“More than 100 members of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization marched to Betts House Thursday afternoon to criticize the treatment of women and minorities at Yale” (“Protest decries Levin’s silence,” 2/18). Now, I like parades as much as the next guy, but was this really necessary? It would be good to know how many of these marchers were women and minorities and have testimonials of exactly how they feel they are being mistreated. I urge them to do this and to submit their concerns to the Graduate Student Assembly, the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, or bring them to the attention of a graduate school dean, but to march to the president’s house seems silly — or if you do, at least call to see if he will be there.
“The protesters attempted to present Levin with a letter detailing four reforms GESO hopes will foster more diversity among professors at Yale.” The GPSS, GSA, and probably even the entire graduate student population would love to know what these four reforms are. The GPSS actually met with the provost yesterday and is meeting with the Yale Corporation later this week; why not tell your senators your great ideas? Why act like you have the answers but can only tell President Levin? My advice is to tell everybody your ideas in an article in the Yale Daily News, and if they actually are good ones, then you might even garner wider university support for them instead of just union support — and trust me, the administration would certainly read them.
Anyone who wants to improve the role of women in science should know that they can join WISAY (Women in Science at Yale) or work with the Women’s Faculty Forum. I find it surprising that you don’t attack these organizations for not decrying President’s Summers remarks, since they seem to have a more direct connection and responsibility to do so. Is it President Levin’s place to take a public stand on everything in the media? How about Janet Jackson’s Superbowl wardrobe malfunction last year — is it appalling that Levin didn’t say anything about that? Or how about his denouncing something more global, like the horrible practice of young girls being forced into the sex trade industry in South Asia? The fact that Levin was in Washington, D.C. discussing visa issues and scientific research when GESO came to Betts House is something I would think would earn GESO’s praise. Just a couple of weeks ago, GESO said those issues should be his top priority, and he has publicly and privately said they were his focus over the last couple months in meetings with the GSA and GPSS.
GESO wants more diversity at Yale? My suggestion is that you be true to the grassroots cause you say you are. Urge your individual departments to actively solicit input from graduate students and participate in search committees. Apply and volunteer to help the graduate school offices of ODEO and OISS. I have talked to GESO members, and they would like to see Yale immediately rectify the problem of diversity by adopting affirmative action policies. But for GESO to use the phrase “affirmative action” might spark division in its ranks and even draw some public criticism. Everyone at Yale can agree we would like more diversity; the president and provost have publicly said they are working toward this goal. To paraphrase the provost yesterday, he said he is determined to ensure there are no barriers for women and minorities at Yale, and to encourage departments to perform as broad a search they can for qualified faculty. To imply that graduate students know how to recruit and retain minorities better than the administration is a rather bold assertion that I urge you to demonstrate first through specific, local, productive contributions in your own programs.
Allow me to also respond to the assertion that “women, particularly in the sciences, often are forced to choose between their career and raising a family.” For a long time now, both men and women in all career fields have been faced with the decision to choose between a career and raising a family. A couple of decades ago, it was just more socially accepted for women to make the sacrifice to raise a family. Here is where I’m coming from: My parents waited until they were in their mid 30’s to start a family. They did so only after my dad had secured a stable and financially sound job as an audit manager for Con Edison, rather than accept a great offer to become City Manager of Kingston, R.I. which, although an exciting opportunity, did not offer any kind of job security. They moved into a house in the suburbs where they could ensure me a good home, community and education. My mother decided to quit her job to become a full-time caretaker; the mothers of almost all of my friends made the same sacrifice. Although none of them were scientists sacrificing a promising career, they were all making the same equally difficult life-changing decision that current women face. In contrast, my brother, who was born five years later, was surrounded by friends whose mothers decided not to quit their job to raise them. My community back home is now full of full-time working mothers. This is neither inherently good nor bad, just an observation of how times have changed.
Like my dad, I feel I am equally faced with the decision of pursuing a career and when to start a family or marriage. I would want to be a big part of my wife’s and child’s lives, and doing science in an academic setting would really be difficult in accommodating that ideal when compared to a self-employed job or well-paying 9-5 industry job. I have made a choice to put off pursuing serious relationships and having kids anytime in the near future because I do not think I can faithfully fulfill my duties to them in my current situation. This is less than ideal in a perfect society, but a reality I have had to accept. I know many graduate students are ambitious, and I’m sure that trait has helped them get to Yale and succeed here, but they must accept society’s reality and the consequences of their decisions. You want a union for teaching assistants, that’s fine, but realize that most graduate students think that it’s like going to war and should be done as a last resort — especially when other avenues of advocacy have been untested.
I must admit I’m disturbed both by GESO’s tactics as well as the way the administration at times refuses to solicit the opinion of its graduate students and involve them in matters that directly pertain to them. To combat the GESO propaganda, and to foster dialogue about more ways to improve the University, I hereby announce the creation of an organization called Truth At Yale. Every week I and others will write and circulate articles on what we know about the administration, GPSS, GSA, the McDougal Center and GESO to give insight into the various groups’ philosophies, viewpoints and tactics in hopes of sparking discussion and debate all around campus. We will submit op-ed pieces, put up flyers and do chalkings around campus in a manner similar to the thetruth.com campaign mounted against big tobacco companies. My organization’s first public call is to urge all graduate students to join GESO and to participate in GESO’s meetings and provide a voice of dissent if they are unsatisfied with their tactics and to participate in the upcoming strike discussions.
Steven Becker is a fifth-year biology Ph.D. candidate.