Conservatism at Yale

by Corey Robin on March 12, 2016

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 majority support and grant them a charter.

“It’s a really historic and amazing event, and something that will bring a new local to the UNITE-HERE family at Yale for the first time in 30 years,” says Aaron Greenberg, a graduate student in political science who chairs the Graduate Employees and Students Organization. “We’re not waiting for the administration to come to the table.”

The only correction I would add is what my friend Kristi Starr said on Facebook: the grad students at Yale have not been “awaiting” this move for nearly two decades. They’ve been fighting like hell for this move for nearly two decades. The grad union drive began in the late 1980s, and if all goes well, it will come to a conclusion in the coming year.

Speaking of the union’s history, my friend Nikhil Singh, who’s now a professor at NYU but who was one of the founders of GESO, sent the founders of Local 33 a letter on this historic occasion. This excerpt really captures what’s so special about the unions at Yale:

The relatively small group of us committed to the unionization path began to pursue the issue with very little knowledge of what we were doing. We started researching other graduate student unions, mostly at public universities, and interviewing prospective unions to work with us, starting with the United Auto Workers (UAW). The UAW offered us a lot of resources — right up front — an office and an organizing budget. It was flattering, but also a little scary to be honest. Did I say, we had no idea what we were doing?

The following week we met with representatives from Locals 34 and 35, unions whose histories many of us knew well and admired. I don’t remember exactly who was in the room, but I’ll never forget what the 34 and 2 35 leaders told us that day. “We won’t make you any funding promises. And, anything that we agree to in terms of support will be contingent on ratification by our members. But the one thing we will teach you how to do is to beat Yale.”

Just because it’s a cliche, doesn’t mean it’s not true: the rest was history. After that meeting, we had no doubt about the union that we needed to work with going forward. To our immense credit, we understood very well, that our success hinged upon the success of all Yale’s workers.

From that day, I don’t think I ever worked so hard, or so systematically, and (less proudly) I have not worked that hard or systematically since! As you know, your union is no joke when it comes to organizing. Nothing is left to chance and you can never hide. Everyone must be talked to, repeatedly. You have your numbers for every meeting, for every rally, for every action. And, it is the one instance in life when taking no for an answer, is always provisional. Correction: you never take no for an answer.

I learned a lot of what I know about politics from being an organizer at Yale. In fact, there’s a whole generation of us who did, and it’s influenced the kind of intellectual work we’ve gone on to do, in a variety of fields: history, political science, English. We’re scattered across the country—at Berkeley, Oregon, Carnegie Mellon, U. Mass., NYU—and there are now several generations of scholars that have come after us, at Harvard, Columbia, University of Chicago and elsewhere. This, I’d like to think, is the real “Yale School” of scholarship. About ten years ago, the Chronicle of Higher Ed even wrote a profile of a group of us.

The Post also mentions that Yale, along with a bunch of other schools, is fighting the union movement in court. There’s a NLRB case brewing (it comes out of Columbia University), and Yale, Harvard, Cornell and Company have joined together in an amicus brief. I haven’t had a chance to read it, but this bit from the Post’s description caught my eye:

The elite schools also worry that granting grad students collective bargaining rights would interfere with academic freedom, since changes to teaching loads — even something as small as adding an essay to exam — could become the subject of extended negotiation, decreasing the flexibility of instruction.

That’s a pretty stunning statement. What it means is that Yale and these other universities believe that the relevant academic freedom in question is that of the professor, not the graduate student, and that the freedom in question—the right to make assignments in a classroom—is critically dependent upon the availability of a pool of labor that will simply execute the task of grading that assignment without questioning the professor’s decision to make the assignment. Should that right to make the assignment “become the subject of extended negotiation,” the right of the professor—and thus, her academic freedom—would be diminished.

Graduate student TAs are paid a certain amount of money per year to do these grading tasks for professors. On Yale’s accounting, the only limit on how many and how much of these tasks the professor can ask the TA to perform is…the judgment, discretion, decision, whim—call it what you will—of the professor herself. Any limit that might be imposed by a discussion with the laborer who carries out the task would be a limitation on the professor’s academic freedom.

