GESO seeks TA pay equity, diversity funds

In a series of actions this week, the Graduate Employees and Students Organization called on the University to negotiate changes in its policies regarding faculty diversity and pay equity.

More than 300 graduate students signed a GESO diversity grievance this week asking Yale to increase its financial commitments to diversity programs and create an independent grievance committee on diversity and equal opportunity. GESO members also protested, urging the University to balance the stipends teaching assistants receive regardless of their status at the Graduate School.

Currently, teaching assistants before their fifth year are paid $16,000 stipends, but teaching assistants in their fifth year and beyond receive $12,530, according to GESO’s pay equity grievance.

GESO Chair Mary Reynolds GRD ’07 said this week’s actions culminate the group’s year-long concerted effort to focus on issues specifically related to graduate students.

“This past year we’ve been looking at issues that have been a concern for graduate students and really trying to build the best possible partnership with the University,” Reynolds said.

Graduate School Dean Peter Salovey could not be reached Thursday night for comment, but said in February that the administration is doing its best to craft financial policies that benefit graduate students.

“We have two goals when we set financial aid,” Salovey said. “First is to allow students to make progress on their studies knowing that they receive significant financial resources. The second goal is to make sure that the Yale Graduate School can compete with the very best universities in the world for the very best students in the world.”

But the GESO pay equity grievance claims that the administration has “failed to address our concerns.”

“This situation is unacceptable,” Brenda Carter GRD ’04 wrote in the grievance. “Yale’s system of unequal pay is in no way consistent with respect for teachers, a commitment to undergraduate education, support for the Graduate School’s most advanced scholars, or the collegiality and equality that should characterize a university.”

James Terry GRD ’06, a spokesman for At What Cost?, a graduate student organization that opposes GESO’s tactics, said he expects and hopes the administration will “publicly ignore” GESO’s grievances and then change the University’s policies “behind the scenes.”

“There’s a long history of conflict between the administration and GESO and it’s really counterproductive,” Terry said. “[But] I think at this point, everybody’s ignoring GESO — I think most graduates and undergraduates here know that GESO is speaking for a minority of graduate students. I think that really effectively disarms them.”

In its diversity grievance, GESO called on Yale to increase the resources it allocates to the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity as well as the Center for the Study of Race, Inequality and Politics.

Chemistry professor Connie Allen, a GESO supporter who said she was one of the only black teachers in Yale’s science departments, said she was laid off in December due to the current budget crisis. She had taught at Yale for four years.

“If teaching excellence and diversity mean something to Yale, there’s really no reason why my contract should not be renewed,” Allen said. “I do think it’s important for freshmen to be able to see diversity — and know that succeeding in the sciences is possible.”

GESO will join Yale’s two largest unions, locals 34 and 35, as well as District 1199, which represents workers at the Yale-New Haven Hospital, at a 5 p.m. rally Monday. The groups plan to protest recent layoffs at the University.

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