Who’s complacent?, Ivy League edition

by on May 1, 2017 at 2:10 am in Education, Food and Drink | Permalink

A group of Yale University graduate students announced Tuesday evening that they would be undertaking a hunger strike to pressure the administration into granting them better union benefits. The strike is taking place in front of University President Peter Salovey’s home.

“Yale wants to make us wait and wait and wait … until we give up and go away,” the eight members of the graduate student union Local 33 announced. “We have committed ourselves to waiting without eating.”

Yale doctoral students currently earn a stipend $30,000 a year, receive free health care, and have their $40,000 tuition paid in full, according to Yale News.

And yet there is an apparent catch:

As it turns out, the hunger strike might not put anyone’s health in peril. According to a pamphlet posted on Twitter by a former Yale student, the hunger strike is “symbolic” and protesters can leave and get food when they can no longer go on.

If you read through the whole link, you will see that the final story has yet to come out, so take this with…a grain of salt.  Unless of course you are on the hunger strike.  After reading through further accounts, my personal sense is indeed that no one at Yale is going to pull a Bobby Sands anytime soon.  In the meantime, the Yale Republicans have set up a barbecue right next to the strikers.

For the pointer I thank Supersonic Eli Dourado.

1 Yancey Ward May 1, 2017 at 2:44 am

Fucking hilarious. Before you know it, they will be demanding tenure in their role of student.

2 Rich Berger May 1, 2017 at 6:18 am

When even TC notices it, you know the Yale Republicans hit the target. Now if the parents of prospective students and the donors wake up, Yale (the Harvard of Connecticut) may have to change course.

3 The Other Jim May 1, 2017 at 9:08 am

Given that all 8 of these people are galactic morons, I applaud their decision to protest the place providing their education.

And to the College Republicans — very well played.

4 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ May 1, 2017 at 9:49 am

I am willing to stipulate that there might be 8 galactic morons grandstanding.

But it is a problem of “new media” that they aren’t buried on page 12, where they belong. Tyler makes this a headline, becoming part of the problem.

I worry about the indignation cascade. We start with 8 morons. After the fan-out of new media, how many angry old men do we get? Certainly thousands, a some number in the low millions is not out of bounds.

5 Thomas May 1, 2017 at 10:10 am

The cynical read is that you don’t like the absurdities of your side pointed out. Fair enough, but absent resistance, who would stand up to the extremists? Certainly not the academia that is creating them or the mainstream media that fawns over them.

6 Thomas May 1, 2017 at 10:12 am

“Local 33 posted a video about the strike on their Facebook page, including quotes endorsing their fast from co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association Dolores Huerta and vice chair of the Democratic National Committee Maria Elena Durazo.”

The vice chair of the DNC. And lefty support for these absurdities is supposed to be “fake news” or something?

7 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ May 1, 2017 at 10:19 am

Could there be a bigger idiocy than calling behaviour that I stipulate as “galactic morons grandstanding” as my side?

I have never actually been pro-union one day in my life.

8 Thomas May 1, 2017 at 10:27 am

I’m addressing your claim that an activity which has garnered support from the vice chair of the DNC isn’t representative of the left and doesn’t deserve news coverage. I’m contending your indignation is because you find this embarrassing and damaging to your politics, not because of any principled reasoning.

9 Thomas May 1, 2017 at 10:32 am

Richard Blumenthal also visited 33’s strike against eating while not hungry. Maybe Obama will stop by if 33 can round up the 400k speaking fee through grants or something.

10 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ May 1, 2017 at 10:37 am

I have no idea what you are talking about.

I am not a Democrat either.

11 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ May 1, 2017 at 10:45 am

Maybe stop and think. You might be bundling people with quite diverse views into “the other side.”

Bundling them with these 8 nutters to fan your indignation.

12 RW_Z May 2, 2017 at 4:01 pm

It isn’t so absurd to assume that were defending the image of “your side.” The point stands that these patterns are emblematic of “that side” and not a whole bunch of isolated page 12 items.

13 Troll Me May 1, 2017 at 11:27 am

You’re talking people who are the research force of the future.

Do you want to grind them into the dirt a little before trying to recruit them?

They’re asking for … what, as much as an average server at a restaurant makes after tips?

14 Troll Me May 1, 2017 at 11:28 am

While we’re at it, let’s abolish tenure and explicitly authorize the president to fire any academic who displeases him.