Five years ago, I wrote a book on conservatism called The Reactionary Mind. You may have heard me talk about it here. There’s a passage in the book that seems pertinent:

Though it is often claimed that the left stands for equality while the right stands for freedom, this notion misstates the actual disagreement between right and left. Historically, the conservative has favored liberty for the higher orders and constraint for the lower orders. What the conservative sees and dislikes in equality, in other words, is not a threat to freedom but its extension. For in that extension, he sees a loss of his own freedom. “We are all agreed as to our own liberty,” declared Samuel Johnson. “But we are not agreed as to the liberty of others: for in proportion as we take, others must lose. I believe we hardly wish that the mob should have liberty to govern us.”

I never quite realized it till now, but that describes Yale’s position to a tee.

In fact, in his Thoughts and Details on Scarcity, which I didn’t talk about in my book, Edmund Burke has to this to say:

It is the interest of the farmer, that his [the agricultural laborer who works for the farmer] work should be done with effect and celerity: and that cannot be, unless the labourer is well fed, and otherwise found with such necessaries of animal life, according to it’s habitudes, as may keep the body in full force, and the mind gay and cheerful. For of all the instruments of his trade, the labour of man (what the ancient writers have called the instrumentum vocale) is that on which he is most to rely for the re-payment of his capital. The other two, the semivocale in the ancient classification, that is, the working stock of cattle, and the instrumentum mutum, such as carts, ploughs, spades, and so forth, though not all inconsiderable in themselves, are very much inferiour in utility or in expence; and without a given portion of the first, are nothing at all. For in all things whatever, the mind is the most valuable and the most important; and in this scale the whole of agriculture is in a natural and just order; the beast is as an informing principle to the plough and cart; the labourer is as reason to the beast; and the farmer is as a thinking and presiding principle to the labourer. An attempt to break this chain of subordination in any part is equally absurd.

In the same way that the beast is “an informing principle to the plough and cart” and the “labourer is as reason to the beast,” so is the professor, on Yale’s lights, “a thinking and presiding principle” to the TA, who in this scenario is little more than the beast, the plough, and the cart.

Yale is a place that prides itself on its liberal learning. Its professors style themselves as progressive; its administrators do, too. I’m sure they all vote Democrat, and are horrified by the spectacle of Donald Trump and the Republicans. Yet here we have these very same liberal sensibilities arguing a position that comes straight out of the right-wing precincts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.



LFC 03.12.16 at 1:24 am

It occurs to me that it might be interesting for someone to compare (if it hasn’t already been done) Burke’s Thoughts and Details on Scarcity with Tocqueville’s Memoir on Pauperism (not that I’ve read either, though I’ve taken about a 10-second glance at the latter, a while ago).

p.s. But the next thing on my own reading list is Perlstein’s Before the Storm, which a commenter (one of the better, i.e. saner, ones) on Corey’s blog praised so fulsomely that I decided I should read it and have taken it out of the library. (Sorry for the mcmanus-style personal-reading-list digression.)


BenK 03.12.16 at 1:42 am

A bad idea then, a bad idea now; GESO continues to be a threat to the graduate students.


JakeB 03.12.16 at 4:56 am

You’ll have to try harder than that to be really convincing, Ben.


Sebastian H 03.12.16 at 5:05 am

This is a good thing for the graduate students.

You make me crazy when you take a common human trait and totalize it to one side of your political lens. Liberty for me and not for thee is practiced by the left all the time if you are willing to see bad things on your own side. The current speech wars on campus are a leftist phenomenon. The gloating regarding Clementine Ford getting Michael Nolan fired was a feminist/leftist phenomenon (and one including the privileged class getting someone in the working class fired for outside the job speech).

Yes people are always more open to their own freedom than that of people they don’t like. Yes, that is often a stupid reaction. That isn’t a conservative phenomenon.


Plume 03.12.16 at 5:23 am

Sebastian H @4,

Plenty of scholarship pointing to the absence of empathy among right-wingers, and its much greater presence among people left of center. Fear is also a much greater part of the right-wing brain. The moral compass of those on the left is much greater, and it seems not to kick in for right-wingers until someone near and dear to them is in for a rough ride.

As in, your comment regarding “freedom” just isn’t true, and it’s not a part of left/right political psychology. People are lefties precisely because they do care more about a much greater range of humanity and their plight, and seek their emancipation, whereas all too many on the right care greatly about their own wallets and their own ability to lord it over employees and such, and rarely seem at all concerned about inequality of income, access, wealth or power. All too many on the right view such inequality as “natural,” and fight to the death to preserve what they see as “natural.”

From the very first moments we started thinking in terms of left and right, in the last 18th century, the right has been the side of the aisle that was fine with the steepest hierarchies, law and order, monarchy, the ruling class. The left was always in opposition to this.

