what’s going on here.

Yale Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs (currently serving also as VP for Finance and Administration) Bruce Alexander showed up today at a student press conference calling on him and President Levin to extend Yale Homebuyer Program to Fair Haven and thus cease red-lining that poor and predominately Latino community out of Yale’s full benefit package. Alexander committed himself and Levin to push the Corporation to extend the program, a huge victory for our student coalition (the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, the Pan-Ethnic Coalition, Dwight Hall’s Executive Committee, MEChA, Concerned Black Students, Yale Peace, SLAM, and Jews for Justice) and for the broad social movement that been fighting this fight already for years. Now we have to keep the pressure on to follow through, and to keep moving forward for greater justice in this community.

This YDN piece sets forth the common – and accurate – wisdom that Tuesday’s election and September’s primary, in which the New Haven Democrats captured one seat each from the Greens and the Republicans, for a total of 28 out of 30 on the Board of Aldermen, and in which several critics of Mayor DeStefano were replaced with allies, represents a significant shift in the power on the board, and a consolidation of control behind DeStefano and his team. This has tremendous positive potential, as evidenced in DeStefano’s victory speech Tuesday night, in which he identified as his first two priorities domestic partnership and campaign finance reform – both areas in a which New Haven has the potential to pass progressive legislation matched by only perhaps a dozen other cities in the country. DeStefano’s shift to the left, however, has not happened in a vacuum – besides his growing commitment to running for Governor in 2006, DeStefano has been pushed by his critics from the left, including, as Paul Bass argued a couple weeks back, the Greens.

The one Green left on the Board, however – Joyce Chen – has gotten the most headlines of her term by vocally and visibly opposing domestic partnership. That stance, and her rhetoric in defending it, cost her the support of many of her constituents – myself and many progressive undergraduates included. The unions’ work in support of Joyce, who has a record of support for the social contract that labor and community movements have been pushing in this city, and the Democratic party’s work in support of Democrat Andre Nicole Baker, created an ugly scene between members of both camps at the polls, despite the co-operation of both in winning several wards for pro-labor progressive Democrats, among them Drew King in Ward 22, where most undergrads who aren’t in Ward 1 or 2 live. Drew beat Office of New Haven and State Affairs-supported incumbent Mae Ola Riddick’s write-in campaign, after having defeated her in the September primary and this summer at the Ward nominating committee.

Meanwhile, the YDN editorial board, which instituted an annual tradition of calling on Ward 28 Alderman Brian Jenkins to resign his post as leader of the Black and Latino Caucus after his minority address, is now worried that without him there’ll be fewer voices to keep DeStefano in check.

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.

Negotiators from Yale and from HERE Locals 34 and 35 came back to the table again yesterday, over a week after the unions had been hoping Yale would be willing to restart negotiations. As the unions report, Yale showed little change of heart:

Negotiations with Yale resumed Tuesday afternoon at the Omni Hotel. Despite headlines about Yale’s “new faces” at the bargaining table (after the recent departure of several key administrators), there were no new faces to be seen on Yale’s team. Neither were there any major new proposals from Yale. This was not unexpected for our first session back at the bargaining table but, on behalf of our negotiating committees, Local 35 President Bob Proto made our intentions clear: we are ready to meet all day, every day of the week and all night, if necessary to achieve a fair contract. To make that work, however, Yale must be prepared to engage in the real give-and-take of actual negotiation and compromise on wages, pensions, job security and training and advancement.

While Yale had no serious new proposals for us yesterday, Chief Negotiator Brian Tunney reiterated his assertion that Yale is “prepared to move on pensions, wages and retroactivity.” While that may sound promising, we have heard those words too often before without any actual results. As Local 34 President Laura Smith responded, “It’s time to stop preparing to move and start actually moving.”

…Despite the reference to retroactivity, Tunney was quick to say that what he meant by retroactivity was actually a discussion of a “signing bonus”–a far cry from the full retroactivity that Yale should agree to after we accepted their first-year wage proposal. Tunney also confirmed that when the newly-renovated Sprague Hall reopens next week, the building will be cleaned and serviced by low-wage subcontracted workers, not by Local 35…Yale’s one “new proposal” was a suggestion that Local 34 workers who are laid off due to subcontracting to a Yale affiliate (like YNHH) be given an “extra” three months in the Interim Employment Pool–hardly reassuring in light of the enormous potential, particularly in the Medical Area, for shifting University to Hospital work…

As the AP reports:

Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said it is impossible to know whether a deal would be reached. “We’re always hopeful, but certainly we’re far apart and they have some unrealistic proposals,” Conroy said.

