On the evening of August 28, I set my alarm clock to go off at ten o’clock the next morning. If there’s one thing that I enjoy about “Camp Yale,” it’s the abundance of sleep. Instead, at eight o’clock I woke up to the sound of clanging pots and pans and the melodic chants of protesters representing locals 34 and 35. I was irritated, but I pressed on for what I hoped would be a lovely Friday morning. Instead, it was one of the worst days I have ever endured in my two-plus years attending Yale.
These demonstrators, claiming to want my support, blocked freshmen and volunteers like myself who only wanted to help the class of 2007 move into their new homes. Some even snapped at me when I stood in their way, when in fact they were in mine. Although I tried to avoid any confrontation, the harassment ensued.
When friends and colleagues marching in the demonstration passed and waved to me, I cheered for them. One protester, however, mistook my cheers for jeers and yelled back, “Whatever, shut up. You just do your thing, and we’ll do ours.”
At that moment the unions no longer had my sympathy. These protesters ruined the entire welcoming process for everyone. None of the students, based on what I witnessed, made an effort to obstruct these demonstrators from exercising their democratic right, and yet we were still treated as opponents to equality and justice. These union leaders believed that disrupting this wonderful Yale tradition would help convince the freshmen to join their cause, when in fact it only encouraged more undergraduates to vilify it.
Into the early evening, I attended the labor rally featuring presidential hopeful Howard Dean. After that morning, I was ready to support the Yale administration wholeheartedly. As a financial aid student on a very generous plan as well as receiving countless other perks that come with attending Yale, it would make sense for me to support the University.
If there is one thing I take pride in, it is the fact that I attend a school that makes the enrichment of the undergraduate experience a top priority. Dean talked about how the labor dispute at Yale was an example of people taking power away from greedy corporations and back into their own hands. After hearing him, I started to reconsider my support of the Yale administration.
Hypothetically, Yale could just as easily fire everyone and replace them with workers who don’t care about better wages and pensions. But no one wants that. And despite what I encountered that morning, I’m still sympathetic to the possibility of hundreds of people losing their jobs. There really is only one question relevant to deciding my position on the labor dispute at Yale: What exactly is the incentive for undergraduates to support the unions?
My plea to the unions is simple: the undergraduate populace at Yale, as a whole, is not your enemy. We are here only to attend a university revered for providing its students with a priceless academic experience. We need a reason to support your efforts, and you have provided us with none.
There are many of us that are frustrated with you, and I had not been one of them until Friday. Your methodology for achieving your goals antagonizes us and only makes your attempt to meet those goals more difficult. There’s an old saying that it’s easier to attract flies with honey than with vinegar. For the unions, applying that concept in their campaign for labor equality at Yale would be a start in gaining our support.
Lee Ngo is a junior in Calhoun College.