And as for speech codes and the like. I don’t think this is coming from “leftists.” It’s primarily coming from “liberals,” who can be center-right on all too many issues, especially economic ones. Leftists are well to the left of liberal.


Sebastian H 03.12.16 at 5:36 am

“From the very first moments we started thinking in terms of left and right, in the last 18th century, the right has been the side of the aisle that was fine with the steepest hierarchies, law and order, monarchy, the ruling class. The left was always in opposition to this. ”

With certain mild exceptions in the twentieth century…


Corey Robin 03.12.16 at 5:43 am

Sebastian H at 4: “This is a good thing for the graduate students.”

I’ll take it! All the rest is commentary.


urban legend 03.12.16 at 7:30 am

It’s really a disgrace that these institutions — Yale, Columbia, Harvard, Cornell (and “Company,” whoever that is) — are fighting the desire of the graduate students they employ in various activities to engage in collective negotiation of the terms and conditions of that employment. Particularly priceless from the amicus brief is the notion that because a union at NYU filed some grievances, two of which were won by the administration and the other of which was withdrawn by the union, and because NYU happens to be a private university, that should be the basis for (1) concluding that a union may be harmful to the academic freedom of the institution because the filing of a grievance is a terribly disturbing event — or something like that — and (2) that private universities need to be treated differently under the law from public universities because … well, because this terrible event happens to have occurred at a private university.

For approving reasoning like this being filed on their behalf, these universities should be forced automatically to drop 10 points on the US News ranking that no doubt consumes their lives. Meanwhile, 10 points should be added to the public and private universities that actually understand what a collaborative environment means. Those simple steps will drop these institutions into the also-ran level they deserve. It appears that they never bothered to replace the old law books that identify employment law as “master and servant.”


MisterMr 03.12.16 at 8:21 am

Burke uses the term “instrumentum vocale” referring to all workers, but I think that originally in Rome this applied only to slaves (hence the idea of an object that speaks) and in the middle ages to serfs, not to freemen. Thus the idea that all agricultiral workers ate “instrumenta vocal[damnlatinIhateyou]” is quite extreme.


oldster 03.12.16 at 1:09 pm

Haven’t you got your match-ups wrong here?

“In the same way that the beast is “an informing principle to the plough and cart” and the “labourer is as reason to the beast,” so is the professor, on Yale’s lights, “a thinking and presiding principle” to the TA, who in this scenario is little more than the beast, the plough, and the cart.”

Burke’s “chain of subordination” runs from the farmer (i.e. landowner) to the labourer to the oxen (the semivocal) to the plough and cart. The labourer is a significant step above the beast, and two steps above the plough and the cart.

Applied to the university, the Burkean correspondence is this: as the professor stands to the farmer (i.e. landowner), so the TA stands to the labourer. The beast, plough, and cart, are the textbook, bluebook, pen and podium. But the TA is neither a beast nor a cart on this model; the TA is the labourer (not to belabour the point).

So on the Burkean model, TAs are labourers. Whereas on the view of the union activists, TAs are…labour.

There’s no disagreement on that point. The important disagreement comes at the next stage, when we say that labour should have some control over its terms of employment, and the Burkean argues for total subordination. That’s fine: this is a significant and sufficient point of controversy.

But it’s a very poor piece of rhetoric to go saying “they’re treating TAs like beasts!” and then cite in support of that claim a passage whose only implication is that they are treating TAs like…labour.


Plume 03.12.16 at 5:46 pm


Notice totalitarianism on the left is in diametric opposition to leftist theory, philosophy and small scale practice. When the right goes totalitarian, it syncs up with itself quite nicely. It’s a natural fit. As in, Hitler, Franco, Mussolini, Pinochet and company fit right-wing ideology, as set down by its key thinkers — and followers. The same can not be said on the left with Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, etc. etc.

Governments themselves are essentially “conservative.” All power structures are. But the further you get left of center, the more egalitarian, anti-authoritarian and democratic you are as an individual. Your moral compass grows. Your sense of empathy grows. The range of concerns grows. The further right of center, the more anti-egalitarian, anti-democratic and authoritarian you are, individually.

Two entirely opposing worldviews.


RNB 03.12.16 at 6:36 pm

I think that two examples of unions here that have lent support to the Yale graduate student class struggle–the UAW and UNITE–are ones most likely to militate against trade deals that they rightly think could destroy jobs in their sectors of the economy. We do have the question of why and which unions have lent support to graduate students.

