An open letter to Yale

To the editor:

On Dec. 10, 2003, in front of hundreds of witnesses, 103 women submitted to arrest in an act of civil disobedience to highlight the status of women and people of color at Yale. We were graduate students, faculty, members of Locals 34 and 35, retirees, undergraduates and members of the New Haven community. We stood together to call upon Yale to provide a more diverse faculty and student body, affordable child care, dependent health care and retirement with dignity. A year later, we write to record our dismay at the Yale administration’s failure to address these issues.

Diversity in the faculty and student body: There remains only one black woman with tenure at Yale. The fraction of tenured faculty of color hovers at 7.5 percent, and of women faculty, at 18.5 percent. To add insult to injury, when 300 graduate students submitted a formal grievance protesting the state of diversity at Yale, the administration claimed to have lost it, though the document was hand-delivered to the offices of several top administrators, including President Levin.

Affordable child care: Last February, a Yale Daily News editorial lauded the efforts of Local 34 and GESO to improve child care options at Yale. However, the only individual who has benefited from this effort is Yale Corporation member Linda Mason, whose child care firm, Bright Horizons, received a contract to study Yale’s child care needs. Shamefully, Yale parents and their children still lack access to affordable child care.

Dependent health care: At a time when Connecticut faces a budget crisis predicted to top $1 billion, the Yale administration continues to force the children of its graduate teachers and researchers onto state aid through its unaffordable dependent health care plan.

Retirement with dignity: Last fall Yale made an agreement to review retirement benefits for the 200 retirees not covered by Local 34 and Local 35′s latest contract. The average monthly pension for people who retired from Yale before 1990 with 26 years of service remains a disgraceful $410. Yale now refuses to negotiate.

In a speech on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in 2002, President Levin said, “I want to underscore the commitment of the University to the continued pursuit of racial justice, to further collaboration with our neighbors in New Haven, and to a concerted effort to build a new partnership with our labor unions.”

As the above issues illustrate, Yale has fallen woefully short of this commitment. We renew our call on Yale to become a leader in promoting respect and equity for women and people of color in the classroom, in the workplace and in the community.

Hope Johnson, executive board, Local 35

Mary Reynolds, chair, GESO

Dec. 7, 2004

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