About 250 graduate students congregated at Sterling Memorial Library Wednesday to release a report on what they describe as Yale’s corporate character and failure to collaborate with faculty and graduate students in making policy decisions about their work.
Leaders of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization argued this point both in the 15-page report, titled “Yale Inc.: The Corporate Model in Higher Education” and in prepared remarks at the rally.
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After leaders of GESO and Locals 34 and 35 — which represent clerical and technical workers, and service and maintenance employees, respectively — spoke to the crowd, the group marched to Warner House to deliver the report to the Office of Provost Peter Salovey.
“The decision-making process is being centralized into the hands of administrators,” said GESO Co-Chair Stephanie Greenlea GRD ’11 in an interview after the event.
Greenlea said she hopes administrators will include GESO in discussions about future changes to Graduate School policy. In December, Greenlea said, she invited Graduate School Dean Thomas Pollard to visit GESO’s headquarters. Pollard — who is currently analyzing possible changes to graduate program — declined to meet with GESO, Greenlea said, adding that the dean pointed to the fact that the University does not recognize the group as a union.
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Pollard would not comment on the rally Wednesday, but in an e-mail to graduate students this month, he invited community members to visit his office individually with concerns. Last month, Pollard said he will meet with faculty members and the Graduate School Assembly, the school’s student government, before he makes any major policy changes.
But GESO leaders said administrators have become less reliant on faculty as well as students. The group’s report quotes an anonymous professor, who said Yale officials have diminished faculty’s role in governance. Now, the professor said, “faculty members are increasingly likely to be ‘consulted’ about decision-making, and more and more on an ad hoc basis.”
But Meg Urry, chair of the Physics Department, said faculty still play a prominent role in making decisions in an interview Wednesday. She added that she is delighted Pollard is taking a close look at graduate programs since there is always room to improve.
“If faculty felt that [collaboration] wasn’t happening with some particular decision, I think we would step up and get a hearing from administrators,” she said. “I’m not too worried about that.”
In his discussions with department heads, Pollard said he plans to discuss ways to encourage students to finish dissertations in a timely manner. But GESO members said the University should focus more on the quality of research than time to completion for its Ph.D students.
Robin Scheffler GRD ’14, GESO’s other co-chair, said he was pushed to complete his dissertation faster than he would have liked. Many students have to learn new languages and travel to produce a strong dissertation, he said, so added pressure can hurt the quality of the finished product.
“They can write it faster, but it just won’t be a very good [dissertation],” he said.
At Wednesday’s rally, students blasted Michael Jackson songs from loudspeakers and bore homemade signs. Laurie Kennington ’01, president of Local 34, and Robert Proto, Local 35’s head, expressed their unions’ support for GESO’s attempts at union recognition.
Proto said that it does not make sense that the University recognizes the unions of Yale staff but not a union for graduate student teachers. Graduate students should have the conditions of their employment spelled out in a contract as do other University staff, he added. Kennington said the graduate students’ inability to secure recognition for their union differentiates the University from any corporation.
The rally was initially scheduled for Feb. 2, but was postponed due to snow.