Yale graduate students demand to unionize

(WTNH / Josh Scheinblum)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – Outside of Woodbridge Hall on the campus of Yale University hundreds gathered with the hopes of being heard. Packed in tight, many held signs high and chanted, the crowd made up largely of graduate students and researchers at the school who are demanding university officials allow them to unionize.

They call themselves the Graduate Employees and Students Organization, or GESO, and have made attempts in previous years to form a union. This time around organizers claim to have more than 2/3 support among who they call “graduate employees.”

“Our majority has grown, our strength has grown, the consensus on campus has grown,” said GESO Chair, Aaron Greenberg.

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy and Democratic New Haven Mayor Toni Harp were also among several public officials who gave their support at the event.

“We know that this would help strengthen the network of good jobs in New Haven,” said Harp.

Following the rally, students delivered a banner with the face of students hoping to unionize to the offices of Yale administrators.

“I think Yale actually starting to take notice of us,” said graduate student, Aaron Segal.

News 8 reached out to officials with Yale about the request from members of GESO and received the following statement in return;

“Graduate Education at Yale

Each year, the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences welcomes approximately 500 of the world’s most promising scholars to its doctoral programs (2015 Matriculation Ceremony for New Graduate Students). These sought-after students choose Yale for the opportunity to study with the Graduate School’s outstanding faculty, and to take advantage of the University’s wide array of academic resources and services.

They also come for the unsurpassed support Yale provides to its Ph.D. students, which allows them to focus on their scholarship, successfully complete their education, and find rewarding careers.

This support starts with outstanding financial aid. Each doctoral student receives an annual stipend ranging from $29,000 to $33,700 to meet living expenses. Not only is this figure highly competitive with our peers, but the considerably lower cost of living in New Haven makes the Yale stipend even more favorable. Tuition ($38,700 for 2015-16) is covered by a tuition fellowship from the graduate school, research grants or national and international fellowships; no Ph.D. student pays tuition.

The Graduate School also pays for comprehensive health care for all students and their families. We know of no other peer school that does this. If the student has a spouse, but no dependent children, Yale pays half the cost of the spouse’s health insurance. For families with children, the Graduate School covers the entire cost of the premiums. A parental support and relief policy provides students with an additional full semester of stipend and healthcare support at the birth or adoption of children.

Over six years, the total cost of support equals nearly $369,000 for a single Ph.D. student. For a student with a family, the support totals more than $437,500. In humanities and social science programs, most of the funding is from the Graduate School. In the natural sciences, funding is from the Graduate School, external fellowships and faculty research grants.

In the 2014-15 academic year, the total spending for graduate students on these benefits totaled $158 million.

Students also receive robust support in their professional development through the Office of Career Strategy and the Center for Teaching and Learning, which includes the Graduate School Writing Center and other programs.

The Graduate School considers learning to teach to be an integral part of doctoral education, and builds training and teaching opportunities into every program. The Center for Teaching and Learning provides a full range of support services to help graduate students learn how to be better teachers. In the humanities and social sciences, students are expected to assist in teaching one course per semester in each of four semesters, most frequently in their third year of study and beyond. Students in the sciences normally assist in teaching one course in each of two to four terms.

Students at Yale teach significantly less than they might at other institutions. In fact, nearly 70% of Yale doctoral students will do no teaching at all this fall. Over the course of six years, no more than 14% of a doctoral student’s time is devoted to teaching as part of their training, and for many it is much less.

The Graduate School’s leadership works with individual students, the Graduate Student Assembly, the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, faculty, and senior University leadership to identify ways to enhance graduate education and student life. This ongoing collaborative approach ensures that the graduate student experience at Yale remains unrivaled.

New Haven Hiring

This past June, Yale committed to hiring 500 New Haven residents in the next 24 months. Where possible, Yale will make these hires through New Haven Works. New Haven Works is a not-for-profit organization seeking to connect unemployed and underemployed New Haven residents to employers in New Haven and surrounding towns. Yale is a partner and funder of New Haven Works.

Yale employs and hires a significant population of New Haven residents. Thirty-two percent of Yale’s current employees live in New Haven. In the year leading up to the June hiring commitment, 46% of Yale’s hires were New Haven residents, including 48% of hires for service and maintenance “blue collar” jobs.

Yale is a great employer, but neither Yale nor any other employer in the region can solve unemployment by itself. Yale is doing its share, but there are always going to be many, many more applicants to Yale than there are jobs that need to be filled. Yale filled about 840 staff jobs last year, which attracted 100,000 applicants.

Yale is also the primary donor for the New Haven Promise program providing college scholarships to local youth, which will help them be ready for the workforce, and has more than 1,000 employees who have purchased homes in New Haven through its Homebuyer Program, which gives financial grants to the homebuyers to entice them to buy homes and live in New Haven.


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