Approximately 30 Yale faculty members gathered late Monday afternoon outside Woodbridge Hall to deliver Yale President Richard Levin a letter, signed by 118 professors, urging the administration to consider using binding arbitration to end the strike.
The letter promised to “make every effort to meet our obligations towards fulfillment of the University’s educational mission,” but hinted at the difficulties that several faculty members said the strike is creating for their classes. Some of the professors have taught their classes off-campus during the strike, which began Aug. 27.
“We believe that we can only meet these obligations fully if the strike is resolved as soon as possible,” the letter said.
Organized through word of mouth and e-mail circulation, the letter represents one of the first collective actions taken by a significant portion of Yale’s faculty during the strike.
“I signed the letter because it seems to be reasonable in its goals,” said sociology professor Andrew Schrank Monday as he waited in front of Woodbridge. “It doesn’t seem to me that this ‘solution’ is working for anyone.”
Locals 34 and 35 have called on Yale officials to agree to settle contracts through binding arbitration, but Yale negotiators have rejected the idea.
Although less than one third of the faculty members who signed the letter showed up at Woodbridge Monday afternoon, African American and American Studies professor Hazel Carby said they had a hard time getting into the building to deliver the letter.
Not all professors agree with the content of the letter. History Chairman Jon Butler said he never received a copy of the letter but would not have signed if he had.
“I have my own qualms with binding arbitration,” he said. “You really want in the end the two sides to agree. When you bring in an arbitrator, you are really saying that there is no hope the two sides will ever agree.”
The letter acknowledged that a “neutral third party might not be optimal” but stated “it will be far preferable to the dislocation which now appears inevitable.”
Professors who moved their classes off campus rather than cross picket lines said the strike has limited access to classroom technology and other conveniences such as desks. After delivering the letter, the group that gathered outside Woodbridge briefly discussed the difficulty of obtaining audio-video equipment for off-campus classes.
American Studies professor Michael Denning, who has moved his classes off campus, said he is considering eliminating a film portion from one of his courses because his new location does not support the technology. He said he worried that his students do not have adequate access to the libraries.
“Students are not getting what they would normally get,” Denning said. “Without the people who are on strike right now, the day-to-day teaching does not go on — The strike is breaking down the whole social fabric of the University.”
Many professors who gathered Monday afternoon expressed their support for the striking workers as well as their belief that the administration needs a little prodding to reach a settlement.
Striking worker Vicki Shepard, senior administrative assistant to the American Studies Department, praised the professors’ efforts on behalf of the strike.
“It’s really great when you are out there sacrificing to know that there are people with integrity that actually teach their ideals,” she said.
Butler, however, said he disagreed with the decision to communicate with the administration in the form of a letter.
“I think it is too easy to send letters to the president giving advice,” he said. “At times like these, advice should be given in private.”
Carby said the group of professors plans to meet again at a later date but hopes the administration will first respond to the letter.