Members of the Academic Labor Board released an official statement Wednesday containing their final report on a Sept. 20 hearing about alleged instances of faculty and police intimidation of GESO members and supporters.
The ALB’s statement about the hearing, which responded to GESO’s allegations, expressed concern about the issues that GESO raised, but also acknowledged weaknesses in the hearing’s format. Both GESO members and critics of the group’s tactics said they were pleased with the statement and found that it was fairly balanced.
The Graduate Employees and Students Organization created the Academic Labor Board to preside over a hearing during a weekend labor conference at Yale in September. The six-member ALB included chairman Fred Feinstein, former General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board, and Robert Reich, U.S. Secretary of Labor under former President Bill Clinton LAW ’73.
In its statement, the ALB said it was troubled by the graduate students’ reports of faculty harassment and intimidation, including claims of academic and professional threats by professors to GESO members.
“If the reports we heard of faculty, administration, and campus police actions are true and representative, graduate student teaching assistants at Yale would clearly be justified in feeling threatened and intimidated,” the statement said.
The statement also said the hearing had not been intended as an investigative panel and that the members of the panel recognized that there may be conflicting accounts of events.
Feinstein said the statement was based on a group consensus. He said the ALB strove to report all views presented at the hearing.
GESO Chairwoman Anita Seth GRD ’05 said she thought the statement was an impartial account of the hearing, not pro-GESO or pro-unionization.
“I think it’s [a report] that all reasonable people can agree on, no matter what they think about unionization,” Seth said.
Claudia Brittenham GRD ’08, president of At What Cost, a group whose mission is “to encourage a careful consideration of the consequence of forming a graduate student union at Yale,” said she was pleased with the ALB’s statement even though she felt the hearing itself was one-sided.
“A lot of people thought it was a foregone conclusion what the board would find,” Brittenham said. “I was really pleasantly surprised with what a fair and balanced assessment this was.”
Despite describing what ALB members perceived as flaws in the hearing, the report said board members remained concerned about the current relationship between GESO and the Yale administration.
“Even if the reports we heard at the forum are exaggerated or mistaken, everyone connected with Yale should be alarmed by the apparent level of distrust, which cannot serve the interests of any segment of the community, and which is inimical to reasoned discourse,” the statement said.
GESO has been trying to unionize graduate students for over a decade but Yale officials have said graduate students are not employees and cannot unionize.
Brittenham said GESO is chiefly responsible for what she said is an uncomfortable climate on campus.
“This is not just about faculty and administration,” Brittenham said. “We really feel that GESO has created a climate where it isn’t possible to have a free and open debate.”
In the conclusion of the report, the panel also offered its recommendations, emphasizing the need for dialogue between the various parties involved in the dispute.
Seth said that she was especially happy with the ALB’s final suggestions.
“We’re very willing to take the recommendations of the panel to heart,” Seth said. “And we hope the administration will too.”
Seth was not directly involved in choosing the members of the panel, but she said GESO tried to choose people with experience in labor and specifically legal issues relating to labor to serve on the panel.
Feinstein said he thought the panel served its purpose.
“That’s what we saw our role as,” Feinstein said. “Coming to listen and hearing what they had to say.”