The Fate of the Fast against the Slow

On April 24, eight members of the recently recognized Local 33 representing Yale graduate students began a hunger strike, or “Fast Against the Slow,” that concluded during Commencement ceremonies on May 22. The struggle is not over; there is more to come. Yet it is fair to say the strike was not universally well received. Detractors include many soi-disant Leftists as well as alt-right trolls, a surprising number of faculty, fellow students, and most administrators. The naysaying surrounding the action by Local 33 was so loud, in fact, that it effectively muted any furor that might otherwise have attended a recent report on the fate of contingent faculty at Yale. Based on voluntary survey data compiled by the Faculty of the Arts and Sciences Senate, the FAS report featured in an article on the front page of the Yale Daily News alongside the article announcing the strike. The report received a banner headline; the survey is now a footnote to the strike. No doubt this is, in some sense, as it should be. Reports are ponderous and dull. Strikes are conflictual and momentous. And yet. The eclipse of the former by the latter is more than a little telling, not least because the survey discloses the logic behind the strike so many find difficult to countenance. Nor is that all. The fate of contingent faculty at Yale and elsewhere also bears significantly upon the relation of the Fast Against the Slow to ongoing struggles outside the ivory tower.

What relations? Pundits from the Right and the Left delight in pointing out that these strikers were, after all, students, not workers, and particularly privileged students at that. They are destined for good jobs and better things. Any miseries or obstacles they face are minor compared to the taut labor markets, dead-end service jobs, wage stagnation, gutted health care, debt, and swollen ranks of the unemployed that await the janitors, clerical staff, and food service workers greasing the temporary, ivy-graced poverty of student life.1 Such miseries do not even register on the historical scales that weigh the fate of those entirely excluded from the formal economy on a planet of slums. In the eyes of naysayers strikes are for workers, not diplomats and hedge-fund managers in waiting. Hunger strikes are for those for whom the miseries of work are but a dream. Graduate students at Yale had no right, therefore, to organize a hunger strike merely because they see no future but the one in which their minor miseries are miseries nonetheless. That tactic is not theirs to use.

There is some truth in that view; there is less logic. It is true that, hic et nunc, students at Yale electing to go without food face no grave danger. It is equally true that many others do. Many, many others in many, many other places face grave dangers likely to remain unknown to most students at Yale. Among the many that come to mind are Marwan Barghouti and the roughly 1,500 Palestinian prisoners whose recently concluded six-week hunger strike precipitated a general strike in Palestine. The nascent hunger strike in Folsom Prison, recent general strike in Brazil, worldwide Mayday riots, and ongoing student revolt in Puerto Rico similarly join the fray. The list goes on. Among other things, such lists make clear that Ivy League graduate students, contingent faculty everywhere, low-wage service workers, the chronically unemployed, slum dwellers, and Palestinian prisoners do not make easy bedfellows in any single social movement or analytical frame. The Fast Against the Slow confronts us with this fairly obvious fact. The world in which we live teems with antagonisms. They leap forth one upon the other, each worse than the last. It is antagonism all the way down without end, history says. And yet it is not clear that this set of facts authors a playbook assigning tactics to antagonisms or issues forth some moral economy determining who gets to do what when where and how. Nor is it clear why we might desire such a bookish economy. If it is true that we face many antagonists in any given struggle, it is all the more unclear why this struggle must use these weapons and not those.

The Fast Against the Slow

Many will know that Local 33 publicly declared that their strike was indefinite at the outset. Many will also know that the participation of individual strikers was not. Strikers reserved the right to swap out when compelled by declining health. All did so; the longest individual fasts lasted just shy of two weeks. Some saw this as self-defeating. The powers that be could wait out the clock without triggering any real threat to individual strikers. The strike, on this view, was both a purely spectacular form of politics and spectacularly ill-conceived. It depended entirely upon the moral suasion of media pressure and alumnae dollars to force the administration to the table without containing any real mechanism for manufacturing that suasion. Larping on the quad is, after all, what students do these days. Media coverage of rich kids keeping up with the oppressed will not threaten Yale’s investment portfolio. Sooner or later even a historically inept President will get around to appointing a new National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that will reverse its August 2016 decision that students are workers in the eyes of the law. Time remains, as ever, on the side of the powers that be. The strike was just a momentary glitch in the smooth operation of things. Let them eat clicks.

To see things this way is to view struggle from the vantage of defeat, however. Such a view  measures success in this case in terms of whether Yale sits to the table by the end of the fast. Yale has not, therefore the strike failed. It recognizes that failure as an inevitable outcome of familiarly long odds and sees the strike as defeated before it even began. And yet stuff happens. Things change. It was just as possible that the strikers might have changed course. They might have foregone swapping out. They might have been joined by the many other workers and non-workers in New Haven whose lives Yale shapes in increasingly miserable ways. They may yet be joined by crowds of non-students on another day. Those massed workers and non-workers might decide to mask up and riot. It has happened before and increasingly and is increasingly happening where before we least expected it.2 It also might have gone horribly wrong. The Yale College Republicans might have graduated from cosplaying far-right Israeli youth barbequing outside the prison holding Marwan Barghouti to openly embracing the logic that enemies of the status quo deserve whatever they get. Loyalty Day is a thing again. Fascists now routinely clash with anti-fascists beneath the banner of free speech on campuses from coast to coast. It is hard to say what might happen these days. All that is certain is that the end of the fast was not the end of the struggle. It may mark the beginning of an unhappy denouement; it may prove a harbinger of bigger strikes to come or signal the emergence of new forms of struggle. As the banner at the head of the march that closed the curtains on the strike abruptly announced, this was “Just the beginning, Yale.” New tactics and alliances may be in the offing. We don’t get to know the fate of this or any struggle in advance.

Waiting out the clock is, moreover, what university administrators are doing anyhow. There is a very real possibility that the legal climate will have shifted by September. The administration would like nothing better than for everyone to pack up their bags and set off to work on their unpaid research projects for the summer. The unpaid life of the mind is, after all, the difference upon which naysayers depend when they insist that students are not workers. Thus the strikers have nothing but time to lose. If their struggle fails, the situation will be the same as if they chose to do nothing. Yale has been perfectly clear that they will fight tooth and nail against the recognition of Local 33 no matter the cost. They have, in fact, been entirely transparent on this front for decades. They remain so now in open violation of federal law. Yale’s strategy is as simple as it self-evident. They fully intend to wait out the nuisance of current NLRB writ in hopes that Trumpism will rescue them from its mandate. University administrators are more than happy to wage a war of attrition against their own students. Time is the collateral on which Yale banks. No one doubts this.

Still, the rebuttal will be, surely they did not need to do this. They could have done otherwise. This tactic, the hunger strike, is the preserve of the wretched of the earth. It is sacrosanct. It bears the weight of absolute poverty in its most abject, brutally racialized forms, and carries the gravitas of Gandhi. Graduate students at an Ivy League University have no claim upon that history. It belongs to those far more miserable and powerless than they. Students at Yale refusing to eat cheapen the hunger strike for all. This tactic is not theirs to use because Ghandi, as Dean Amy Hungerford went out of her way to inveigh. How dare they.

This should no doubt give us pause. It is a serious charge and warrants serious consideration. It will not do, for instance, simply to observe that the administration itself has argued that the strike is “unwarranted by the circumstances” so that joining the chorus places us squarely within the enemy camp. That is true enough and no doubt damning, but hardly logically compelling. Nor will it suffice to note that gilded exploitation is exploitation nonetheless. It will not even do, perhaps, to claim from the commanding heights of theoretical abstraction, as some have, that the Fast Against the Slow and Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strikes are but two struggles waged in differently trying times and far-flung places against a common enemy. The two strikes are as apt to be opposed to one another as conjoined in the eyes of purported champions and sworn enemies of workplace struggles alike. Naming the common enemy the law of value, global capital, neoliberalism, or even racial capitalism offers little more than rote evasion these days. The claim wants proof.

We might begin by recalling the course of this particular struggle to date. It is long. The struggle to unionize graduate students at Yale began in 1987; the first grade strike over working conditions by Yale graduate students occurred in 1971. It has been the object of much scholarly scrutiny because, in part, it seems to offer a barometer of sorts for the fate of academic labor.3 If there is to be a movement against the gutting of higher education in America, so goes the logic, it will come from the quarters of graduate students carrying massive debt loads while facing certain underemployment on the front line at private Universities. Whatever one makes of that logic, there is little doubt as to the commitment of students at Yale to the cause. Over the course of a quarter century graduate students have organized letter-writing campaigns, petitions, sit-ins, civil disobedience of various kinds, alumni outreach, student outreach, teach-ins, grade-ins, marches, mock-elections, walk-outs, rallies, meetings, email campaigns, and some ten or so strikes of varying kinds, length, and ferocity. They have tried every tactic in the non-violent playbook. Nothing has worked. What appears to many to be a reckless act of impatience is quite the opposite. We have simply turned our eyes to the field of play late in the game.

We have also done so without grasping the full brutality of the game itself. As Yale’s own report on the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct recently admitted, 54% of women in the university’s graduate and professional schools report experiencing sexual harassment at work.4 Only 5.7% took any subsequent action. The same survey indicated 39% of undergraduate women reported experiencing sexual assault at Yale. The percentage of graduate and professional students reporting sexual assault was notably lower at 10%, but the number expressing grave concern vis-à-vis professional progress should they opt to report sexual misconduct by their superiors was vastly higher. The number of reported assaults is staggering; the real numbers are undoubtedly far worse. Together those facts compelled Yale to admit in a campus-wide email that the survey “made it quite clear that the prevalence of sexual assault on campus is high and that many experiences go unreported.”

From its inception, Local 33 has insisted that the prevalence of sexual assault on University campuses is also a labor issue. They have leant considerable clarity to the worsening contours of that fact. Among the union’s demands is a more robust grievance procedure to protect graduate students vulnerable not only to a collapsing job market, but also to the increased pressures that collapse places on relationships between graduate students and their superiors. As Local 33 member Julia Power has made clear, it is hardly surprising that a rising rate of sexual assault on University campuses accompanies a declining ratio of good to bad jobs, or that the former is so widely underreported in light of the latter. The less certain the future, the more dependent students are on the whims of their superiors. Only a boss could fail to recognize that fact or deny that it results from workplace hierarchies. Indeed, the lasting legacy of Local 33 may well be its forthright insistence that there is no workplace struggle within the University that is not also a struggle against sexual assault on campus.

Meanwhile some five generations of graduate students have come and gone. Most have not met with the good jobs they were promised. Even at Yale, only a few even bother to dream that dream these days. Fewer still get the goods. Many suffer sexual assault while facing those long odds. The hunger strike, that is to say, is as ever a tactic of last resort. We need not be glib to say so. What “last resort” looks like for graduate students at Yale is obviously not what “last resort” looks like for Palestinians in Israeli prisons. But there is no point in being deluded either. That students in New Haven are driven to take such measures, and are compelled to do so in a rearguard struggle for the most basic provisions capital purports to offer workers, is not an indictment of the strike. It is an indictment of a world that routinely withholds basic necessities from those in need and, increasingly, does so via exclusion from stable employment in high-income countries while elsewhere excluding others from the wage altogether. The specter of graduate students on hunger strike at Yale does not discomfit us because graduate students at Yale. It discomfits us because it discloses a hard truth. It is only a matter of time before we and/or those we love suffer a fate worse than theirs.

The Fate of Academic Labor

Contrary to popular wisdom, this is in many respects as true within as without the ivory tower. The American Association of University Professors Annual Economic Report on the State of the Profession has put tenured faculty at 21% of the academic labor force in 2015-16.5 Tenure-track faculty — the strata of good jobs ostensibly promised to graduate students at Yale — made up 8%. The remaining 71% of the academic labor force in the United States is comprised of contingent faculty with no possibility for securing tenure. Moreover, the percentage of contingent faculty in the academic labor force has grown by some 10% since 2013. In the past three years, in other words, the share of the academic labor force that falls to contingent faculty has absorbed more positions than remain in the strata of tenure-track positions available to recent graduates. The former is rapidly approaching fully three-quarters of all faculty in higher education; the latter has already fallen below 10% and is unlikely ever to recover. The tendency is abysmally clear. There are no more good jobs for any but the lucky and they are a dying breed. Tenure is a thing of the past. Contingency rules.

The situation of contingent faculty at Yale further clarifies things. “Contingent faculty” is, after all, a slippery term. To the extent that it means “non-ladder” it tells us little other than that tenure is not in the cards. It is also notoriously difficult to obtain reliable data on contingent faculty since private Universities jealously guard those numbers (hence the need to rely on voluntary surveys). With good reason, the powers that be do not want word getting out that the brand name faculty who attract tuition do precious little of the teaching. Per the FAS Report, the faculty at Yale is composed of 456 tenured faculty, 199 tenure-track faculty, and 410 non-ladder faculty.6 There are more than twice as many contingent as tenure-track faculty at Yale, in short. That share has grown by 50% since 2003. The FAS Report notes that University leadership have repeatedly made it perfectly clear that alongside the expansion of the undergraduate body scheduled to begin in Fall 2017, “the majority of additional teachings needs created by the Yale College Expansion will be met by hiring faculty into the non-ladder ranks” (3). The FAS Dean’s office anticipates hiring 20 new non-ladder faculty in Fall 2017 alone. The total number of ladder faculty, meanwhile, has decreased since the 1970s. Even at Yale the tendency is clear. Yale is not only unable to make good on the promise of delivering good jobs elsewhere for its own graduate students these days. Yale is no longer in the business of offering good jobs even to its own faculty.

Moreover, as the FAS previously reported, Yale’s contingent faculty perform teaching duties that are “already among the most intensive in the university.”7 So much so, in fact, that the most recent FAS Report expresses grave concern for the fate of contingent faculty who will bear the burden of “increased class sizes, student mentoring, and advising duties” (3). That concern is not idle. It stems from the fact that contingent faculty are “already doing work that is not part of their job description and for which they receive no additional compensation, a situation compounded by job insecurity, low recognition, and relatively low salaries” (3). The compounding factors are brutal. Nearly a third of contingent faculty at Yale are on one-year contracts. The vast majority teach in the Humanities. There most receive the same pay for the same work as graduate students. They do so without any possibility for a raise in keeping with the cost-of-living much less merit. Yet most hold a PhD and average upwards of seven years teaching experience at Yale. The fate of fully one-third of the faculty at Yale is, in short, ever more intensive labor coupled with job insecurity and wage repression. Such are the conditions the majority of faculty teaching at Yale will face in the coming years.

Meanwhile during their time at Yale, graduate students are ever more openly treated as workers no matter how one looks at things. They are compelled to research, write, present research at conferences, organize conferences, attend administrative meetings, organize administrative meetings, organize and administer working groups, and publish professionally before even entering the job market. Even during semesters when they are not required to teach they are compelled, in short, to do everything their advisors do except the thing their advisors do least. And they are compelled to do so in exchange for the money they need to pay rent, buy groceries and, yes, beer and lattes. We need not quote Marx in order to state the obvious. The form of the relation — labor compelled by its exchange for income — is what matters. It does not matter if we call that income wages, a stipend, fellowship, or avocado toast. It does not matter that their advisors sometimes feel fondly towards them and hate the word boss. It does not matter if they never teach a day in their life in spite of the fact that most do. Outside Yale, most teach far more while doing vastly more of all of the above for far less pay while acquiring ever increasing debt loads. All do what they need to survive while facing a job market that everyone knows will reward them not with good jobs and better things but no jobs and a fate worse than student life.

Even at Yale, in short, it is clear that what awaits graduate students today is more of the same with less in return. This is especially true in the Humanities where, not surprisingly, support for Local 33 is strongest. The overwhelming majority of those students will graduate to perform the same work for the same pay with fewer benefits and fewer professional development opportunities than they enjoyed as students. Without (and, increasingly, within) Yale, the vast majority will do so with unbearable debt loads. This is what the unpaid life of the mind looks like today. It involves little to no leisurely research. Instead, it features endless grading, meetings with students led to expect intensive guidance from those scrambling to make ends meet from week to week, and the administrative labor of desperately trying to secure employment for the next term. The unpaid life of the mind looks less like an endowed chair than routine precarity with library privileges there is no time to use. History has spoken; there is no turning back the clock. The unpaid life of the mind is just another debt-saddled hustle.  

The Proletariat is Nothing if not Divided, And Yet

As workers, we might thus be tempted to say, graduate students belong to the ranks of the excluded. They are excluded from what they need to survive save by selling their labor-power like workers everywhere. They are so excluded, moreover, while confronting a future where the jobs most were promised in exchange for unbearable debt burdens are no longer on offer. The only surety on which most can depend is the uncertainty of a lifetime of debt and unstable jobs shot through with periods of under- and unemployment. Many will default. Some will drag their parents down with them, either because their parents co-signed student loans or are forced to help pay the rent for graduates holding degrees for which there are no jobs. Already dubbed the first generation to be worse off than their parents since the onset of the postwar boom in the popular press, today’s graduate students are less the future professionals of a flourishing society than cash cows nearly bled dry by a society in which only cynics believe things will improve. Total student loan debt surpassed credit card debt in 2010 and now stands at $1.4 trillion; that total grew by nearly 40% during the 2013-2016 period that saw contingent faculty absorb more jobs than remain on the tenure-track. 

If the ascension of Trump has taught us anything, it is that even to ride the populist tide to electoral victory on a red sea of MAGA hats you must admit what everyone already knows. Things are worse even for the best-off workers today than a generation ago and they are daily worsening for all.

Small wonder, then, that Trump’s infamously job slashing, pension gutting job czar Stephen Schwarzman is the financial architect behind the expansion of Yale’s Student Center. The Schwarzman Center will accommodate the expanded undergraduate population Yale plans to absorb by hiring more contingent faculty. An executive during the 1980s at the disgraced Lehman Brothers investment firm, he left Lehman in 1985 to co-found the Blackstone Group; Blackstone famously capitalized on the leveraged buyout markets that brought Lehman Brothers down along with the global economy in 2008. Yet Schwarzman’s greatest claim to infamy is not his financial acumen, appointment by Trump, or even the dodgy origins of his $150 million donation to Yale. His greatest claim to infamy is his comparison of the 2010 Dodd-Frank stopgap curtailing trades of the sort that made his fortune to Hitler’s invasion of Poland. The writing is on the wall. Yale is openly and unapologetically relying on the rising tide of Trumpism both to bankroll the expansion underwriting the growth of contingent faculty and to break the graduate student union formed in opposition to the political economy that helped usher Trump into power. On one side of those dynamics stand Yale, Schwarzman, and the prospect of a Trump-appointed NLRB. On the other, the students.

There is no doubt therefore that students are not only workers but workers facing a decidedly precarious future. About this only ideologues brook debate these days. And yet this will not quite do. It is better to say that students join hands with workers as proletarians. There are reasons for saying so. Some will be familiar. Proletarian, as Marxists are fond of reminding us, means those without reserves. In a capitalist world, this is often conflated with the fate of workers. To have nothing to lose but one’s wages is to have no reserves but the labor-power with which one runs to meet one’s more or less golden chains. This is not quite right, however, etymologically or historically. At its root, proletarian is a Roman legal term. It refers to those with nothing to lose but their children, or proles. Concretely, it described the fate of those with no way to secure their debts save by pledging their children to bondage. The resonance is inescapable. Debt-saddled students compelled to labor for groceries and rent while struggling to enter a marketplace with few good jobs and nothing better to offer are the proles of our age. They have been pledged to a future of debt and precarity to prop up an economy failing in the present. Historically, moreover, proletariat gathered together — however rudely, and with no shortage of internal divisions too numerous to enumerate here — all those both shackled by and excluded from the wage relation. A proletarian is not a wage-laborer per se. The proletariat encompasses all those for whom the fate of more or less miserable and immiserated wage-labor is the only available dream.

As proletarians, then, students do not only join hands with workers. They also join hands with those for whom entry into the formal economy is but a dream. They do not do so easily. Nor do they do so on the basis of a shared identity. Their fate will not be that of those locked out of the wage relation altogether. And yet. It is hard to see, on this view, how fighting where they are as they deem fit harms those compelled to fight by similar means under worse circumstances elsewhere. Indeed, it is hard to see how saying that their fight harms others elsewhere helps anyone other than the administrators of Yale’s investment portfolio. In fact, it is hard not to see what ought to have been obvious all along. Whatever victories, tactical missteps, strategic mishaps, or forms of repression meted out by the University await these students, in this situation they alone are on the side of the Palestinian prisoners. They are not on the same side by dint of some rhetorical framing. Nor are they on the same side by virtue of occupying symmetrical positions or identical lots in the present state of things. Still less are they on the same side by virtue of a shared identity as workers dreamt up by nineteenth century factory inspectors. They are on the same side materially by virtue of the fact that they jointly oppose the dispossessing status quo. “A free university in the midst of a capitalist society is like a reading room in a prison,” as some friends once said.8 If we want to overcome the material divisions between prisons and Universities, students and workers, workers and the excluded, we will have to proceed on all fronts.

The need to proceed on all fronts was acutely evident during the march that marked the end of the hunger strike. In a carefully planned affront to the traditional pageantry of Yale’s Commencement ceremony, Local 33 members and supporters confronted the graduation procession in the streets of New Haven. Graduating students were clad in black; union supporters wore orange. The Elm City, as New Haven is colloquially known, deployed some 200 cops to direct the choreography where College and Elm Streets meet. The political economy governing the spectacle was perfectly clear. On one side, a black mass of graduates marching into labor markets with few good jobs. On the other, an orange crush holding their ground against Yale’s refusal to recognize the bad jobs they have as jobs. In between, a sea of cops.

Black is the new orange; there is no other way to put it. The fate of last week’s graduates will be worse than their lot as students in many cases; it will be worse in part because of the crush of students behind them crowding into taut labor markets with few good jobs. Beyond the spectacle of future and former graduates confronting one another in the street spreads a brutally segregated town that employs a small army of cops. Within and beyond those divisions, of course, lie still others. It is antagonism all the way down.

