Professional schools diverge on TA strike

As GESO activists walk the picket lines for the third day, they march without significant support from their peers at Yale’s three largest professional schools.

Last week brought public protests from students at the Yale School of Art and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and GESO organizers said this week’s activities have also involved strikers from the Yale Divinity School. But the University’s schools of law, business and medicine have been less well-represented and many students from the schools either profess ignorance of GESO activities or have said they do not support the strike.

Jennifer Seaich DIV ’06, one of the students on GESO’s Coordinating Committee for Professional Schools, said enivronmental and divinity school students have been involved in the strike, but that she does not know the extent of the other professional schools’ involvement. She characterized the attempt at unionization by professional school students as a relatively new development.

“Twenty percent of all the people who do the teaching at Yale are from professional schools,” she said. “We have been fighting for less time, but we are fighting now.”

Seaich said professional school students who teach sections often face gross pay inequity compared to graduate students. Seaich, who teaches classes in Yale’s history department, said she makes less money than Yale graduate student teaching assistants. Working together under GESO, both professional school students and graduate school students will benefit from any gains made during the strike, including the potential for improvements in health care, she said.

But Yale undergraduates who have been involved in the strike, including members of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, said Monday that they had not seen a noticeable presence of professional school students at rallies, although a few students reported seeing former Law School teaching assistants on the picket lines.

Jud Mathews LAW ’05 said that in the past, Law School students have supported strikes, but that during this strike he has not seen that many of his classmates involved in GESO activities.

“Generally students have been pretty sympathetic to the cause,” he said. “But a lot of people don’t really know what is going on.”

Although he said he is sure that there are law students who support the GESO cause, Kyle Barry LAW ’07 said most law students he knows are against the strike and believe that the graduate students do not have legitimate grounds for their claims.

“All law school students are graduate students, and we do not seek those kinds of benefits,” Barry said. “It does not seem possible to be able to draw a clear distinction between all graduate students and those who work as part-time teachers.”

Law School spokesperson Janet Conroy said that although she does not know the actions of individual students, she has not seen a high level of activity on the part of law students in this particular graduate student action.

There also has not been much talk about the strike around the Yale School of Management water cooler, several SOM students said.

SOM teaching assistant David Raymond SOM ’05 said that he does not really see how the strike will affect him.

“I’m guessing the strike won’t affect me too much unless there is some chanting and cowbell banging outside our building,” Raymond wrote in an e-mail yesterday. “If the administration decides to fire all the strikers and bring in scabs, does that mean I could have a chance at being the Oil Can Boyd of TAs at one of Yale’s other schools?”

Another SOM teaching assistant Buster Kantrow SOM ’05 said he did not know anyone in the MBA program involved in the strike.

“The TAs are continuing to grade and help students as we normally do,” he wrote in an e-mail yesterday.

In fact, Kantrow called the strike a “mystery” to SOM students.

“From the sound of it, many of the grad students who are complaining, particularly the Ph.D.s, already have a pretty sweet deal.”

There is little to no Medical School involvement in the strike, as the strike affects the social sciences and humanities departments, GESO organizers said.

Yale School of Medicine Associate Dean of Student Affairs Nancy Angoff added that in the past very few medical students have been involved in GESO activities.

“The students who are involved tend to be M.D./Ph.D candidates, those who tend to have a foot in both schools so to speak,” Angoff said.

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