For example TPP due to a reduction in tariffs would likely cost jobs in the auto parts and truck industry. It could be that such deals would add more highly paid export-oriented jobs in the capital goods, service and agricultural parts of the economy, and it could be that with the multiplier from these additional jobs the overall income and employment level of American workers would improve as long as something is done to ease the transition out of the sectors where the losses are concentrated (there is a Tufts study reported in the New York Times critical of this free trade optimism, but I don’t think it includes any multiplier from the additional export jobs added and does not really take into account the job losses that would occur in the protected sectors anyway due to automation).

Of course the UAW does not buy that for a minute. And it seems as I read on Steven Greenhouse’s twitter account that the UAW which is rightfully distrustful of Clinton (“Mrs. NAFTA”) on trade turned out the Michigan vote for Sanders who acts and sounds like a UAW organizer. The same thing may well happen in Ohio.


Corey Robin 03.12.16 at 7:01 pm

RNB at 12: “We do have the question of why and which unions have lent support to graduate students.”

Most grad unions are organized by the AFT. The only reason the UAW is involved in some of these drives goes back to the days when District 65 of the UAW was part of the union that was interested in organizing new workers, many of them clerical workers, which is how UAW wound up on college campuses.

In the case of Yale, HERE (not UNITE) had been organizing and beating Yale (via the service and maintenance workers union and clerical and technical workers union at Yale) for decades when the grad students approached them in the late 1980s to ask for help. HERE was the union for hotel workers. They never cared much about free trade, if at all. In the decade I worked with them, I don’t remember ever having a conversation with them about free trade. Sometime after 2000, HERE merged with UNITE. The only reason UNITE-HERE is now organizing the Yale grad workers is that HERE had been organizing them for decades.

In any event, this whole free trade discussion is completely off topic and has little to nothing to do with the issue of organizing grad students.


RJ 03.12.16 at 7:11 pm

While I am very pro-union and welcome this development, I really think we need to avoid needless and off-putting romanticism in leftism.

The comments regarding grad students ‘awaiting’ and ‘fighting like hell’ lack quantifiers. Well, unless this union drive is drastically unlike all other recent ones I’ve heard of, only a minority of the grad students ‘awaited’ unionization, and a much smaller minority ‘fought like hell for it’.

I am sincerely thankful for the work of those students who in fact fought like hell for this union drive. But let’s be real about it, m’ok?


RNB 03.12.16 at 7:12 pm

Still I would still imagine the top UAW leadership and top UNITE-HERE leadership agreed to expend resources on elite graduate students among all the unorganized workers because they were hoping for effective solidarity on issues most important to them, which would include card check, liberal NRLB appointments, prosecution for wage theft and unpaid overtime, and possibly protectionism.


RNB 03.12.16 at 7:25 pm

According to wikipedia, the UAW has played a major role in organizing graduate students: “increased labor union activity in academic sectors has played a key role in graduate employee unionization. During the sizable growth in the 1990s, graduate students were better able to access legal support, financial resources, and networking opportunities provided by the new leadership in the AFL-CIO and by unions such as UAW. The newly elected 1995 AFL-CIO leadership engaged college students by creating a Union Summer Internships program in 1996 to train students in union organizing.[23] The AFL-CIO also sent Organizing Institute recruiters onto college campuses to build pro-labor solidarity networks and share information with student organizers about other universities’ organizing efforts.[23] Similarly, UAW plays a significant role in supporting graduate student organizers, some of whom see UAW as the most responsive union to academic student employees’ needs in comparison with traditional education unions.[56] UAW has won affiliations of important student bodies such as graduate student employees in the UC system and in NYU.”

As I have suggested I very much support liberal NRLB appointments, card check, prosecution for wage theft and unpaid overtime and prejudice at the workplace, generous social security But I am not convinced that the new protectionist sentiment is the best for American workers and global solidarity.


Corey Robin 03.12.16 at 7:25 pm

RJ 15: In the nearly 30 years there has been a union movement for graduate students at Yale, there have been at least five strikes by grad students (at least five I remember and can count), ten or more civil disobedience/mass arrest actions, countless rallies, sit-in’s, grade-ins, and other protest-type actions. It would be difficult to count the exact number of people who have been involved in these, but it would easily be at least several thousand. We’re not talking passive sign a card here; we’re talking very active forms of involvement, sometimes carrying great risks (the 1995 grade strike, for example, led to disciplinary action against striking TAs, some of whom were international students and were facing expulsion and hence deportation). As anyone who knows anything about labor unions today knows, the Yale unions are in fact fairly unique in the level of activism and participation they demand of people.

