I love Yale. People sometimes doubt it and act confused when I say it, but it’s true. I love Yale because I am Yale. More than anything else, Yale is a community, and all of us in that community — students, faculty, workers — are what make up Yale. That community is devoted to education and research, to finding and debating truth, and to training future leaders.
It is that Yale that I love, the Yale that encourages its graduates to work toward a better world, not just a bigger buck. Yale trained David Dellinger ’36, the noted peace and justice activist, and John Wilhelm ’67, the general president of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, not to mention Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 and Paul Newman DRA ’54. It has been said that since 1968 Yale has trained more union organizers than corporate CEOs.
The Yale I love is the Yale that leads higher education. I cheered when Richard Levin promised that he would urge our peer schools to abolish early decision. I was thrilled when the administration announced that it would reimburse federal financial aid lost under the punitive and classist Higher Education Act.
Leadership at Yale comes from many quarters. Workers at the University and its teaching hospital are at the forefront of developing innovative ways to solve problems that make U.S. labor law undemocratic and, according to a report released by Human Rights Watch, violate basic international human rights principles.
Our graduate students led the way in exposing the casualization of higher education with their 1999 report “Casual in Blue.” They then helped coordinate a study of universities nationwide that highlighted similar problems across academia.
A coalition of law students, graduate researchers, and other Yale students led the country last year when it pressured the administration to force Bristol Myers Squibb to sell an essential, Yale-developed anti-AIDS drug at below-market prices in South Africa. Bristol Myers Squibb remains the only pharmaceutical company to relax a drug patent that way.
Yale is a community in which people with different views can freely debate and learn from each other. At Yale, Zionists and supporters of a free Palestine can both hold their rallies. It is a place where I can eat a friendly lunch with my fiercest ideological opponent.
It is that Yale that I love. But it is also my love for Yale that makes me so disappointed when it fails to live up to its potential. The administration’s failure to agree to a functioning and meaningful ethical licensing policy is a betrayal of Yale. That Yale will not protect the workers who make our sweatshirts from the abuses of sweatshops remains a scar on our community.
It also saddens me to see administrators like Helaine Klasky, Linda Lorimer, and Richard Levin work in concert with the Association of Yale Alumni and a group of well-funded alumni to divide the community of Yale alumni. David Lee is just the sort of fellow the Yale Corporation needs to ensure that our Yale — the community of students, faculty, and workers — is heard when decisions are made.
For someone like me, who loves Yale and wants to see it act as a responsible employer, neighbor and corporate investor, perhaps the most painful aspect of our history has been the 34 years of labor conflict that started when the administration tried to break Local 35 in 1968.
I am proud that Yale is changing. The innovative methods now being used by negotiators have already resulted in an agreement limiting subcontracting.
But Yale needs help changing. That’s why I will march today to support the new partnership between Yale and its unions. Undergraduates will meet at Phelps Gate this afternoon at 5 to encourage the administration to continue to negotiate with its workers and build on the progress already made.
I love Yale. But sometimes loved ones need a push in the right direction.
Jacob Remes is a senior in Saybrook College. This is his final regular column.