SOM Dubbed “Trump University”

Markeshia Ricks PhotoA graduate teacher union that is gaining notoriety for its ability to embarrass its nemesis pulled one more trick from up its sleeves Friday as its members unfurled a very larger banner inside the Yale University School of Management.

The banner had just two words on it: Trump University.

Nearly 150 people marched in the pouring rain from Yale President Peter Salovey’s house on Hillhouse Avenue at lunch hour to chant outside and march the sidewalks flanking the SOM’s Whitney Avenue campus.

Meanwhile, a handful of UNITE HERE Local 33 members made their way to an upper floor. By the time the marchers arrived in front of the school, the members inside began to roll and hang the banner so that it could be seen through the school’s huge glass front.

The activity took place on the 10th day of an ongoing fast by eight Yale graduate student teachers who are demanding that the university begins negotiations with their union. The university states that it waiting for the National Labor Relations Board to rule on an appeal of a decision to allow just some graduate student teachers to vote in a recent unionizing election.

Though many of the demonstrators’ chants Friday were directed at Salovey, another name kept popping up: Wilbur Ross. As in President Donald Trump’s secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Ross also is the billionaire investor who, back in 2010, pledged $10 million to support SOM’s construction. He now is the namesake of the school’s library. Ross is one of three Yalies currently serving in the Trump administration. The other two are Secretary of the Treasury Steven Munchin and Ben Carson, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Local 33 member Gabriel Winant said Friday’s action and march, was the union’s response to an email Salovey sent a couple of days ago, in which he expressed his concern that eight graduate student teachers who are fasting and have been hunkered down in a shed at Beinecke Plaza for 10 days might be endangering their lives. The fasters made it Friday to the demonstration in front of SOM, though they sat to preserve their energy. (One of the original eight fasters swapped out with a new faster this week for medical reasons.)

“Threats of self-harm have no place in rational debate when an established dispute resolution process still exists,“Salovey wrote in his email. “Respect for law and legal process, civil argument and persuasion: these are the hallmarks of airing and resolving disagreements at a university.”

Winant called Salovey’s statement patronizing. He told the crowd of marchers that the president can end the fast if he stops “stalling every day with legal delays so the Trump administration can come to their rescue and void our votes” by naming new anti-union NLRB members.

The recent election in which some graduate students formed Local 33 constituted the “debate” Salovey referenced, Winant argued. “Stalling is not rational discourse. The debate is over, and what Yale is doing is trying to ignore the results. They’re not respecting the process. What they’re doing instead is Trumpism. Pure and simple.”

Jeffrey S Niedermaier, a Local 33 member in the East Asian Language and Literatures department, said that ultimately the someone affiliated with the school took the banner down and returned it to the members. They complied after about 15 minutes. He said the idea came after some connecting the dots to the Yale administration’s behavior and who’s in the Trump administration.

Retired Yale employees and former members of Local 35 and 34 also participated in Friday’s march. Meg Riccio told the crowd that she and seven other retirees protested at the office of David Swensen, Yale’s chief investment officer, who oversees the university’s $25 billion dollar endowment. When Swensen wouldn’t see them, they decided to sit in and chant: “David Swensen, Wilbur Ross ... We know Trump is your real boss!”

Yale and New Haven police officers responded to the scene at 55 Whitney Ave. After being read their rights, the retirees elected not to go to jail so they could participate in the demonstration in front of SOM.

Local 33 reported after the protest that at some point 12 of their members were detained by police and charged with creating a public disturbance after sitting in and chanting, “Trump, Ross, Salovey! Negotiate without delay,” in front of the library. Supporters of Local 33’s cause also apparently picketed in front of Ross’s home in Palm Beach, Fla. and his office at the Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C.

The marchers had one final message and New Haven Rising’s Scott Marks led them in chanting it, just as the rain finally started to let up:

“We’ll be here! We’ll be here. We’ll be here!”

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posted by: Dwightstreeter on May 5, 2017  4:51pm

A movement with a sense of humor. Awesome!
Yale and Salovey have no “emotional intelligence” when it comes to public relations.
Count on Yale to defeat itself.
Your movement will only grow and get more media attention.
Don’t let the corporate overlords get you down!

posted by: wendy1 on May 5, 2017  6:16pm

Great demo, I wish I had been there.  Before Trump took over this was the Bernie Madoff $chool of Money.  I still have the banner.  Our chant——-“money, money, money”——-our motto, Greed is our creed and money is our god”——and Bernie says hello.  The prison masters let him run the prison shop and evidently he has cornered the market on the more popular items in order to raise his profit.  You can google this.  Henry Blodgett was interested in the idea of a prison interview done by his online business media.

