Students Unite Now has begun a new campaign this fall, jointly advocating for the University to eliminate the student income contribution and negotiate with graduate student union Local 33.
SUN has deep connections to UNITE HERE, the umbrella organization that sponsors blue- and pink-collar unions Local 34 and Local 35, as well as Local 33. But this fall’s campaign — dubbed “For an Academy That’s Ours” — marks the first time that the student organization has formally taken up the graduate students’ cause as its own. SUN’s new website displays the headshots of more than 540 students holding signs that advocate for the joint cause.
“We’ve always been looking towards broadening towards organizing reaching out to new people,” said SUN leader Julia Salseda ’19. “We’ve always been supportive of Local 33 and we’ve always wanted to eliminate the student income contribution.”
Founded in 2012, the undergraduate organization has long advocated for the elimination of both the summer and term-time components of the student contributions to Yale College tuition, a sum that totals $5,950 for most students. Last October, nearly 1,200 students signed a SUN petition calling for the elimination of the student income contribution. At rallies on Cross Campus and outside Woodbridge Hall, the organization has called for meetings with University President Peter Salovey, who has expressed reluctance to sit down with members of the group.
SUN has remained relatively silent over the last few months. But Salseda said the organization plans to stage a protest sometime next week.
Last February, eight departments voted to unionize and formally join Local 33, though the National Labor Relations Board is currently considering the University’s appeals challenging Local 33’s right to unionize. Since that vote, Yale has refused to enter contract negotiations with the graduate student union, prompting Local 33 to launch a series of protests, including a widely publicized hunger strike on Beinecke Plaza last spring. Since last year, the University has questioned the legal basis of the elections, which were the product of an unusual approach to graduate student unionization that has not been tested on other campuses.
Hannah Lee ’20, a member of SUN, argued that negotiations with Local 33 would better position graduate students to speak out against sexual harassment. Lee urged Yale to begin contract discussions to establish protections for graduate students and a straightforward sexual-assault reporting procedure with the union.
Max Greene ’19, another leader of SUN, said he supports Local 33’s efforts to improve diversity at the graduate school. In his computer science class last year, one of the class’ programs translated sentences to “gangster speak,” which he called an offensive term for stereotypical African American speaking patterns. After no one mentioned the potentially offensive nature of the assignment, Greene questioned whether the course would have featured a similar program if Yale had a more diverse teaching faculty.
Haja Kamara ’19, another member of SUN and a psychology major, said her field of study similarly lacks diversity among graduate teachers and professors. She added that the obstacles she encounters as a Yale College student working two jobs are similar to those faced by graduate students seeking scholarships at Yale.
Greene, roughly half of whose tuition is covered by financial aid, recalled a night during his first year when he had to simultaneously shelve books for his job at the library and write a Directed Studies paper due the next day. His supervisor condescendingly asked him why he was taking so long and whether he needed to be retrained, he added. For Greene, the student income contribution often prompts him to question whether he belongs at Yale.
University officials argues that the student income contribution is an important and necessary part of a Yale College scholarship.
The requirement is based on the principle that paying for college should be “a partnership between the student and his or her family and the college,” University Director of Financial Aid Caesar Storlazzi told the News in the spring.
More than half of Yale students receive need-based aid from the University.
Hailey Fuchs | firstname.lastname@example.org