An estimated 300 graduate and undergraduate students rallied on the steps of the Hall of Graduate Studies Thursday to protest what they claim are overly stringent Graduate School registration policies and pay inequities.

The students — many of whom are members of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization — argued against new policies they claim would add obstacles for students seeking to enroll in a seventh year of study in the History Department and American Studies Program. But the chairmen of both programs said Thursday there are no plans for a policy change. The current policy requires students to show satisfactory progress in their dissertations in order to enter their seventh year of study.

“I think the rally was a huge success, and I think the speakers were really moving in the ways in which they articulated how detrimental it is to be a graduate student,” GESO Chairwoman Mary Reynolds GRD ’07 said. “I think the administration is instituting a use-and-discard system where we’re teaching more in a lesser time because they want to stop seventh-year registration.”

But History Chairman Jon Butler and American Studies Chairman John Mack Faragher both said their programs will not alter their registration policies and said it would be presumptuous to suggest otherwise.

“The bottom line is that there are no new rules and regulations under consideration in the American Studies Program,” Faragher said. “Anyone who says otherwise either does not know what they’re talking about or they’re making it up.”

Butler, who will assume the Graduate School deanship this July, said the current extended registration policies are designed to help students.

“It is to every student’s advantage to complete a superb dissertation as efficiently as is possible,” Butler said. “History is imposing no new time deadlines and it’s erroneous to suggest otherwise.”

But according to an internal History Department memo obtained by GESO and released to the News Thursday, Yale’s largest department may require graduate students to submit half of their dissertations to proceed to the seventh year.

“[Students] can petition for extended registration [after their sixth year in] the Graduate School in exceptional cases where unique personal circumstances or substantial difficulties in obtaining archival sources have prevented normal progress,” the department’s policy proposal reads.

Graduate School Dean Peter Salovey said he thinks the History Department has students’ best interests in mind.

Jeffrey Boyd GRD ’04 said it is nearly impossible for most graduate students to complete their work in six years.

“They’re trying to enact additional requirements that would force students to finish in the sixth year and create obstacles to registering in the seventh year and beyond,” Boyd said. “I think [graduate] students are increasingly concerned [about] this corporate, slimmed-down version of the dissertation.”

GESO also protested against a growing difference between pay for graduate students. Yale awards first-to-fifth year students $16,000 annual stipends — which will be increased to $17,000 this fall — but does not award stipends to students beyond the fifth year. Students beyond the fifth year earn annual teaching assistant salaries ranging from $3,580 to $14,528, provided they teach each semester.

Undergraduate Organizing Committee members blasted the University’s financial aid and tenure policies at a pre-rally protest on Beinecke Plaza Thursday.

“Undergraduate education at this University is regularly affected by the University’s refusal to include students in the decisions made about diversity and treatment of teachers,” UOC organizer Noah Dobin-Bernstein ’06 said.

GESO has been trying to organize a graduate student union for 17 years.

— Staff reporter Brian Murray contributed to this report.

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