With some teaching assistants preparing to strike next week, faculty members — mainly those who teach large lecture courses in the humanities and social sciences — are making plans to cover for striking TAs during the last week of classes leading up to final exams.
Some professors said they will teach their own sections or make alternative arrangements to fill sections for TAs who chose to go on strike with the Graduate Employees and Students Organization. Many professors teaching popular lecture courses said they are confident that the last week of classes will go on with few major problems. The logistics at the end of the academic year for science classes will be virtually uninterrupted by the strike since it includes only TAs in the humanities and social sciences.
The worst-case scenario for undergraduates in large lecture courses, professors said, would be that sections may be moved to off-campus locations and that review sessions for final exams may be cancelled by striking TAs. But the GESO strike will conclude on April 22, and striking TAs will not withhold student grades as they did during a grade strike in 1995, GESO leaders have said.
Graduate School Dean Jon Butler said professors are expected to make sure that classes continue normally during the strike.
“We would regret any disruption to the teaching schedule,” he said. “Faculty members are responsible for their courses and for seeing that the students are taught. We do ask faculty to arrange alternate sections.”
History professor Matthew Jacobson, who teaches the introductory course “Formation of Modern American Culture,” said the TA strike will affect his course next week since he relies on many GESO members to teach sections.
“It would not be possible to have a class like FORMAC without TAs — I have 13 of them this year,” Jacobson said. “We’ll really feel this, but the course can limp through a one-week job action. If it were an open-ended strike, though, we’d be in huge trouble.”
GESO member Evan Matthew Cobb GRD ’07, who teaches an intermediate German language course, said he is planning to strike next week. He will not teach his class, which meets five days a week, and will not grade papers or write recommendation letters for students for the duration of the strike, he said.
“Presumably, my department will replace me for that week,” Cobb said. “[But] to not have the teacher who’s been there for the first half of the year there during that week will be pretty disruptive.”
In large lecture courses, the timing of the strike places an additional burden on professors and non-striking TAs, as final exams are fast approaching.
History professor Mary Habeck, who is teaching a large lecture course on American military history, said a strike has the potential to cause “huge problems” for lecture classes, since professors rely on TAs to grade final exams and term papers. For now, Habeck plans on conducting business as she always does.
“I’ll be teaching as usual although some of my TAs may decide to participate in the strike,” she said.
Economics professor Karl-Heinz Storchmann said he anticipates his introductory macroeconomics lecture class may see some sections and review sessions cancelled next week, though he assumes the course will continue as normal for the most part.
Many professors teaching classes with striking TAs said they are prepared to conduct sections themselves.
History professor Jay Winter, who teaches the popular course “20th Century Britain,” moved his classes off-campus during the three-week strike in September 2003. This time, however, he does not plan on moving his class lectures.
“We will have lectures as usual next week,” Winter said. “Should the TAs feel unable to offer sections, I will announce to all students that I am available to hold a section at a time to be arranged myself.”
Another history professor, Jonathan Spence, said his “History of Modern China” lecture course also will continue without any major hitches. Spence will not move his two lectures next week off-campus, choosing to keep his classes at the Law School Auditorium. Spence told his class on Wednesday that if any of his TAs do strike and cancel section, he will teach his own section for the affected students on Monday afternoon in the courtyard of Timothy Dwight College.
Some teachers in the humanities with non-striking TAs will still move their classes off-campus. Even though none of her TAs are planning to strike, English professor Amy Hungerford, who teaches the large “American Literature since 1945” lecture course, said she has arranged to have five of the six sections of her class meet next week at St. Thomas More, the Catholic church on Park Street.
“I don’t want to ask students or teaching assistants to have to cross picket lines,” Hungerford said.
Other lecture courses, particularly those in the sciences, will not be affected by the TA strike. Biology professor William Summers, who teaches one of Yale’s largest classes, “Biology of Gender and Sexuality,” said he does not think his class will be affected by a strike, as many of the TAs for the course are not enrolled in the Graduate School and may not necessarily be members of GESO.
Since GESO leaders have designated his class as a science course, they told him they will not target his TAs to join the strike effort, Summers said.