15 Bob from Ohio May 1, 2017 at 1:45 pm

“let’s abolish tenure and explicitly authorize the president to fire any academic who displeases him”

Why not? I, like most Americans, do not have “tenure” and am in a “at will” job.

I have not been fired yet. Nor do millions of Americans get fired for no reason.

There is a big cost to hiring and training a replacement employee. No university president is going to fire large numbers of professors each year.

16 FG May 1, 2017 at 3:32 pm

At least in computer science, tenure is an unusual carrot for professors, most of whom could make quite a bit more in industry but would rather do research/be in academia. So they’ll take job security and lower pay over more uncertainty, less interesting work, and higher pay.

I don’t quite understand why this comments section hates tenure so much. If you’re looking for the people jacking up the cost of college, it’s the salaries of administration, not professors.

17 Troll Me May 1, 2017 at 8:39 pm

Correct. If it stays how it is now, that hypothetical problem will not be a problem.

18 Thomas May 1, 2017 at 12:16 pm

Whatever shall we do if an Art History or Comparative Lit PhD candidate decides to quit and pursue tasks that people pay for willingly?!

19 Troll Me May 1, 2017 at 12:41 pm

Get engineers to write movies? I dunno.

20 Bob from Ohio May 1, 2017 at 1:47 pm

Do you think many screenwriters have Art History degrees?

21 Troll Me May 1, 2017 at 2:07 pm

No. But I believe that people with IQ above that of a vegetable are able to fill in the gaps in an example.

I imagine that quite a lot of screenwriters take professional interest in art history, however. For example, periodically consuming the professional outputs of the much hated Art History people.

22 Komori May 2, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Hey, if it means more movies like “The Martian”, that sounds good to me.

23 Milo Fan May 1, 2017 at 12:20 pm

The average server makes 30 grand and gets free healthcare? Not even close.

24 Troll Me May 1, 2017 at 12:42 pm

I forgot. Health care is on top of taxes in the USA.

25 Jay May 1, 2017 at 2:40 pm

…and gets a 40k a year tuition paid for most importantly.

26 FG May 1, 2017 at 3:20 pm

As outlined elsewhere in these comments, the tuition thing is nonsense, after the first year or two almost every humanities PhD student produces (way) more teaching than they consume, and probably won’t take any courses at all for the last few years. “Tuition” is some weird accounting thing between the department and school and should not be interpreted as value for the PhD student.

27 Jay May 2, 2017 at 2:16 pm

Yes I saw that elsewhere in the comments and I don’t buy it. So what if they don’t take any classes in the last few years, it doesn’t mean the tuition charge should represent that. If I got my Master’s at Yale it would 20-30k…you don’t go from that amount to ZERO just because you’re on the PhD track instead.

28 Anon7 May 1, 2017 at 5:14 pm

Supply vastly exceeds demand. They should find a wealthy benefactor willing to endow their little folding chairs.

29 Yancey Ward May 1, 2017 at 2:46 am

You know, ten years ago, I would have actually checked to make sure I wasn’t reading The Onion. I don’t bother any longer.

30 BC May 1, 2017 at 2:58 am

“Symbolic” hunger strike actually makes perfect sense. Since starving oneself doesn’t actually harm the target of the strike in any way, why bother doing it?

31 dan1111 May 1, 2017 at 6:00 am

But if it doesn’t make sense to really do it, then how would doing it symbolically make any sense?

32 Jeff R May 1, 2017 at 11:13 am

Well, if the unstated purpose is to make the participants feel righteous and morally superior…why bother with a real hunger strike? A fake one has the same effect.

33 Troll Me May 1, 2017 at 11:30 am

Somehow the part about faking it suggests to me that feeling morally uprighteous is not the objective.

Perhaps they are even trying to negotiate collectively to improve their situation? It’s about as implausible as the notion that shareholder unions seek profit.

34 Jeff R May 1, 2017 at 11:51 am


35 Chris May 1, 2017 at 12:31 pm

The purpose of a hunger strike is to bring awareness of your situation to others. Assuming you live in a fairly just society, and the injustice done to you and your group is so bad, the hunger strike is supposed to mobilize the good people currently unconcerned with your plight to force through the changes. It is also supposed to embarrass the powers that be with bad publicity. This only works if the situation is so bad that the hunger strikers willingness to die is seen as a reasonable response.

