I was saddened to read the Yale Daily News’ misguided editorial on the town meeting in Friday’s paper, as it seems to have been written with little or no consideration of the facts.
In the days leading up to the town meeting, GESO members and organizers and GESO chairwoman Anita Seth GRD ’05 wrote to Graduate School Dean Susan Hockfield and to Graduate Student Assembly chairman Tyler Radniecki GRD ’05, asking them to change the location of the meeting from the 389-seat Yale University Art Gallery auditorium to a larger venue.
We suggested the Center Church on the Green, a location with a long history: Yale’s commencement ceremonies were held there for years. Our efforts to move the meeting to a larger room would have benefited all members of the community who wished to attend. Indeed, Seth ended one of her many letters to Hockfield with a statement to this effect.
Unfortunately, Hockfield and the assembly refused to consider a change of venue, and reassured us that the event would be broadcast on closed-circuit television so that all members of the community would be able to watch — but not actively participate in — the town meeting.
Despite this resistance from the assembly and the administration, the Graduate Students and Employees Organization and our supporters continued to try to ensure that the meeting provide a forum in which all voices could be heard. Pro-GESO panelist and faculty member Michael Denning, informed by security that over 100 people had already been turned away, opened the meeting at 6:00 p.m. with a respectful request that we move to the larger space.
The overwhelmingly pro-GESO crowd agreed, and suggested to Hockfield and Radniecki that we put the matter to a vote. They never seriously considered the motion and chose to ignore the impromptu vote, insisting instead that we move on with the meeting as planned. In a final act of somewhat callous indifference, when the first two parts of the meeting came to a close at 7:15 p.m. and Radniecki opened the microphones for questions and comments from the floor, Hockfield insisted that this third part be cut short by 20 minutes. Her refusal to remain one minute past 8:00 p.m. left at least 40 people still waiting in line at the microphones to make their comments — 40 more voices silenced.
It should be abundantly clear that the administration and the assembly — the graduate body the administration insists is adequate to advocate for student interests — were responsible for silencing many voices that evening. Through their refusal to consider a change of venue, they effectively shut out, among others, 100 pro, anti and neutral graduate and undergraduate students, many Local 34 and Local 35 members, some faculty members, and even administrators like Graduate School Associate Dean Pamela Schirmeister and University Secretary Linda Lorimer. GESO, on the other hand, consistently struggled to open this meeting to the entire community, including dissenters.
It is a real shame that the News chose to publish such a biased, unfounded and uncritical editorial. It would be fitting for your editorial board to issue an apology to the many dedicated members of GESO who struggled against administrative inertia and tried to make the town meeting a truly democratic forum in which all opinions could be heard.
Three final comments: first, recall that two very important questions were posed again and again by graduate students at that meeting, and that Hockfield repeatedly refused to answer them. Second, understand that the comments — which the Yale Daily News calls “short speech[es]” — made at the microphone by GESO members represented the extraordinarily diverse concerns of graduate students and GESO members and therefore stimulated, rather than quelled, debate. Third, and perhaps most important, consider the likelihood that the reason GESO was such a strong presence in that meeting was not due to a conspiracy choreographed to keep out the anti-GESO faction, but that it was due to the extremely strong support for GESO among graduate students.
Caroline Fitzpatrick is a fourth-year graduate student in the Department of Comparative Literature.