To the Editor:

Re: “Earth to GESO: Efforts to unionize are a lost cause,” 1/12:

Those were the days. I sat in the sand and looked to the blue horizon, thinking, we are surrounded by sea. And if you venture too far out, you fall off the edge.

Those were the 1970s. In the academy then, nearly 80 percent of the teaching was done by full-time faculty; nowadays, it is less than half. The faculty also made decisions about the management of their own departments, and didn’t simply take dictation from the administration. Sure, they were all white males, but the diversity that Yale touts today is mostly casual labor, not tenured faculty.

At some point I tried to wrap my mind around the idea that the world was round. And although it may well be, I admit that I am fighting it, because I don’t think it has to be this way. Does it seem that undergraduates are getting their tuition’s worth when they can’t find the rent-a-prof who taught their writing intensive course four years ago for a recommendation? Not everyone should get tenure, especially at Yale, but what happens to academic freedom when the majority of professors nationwide hold adjunct jobs with no security and few benefits? Does that seem like a hotbed for inspiring teaching, challenging research and democratic discourse?

So, Keith, as you continue to think about the changing structure of the academy, please consider this: GESO is part of a national movement to organize academic jobs, so that the people who do more and more of the teaching and research at colleges and universities can bargain with their administrations to have a voice in the terms of their employment. And as many Yale undergraduates are coming to realize, this is a pretty reasonable vision of the world.

Leonard Nalencz

Jan. 12, 2005

The writer is a Ph.D. candidate in English and Renaissance Studies.