I walked through Old Campus Friday night, and for a few minutes, Yale College seemed normal. Freshmen were clumped in large groups. College names were being dropped. Cell phone numbers exchanged. The masses were headed toward Dwight Street for the annual BD bash. I felt relieved. The Class of 2007 was at least experiencing some of Yale’s less grand traditions.
But my relief was joined by a sense of dislocation. Only hours before, I had entered Old Campus wearing my custom-made “Ask Me about the Strike” T-shirt. I had walked picket lines with workers and yelled chants and spent my day far removed from the usual “back-to-school” drill. Partially, I was disturbed by how easy it could be to forget that the strike was happening. (I live off campus, so thankfully the strike doesn’t affect my meal service). Partially, I was upset by the amount of disturbance the strike had caused.
I’ve been working on union issues at Yale since I was a freshman, and I was really hoping to be done with all of this by my senior year.ÊI’m pissed off that I have to cross picket lines to go to class. I don’t want to have to trade my political convictions to take advantage of a Yale education. I don’t want to feel guilty going into the library, knowing it’s being staffed by temps. I don’t want to feel uncomfortable walking into my master’s office and seeing an unfamiliar faces.
Strikes suck. As Lee Ngo wrote in yesterday’s paper (“A rude awakening on freshman move-in day,” 9/3), as undergraduates we are stuck somewhere in the middle. Our lives are being disrupted. And I think he’s perfectly right to ask Yale’s unions to help us want to work with them. But like the entire opinion page yesterday, his editorial failed to recognize the administration’s responsibility for the miserable situation we are now all in.
Yesterday’s masthead suggested strikes were not in the best interest of the workers, even as it recognized the numerous problems with Yale’s contract offer. While I appreciate the News’ concern for Yale workers, I wish it had come out stronger in support of binding arbitration. Yale’s unions have consistently said they would immediately agree to resolving the contract by presenting their plans and the University’s plans to a neutral third party.
I can understand the administration’s reluctance to hand over such an important budget decision, but I can’t help but see their refusal to accept the unions’ offer as a slap in my face too. They can’t continue to blame the unions for ongoing labor strife when they categorically reject the one quick and guaranteed way of getting a contract negotiated.
Students, no matter their political affiliation or beliefs, are not happy about the idea of strikes lingering throughout the semester. As students, we need to hold our university accountable to our needs. At this point, I think that means calling for binding arbitration.
Erin Scharff is a senior in Pierson College.