Local 33, Yale’s graduate student union, delivered a list of demands for improvements in the sciences at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences — including increasing faculty diversity and devoting more funding to climate science — to the University administration on Wednesday.
Students across various Graduate School science departments called on the University to “renew its commitment to science research and education” in the petition, signed by more than 200 graduate students. Specifically, the students demanded that the University divest from fossil fuels, work to increase diversity among science faculty members, reverse the teaching fellow pay cuts from December 2014 and expand University funding for climate science and other areas at risk of federal budget cuts.
The students delivered the petition, titled “Yale: Respect Your Scientists,” to Graduate School Dean Lynn Cooley and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Tamar Gendler at Warner House. Then they marched to the University’s investments office at 55 Whitney Ave. to deliver the petition to David Swenson, Yale’s chief investment officer.
In a statement on Monday, Cooley said the University is “deeply committed to strengthening the sciences as a core component of Yale’s missions” and noted that she looks forward to reviewing an upcoming report by the University Science Strategy Committee.
“I have met and continue to meet with graduate students to discuss a range of issues affecting their time in graduate school, many of whom also have deep concerns about the strategy and tactics of Local 33,” Cooley said.
According to Sarah Arveson GRD ’21, a member of the Local 33 coordinating committee, the petition’s main purpose was “actually just to get students to engage with the demands that were on the petition.”
In the petition, Local 33 applauded University President Peter Salovey’s recent efforts to promote “bold investment in science” at Yale. But it also included more critical perspectives, citing the Huffington Post article “Investigation Shows Yale Isn’t the Climate-Conscious Investor It Claims to Be,” as well as the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate’s “Report on the Expansion of Yale College,” which expresses concerns about the size of the faculty.
After union members gathered the signatures, they held a speaking program outside Warner House and displayed graphics with statistics about issues like diversity and the growth of the endowment.
Judith Hoeller GRD ’20, a member of the Local 33 organizing committee in the Physics Department, expressed discontent with the shortage of tenured female faculty members in her department.
“This underrepresentation makes me want to hide my gender, for example, by abbreviating my first name to J. in publications, to avoid prejudice against my work,” Hoeller said. “To change this culture, the Yale administration needs to do more — this petition is just the beginning of us scientists shaping our future in academia.”
In addition to the demands in the statement, the union reiterated its desire to sit down with administrators to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement. The graduate student union has pushed for negotiations for years, and even staged a hunger strike last spring in an effort to bring administrators to the table. But earlier this semester, Local 33 withdrew its petitions for unions in eight academic departments, after conservatives gained a majority on the National Labor Relations Board.
Alexander Bozzi, registrar of the Applied Physics Department, expressed support for the student union.
“Given President Salovey’s call for ‘bold investment in science,’ Yale should invest more in the people, the scientists,” Bozzi said. “Local 33 members today are teaching tomorrow’s STEM leaders. It’s the people — the grad teachers and their students — who make Yale what it is.”
Still, not all graduate students back Local 33’s recent actions.
Savannah Thais GRD ’20, the president of the Graduate and Professional Students Senate, said she was not aware of the petition before it was delivered, but said she would not have signed it because the ideas expressed are “nice” but “vague.”
The Graduate Employees and Students Organization rebranded as Local 33 in 2016.
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