RNB: As I said, the Yale unions were the original group the TAs worked and they were the ones who made the decision to expend resources. Of course they did it because they expected solidarity on their issues. That’s the whole point of union organizing: it’s not a social charity. But the issues that were of concern to them had little to do with the issues you cite here. They were more immediate and local.

That said, the notion that liberal NLRB appointments and card check are somehow a boutique concern of elite union leaders and not of graduate employees themselves is hilarious. Grad employees at private universities have long been dreaming of a more liberal NLRB and card check.

But now I see from another thread on CT that trade and protectionism is the particular pot you like to bang on. You’re not going to do that here. Drop it now; it has nothing to do with the topic in this thread, and you’re just trying to thread-jack so you can turn this into a soapbox for your pet causes. Not going to happen.


RJ 03.12.16 at 7:26 pm

I’m reluctant to agree with Sebastian H on anything, but here I think he generally is right. Much or most of the purported left-wing organization on campuses consists not in salutatory efforts to empower the oppressed and the poorly-off, but rather in the appropriation of left-wing rhetoric to shut down legitimate lines of research and gain opportunities to grieve grades. For every successful union drive or divestment campaign, you have 10 cases of demands to fire employees for political incorrectness, or to immunize students from academic and civility requirements.

Plume might say that this really isn’t leftism and on one level I agree. But I think leftist people should be freer in their willingness to differentiate themselves from upper-class bullies who seek to appropriate leftism so that they can veto professorial discretion. Personally, I applaud TA unionization and condemn the childish ‘microaggression’ rhetoric.

On an intellectual level I see the ‘microaggression’ assholes as very similar to the Randians.


RNB 03.12.16 at 7:29 pm

“That said, the notion that liberal NLRB appointments and card check are somehow a boutique concern of elite union leaders and not of graduate employees themselves is hilarious. Grad employees at private universities have long been dreaming of a more liberal NLRB and card check.”

I would have to guess that elite union leaders are hoping that graduate students would keep their sympathy for working class concerns such as liberal NRLB appointments and card check long after they themselves would not directly benefit from them.


Corey Robin 03.12.16 at 7:34 pm

RNB at 16: “According to wikipedia, the UAW has played a major role in organizing graduate students.”

There are 32 recognized grad unions across the country. Four of them are UAW unions. There are another 18 grad union campaigns going on right now across the country. Four of them are UAW unions.

In other words, 16% of all grad union activity is UAW. The rest is overwhelmingly AFT, NEA, AAUP, with a few CWA.


RNB 03.12.16 at 7:38 pm

Perhaps though the UAW provides more than 16% of the funds that support graduate student organizing, and I’ll leave aside here UNITE’s contribution because you say that it is really coming from HERE. Again wiki: “Similarly, UAW plays a significant role in supporting graduate student organizers, some of whom see UAW as the most responsive union to academic student employees’ needs in comparison with traditional education unions.”


Corey Robin 03.12.16 at 7:48 pm

RNB: Do you know anything at all about how unions work? If the AFT — a wealthy union by the way — is organizing grad students at, say, the University of Illinois, once that union is recognized, it will be formally affiliated with the AFT. Some portion of its dues money will go to it, etc. Why in the world would the UAW provide the funds for that effort when it wouldn’t reap any of the rewards?

Don’t even bother answering the question b/c the fact is that the UAW is not funding union drives among unions that are not formally affiliated with it. That’s just not how unions work. All of its funding is directed at unions that are affiliated with it.

UNITE-HERE’s activity in this sector of grad union organizing is completely limited to Yale University. There are 50 established or union drives across the academy. Yale is just one of them.


RNB 03.12.16 at 7:48 pm

“But now I see from another thread on CT that trade and protectionism is the particular pot you like to bang on. You’re not going to do that here. Drop it now; it has nothing to do with the topic in this thread, and you’re just trying to thread-jack so you can turn this into a soapbox for your pet causes. Not going to happen.” Fine will respect your rules but I trust that you know what is going on in the election. And trade is not my particular pot; that is a fairly fantastic statement. It is the pivotal issue that Sanders thinks he can win the primary on.
So perhaps one of your CT collective members wants to create a thread to discuss trade, so we can have a discussion about it. Again I won’t discuss it here if that is what you wish.