A good analogue would be the decision of Buddhist monks to set themselves on fire in protest to the Diem regime of South Vietnam, or the death of the man in Tunisia who sparked the Arab Spring.

In reality, hunger strikes are almost always useless. 1) They are completely ineffective against real tyrannies who don’t care whatsoever if their opponents kill themselves. 2) Many causes adopted by hunger strikers are dubious. The people who do them are either in morally ambiguous themselves (like the IRA who made the tactic famous with Bobby Sands), or the “wrong” done to them is so minor that seeking to die by hunger is ridiculous (as in this Yale case). In these cases, the good people don’t come onto the side of the hunger strikers. 3) Very, very, very few people are willing to actually die this way. When Thatcher didn’t cave and let Bobby Sands die, all the other hunger strikers gave up. When it’s an obvious bluff, hunger strikes have no impact.

So symbolic hunger strikes undermine the only value that a hunger strike has (in those exceedingly few situations where they might work) is eliminated at the very start.

36 BC May 1, 2017 at 2:13 pm

FYI, my comment was a joke.

37 Thad Jackson May 1, 2017 at 3:15 am

I want to kiss those Yale Republicans right on the mouth. I wouldn’t have come up with that tactic in a thousand years, and instead would have opted for calling in some Pinkertons armed with ax handles. That’s still a thing, right?

38 prior_test2 May 1, 2017 at 3:29 am

I’m guessing you are unfamiliar with actually not eating for more than 24 hours.

39 dan1111 May 1, 2017 at 5:58 am

I have gone without eating for more than 24 hours, and I really don’t know what point you are trying to make.

40 prior_test2 May 1, 2017 at 7:18 am

That after roughly 24 hours of not eating, you aren’t hungry, and the smell of a bakery or BBQ does not have much effect – your body has switched mode, so to speak. This is an easy way to tell if people are used to going a day or two without food or not – hunger is not a constant state that results from the absence of food. (Cannot speak for the seriously malnourished, though – being on the edge of starvation for months or years seems to quite different than what one would expect to be the condition of Yale graduate students or prisoners in an Israeli jail,)

41 derek May 1, 2017 at 8:36 am

Not my experience.

Not much occurs that make people laugh out loud in today’s politics, but this one does. Try it. Tell the story today and people will laugh no matter their priors.

42 prior_test2 May 1, 2017 at 9:34 am

Fair enough, yet it seems a commonplace observation, with a degree of normal variation. And it is most certainly my experience.

Here is a recent article that Prof. Tabarrok might have seen – http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/diet/How-not-to-feel-hungry-when-fasting/articleshow/18792939.cms

43 Dick King May 1, 2017 at 11:06 am

Observant Jews don’t eat or drink for 25 yours on Yom Kippur.

No really big deal, actually.


44 So Much For Subtlety May 1, 2017 at 3:34 am

Some Israelis held a barbeque outside a prison full of Palestinians on hunger strike recently. I would guess that was an inspiration.


But full marks to Yale’s Republicans. Both of them.

45 prior_test2 May 1, 2017 at 4:19 am

Showing that they too are unfamiliar with not eating for over 24 hours.

46 So Much For Subtlety May 1, 2017 at 7:11 am

As are, it appears, those Yale graduate students.

Universities have embraced the hard core Left. They are full of Social Justice Warriors. Why do they treat the children entrusted to their care in this crassly exploitative way?

47 prior_test2 May 1, 2017 at 7:19 am

‘As are, it appears, those Yale graduate students.’

What, they swarmed the BBQ? That would be funny.

48 Managing History May 1, 2017 at 8:27 am
49 Troll Me May 1, 2017 at 11:33 am

You have the majority of state legislatures and governorships.

Majorities in both houses of Congress.

The presidency.

The recently appointed supreme court judge ensures a long-term relative tilt toward the right on the court.

And still. … you fucking disgusting dog, delight in rubbing shit in people faces. And now you will delight that someone has perceived it that way. “hit a nerve” is success for you. What a waste of air.

50 Milo Fan May 1, 2017 at 12:32 pm

He certainly hit a nerve here!

51 Troll Me May 1, 2017 at 12:43 pm


Now roll over

52 Jeff R May 1, 2017 at 12:38 pm

Mean things are being said on the internet!

