We are writing in response to the News’ View (“A GESO monopoly on the town meeting,” 3/1) and to the editorial by David Grimm GRD ’04 (“Is GESO afraid of an open, candid debate?” 3/1). Both columns reflect a profound misunderstanding of the agreed format for the town meeting and the events that led up to it. The question we should be asking ourselves is why an event intended for all graduate students, faculty and community members was held at a location that accommodates barely one-fifth of the graduate student population.

The town meeting was scheduled to take place at the Center Church on the Green. The Graduate Employees and Students Organization, the Graduate Student Assembly, and GASO agreed to this plan. The Center Church would have accommodated every single person who was excluded from last Wednesday’s debate. The Yale administration insisted that the venue be changed. GESO members repeatedly stated that the Yale University Art Gallery auditorium, which holds only 400, was ill-suited for an event intended for the entire community. GESO also insisted that, alternatively, there be a way for the people at the Hall of Graduate Studies to actively participate.

In an effort to include the people left to watch the debate on television at the Hall of Graduate Studies, it should be noted that every pro-GESO panelist made a last-minute attempt to move the meeting to the Center Church. Knowing that space would be limited, GESO members made a concerted effort to arrive early. Arriving early for an event that is likely to be sold-out is not a novel concept.

The first hour of the meeting progressed as planned. Panelists from both sides delivered short speeches and answered preselected questions. No panelist was heckled, and all remained within their allotted time. Does this suggest an “evening suspiciously devoid of the discussion and debate it was supposed to foster”?

It was agreed that the open mike session would be for hearing not only questions but also statements from the audience. After all, this was a town meeting, whose purpose is not merely to “ask the experts,” but rather to provide an opportunity for all participants to share their experiences. The fact that all statements came from GESO members merely reflected the audience composition. GESO members shared their individual vision of the academy and their reasons for being part of the graduate student union. It is wrong to dismiss these sentiments as mere “blanket statements of union support.”

We take exception to the statement “the crowd seemed too busy cheering or hissing to actually be contemplating the issues at hand.” Perhaps the audience has been contemplating the issues for up to 10 years and has come to an informed decision.

A National Labor Relations Board election that is dragged through the courts for years expresses ill-will on the part of the administration. Card-count neutrality agreements are not one-sided; rather, they establish procedures, agreed upon by both parties, delineating how both the union and the administration would behave during the unionization drive. Voluntary signing of membership cards constitutes a vote by a member of the student body to be represented by GESO. It is preposterous to suggest that these cards are not returned when a member wants to withdraw their membership.

GESO, like all large organizations, has flaws and makes mistakes, but it is the only organization on campus that has gone out to share its vision of the University with other students and to ask them their opinion on a variety of issues. It is an organization that has mounted a campaign to release the patent on d4T, that has stood by international students’ rights, and that has pushed for improved teaching conditions, among a variety of other issues.

It is an organization that we’re both proud to be a part of.

Laura Pedraza is a third-year student in the Department of Genetics. Brian Casey is a first-year student in the Program in the History of Medicine and Science.