RNB 03.12.16 at 7:51 pm

No I was asking you whether the AFT commits as much resources to a grad organizing drive as the UAW does. Wiki says UAW has a rep of providing most support to grad student organizing of the unions supporting grad students.


Corey Robin 03.12.16 at 7:54 pm

RNB at 23: “Again I won’t discuss it here if that is what you wish.”

It is, so please don’t.


kidneystones 03.12.16 at 8:28 pm

Just a quick note to say thanks for this Corey. I work as an adjunct and all non-tenured employees need all the support we can get. There’s a real need for rational, focused debate. America seems to be careening between more of the same only worse, a socialism many might be open to, and a populism that is guaranteed to bring the unexpected. I’m watching Trump play the media and both parties like a violin. Universities are drifting from serving as sites of free speech into sites of intolerance and hate. I’m old enough to remember Gandhi and MLK as inspirations. All demonstrations and work actions I’ve attended as an adult have been peaceful and respectful, because we believe that self-discipline and respect are far more effective than screaming invective. Trump, again, got exactly what he wanted from the University of Chicago. But I digress.

Unions will have a key role to play in shaping life in Trump’s America, whether we believe that his election signals end-times, or something less dire. I’ll repeat my standard drone: raise standards, reduce administrators, stop spending money on new buildings, and start investing in ideas and bright people. I’m generally lucky. I’ve received research grants and enjoy a good relationship with my tenured colleagues. But one reminded me again this month, that adjuncts are the only reason our faculty is currently ‘in the red.’


medrawt 03.12.16 at 9:52 pm

kidneystones –

I’m not sure what exactly Trump might want from the University of Chicago, but I think the optics of a Trump rally in Hyde Park would be fascinating.

(Maybe a typo or misread on your part, but the University of Chicago and University of Illinois at Chicago are different institutions.)


Ebenezer Scrooge 03.12.16 at 11:43 pm

I’m on Corey’s side, but I’m not sure if he is.
By this, I mean that Ivy campus culture is exquisitely sensitive to gender, racial and other identity issues, but tends to glide past any issues of class. Ivy liberalism stops short at this point. Ahem. Every trans Yalie of color has a right to join the 1%! After all, they’re Yalies too, and that’s their due. Lean in!
Of course, this does not describe every Ivy professor, undergrad, or professional student. But I never heard of any Yale undergrads protesting the Schwartzman Egocenter.


kidneystones 03.13.16 at 9:07 am

medrawt –

Thanks for the correction. Agreed. Indeed, Trump holding a rally in Hyde Park puts the fun-house mirror world Corey alludes to in his more recent post in clearer perspective. Without doubt, Trump’s old man would have been right at home among Chicago’s blue-bloods. Trump himself knows the Ayers family and other Illinois oligarchs.

I’ve been hooked on watching the Trumpster since September. Watching Trump dominate each news cycle and suck the oxygen from the other candidates is and will be, I expect, an ongoing education.


kidneystones 03.13.16 at 9:09 am

Sorry, should read ‘Trump himself probably knows…’ Perhaps there are pictures? There are plenty of Don and HRC and Bill.


urban legend 03.13.16 at 11:59 pm

Since this is one of the most intellectual blogs, can we outlaw the expression, “that said”? Doesn’t anyone else find it grating, especially when used routinely in place of “but” regardless of the strength of the contrast it is signalling?


BenK 03.14.16 at 4:41 pm

I won’t get into the muck and mire; the other commentators who have suggested that this ‘step forward’ is the product of several generations of student organizers – each generation in a minority of graduate students – and of the union leadership looking for strategic gains (for union leaders) nationally and generationally – is correct. For the majority of graduate students, my conclusion as a graduate student ‘in dialogue’ (personally, and regularly) with organizers at the time, was that the requirement to pay dues, the impact on the university as a whole, and the impact on benefits, regulations, work conditions, etc would sum to net negative for graduate students on the whole.

The tactics of encouraging non-native speakers to sign cards they didn’t understand were execrable. The benefits of discussion via student government with the administration proved substantial, though there were frustrations there too. Minor issues often took far too much time to sort out, but data about student desires spoke very loudly to an administration that frankly cared quite a bit for the student body as a whole – and was used to individuals trumpeting pet peeves as vox populi.

Anyway, after a good half-decade of experience, I continue to doubt the GESO gospel and I see in this latest ‘triumph’ a premature announcement of victory that is really more about the political moves of some other (off campus) union leaders than about graduate students.

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