53 Anon7 May 1, 2017 at 5:21 pm

Speaking of wasting air, it would have been easier for the grad students to hold their breaths until they passed out instead of going on a hunger strike.

54 Thanatos Savehn May 1, 2017 at 3:39 am

(Some among) the campus Left are regretting their decision to take the blue pill. Now they know how it goes in the first level of Hell.

55 UMH May 1, 2017 at 6:31 am

Yale ought to take advantage of globalisation and outsource their doctoral studentship to whip-smart Asians, Nigerians and other Africans, who’d do it for $20k, easy.

Wonder how many Yalies will turn Trump voters then?

56 libert May 1, 2017 at 9:09 am

I’m pretty sure most universities have already done so. E.g,. http://economics.yale.edu/people/graduate-students

57 FG May 1, 2017 at 10:09 am

This already happens with Asians. It will take longer to happen with Africans just because PhD admissions (at least in computer science, where I am) rely heavily on recommendations and research projects, and those are biased for sources that current professors recognize. So it’s much easier for a professor to go “ah, student X comes highly recommended by Dr. Y, who did her PhD at school Z, just like me!” than “well, I don’t know any of these people or what this school is like . . . but I’m sure they’re smart!”.

Of course you can get around this by publishing in known venues, but this is not easy, even if you’re a very smart undergrad.

58 Troll Me May 1, 2017 at 11:35 am

FYI, people who go to Ivies already know they compete with the world.

They do so every day.

More competition? Bring it on. The crumbs in case of failure will at least feed me.

59 Axa May 1, 2017 at 6:59 am

30K before taxes?

This situation is similar to amateur athletes. Universities pay with “education” the labor of skilled workers. Universities don’t want to pay market rates for teacher, researcher or football player.

60 kimock May 1, 2017 at 8:15 am

What makes you think that 30K + education is below the market rate? Here is a clue. Is there an excess demand of qualified people who would be willing to do the work for the same, or lower pay? I believe that there is, and that Yale actually is paying above market rates. Solve for the equilibrium, as they say.

61 libert May 1, 2017 at 9:17 am

Grad students typically take a big pay cut relative to what they could earn in the private sector. I was making >4x the pay before going for the PhD. Hours worked were about the same too.

62 Thomas May 1, 2017 at 10:19 am

Then why don’t they go to the private sector? As above, solve for the equilibrium…

That being said, I don’t know how much money there is to be made in the private sector of Art History.

63 Troll Me May 1, 2017 at 11:39 am

Big banks and global media organizations will be chasing down quality Art History majors for their communications, etc., campaigns. Places like Goldman Sachs, 20th century fox, etc.

For example, to get them working with digital media teams in implementing all kinds of awesome stuff.

To be fair, they probably need to ensure competence in at least one industry-relevant software. And have other experience before the qualification is seen as a particular boon.

64 Thomas May 1, 2017 at 12:18 pm

Yeah, sure, they’ll be “chasing them down”. Why, Goldman might even hire one or two!

65 Troll Me May 1, 2017 at 12:45 pm

Well, that’s at least a few thousand high end jobs across the economy. And several million others where you can put it to good use.

I’m not trying to argue that expected income is higher in art history than computer programming. I’m saying that it’s consistent with many choices that have demonstrated value in the market and the lives of people. Aside from informing people that average income is lower, and of the percentage hiring rates in the sector, I do not see any special reason to lay into someone for trying to succeed at what they want to succeed at.

66 libert May 1, 2017 at 12:47 pm

You’re asking why people getting a degree aren’t in the private sector yet? Isn’t it obvious? Most people get a degree to advance their careers. But they can’t enter the workforce until they’ve finished the degree. This is so mind-blowingly obvious I can’t believe you’re seriously asking it.

Back to my case, I went to get my degree then moved on to the private sector. Exactly what you said doesn’t happen.

67 Thomas May 1, 2017 at 8:38 pm

Derp. There is no private sector for 99% of art history grads.

68 Troll Me May 1, 2017 at 8:42 pm

It is ever so important that the value of art and history be trashed.

Way to stand up for your culture. Thanks man.

