The proposed new residential colleges offer students the promise of a larger, more diverse student body and an enriched college experience both in and out of the classroom. Given Yale’s past behaviors in development and the speed with which this project is proceeding students ought to be concerned with the consequences these new buildings will have on the city and University — in particular, the significant change in the quantity and makeup of both the faculty and staff at Yale.
With regards to the faculty, we are concerned that in the expansion Yale will miss a valuable opportunity to enhance the quality of its professors. In past years there has been a significant increase in the overall size and diversity of Yale’s faculty.
However, this trend has been coupled with a decrease in the number of tenured faculty and tenure-track positions. In the last 15 years, the amount of tenure-track positions has decreased 27 percent, while the amount of non-tenure track positions has increased 54 percent. Most of the new faculty hires of women and people of color are concentrated in these non-tenure track jobs which do not receive the benefits of academic freedom and job security — there are less than a handful of tenured black women teaching at Yale. True diversity that will not be achieved until we carve a path for more minority and female professors to become tenured.
The new residential colleges will bring a 10 percent increase in the student body and will require an accompanying increase in faculty. This represents the perfect chance for Yale to reverse its current hiring trend by expanding the tenure-track offerings. The resulting faculty would be more diverse with greater academic freedom and the ability to provide a better education for all Yale students.
Unfortunately, current discussions suggest that the University plans to rely heavily on graduate student teachers and ad hoc faculty assignments to meet the new teaching needs. This move will surely save Yale a few dollars, but it comes at the cost of high-quality academics and a good quality of life for TAs and professors.
Next, in terms of the non-teaching staff — as the largest employer in New Haven — Yale only stands to add more jobs with the construction of new colleges. The University has a responsibility to ensure that the jobs it creates are stable, well-paying positions that provide for the economic security of New Haven families. The contract Yale’s unions Locals 34 and 35 won in 2003 has made most Yale jobs good quality jobs that workers can raise stable families on. However, under its current contract, Yale has the option of sub-contracting out jobs in new or renovated buildings that would otherwise be unionized.
Sub-contractors offer jobs with little stability, no benefits and substantially lower wages than union jobs. Often based out-of-state, sub-contractors are also notorious for exploiting undocumented immigrants and poor women of color and illegally stopping their employees from engaging in union activity. Neglecting its responsibilities, Yale has prioritized its bottom line over the welfare of New Haven, sub-contracting jobs in Swing Space, the Office of New Haven and State Affairs and Linsley-Chittenden.
Given that Yale also attempted to sub-contract Timothy Dwight College dining hall jobs after its renovation, it would not be surprising if it attempts to do so again with the new residential colleges. While Local 35 was able to negotiate keeping jobs in Timothy Dwight College, Yale has made no guarantee that jobs in the new colleges will be unionized. If Yale is truly committed to maintaining a healthy relationship with New Haven that benefits both communities, it must commit itself to a policy of responsible development that ensures all jobs created will be union jobs for the citizens of New Haven.
The residential colleges have the potential to increase diversity both in the students and faculty, creating a richer environment in which we could learn. They also have the capability to provide a lot of well-paying jobs for citizens of New Haven.
In order for this to be the case, however, it is our responsibility as students to hold the administration accountable for the way it proceeds with development in New Haven and moves ahead in building these new residential colleges.
Gideon Mausner and Katie Harrison are freshmen in Pierson College and Berkeley College, respectively. Both are members of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee.