Dear GESO, We write you today out of concern that your organization has misrepresented itself to Yale and to the general public. Ordinarily, these matters wouldn’t bother us — we’re happy to go about our business and to let you go about yours. But over the past year, you have increasingly made it your business to get involved in our business, and that’s where we draw the line.
First, you’ve told everyone from fellow students to the Associated Press that you represent a majority of graduate students. You don’t. Last spring, you began announcing that more than 50 percent of the University’s graduate students had signed GESO cards. When some of us suggested that many of these cards had been signed under duress or that card signing does not necessarily represent support for GESO, you laughed. You claimed your membership was stronger than ever and that almost everyone who signed cards was a loyal supporter. The turnout at your recent strike vote, however, does not bear this out. Only 626 people voted in what was arguably the most important action taken in the history of your organization. Considering that there are 2,334 graduate students, this figure represents a mere 27 percent of the graduate student body.
Taken together, these numbers suggest that: A) almost half of the people who signed cards were not expressing their support for your organization, and B) three in four graduate students do not support GESO — not even enough to bother showing up to cast a “No” vote. And speaking of this “No” vote, nearly a quarter of your membership voted against the strike. So, not only does an overwhelming majority of this campus not support your organization, four in five graduate students do not support a strike.
Second, you’ve repeatedly tried to stifle the unionization debate on campus. During the GSA town meeting last year — an open forum designed for all graduate students to express their concerns regarding unionization — you found it necessary to stack the auditorium with your membership an hour before the scheduled debate, guaranteeing that no student with an anti-GESO voice would be heard. In addition, you’ve pushed card count neutrality over a secret ballot election in an effort to become recognized. You’ve said this is necessary because the University is spending millions of dollars to smear your organization and because the opinions of faculty members will intimidate students. But if Yale is spending that much money to tarnish your reputation, we haven’t seen any evidence of it. Furthermore, the only intimidation we’ve seen has come from pamphlets stuffed into our mailboxes, personal visits to our places of study, and 2-on-1 lunch “conversations” — all courtesy of your organization. As far as faculty members, please stop filing lawsuits against them every time they discuss the unionization issue with their students. They have just as much stake in the future of this university as you do.
Your attempts to stifle debate go beyond the campus in general. They are also seen within your own organization. At your strike meeting, it was decided that your Coordinating Committee would dictate the future actions of your organization, effectively excluding the input of your general membership on all major decisions. As in the past, your only method of moving forward has been to silence the voices of your dissenters. It is telling that almost half of your membership voted against this resolution, suggesting that dissent is growing in your ranks. If you are not even going to listen to the opinions of students in your own group, why should we expect you to listen to any of our concerns?
Finally, you’ve been very unclear about the true purpose of your organization. What do you stand for? What are your objectives? Why are you striking? None of these answers has been provided satisfactorily by your leaders, and they sure aren’t listed on your Web site. Your literature states that you are committed to a better Yale, but aren’t we all? You say you want to represent us and help push through new graduate student measures, but isn’t the GSA already doing this? You claim you are striking because you want recognition, but why should the University recognize a body that barely represents a quarter of its graduate students?
Your failure to answer these questions leads many of us to conclude that you are either unsure of your own purpose, or are keeping your aims deliberately nebulous so that you can make vague promises to graduate students in an effort to get them to join your organization. And this feeds our suspicion that GESO exists more to add members than to solve problems.
Well, that’s about all we have space for. Before we go, though, we’d just like to say that many of us have friends in your organization. We don’t always agree with their extracurricular activities, but we respect their hard work and dedication to their cause. So, to our friends we extend this modest proposal: We won’t bother you when you picket, if you won’t bother us when we work.
Best of luck. And I’m sure we’ll be speaking again soon.
The Non-Organized Majority
David Grimm is a fifth-year graduate student in the Department of Genetics. His column appears regularly on alternate Thursdays.