69 John Mansfield May 1, 2017 at 11:14 am

Here’s a little story from about 22 years back. I was a graduate student employed as a research assistant, with a stipend and tuition covered by the department, the standard arrangement. One time something went funny with the accounting that my department hadn’t paid the university for that semester’s tuition, and the registrar sent me a letter. This was all straightened out quickly and easily, but the thing that stuck with me from the paperwork I walked over from my department to the registrar’s office was that though the sticker price for a semester’s education was something like $11,000, my department only owed the university about $2,000.

70 Axa May 1, 2017 at 11:51 am

This is a very interesting detail. There’s a difference between price and cost.

In some jobs the employer deducts the cost of food and lodging. For example, hospitality workers in resorts far for urban areas get discounted from their salaries these costs. However, the employer doesn’t charge the same price that applies to tourists.

The public price of Yale’s graduate education is 40K. What’s the production cost? That’s the amount that should be added to 30K to estimate PhD student salary.

71 libert May 1, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Most of the accounting cost of PhD tuition is not actual production cost. Particularly when students are not taking classes (most PhD students are not taking classes–they’re working on their dissertation), so there’s nothing to actually cost money.

It’s because the revenue gets recirculated. E.g., the university charges the department $40k in tuition, but then department charges the university $40k. Recall that the department is the one doing the teaching, so they both collect the tuition, in addition to paying it. So the money just shifts back and forth, with no actual meaning. They could hike tuition to $1 million, but wouldn’t matter since the department both pays and receives it.

It’s all an accounting gimmick.

72 Milo Fan May 1, 2017 at 12:36 pm

For Yale graduate students, they could make more in the private sector.

However, private sector work is a lot less cushy. For me, going to grad school was mostly a way of relaxing for a few years without leaving a gap in my resume.

73 A Definite Beta Guy May 1, 2017 at 10:05 am

Uhhhh…..I think this is a pretty good rate for the grad student teachers. The kids on the Alabama football team are clearly generating a ton of surplus value. The grad student teachers are getting insurance packages and education in-kind benefits that probably puts them only a bit below a primary school-teacher in lower-paid states.

74 Troll Me May 1, 2017 at 11:47 am

Have you been a grad student?

“Education in-kind benefits” – is that the 15 or 30 minute meeting a week when you talk about how to do better at your quasi-volunteer work on someone else’s projects. My research was largely self directed, but I know that for a great many grad students, this is basically the situation.

It’s like you’re saying that the guys who will run the national research laboratories are being done a favour for being paid the wage of a server for their 50, 60 or more hours a week.

75 Thomas May 1, 2017 at 12:19 pm

National research laboratories. Are they bombarding Proust with protons or something?

76 Troll Me May 1, 2017 at 12:51 pm

Do STEM courses not have TAs? I thought the issue is that STEM is particularly intensive in such things. For which reason the price should not be too high. Which grad students understand. And do not complain about. But another dollar an hour would be nice, right?

How much do you think a undergrad university STEM trainer is worth? More than a waiter? But then there would not be as much research. So the income of a waiter will have to do, until after they leave school.

77 Bob from Ohio May 1, 2017 at 1:38 pm

“Universities don’t want to pay market rates for teacher,”

A 23 year old grad student without prior teaching experience will largely fail to teach 19 year old undergrads anything.

30K is generous for value they deliver.

78 Rock Lobster May 1, 2017 at 7:06 am

Not that I have any interest in defending the “strikers,” but it is a little disingenuous to to say that they get their $40,000 tuition paid for as if their all-in comp is something like $80,000. A Ph.D. student is more like an employee of the university, doing research for them, doing TA work, and so on. The charging of tuition is a formality that just gets papered over later.

79 Just Another MR Commentor May 1, 2017 at 7:40 am

It is true but for the most part this is a short term situation Yale PHD students can probably expect to look forward to a pretty great life a few years after graduation

80 Axa May 1, 2017 at 7:48 am

You’ll have a better life in 4-5 years, thus I can exploit you for now…….nice deal =)

81 Just Another MR Commentor May 1, 2017 at 8:11 am

Not “better” they will basically be the people running the country/world

82 Troll Me May 1, 2017 at 11:53 am

Hence why it is so important to grind them into dirt.

Grad students aren’t dumb. They know that if their wages double, this will reduce the amount of research that can be done.

That matters to them, but it does not mean they roll over like good doggies for the good of their anti-competition anti-globalist brethren who only respect those with wealth obtained by trickery and manipulation instead of creating value on markets. They might, however, not negotiate that hard. Like, enough to enjoy a few beers on the weekend, right? Maybe take-out Chinese a few times a month without breaking the bank?

