Sammy Westfall

The Yale Police Department’s union claims that the University has infringed on its officer’s First Amendment rights, saying a person affiliated with Yale interfered with a YPD union demonstration in front of prospective students and parents during Bulldog Saturday this weekend.

As attendees of the weekend event filed into Shubert Theater for Dean of Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan’s opening address, a member of the Yale Police Benevolent Association distributed flyers emblazoned with the eyebrow-raising message: “Yale’s campus may not be as safe as you think” in red capital letters. Under that heading, the police union listed the headlines of a Breitbart article — “Report Claims Yale’s Campus Almost as Dangerous as Detroit for Women” — and referenced a Guardian story titled “Yale Police Investigating Second Sexual Assault on Campus in Four Day Span.”

President of the Yale Police Benevolent Association Richard Simons claims that someone affiliated with Yale stood between the YPD union member distributing the flyers and those entering the theater and physically pushed him back to prevent him from distributing the pamphlets. In a letter to the editor of the New Haven Register, the Benevolent Association — which is locked in a contract dispute with the University — claimed that Yale violated the YPD union’s constitutional right to free speech. Since the disagreement between the union and the University began almost two years ago, University police officers have worked without a permanent contract, on a month-to-month extension agreement.

The letter, signed by Simons, cites University President Peter Salovey’s Nov. 26 Op-Ed in The New York Times entitled “Free Speech, Personified,” in which Salovey praises Pauli Murray LAW ’65’s commitment to free speech. The letter states that “Yale should practice what it preaches.”

“We had the right to peacefully assemble,” Simons told the News. “Yale University directed their ushers to go on a city public street to interfere with our protected union activity.”

In a statement to the News, University spokesman Tom Conroy denied that Yale ordered ushers to disrupt the demonstration. He said Yale “respects and recognizes the rights of the officers to peacefully assemble, to strike and to hand out information.”

“Yale doesn’t have any problem with that,” he said. “Yale had no interest in interfering with that. The people who worked to welcome the admitted students and their parents were instructed not to interfere with the union activities.”

Conroy noted that University administrators are scheduled to meet with the YPD unions in the coming weeks. And he emphasized that the University reached agreements with Local 34 and Local 35 without work stoppages in January 2017, the third time in a row that the University reached an agreement with UNITE-HERE, the umbrella organization that represents the two unions, without major incident. The University has no reason to believe negotiations with the police union will be any different, Conroy said.

This was not the first time the Yale police union has protested at a prospective students event amid contract negotiations. The University did not interfere with a similar protest in 2010, Simons said. Eight years ago, Yale and the police union were locked in negotiations for 16 months and met more than 60 times. Over the past two years, Simons said, Yale and the union have sat down for only 50 sessions — and just five since January. His union has offered several potential meeting dates, he said, but the University has agreed to only two.

The Yale Police Department was established in 1894.

Hailey Fuchs | hailey.fuchs@yale.edu

Sammy Westfall | sammy.westfall@yale.edu