Charging that the recent arrests of eight union workers and graduate students at Yale-New Haven Hospital were “attacks on freedom of speech,” the Dwight Hall cabinet Monday called on University President Richard Levin to condemn the arrests and ensure that none of the workers or students lose their jobs or are expelled.
Hospital police arrested two Local 34 workers on Sept. 4, another two on Sept. 6, and then two workers and two graduate students on Sept. 10. All eight were charged with second-degree criminal trespass for allegedly refusing to leave hospital grounds while handing out union leaflets.
Hospital officials said in a written statement last week that the workers had been asked to move because they were blocking an entrance and an ambulance.
The 60-member Dwight Hall cabinet approved the letter to Levin and a statement to be released to the press regarding the arrests. In the statement, the cabinet acknowledged that the arrests were legal but called them immoral nonetheless.
“The stifling of ideas is particularly disturbing, as freedom of speech is fundamental to the purpose of an academic institution,” the statement reads. “As a teaching and research hospital, Yale-New Haven’s success depends upon the freedom to share ideas. We are disappointed that such an institution could, out of fear, silence those ideas with which it does not agree.”
Levin could not be reached for comment Monday night. He and other Yale administrators have repeatedly said that the hospital is a separate institution with an independent board of directors.
The statement argues that Levin is in a position to influence hospital policy because he sits on its board of directors. It also questioned the timing of the arrests, the first two of which took place on the same day as locals 34 and 35, Yale’s two largest unions, voted to authorize a strike.
“A lot of us think of Dwight Hall as the moral conscience at this university,” Dwight Hall Co-Coordinator Casey Pitts ’03 said. “Dwight Hall has the responsibility to speak up.”
The last time the Dwight Hall cabinet wrote a letter to Levin, it offered its services as a neutral third party to observe the counting of the votes in this summer’s Yale Corporation election. Pitts said Levin responded — and declined Dwight Hall’s offer — three or four weeks after the letter was sent.
“The response we want is not a response to us but a statement to the Yale community that this is unacceptable,” Pitts said.