83 Rock Lobster May 1, 2017 at 8:48 am

That’s debatable, but even if true nobody goes around in other analogous professions (medical residents, junior law associates, Wall St analysts, etc.) saying that their salary is “actual salary + some capitalized measure of skills acquired), so it’s really not an apples-to-apples comparison, and it makes Ph.D. students sound like they’re taking home these big fat paychecks when they’re not.

84 libert May 1, 2017 at 9:14 am

Not to mention that during most of their studies, PhD students are not taking classes. Actually, they are generally teaching classes, in between doing research for their dissertation.

But they still are charged tuition, despite not taking classes. It’s pretty ridiculous actually.

85 Joël May 1, 2017 at 11:42 am

libert, see my answer to Rock Lobster below. Again it may depend a lot of the field, but for being on the other side now, I see what the university pays indirectly for the formation of PhD students and it is far from trivial. Not that I complain: forming and interaction with PhD students is actually one of the best part of the job, often as interesting and more immediately rewarding than doing your personal research.

86 libert May 1, 2017 at 12:58 pm

I don’t doubt there are costs on top of the stipend such as those that you mention, but in my experience the headline “tuition” number wildly overstates it because it mostly comes back to the department.

87 Anon7 May 1, 2017 at 5:38 pm

If they haven’t finished their PhD, then faculty are still supervising their dissertations even if it is not equivalent to taking a full course load (my grad school required a fee but not full tuition during that stage).

88 XVO May 1, 2017 at 10:17 am

If they don’t like it they can just go into the private sector. That they don’t is evidence enough that it is worth it for them.

89 libert May 1, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Where’s the evidence that they don’t? I know tons of people who leave go to the private sector, either by dropping out or graduating. Students aren’t students forever.

90 Altane May 1, 2017 at 10:18 am

Poor Yale graduates, the oppressed proletariat……

But really, they are going to get much better jobs after they graduate than they would have had they not gone to Yale. THEY evidently consider it a good deal. Bunch of crybabies.

91 Joël May 1, 2017 at 11:36 am

This actually may depend a lot of the field. In mine, graduate students receive collective courses, personal reading courses, and a lot of thesis advising. Research aside, this is actually the most time-consuming part of their job for the professors in my department, much more than undergraduate teaching or administrative tasks. It may actually be the main objective reason, besides tradition, that the university keeps paying expensive professors rather than doing all the works to adjuncts. Graduate student do some teaching, but
at the core teaching is paid to adjunct, this is far from covering their stipend. So the “tuition” that graduate students do not pay does have some economic sense, and is not purely an accounting trick.

Another indication of this is that Master students pay this full tuition for one year for taking exactly the same courses.

92 Art Deco May 1, 2017 at 1:06 pm

It may actually be the main objective reason, besides tradition, that the university keeps paying expensive professors rather than doing all the works to adjuncts. Graduate student do some teaching, but at the core teaching is paid to adjunct,

The National Center for Education Statistics in 2003 compiled some data on balance between f/t and p/t faculty and the distribution of teaching loads as measured in credit-hours. The data included community college faculty. At the time, faculty on f/t contracts accounted for 53.7% of the total and their instructional activity accounted for 75% of the credit-hours taught. They don’t publish more recent data on the distribution of credit-hours taught, but in the intervening years the share of faculty on f/t contracts has fallen only to 51.3%, so it’s a reasonable guess that their share of credit-hours taught is not very different from 75% as we speak.

93 Kan'ichi Asakawa May 1, 2017 at 5:16 pm

The point is that the graduate students are a net cost to the university, and I don’t think that point is in dispute. In the depth of the Great Recession,


“Yale University announced on Wednesday that it planned a number of steps to close a remaining $150 million budget gap, including cutting staff, freezing salaries for deans and officers, reducing the number of graduate students — even turning down all thermostats to 68 degrees.

In a memo to the faculty and staff, Richard C. Levin, Yale’s president, and Peter Salovey, its provost, said the measures were necessary because of the drop in the endowment to $16.3 billion last June from its peak of $22.9 billion in June 2008.”

