Eight graduate students from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, have entered their second week of hunger strike, surviving only on water, as they protest their school administration’s unwillingness to negotiate with its graduate student-employee union.
The union, known as Local 33-Unite Here, claimed the university has repeatedly failed to meet their deadlines. Therefore, in order to push forward their contract renewal discussions, the members had to resort to an indefinite hunger strike on campus.
“We have explored every formal means of resolving our dispute with the university. We asked Yale to agree voluntarily to fair conditions for an election. They refused,” explained Local 33-Unite Here Chair Aaron Greenberg in an op-ed. “We filed petitions with the National Labor Relations Board; Yale not only opposed them, but opposed our very right to file petitions. When the Board granted us elections, Yale tried to have them canceled. When we won, Yale generated more legal disputes. The university now wants to stall us to death, to have us wait until a Trump administration undoes our progress along with that of millions of other working people. We will not wait.”
The student teachers, who according to Yale receive a stipend of $30,000 and access to primary medical care, said all they want to do is negotiate a better mental health coverage plan for the student workers along with equal pay, asserting most senior teachers are not earning what they deserve.
They are also fighting for Yale to improve its diversity initiative by having more graduate students of color and maintaining faculty of color.
One of their other demands includes making campus a safer place for women. According to a 2015 study, more than 50 percent of graduate women at Yale have reported being sexually harassed on campus.
“We’ve waited and waited and waited. We’ve waited while our ambitions go up in smoke, while our friends are humiliated and pushed out of the university, while our bank accounts are drained, our debts accumulate, our grievances are ignored,” Greenberg continued. “We’ve watched our whole generation of scholars lose faith, retreat, or work themselves into the ground. We have all lost colleagues to depression, harassment, discrimination, and economic hardship.”
Yale College Republicans barbecuing by union fast site pic.twitter.com/qf687cckxB— gabrielwinant (@gabrielwinant) April 28, 2017
Meanwhile, as these protesters continue to protest for their rights, some other groups on campus are trying to torment them in most cruel ways.
For instance, nearly three days after the hunger strike began Yale University’s College Republicans chapter hosted a barbecue only a few feet away from where the demonstrators sat – just like barbecue held by Israeli youth group to antagonize Palestinian inmates engaging in a hunger strike.
"It'll taste (and smell) delicious!" said the group on Facebook.
Then, during the weekend, an “anonymous Yale alumnus” delivered $200 worth of pizza to the strikers, which was then redirected the to an on-campus food drive.
A number of conservative publications also claimed the hunger strikers are “eating when they get hungry” and that the protest is “symbolic.”
However, the faster maintain they have only consumed water and that these rumors grew strong because of the presence of “standby fasters,” who are present at the sit in case a participant experiences a medical emergency.
“I’m pretty hungry, and I’m tired most of the time,” Charles Decker, a graduate teacher for Yale’s Political Science department participating in the protest, told ABC News. “But one thing that has kept my spirit up is the steady unyielding flood of support.”
Shortly after the protest began, Yale released a statement saying the school “provides unsurpassed support” to doctoral students.
“On Tuesday of this week, eight graduate students affiliated with Local 33 announced that they would engage in a fast. The university believes this action is unwarranted by the circumstances,” the school said. “Yale cannot compel anyone to refrain from this activity, but strongly urges that students not put their health at risk or encourage others to do so. In response to the fasting, President Peter Salovey has stated, ‘My primary concern is for the health and safety of our students. While I deeply respect their right to freedom of speech and expression, I urge our graduate students to reconsider this decision and to avoid actions that could be harmful to their well-being.’”