Inspiring picketing today all over campus, including great conversations with other undergraduates and prospective students about what GESO is fighting for and what our stake is in it. Moving words this afternoon from union, community, and political allies, and from several of the men and women striking their teaching this week to defend their rights. As Dick Blumenthal said this morning, “GESO, I recognize you.”
here, “intellectual” as a term, as a marker of identity, is establishment, is upper-class white maleness. of course. but at ihs, intellectual, not those things already, was so entirely disestablishment, so entirely a rebellion against the student-governmentized majority (was it a majority, or did it just seem so, i wonder now?). intellectual was such a blatant marker of excludedness, a term infused with so much not belonging, a term disdainfully refused by the included…intellectual was not about the western canon (nobody gave a damn about a handful of white, european philosophers virtually no one read) but about the personhood of the less-formally-accepted folk. and owning the term was an empowering tool.
On the one hand, as I told the Herald,
I think that too often “intellectualism” is used as a convenient cipher to avoid discussing class – saying you prefer people who share an intellectual perspective is easier for many people than saying that you feel more comfortable around people who share the same amount of privilege. While intellectual may be an adjective that has meaning in describing activities, or spheres of individuals’ lives, I think it’s difficult to use intellectual as a noun to identify people without implicitly creating a boundary between those who count as intellectuals and those who do not.
And on the other hand – the part of the interview they didn’t print – I think “Anti-intellectualism” is also too convenient a mask for privilege, as it gives cover for the super-rich – like our current President – to feign a faux populism when shooting down progressive ideas by associating them with a mythical “cultural elite.”
Intellectualism at Yale has another meaning as well though – a pursuit of ideas divorced from their impact on the surrounding world – an unfortunate excuse for avoiding the education that comes from challenging your ideals in you interactions in the world. To me the letters I received from administrators during strikes here, telling me that my responsibility was to cross working peoples’ picket lines to get to class and learn how to be a leader, represent the worst contortion of intellectualism. And if being an intellectual college student means – as administrators here have suggested by their instructions in times of crisis – being sat on for four years in order to then hatch and go on to face the outside world, then I want none of it.
And yet, I know what Phoebe means when she writes,
i can’t but feel sad that the word has been taken away from me
Photos from the Yale strike are compiled here.
The Times’ latest analysis is here.
In what some call a clash between blue collars and blue bloods, many of Yale’s workers grew up in New Haven resenting Yale, feeling that it symbolized wealth and arrogance. For its part, Yale has a reputation of being inflexible in negotiations, angering many workers.
Yale officials appear convinced that the university is New Haven’s most generous employer and that its workers should be happy with their lot.
Many Yale workers, seeing few other job opportunities in New Haven, believe that the best way to improve their lot is to remain at Yale and fight to improve wages and benefits. “You combine a union that is not uncomfortable with a very public approach to negotiations and using whatever types of leverage it can find, and a university that’s taken a hard negotiating approach and stuck with it for a long period of time, and it’s a volatile mix,” said Richard Hurd, a labor relations professor at Cornell.
He said Yale traditionally had a hard-line bargaining approach that resembled General Electric’s: make an offer and refuse to budge.
Some Yale administrators and students attribute the university’s labor record to one man: John Wilhelm, a 1967 Yale graduate who is president of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, the parent of the two union locals on strike. Mr. Wilhelm, widely viewed as one of labor’s leading strategists, came to prominence within labor by leading the drive to unionize Yale’s clerical workers.
“For 35 years John Wilhelm has organized strikes at Yale,” said Helaine Klasky, Yale’s communications director. “This year is no different. He obviously believes that confrontation rather than cooperation is the best way to settle contract disputes.”
I’d be curious if there’s anyone out there who finds the latter explanation more convincing than the former. My take will be in the YDN tomorrow.
Today was the third meeting between Union and University leadership facilitated by Mayor DeStefano.
Thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of our members on strike, we are now meeting with Yale decision makers,” said Local 34 President Laura Smith. “Pensions are a key issue for all of us on strike. It’s time to settle a package that gives us retirement with dignity,” said local 35 President Bob Proto.
It’s about time.
Oh – Akiba Hebrew Academy will open one day late on Monday after a last minute settlement between the union and administrators. Maybe my new place of study could learn something from my old one…