As Yale students decide whether or not to cross picket lines formed by striking employees, union leaders said they are actively encouraging guests slated to speak on campus to respect the current job action. And at least one guest — renowned novelist Alice Walker — has decided to show her support for the unions by cancelling her talk.
Walker, the author of “The Color Purple” and other novels, cancelled a Battell Chapel reading and lecture scheduled to take place Wednesday at 4 p.m. because she refused to cross the picket lines.
Union spokesman Bill Meyerson said the unions were pleased that Walker rescinded her commitment to Yale. Meyerson said this decision showed Walker was “respectful of the workers’ struggle.”
Meyerson said Walker is not the only person unions have told about the strike.
“We are reaching out to all people who are scheduled to speak, [and] notifying them that there is a strike– and there are picket lines and we are requesting that people respect the strike,” he said. “Walker was one of them and we’re very pleased that she responded as such. I do think it indicates that it would be naive of anyone to expect that it would be business as usual on the Yale campus when the majority of the workforce is out on strike.”
Yale President Richard Levin declined to comment on Walker’s decision to cancel the lecture, but said the unions put similar pressure on those slated to appear during the one-week strike in March.
“I know most of them [still] came,” Levin said.
Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said he did not know how many talks were cancelled because of the unions’ requests.
Literature major Kevin Abels ’05 said he supports Walker’s decision, though he said he wished he could have heard her speak.
“I definitely had an interest in hearing what she had to say,” Abels said. “It’s a shame that I couldn’t have heard her but… I think she made an informed moral decision.”
Abels said he regrets that Walker declined to come to campus.
“I would say it’s unfortunate for Yale students that the Yale administration has created a situation in which public figures don’t feel comfortable speaking on campus,” he said.
Meyerson said he thinks Walker’s representatives informed union leaders on Monday that she would be cancelling the event.
Walker was to give a reading and lecture in conjunction with the opening of two Beinecke Library exhibitions entitled “Intimate Circles: American Women and the Arts” and “Extravagant Crowd: Carl Van Vechten’s Portraits of Women.”