Union spokeswoman Deborah Chernoff said the unions are waiting for Yale to come forward with new proposals for wages and pensions. “We’re prepared to meet every day. We’re prepared to meet all day, and we’re prepared to meet on the weekends, but we have to have something to talk about,” she said.

Meanwhile, as the Register reports, Mayor DeStefano is also keen to the irony of Bruce Alexander serving, in the wake of Bob Culver’s departure, as Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs and for Finance and Administration at once:

DeStefano said Alexander “potentially is going to be serving the community agenda at the same time they are presiding over the biggest walkout and longest walkout of Yale workers in over a decade.” He feels this presents an “inherent conflict. Why run the risk of confusing the agendas?”

Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky responded that the assignment is a temporary one for Alexander who was named to the post because “Bruce is the officer with business and financial expertise.”

As YaleInsider observes, “If there were ever any doubt about the ultimate reason for Yale’s VP position for community relations, created in the wake of the 1996 strike, let that doubt be dispelled.”

In this week’s New Haven Advocate, Paul Bass brings home the irony of Yale’s ONHSA- (Office of New Haven and State Affairs)sponsored picket of the Board of Aldermen against Naclerio’s (triumphant) resolution calling on Yale to pay its share in taxes to the city:

Yale’s managers were fired up. They couldn’t take no more. They sent a message to their compadres at the Chamber of Commerce calling for help. Dozens took to the streets. They brought signs. They massed in front of New Haven’s City Hall last week. And they marched.
What brought them out to protest?

New Haven’s high poverty?

The state of the schools?

A broken criminal justice system?

Nope. The managers and their comrades picketed on the evening of July 7 to protest New Haven government for being unfair to … Yale.

Another highlight of the article:

Last week’s events signaled “a cultural shift” at that office, observes Julio Gonzalez, executive assistant to Mayor John DeStefano and a Yale alum. “This has nothing to do with their mission. This is definitely different from what they’ve done in the past. Now it’s a lobbying arm.”

Bruce Alexander, a Yale vice president who heads the Office of New Haven & State Affairs, responds that the demonstration fits into the office’s mission: “to inform the community, out of a sense of respect for their opinion, of the facts, and not let those who seek to discredit us for their own narrow agenda define us in the community.”

Anyone who wants to check out Yale’s spin on the facts first-hand, visit Yale’s Office of Public Affairs here. Among their latest work: an ad “congratulating a list of employees who’d reached 25, 30, 35, 40, or 45 years of service at Yale and trumpeting Yale’s record as an employer. 47 of the employees honored on the list wrote back to the papers that had printed it:

We are proud to have been honored recently for our many years of service working at Yale University, but we were surprised to see our names in the Yale advertisement published by the Register claiming that Yale provides “strong job security, good wages, and excellent benefits.” We do not believe this to be true.

Throughout our years of working at Yale, we have fought and struggled with Yale’s administration to force them to provide what little they do give us. Nevertheless, our wages are still too low, we still face retirement into poverty, and Yale is still threatening the future security of our jobs.

A constant stream of misleading ads isn’t going to change this. It’s only going to change when Yale decides to treat us, and all its employees, with respect.

The most telling part of Bruce Alexander’s quote, however, would have to be the accusation that the unions have a “narrow agenda” – meaning perhaps that they value their workers’ wages over, say, Bruce Alexander’s. See less than a year ago, President Richard Levin wrote me and the rest of a student body a letter about his fear that the unions had “a broader agenda” – meaning that those thugs not only wanted good wages and benefits, but also wanted their neighbors in Fair Haven to be able to get jobs at Yale, their children to be able to attend adequately-funded schools, and their fellow workers to be able to organize. Maybe the polite thing would be for Yale’s leadership just to dictate to Union leadership at the negotiating table the precise acceptable breadth of their agenda, so as to avoid this Goldilock’s problem we seem to be having. But first they would have to come to the negotiating table…