Yale on Trial: Scholarly Life in the Age of Downsizing

Yale on Trial: Scholarly Life in the Age of Downsizing

This spring, the senior administrators and faculty of Yale University are being called to the witness stand to answer federal charges that they illegally threatened graduate students engaged in a strike for union recognition. The trial, in a courtroom of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), caps what has been a period of unprecedented division in the Yale Graduate School. The trial’s outcome will have a direct impact on the eight-year-old unionization drive among Yale graduate teachers, and may well set a legal precedent for similar drives at campuses across the country. Beyond this, it poses a critical test for the protection of academic freedom in the downsized academy, particularly for the graduate students, part-timers, and adjunct professors who have come to make up a majority of most schools’ teaching staffs. In this sense, the trial may well prove a turning point in the ongoing evolution of the academic profession, already under intense pressure to redefine itself as a leaner and meaner enterprise. When the gavel comes down this spring, it will announce a contest not merely between employer and employees, but also between two competing visions of the academy’s future.

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