By the way Trump U. is a window-washer’s dream.  It takes 25 men 3 months to clean (I asked).

posted by: Esbey on May 5, 2017  8:06pm

OK, on one hand I find it funny that “Trump” is now just a generic insult.  “Oh, don’t be such a Trump.” 

On the other hand, by any other standard, the comparison of Trump University to SOM couldn’t be dumber. Trump University promised to teach folks the ways of business, but didn’t.  It was a scam. SOM actually teaches folks how to succeed in business.  That is, it is the *opposite* of Trump University. 

Also, the “guilt by association” of “Wilbur Ross donated to SOM, therefore SOM is guilty” could easily apply to the Yale grad students.  Many Trump supporters have given to Yale, and Yale uses such funds to pay grad student stipends and pay for grad students’ education.  Indeed, such donated funds are the only way that Yale will be able to meet the demands of “Local 33.”  Wilbur Ross himself is a Yale College grad and these grad students teach in Yale College.  Elihu Yale, by the way, was a slave-owning colonialist-capitalist.  Many of the Yale students these grad students teach will go off and work in finance and banking, using their education to advance the neo-liberal capitalist hegemonic system of oppression.  These grad students, by teaching at Yale, are directly helping this cycle of elite oppression. 

Therefore, by their own “guilt by association” standards, all the Yale grad students are as guilty as SOM.  By their own standards they must resign immediately.

posted by: djw255 on May 6, 2017  1:44am

Even if they wanted to, SOM students aren’t eligible to be part of the graduate student union since they’re professional students, not grad students. These protestors are already earning $30k a year, with healthcare included and free tuition at one of the world’s best universities. On top of that, Local 33 only represents a minority of graduate schools at Yale, most of the schools voted not to unionize. There are plenty of things out there to be upset about, this isn’t one of them.

posted by: JPArete on May 6, 2017  1:45pm

As a former Yale grad student teaching fellow and acting instructor from the 1970s, I am completely agnostic for now on the question of whether Yale should ultimately recognize Local 33 as the collective bargaining unit for its graduate students teaching assistants. There are thoughtful arguments on different sides of the issue, as well as a lack of information candidly provided by their advocates.

The students in the pro-union cause have generally shown a better mastery of political optics than the university administration. But they have never really engaged the question: why should their voices be counted as representative of Yale’s graduate students, when only nine departments’ students ( a very small fraction of the graduate student body or the number of academic departments) even voted on the unionization question?

They will say the National Labor Review Board authorized the micro-unit approach of holding these nine separate votes, and that is true—as far as it goes. A regional office of the NLRB did indeed authorize this, and it may be that the NLRB at the national level will uphold that judgment. If so, Yale will rightly need to recognize Local 33’s claim to represent its graduate students. But the administration has exercised its right to appeal the regional office’s judgment, basing its position on what it views as an undemocratic, unrepresentative voting process behind Local 33’s claim to be graduate students’ legitimate bargaining agent. That’s where matters currently stand legally.

Since adjudicating this issue is still underway, and Yale graduate students in the meantime can scarcely be described as immiserated, the student members of Local 33 seem rather laughable as they wrap themselves in the mantle of quasi-martyrdom—we will starve ourselves, like Gandhi, until you agree to our demand! Work hard for unionization folks, but get over yourselves and your moral grandiosity. The optics aren’t with you: you aren’t the IWW, the NWP, or SNCC.

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 6, 2017  8:25pm


I really like your assessment! 
They may as well be protesting against their future selves… that the real root of the struggle????

posted by: BevHills730 on May 7, 2017  8:33am

Yale sought donations from Ross, it honored him with a library, and it put him in a decision-making position at the University. 

Graduate teachers have called this into question given Ross’s willingness to serve in Trump’s cabinet and his history in business. 

The distinction between Yale and the graduate teachers is clear.

posted by: 1644 on May 7, 2017  9:36am

Esbey: As Bill said, spot on. Perhaps the students should also demand that any buildings funded by Sterling, Vanderbilt, Harkness be demolished, and chairs endowed by their evil robber Barron money be discontinued.

255:  Union eligibility has nothing to do with what school one attends, or what department one is in.  Voting eligibility was based on those currently “teaching” in a particular department.  Thus,  Many GSAS students who were not currently teaching in their departments this semester were not eligible to vote, and members of other departments and professional students “teaching” in a particular department were eligible to vote, even though that assignment may be the only contact they ever have with that department.  Thus, law students leading sections of a PoliSci courses, such as in Constitutional Law, voted in the PoliSci election, reportedly providing the union’s margin of victory.  SOM students would be well qualified to help teach many math, statistics and economics courses.  Professional students, of course, do not automatically get the $30K stipend.  Each school relies on its own segregated resources for financial aid, which is generally need based.  Some professional students are also enrolled in joint programs granting both a professional degree and a PhD.