With a five-day walkout beginning this morning, visits to Yale will become more complicated for tour groups, speakers and other scheduled visitors, who will be faced with the prospect of crossing picket lines to spend time on campus.
Tour guides said they are rethinking routes and developing a stock line to explain the strike to visitors. In addition, some visiting speakers have received requests from union members to cancel their visits and other e-mails from Yale officials urging them not to cancel.
Head tour guide Justin Cohen ’04 said he and other tour organizers will walk around campus today and see where picketing is going on and how intense protesting is.
“If we see that the tour is going through picket line after picket line, we’ll change the route,” Cohen said.
Cohen said he is not opposed to the union’s activities.
“I respect their right to hand out literature,” Cohen said. “I just ask that they respect someone giving a presentation.”
Haley Edwards ’05, who will be the head tour guide next year, said her job will be especially difficult next week.
“The main problem is giving tours in front of where they’re picketing,” Edwards said. “We certainly don’t want to have to cross picket lines or make people uncomfortable.”
Cohen said that the tour guides must address the strike.
“We’d look silly if we tried to ignore it,” he said.
Haley said she received an e-mail from Sheila Pastor, the director of the Visitor’s Center, explaining what guides should say about the strike. Guides were told to direct those with additional questions to Web sites stating the views of both the unions and the Yale administration.
Cohen said tour guides will be told how to explain the strike, using it to speak about the diversity of opinion at Yale.
“We came up with a stock line explaining the strike,” Cohen said. “It’s very fluffy.”
Cohen said the difficulty of planning around the strike is compounded because future tour guides are currently auditioning.
“There’s about six new guides who are going to be giving audition tours next week,” Cohen said. “I don’t envy them.”
Union organizers and University officials are also contacting speakers planning to come to campus during the strike.
David Brenner ’75 MED ’79, who is scheduled to give two lectures next week, said he received an e-mail from union organizers two weeks ago asking him not to cross picket lines to speak. He also received an e-mail from Yale explaining the administration’s position.
“I’ve been giving talks for at least 20 years,” Brenner said. “I’ve never had this happen.”
Three other talks scheduled for this week, sponsored by the Yale Center for International Area Studies, were cancelled. Organizers and speakers were unavailable over the weekend for comment about the reason for the cancellations.
Brenner said the e-mails, while not inflammatory, upset him and caused him to reconsider his trip to Yale.
“It put me in a very difficult position,” he said. “I’m an alumnus and a big fan of Yale. But unions frequently have strength in their positions.”
He said it was unfair for both sides to expect speakers to understand such complicated issues when they are only spending a few hours on campus.
“It’s just so hard to make a decision and cancel a plan I made a year ago with such limited information,” Brenner said. “I felt it was better just to go with my plan. I hope it doesn’t reflect my support for or against the union.”