Protest decries Levin’s silence

Protesting Yale President Richard Levin’s silence regarding controversial statements made by Harvard President Lawrence Summers, more than 100 members of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization marched to Betts House Thursday afternoon to criticize the treatment of women and minorities at Yale.

The protesters assailed Levin for not joining Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Susan Hockfield — a former Yale provost — and the heads of Stanford and Princeton in an open letter last week condemning Summers for his comments. GESO claimed that Levin’s lack of a public response to Summers’ comments has highlighted what they described as Yale’s rocky history with women and minority faculty.

“Basically, we feel that Levin’s silence reveals a level of [complacence] in a situation where he should take a role,” GESO spokeswoman Emma Ross GRD ’05 said.

The protesters attempted to present Levin with a letter detailing four reforms GESO hopes will foster more diversity among professors at Yale, but Levin was in Washington, D.C., on Thursday meeting with senior government officials to discuss visa issues and scientific research.

In an interview Thursday evening, Levin declined to comment on Summers’ remarks or on the uproar they have caused at Harvard. Responding to GESO’s demands, Levin said the group’s protest was designed to help it garner support for unionization.

“GESO has over the years moved around from issue to issue, and their platform has changed dramatically over the years, but their major focus is getting recognized as a union,” Levin said.

Despite Levin’s absence at Betts House, the protesters said they hoped to spark a dialogue with the administration by expressing their grievances. Local 35 president Bob Proto, who is also the president of the Greater New Haven Labor Council, said Levin should have spoken out against Summers’ comments and used the controversy at Harvard to improve the situation for women and minorities at Yale.

“I think he missed an opportunity to take a lead in changing what is a very poor record of opportunities for women and people of color at Yale,” said Proto, who did not participate in Thursday’s protest.

GESO’s letter called on Levin to remove obstacles limiting the progress of women, minorities and international scholars; to make the job promotion process more transparent; to codify anti-discrimination practices and to disclose statistics regarding the University’s progress in job accessibility.

Levin, who said he read GESO’s letter that evening, said Yale already has language in place for job descriptions and promotion as well as anti-discrimination policies.

GESO said Yale’s statistics of women and minorities in the faculty are alarming, despite the fact that they are similar to those at Harvard. The group noted that Yale has only one tenured black female professor, Hazel Carby, and that there are no women among Yale’s regular math faculty. Only four percent of the University’s tenured faculty are black or Hispanic, according to University records.

“President Levin needs to make the University more accessible to women and people of color,” GESO chair Mary Reynolds GRD ’07 said.

Since Levin took office, the total number of tenured women at Yale has risen from 82 to 168 and the number of regular women faculty went from 266 to 364, University spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said.

All graduate students receive free health care and their dependents receive subsidized care, Klasky said. All Ph.D. students receive an annual $17,000 stipend whether or not they teach, and pay no tuition, she said.

Immunology Ph.D. candidate Rachael Jackman GRD ’07 said Yale should provide more benefits for women pursuing careers in science.

“Many women have to leave science because of institutional barriers, including the lack of adequate health care and childcare,” Jackman said.

Women, particularly in the sciences, often are forced to choose between their career and raising a family, Jackman said. Another speaker, Jennifer Seaich DIV ’05, said Levin and his administration should choose to provide equal access for women with families to careers in academia.

“I want to be a professor, but I get no respect and no job security,” Seaich said. “Women face these issues all the time.”

Dana Goldblatt LAW ’05, said she is upset that the administration has not responded to GESO’s complaints.

“It is absurd how we have to get this done,” Goldblatt said. “The administration should be proud of us when we ask for disclosure. Instead, they’ve been unhelpful.”

Levin’s administration has made significant advances for women faculty at Yale, said law professor Judith Resnik, co-chair of the Women’s Faculty Forum, who was not present at the protest.

“In the seven or so years I’ve been here, I’ve seen significant movement and development by the University to engender a generative workplace for women and men,” Resnik said.

In January, Resnik said, the University changed its policy on leave of absence to allow female and male faculty members with children under six to take a paid leave. Last Tuesday, the Women’s Faculty Forum met with Dean Peter Salovey and Dean Jon Butler to discuss how to improve faculty development and the mentoring of all women.

“The University has made great achievements in integrating gender,” Resnik said. “But not all departments have enacted these changes, so we are gathering data and engaging in conversations to fulfill Yale’s promise to be a truly coeducational university.”

Rachel Jackman GRD ’07 addresses GESO members criticizing the status of women and minorities at Yale, as GESO chair Mary Reynolds GRD ’07 looks on.
Cody Dashiell-Earp
Rachel Jackman GRD ’07 addresses GESO members criticizing the status of women and minorities at Yale, as GESO chair Mary Reynolds GRD ’07 looks on.

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