Professor Jon Butler raises important points in his guest column (“GESO ‘neutrality agreement’ not neutral at all,” 12/12), but his opposition to a neutrality agreement underestimates graduate students’ ability to debate their own future meaningfully.
In the United States, the right to unionize is protected by law, and the decision to organize belongs to the employees, not the employer or supervisory employees. Others are entitled to express their opinions, but not to coerce.
Graduate students and faculty at Yale are bound together in at least two relationships, as student and teacher on the one hand and as employee and supervisor on the other. Unfortunately, the power of the teacher-student relationship sometimes has been applied inappropriately in the employee-supervisor relationship.
Explicit quid pro quos are illegal, but, without a neutrality agreement, implicit — even if unintentional — coercion is very hard to avoid when student and teacher have a difference of opinion.
We can all agree that it is good to avoid faculty-student coercion, but there is a price for doing so. Yale is an intellectual community, and treating faculty as supervisors under a neutrality agreement will silence their voices on this issue.
But there are graduate students opposed to unionization for many different reasons, and, with all due respect to Butler, they are every bit as capable of arguing their case as he is. Others may disagree, but I think that the faculty should voluntarily refrain from arguing this issue in the interest of promoting the free expression of graduate students’ voices on an issue that affects them deeply.
Faculty members certainly have valuable perspectives to add to the unionization debate, but graduate students are justifiably wary of the University’s pushing faculty members into abusing their position of authority.
If the University agreed to refrain from coordinating an anti-unionization drive through means like distribution of talking points to the faculty, that would go a long way toward allowing graduate students to exercise their legitimate right of deciding for themselves whether to organize a union.
Jamie Morin GRD ’04
January 15, 2002
The writer is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science.