Indeed, if we widen the frame slightly things are clearer still. For cities with populations greater than 50,000 the national average of cops per capita is 16.6/10k. The ratio of cops per capita in New Haven is 32.2/10k. Yale is both by far the largest employer in New Haven and one of the largest landlords. As a result, Yale effectively sets both wage and rent rates in New Haven.9 While holding fully one-fourth of the grand list in New Haven, Yale is also exempt from paying property taxes per the Connecticut state Constitution. Instead, Yale makes a voluntary payment of approximately $8.5 million per annum to the city of New Haven. $8.5 million is a pittance compared to what Yale would owe in property taxes were it no longer tax exempt. Not surprisingly, Yale has repeatedly and vociferously resisted attempts to alter its tax status. It has done so explicitly in the name of “strengthen[ing] neighborhoods.” Meanwhile New Haven ranks among the most racially segregated cities in the United States with one of the fasted growing rates thereof. It is also home to one of the largest and fastest growing wealth gaps in the nation. New Haven, in brief, is home to one of the worst, most swiftly worsening, and brutally racialized wealth gaps in the nation as well as a police force twice the national average in size. It also happens to be home to an especially wealthy private University that ran a budget surplus of $37 million in fiscal year 2015-16. There is no mystery as to why a town where the second-wealthiest purveyor of gowns in the United States is both the largest employer and one of the largest landlords requires twice the national average of cops per capita to keep the peace. Nor is it especially mysterious why so many cops were on hand to direct the choreography of the confrontation between the orange crush and black mass. Yale rules New Haven with an iron fist while flaunting its wealth in the face of immense and intensely racialized poverty. It does so even while further immiserating its own faculty and sending its graduates into labor markets with few good jobs. The greater mystery is why everything in New Haven is not on fire.

On this view there can be only one conclusion. If you oppose the uncertain future we all face, you support the students. If you oppose rampant sexual assault in workplaces both within and without Universities, you support the students. If you oppose the brutally racialized wealth gap between town and gown in New Haven, you stand with the students. If you oppose both the long march through institutions and the more virulent populist forces of Trumpism, you stand with the students. If you oppose the forced peace bought by draconian labor policies and municipal armies of police at home upon which American imperialism rests, you support the students. If you oppose the indefinite detention of Palestinian political prisoners in Israel, you stand with the students. If you support the efforts of those compelled to labor formally or informally for what they need in order to survive beneath the rule of capital, you support the students. If you want to see the fate of the Fast Against the Slow become what it must in order to abolish all of the above, join them.

  1. On the rising precarity accompanying a long downturn in capital accumulation and tendential uptick in unemployment since 1973 see Aaron Benanav, “Precarity Rising,” Viewpoint, June 15, 2015. 

  2. See Joshua Clover, Riot. Strike. Riot: The New Era of Uprisings (Verso: London, 2016). 

  3. Social Text devoted a special issue to the nationally watched, watershed struggle at Yale in 1996; several landmark essays on graduate student organizing have since been devoted specifically to the struggle to unionize graduate students at Yale. See, for example, “The Yale Strike Dossier,” Special Issue, Social Text 14, no. 5 (1996); Gordon Lafer, “Land and Labor in the Post-Industrial University Town: Remaking Social Geography,” Political Geography 22 (2003): 89-117; Gordon Lafer, “Graduate Student Union: Organizing in a Changed Academic Economy,” Labor Studies Journal 28, no. 2 (2003): 25-43; Ben Johnson and Tom McCarthy, “Graduate Student Organizing at Yale and the Future of the Labor Movement in Higher Education, Social Policy 30, no. 4 (2000): 11-18. 

  4. All data in this paragraph is taken from Yale University 2015 AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct (September 21, 2015). 

  5. All data in this paragraph is taken from “The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2015-16,” Academe (March-April 2016): 9-23. 

  6. Unless otherwise indicated, all data and quotations concerning contingent faculty at Yale are from Yale University Faculty of the Arts and Sciences Senate, Report on the Status, Pay, and Conditions of Non-Ladder Faculty in FAS (April 13, 2017). 

  7. Yale University Faculty of the Arts and Sciences Senate, Report on the Expansion of Yale College (March 10, 2016), 17. 

  8. Research and Destroy, Communiqué from an Absent Future (2009), 15. 

  9. See Lafer, “Land and Labor in the Post-Industrial University Town.” 

Author of the article

is working on a book of literary history, The Long Downturn and its Discontents: Poetry, Culture Wars, and the New Left, about the ins and outs of poetry, social movements, and political economy after 1960. He is currently a Lecturer in the English Department at Yale University.