As alumni, students, faculty and community members use today to celebrate 300 years of Yale’s commitment to education, over 3,000 union members, student activists and clergymen hope to remind the University of its commitments to the New Haven community.

The marchers will all assemble at Yale and Edgewood avenues at 5 p.m. for a rally before embarking on a candle light procession to the Yale Bowl. The procession is entitled “Hope, Not Fear,” and organizers said they will use the event to assert respect for Yale employees.

“It’s not a march, it’s not a rally, it’s not a demonstration,” said Deborah Chernoff, communications director for the federation of University and hospital workers. “We all have our own issues. This procession is part of forming a new relationship with Yale and having a partnership that is a partnership of equals.”

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. will open the rally at 5:35 p.m. with an opening speech.

John Wilhelm ’67, who is the president of the international hotel and restaurant union — the Locals 34 and 35 parent union — will speak on Yale’s relationship with his union’s employees. In addition to Wilhelm, members of Locals 100 and 32 are coming from New York City to honor members of their unions that were victims of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks.

Local 34 president Laura Smith expects a large turnout, including 1,000 members of the New Haven community, members of the Graduate Employee and Students Organization, Yale-New Haven Hospital workers and members of the United Students at Yale, an undergraduate group.

“The importance is in what we’re there for,” Smith said. “We’re looking for a way to address the general issue of respect on the job. The fact that there will be between 3,000 and 4,000 people there will demonstrate how many of us are in like minds regarding Yale’s relationship with its employees.”

The marchers began planning the procession last spring but organizers recently decided to change the tone of the event because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“This is about the future of workers at Yale but it is equally about the events in New York City,” Chernoff said.

While most speeches will focus on Yale’s relationship with its employees, USAY coordinator Ted Wittenstein ’04 said he believes the interests represented at the procession will be diverse.

“Everyone’s going to the march for different things,” Wittenstein said. “Better public schools, financial aid reform and the environment should all be represented.”

USAY’s primary concern is improving communication between University administrators and students.

“We’re here to celebrate how great Yale is,” Wittenstein said, “but we also want to assert that Yale can improve the way it communicates with students and community members.”

In addition to improved communication between administrators and students, USAY is working with Locals 34 and 35 to gain more appreciation from the University, coordinating committee member Abbey Hudson ’03 said.

“There needs to be a partnership between the University and the city, between the University and its workers, between the University and its students,” Hudson said. “This march, for us, is also about the union negotiations and self-determination. It’s all about whether or not employees will have value in their jobs.”

While the procession is expected to be calm and respectful, Chernoff does not believe it will detract from the festive mood of tercentennial events at the Yale Bowl.

“We hope [the procession and the Bowl events] will be complementary, not contradictory,” Chernoff said. “The procession doesn’t mean Yale shouldn’t have a party, it just says here are some things to think about while you party.”