Yale Corporation Senior Fellow Roland Betts ’68 said Friday he will not meet with representatives from the Graduate Employees and Students Organization, emphatically denying claims from union organizers, who insist that Betts was prepared to have an open discussion with GESO members on Thursday.
Local 34 President Laura Smith, who works in Yale’s development office, said she approached Betts as he was leaving Sheffield-Sterling-Strachoma Hall at 3 p.m. on Thursday after he, other Corporation fellows, and Yale President Richard Levin introduced new Vice President of Development Inge Reichenbach to her staff. Smith said she introduced Betts to GESO organizer Wendi Walsh, who then began a conversation with Betts as the two walked along with a picket line of GESO members last week. According to Smith, Betts said he was willing to meet with GESO later this week.
But Betts said Friday that he had never agreed to meet with GESO members, and GESO “completely misconstrued” his encounter with picketers. He said he spoke briefly with one GESO member and, amid chanting picketers and a blaring bullhorn, told her he would consider meeting with her as an individual later next week.
“GESO has attempted to construe this brief exchange as an invitation to a meeting with a union, and even some sort of prelude to a negotiation,” Betts said in a statement released by the University Friday. “Nothing could be further from the truth … Given this unfortunate manipulation of the facts by GESO, I am now declining to have any meeting.”
But Smith said when she approached Betts on Thursday he appeared willing to meet with GESO. According to Smith, Betts told her that he wanted to sit down and talk with GESO members and that he had already urged Levin to meet with GESO members.
“At his level, as the senior fellow on the Yale Corporation board of trustees, he was actually interested in meeting with GESO,” Smith said. “That’s what I took from his comments.”
Friday marked the end of a week-long teaching strike by members of GESO which featured several public protests on campus, including one led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson on Thursday after Betts’ encounter with GESO members. Levin has consistently refused to meet with GESO members.