Tag: Yale

David Brion Davis, 1927-2019: Countersubversive at Yale

David Brion Davis, the pathbreaking Yale historian of slavery and emancipation, whose books revolutionized how we approach the American experience, has died. The obituaries have rightly discussed his many and manifold contributions, a legacy we will be parsing in the days and months ahead. Yet for those of us who were graduate students at Yale during the 1990s and who participated in the union drive there, the story of David Brion Davis is more complicated. Davis helped break the grade strike of 1995, in a manner so personal and peculiar, yet simultaneously emblematic, as not to be forgotten. Not long after the strike, I wrote at length about Davis’s actions in an essay called “Blacklisted and Blue: On Theory and […]

Honey, I’ve been slowly boring hard boards longer than you’ve been alive.

As I reported yesterday, the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that graduate student workers are employees with full rights to organize a union. And today, the New York Times came out in favor of the decision in the strongest of terms. It’s hard for me to express what this means to me and scholars of my generation. (I apologize in advance for this trip down memory lane. As I said on Facebook the other day: the earth belongs to the living, this moment belongs to today’s grad student, not yesterday’s). As long-time readers of this blog know, I was actively involved in the TA organizing drive at Yale for about a decade. Reading the Times editorial, in fact, I recalled that […]

Great Minds Think Alike

In a pathbreaking ruling, the National Labor Relations Board announced yesterday that graduate student workers at private universities are employees with the right to organize unions. For three decades, private universities have bitterly resisted this claim. Unions, these universities have argued, would impose a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach on the ineffably individual and heterogenous nature of graduate education. Unions might be appropriate for a factory, where all the work’s the same, but they would destroy the diversity of the academy, ironing out those delicate and delightful idiosyncrasies that make each university what it is. As virtually every elite university now facing an organizing drive of its graduate students is making clear (h/t David Marcus for discovering and pointing me to these specific links). Here, for example, is Columbia: Here’s […]

Local 33, Yale, and the Spirit of Conservatism

GESO, the graduate employees’ union at Yale, took a quantum leap forward this week when it was chartered as Local 33 of the UNITE-HERE international union. It now joins Yale’s two other unions: Local 34, the clerical and technical workers’ union, and Local 35, the service and maintenance workers’ union. Though Yale has yet to recognize Local 33, this is a big step. As the Washington Post reports: On Wednesday evening, something happened that generations of graduate students at Yale University had awaited for nearly two decades: The founding of a union. With about 1,500 members present, amidst New Haven’s other unions and with the support of a who’s who of Connecticut public officials, the international president of UNITE-HERE arrived to certify their […]

Black Alumni at Yale Weigh In With Major List of Demands

Among the more dispiriting responses to the wave of protests around racism on campus is the claim that this unrest, particularly at Yale, is the work of privileged and pampered campus crybabies. Now I cede to no one in my contempt for Yale. But I think that criticism is unfair. As I’ve pointed out a number of times, if we want to turn every conflict over social justice into the Oppression Olympics, where you can’t talk about one case of injustice until you’ve talked about every other case of worse injustice, no one in the United States is going to deserve anything. You can always find someone who is worse off and more deserving; by that definition, most people around the globe are […]

What in God’s Name is the Head of PEN Talking About?

I find this statement in a New York Times oped, coming from Suzanne Nossel, the head of PEN America, to be absolutely stunning: SOME of the most potent threats to free speech these days come not from our government or corporations, but from our citizenry. Anyone who can write a sentence like this simply doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Which is fine, but not fine when the person is the head of an organization dedicated to freedom of expression. By “our citizenry,” Nossel is referring to the recent round of free speech wars on college campuses. Now when these issues of free speech arise on campus, you usually see an explosion of conversation about it: on the campus itself, and […]

Security Politics, Anti-Capitalism, Student Activists, and the Left

I gave a lengthy interview to Margins, a progressive student magazine at Yale. We talked a lot about a lot of things. We talked about the increasing securitization—terrible word, I know—of politics. But, as I said, what I think is most significant about that trend is the growing opposition to it. Compared to what was going on in the 90s, or the aughts, the movements on the ground against the security state are tremendous. The only question is: can they build and last? We’ve seen lots of blips of movements in the last 15 years: against the WTO, the Iraq War, Wall Street, debt, and now the police. Their half-lives seem to be getting shorter and shorter. In part because we’ve yet to […]

O Yale…(Updated, Again and Again and Again)

A friend writes me that he just got a copy of the Yale Alumni Magazine and, well, listen to my friend: The image: a clean-cut [WHITE] man in a [PIN-STRIPE] suit picking fruit from a large tree. The headline: “Reaching beyond the low-hanging fruit.” The subtitle: “Yale College seeks smart students from poor families. They’re out there—but hard to find.” What was it that Brecht said? O Germany— Hearing the speeches that ring from your house, one laughs. But whoever sees you, reaches for his knife. Update (3:30 pm) Tim Barker points out that if you go to the article itself, it has a dek that reads: The families of Yale College students, on average, are substantially richer than the […]

Jesus Christ, I’m at Yale

In 1978, Vivian Gornick wrote an article in The Nation, “A Woman Among the Ivy Fellows,” on her semester-long experience as visiting professor at Yale. It’s a forgotten little classic of campus manners and mores, which is sadly inaccessible on the internet (though you can dig it out of the Nation digital archive if you’re a subscriber). After detailing a litany of sexist and boorish behavior from the male faculty (including one appalling incident of physical and verbal harassment)—and a general atmosphere of anti-intellectualism and antediluvian anxiety—Gornick concludes with a wonderful vignette about a conversation with a non-tenured historian whose husband is a tenured professor in sociology. Ruth Richards drove me to the station. As we sat in her car […]

Lucille Dickess (1934-2013): American Radical

On February 21, Lucille Dickess died at the age of 79. Lucille worked as the registrar of the geology department at Yale University and served as the president of the clerical and technical workers union, Local 34. (This photo of Lucille was taken by Virginia Blaisdell.) I can still remember the first time I saw and heard Lucille speak. It was at a rally on Beinecke Plaza, I think in the spring of 1991. She had white hair, looked like a suburban grandmother, and breathed fire. I had always thought of union workers as burly white guys. I never thought that again. She was, to me, what the labor movement at its best is about: transcending easy and lazy stereotypes […]

Eli’s Comin’—Hide Your Heart, Girl: Why Yale is Going to Singapore

In Fall 1998, my penultimate semester at Yale, I TA’d for a course called “Yale and the External World.” Taught by historian Gaddis Smith, it was part of the university’s annual DeVane Lectures, in which a distinguished member of the faculty is given an opportunity to expound over the course of a semester—to students, alums, and the public—on a topic of his or her choice. Other DeVane Lecturers have included Nancy Cott on the history of marriage, whose lectures ultimately became this excellent book, Michael Denning on democracy, and more. But in 1998, Yale was heading toward its tercentennial, and President Richard Levin wanted someone to take stock of “the evolution of the University’s place in the modern world.” Smith, […]