GESO unveils new platform

Improving the academic job market for young scholars is the focus of the new agenda passed by the Graduate Employees and Students Organization on Wednesday night, the organization’s first new platform since 2003.

The new platform follows a GESO survey of 400 graduate students conducted earlier this fall on which students identified “casualization” as their most pressing concern. Causalization refers to the employment of adjunct professors or teaching assistants rather than tenured or tenure-track professors in teaching positions.

At Wednesday’s meeting, attended by about 100 graduate students, GESO also called for the administration to hold an open forum next semester to address proposed policy changes at the Graduate School.

GESO spokesman Evan Cobb GRD ’07 said prioritizing casualization represents a new focus for the organization. He said the issue is important to GESO members, as many of them plan to become professors upon graduation and want to ensure that secure jobs are available at colleges and universities.

“[It is] really important to the members of the union, thinking about where they’re going to be when they finish graduate school,” Cobb said.

The previous platform, the product of a 700-person survey in 2003, had called for more institutional support for the families of graduate students, a more significant commitment to diversity in the Graduate School and guaranteed year-round funding as its three top issues.

Three years later, the state of the academic job market was the top concern for approximately half the students surveyed, followed by funding, health care and the quality of student-faculty mentorship.

Graduate School Dean Jon Butler did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.

To address casualization, GESO called for Yale to hire more tenured and ladder faculty, to reduce the percentage of teaching performed by non-ladder faculty and to provide better information and guidance for graduate students pursuing academic careers.

The platform comes during the Graduate School’s semester-long “2-to-4 Project,” in which Graduate School departments were asked to evaluate their own programs — specifically years two through four of graduate school — and to address issues raised by students in departmental meetings.

GESO co-chair Dan Gilbert GRD ’07 said the platform will guide GESO leaders in pushing for reform at the Graduate School.

“All along, Dean Butler and the grad school administration have talked about there being a real process where the grad school community can deliberate over these 2-to-4 changes, and I think that really hasn’t happened yet,” Gilbert said. “But [with] our platform and then taking the next step in calling for an open forum, I think we’re heading in the right direction.”

Last week, Butler told the News that the 2-to-4 Project has incorporated student input through an anonymous survey and in departmental meetings.

After the meeting, GESO members praised the new platform, especially its call for the University to take steps to end casualization.

GESO member Marnix Amand GRD ’10 said discussions within the Economics Department have raised many of the same concerns as those contained in GESO’s new platform, which he said appears to be largely representative of the views of the graduate student population on the whole.

But the platform will likely do little to influence the administration, Amand said.

“I don’t think they’ll just say, ‘Oh, now that we see this platform, let’s all agree,’” he said. “We have to keep it up … pushing for recognition every year.”

While parts of GESO’s platform overlap with the priorities of the Graduate Student Assembly — including mentorship and dental coverage — GSA chair Ian Simon GRD ’08 said casualization is not one of GSA’s immediate priorities because of the difficulty of addressing such an overarching trend.

“I wouldn’t say it’s the most pressing issue facing graduate students right now,” he said. “I’d say it’s a long-term issue.”

GESO, founded in 1987, has long sought recognition as a union representing graduate students and teaching assistants. But the University has consistently refused to recognize the group because they believe graduate students are primarily students, not employees, since the work they do as teaching assistants is part of their professional preparation.

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