With a union and teaching assistant strike set for the beginning of next month, some professors said they plan to move classes off campus or provide discussions to compensate for cancelled sections.
With a vote of 482 to 141, members of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization authorized a teaching and research strike Wednesday, and leaders said last night that the group will definitely strike. Locals 34 and 35 — Yale’s two largest unions — announced Thursday that they will also strike beginning March 3. GESO leaders have called for members to engage in an “intellectual strike” by not teaching sections, attending classes or doing research in any of Yale’s academic buildings.
Political Science chairman Ian Shapiro said he would continue to teach his classes on campus and would also arrange for some form of discussion group as an alternative to cancelled sections during the strike.
Sociology professor Christopher Rhomberg, who teaches “Labor Relations in the U.S.,” said he would move his class if the unions asked professors to move.
Because the University has maintained that it would not respect the outcome of a unionization election for graduate students, Rhomberg said he is not surprised GESO voted to authorize a strike.
“The fact that they are taking the strike vote is a sign of their seriousness in coming to a conclusion,” Rhomberg said.
English chairwoman Ruth Yeazell said she thought the English Department faculty was committed to covering sections if TAs were to strike.
“I think we feel pretty well prepared,” Yeazell said.
Yeazell said she has not made any arrangements to move her teaching off campus.
“I don’t believe in asking people or making arrangements beforehand,” she said.
History professor John Faragher said he has always been a supporter of organized labor and has been a member of several unions during his career. Faragher, who moved the midterm for his course “The American West,” said he will be holding class off campus.
“I will not cross picket lines,” Faragher said.
Faragher said he told his teaching assistants that he would appreciate knowing whether they planned to strike as soon as they knew their plans.
“I have told my TAs that what they do is entirely their business,” Faragher said. “I will try to make some provision for an open hour for discussion if sections are struck.”
Physics chairman Ramamurti Shankar said students had asked him about changing the date of the midterm or the class location, but he declined to do either.
“The strike does not involve undergraduates in any way,” Shankar said. “How can the entire Yale move off campus and should it? — Picket lines have nothing to do with me. I’m not in a union.”
History chairman Jon Butler said he was surprised by the low percentage of GESO members that voted to strike.
“If you take GESO membership claims seriously, then about one third of the membership voted to strike,” Butler said. “It’s revealing certain limitations, possibly, for the commitment for a strike.”
Butler said he hopes GESO does not harass graduate students who decide not to strike.
“GESO rightfully expects the faculty to respect the right of graduate students to go on strike,” Butler said. “My hope is that GESO rightfully respects the right of graduate students not to strike — I think that’s very important for the kind of community we have and the kind of community we want to preserve.”
After a “town meeting” the Political Science Department held for its graduate students and faculty Tuesday, Shapiro said it became clear there were varying views about a potential strike.
“It was obvious from the group that there is a wide range of opinion among our graduate students,” Shapiro said. “I don’t know how many of the TAs, if any, will go on strike.”
Shankar said the climate between graduate students and faculty in the Physics Department is different than in other departments because they work together in the lab “more or less as equals.”
“[TAs] are an essential part of the teaching process,” Shankar said. “It’d be a pain not to have our graduate students.”