Three members of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education visiting team got more than they bargained for at an open student forum this afternoon in Linsly-Chittenden Hall.

Fewer than 10 of the approximately 40 students in attendance were graduate students, and many of them were affiliated with the Graduate Employees and Students Organization. GESO has been lobbying Yale to recognize a graduate student teachers union since 1991.

Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro, the chair of Yale’s visiting team, led a panel with Becky Brodigan, vice president of institutional planning at Bowdoin College, and Julianne Ohotnicky, Smith College’s dean of students and student affairs. Ohotnicky will be responsible for writing the section of Yale’s NEASC CIHE evaluation on students and student life.

Mark Rivera GRD ’15 kicked off the discussion by asking the NEASC CIHE contingent if they were concerned about Yale’s intent to reevaluate the role of section teaching for graduate students. This view was featured in Yale’s self-study report, published online last month.

For the rest of the hour-long discussion, the topic rarely diverged from graduate student teaching opportunities, their bearing on job placement and a lack of communication between the University and graduate students on changes to the program. Students urged the NEASC CIHE team to encourage Yale to accept a graduate student employees union, expressed frustration with a lack of teaching opportunities for sixth year graduate students and said teaching experience while in graduate school was key to job placement later on.

“There is a dislocation between what we’re given as teaching opportunities and what we need as teaching opportunities,” Laura Miles GRD ’11 said. “If the University doesn’t understand that better teachers from the Ph.D program make graduate programs better, they’re missing out on something.”

The discussion was not without moments of humor, however, as when Molly Farrell GRD ’11 tried to respond to a comment on sustainable university growth.

“I’m not an expert on institutional investment,” Farrell said. “I’m an expert on early Puritan poetry in the English Department. So ask me about that.”

The NEASC CIHE visiting team will be on Yale’s campus until early Wednesday morning, when they will present a preliminary report on their findings to University administrators.