So it’s clear that non-professional school graduate students in Yale are a net financial drain to the school. Among the first thing to be cut when the time are tough.(When the endowment is ONLY $16.3 billion)

94 dearieme May 1, 2017 at 7:11 am

These poor oppressed workers made me think about May Day. We get a public holiday for it in Britain. How much better if it had been declared the one day of the year when you could, with impunity, hunt down commies and suchlike agitators, and chuck them into the river. Like otter-hunting in reverse.

95 prior_test2 May 1, 2017 at 7:29 am

Let me introduce you to the reason that May 1st is a labor holiday – and guess what, it predates the Soviet Union, and is American in origin.

‘At its national convention in Chicago, held in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (which later became the American Federation of Labor), proclaimed that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.” The following year, the FOTLU, backed by many Knights of Labor locals, reiterated their proclamation stating that it would be supported by strikes and demonstrations. At first, most radicals and anarchists regarded this demand as too reformist, failing to strike “at the root of the evil.” A year before the Haymarket Massacre, Samuel Fielden pointed out in the anarchist newspaper, The Alarm, that “whether a man works eight hours a day or ten hours a day, he is still a slave.”

Despite the misgivings of many of the anarchists, an estimated quarter million workers in the Chicago area became directly involved in the crusade to implement the eight hour work day, including the Trades and Labor Assembly, the Socialistic Labor Party and local Knights of Labor. As more and more of the workforce mobilized against the employers, these radicals conceded to fight for the 8-hour day, realizing that “the tide of opinion and determination of most wage-workers was set in this direction.”


On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States walked off their jobs in the first May Day celebration in history.’ http://www.iww.org/history/library/misc/origins_of_mayday

On the other hand, it does sound like you would get behind what May Day did become in the U.S. – ‘In the earlier part of the 20th century, the US government tried to curb the celebration and further wipe it from the public’s memory by establishing “Law and Order Day” on May 1.’

96 dearieme May 1, 2017 at 10:54 am

The origin is a secondary matter: in Europe May Day became a Socialist/Communist celebration.

I shall, however, be happy to point out to lefties that the origin is American, since I can be confident that it will annoy them.

97 Joël May 1, 2017 at 11:50 am

dearieme, it is more complicated. In France, where everyone is more or less anti-American, Gaullists and Pétainists and Communists, Mélenchon and Macron and Le Pen, hard-core leftists may be the ones less obsessed by opposition to the US. After all, Trotsky wrote in the thirties that the US was the country on earth “closest to the communist ideal”. And as a matter of fact, the history of May Day starting in Chicago is a well-known meme in the French leftist circles.

98 prior_test2 May 1, 2017 at 12:52 pm

‘in Europe May Day became a Socialist/Communist celebration’

Yep, those West Germans were out there on May Day celebrating communism for decades. I’m sure that the Daily Mail or Telegraph reported on it, right?

It isn’t as if holidays cannot be co-opted by others – after all, the first labor celebrated May Day was in 1886 – merely a generation before the birth of the Soviet Union.

99 prior_test2 May 1, 2017 at 12:55 pm

‘I shall, however, be happy to point out to lefties that the origin is American, since I can be confident that it will annoy them.’

American leftists know where May Day comes from, by the way. I’m pretty sure that Canadian ones do too.

100 dearieme May 1, 2017 at 7:15 am

These poor oppressed workers made me think about May Day. We get a public holiday for it in Britain. How much better if it had been declared the one day of the year when you could, with impunity, hunt down commies and suchlike agitators, and chuck them in the river. Like otter-hunting in reverse.

Mind you, I have some sympathy for research students. In Britain at least, they are the most powerless and vulnerable constituency in the universities. A research student who is stuck with a misbehaving research supervisor is in a vulnerable position.

101 rayward May 1, 2017 at 7:45 am

Do celebrity professors at Yale teach, or do they just give speeches to the students and leave it to the grad students to do the teaching? One might ask the same of celebrity professors everywhere, but there are more of them at Yale. I have watched videos of celebrity professors “teaching” their students at Yale, and it’s more of a speech with little or no interaction between professor and students. If grad students do most or all of the teaching, $30,000 seems like low pay for a school with annual tuition of almost $50,000 and an endowment of over $25 billion managed by a celebrity CIO.

102 hgfalling May 1, 2017 at 11:54 am

When I was a graduate student at Yale (2010-2014) in the applied mathematics program, I didn’t teach any classes myself. All the classes I took were taught by professors or post-docs (almost all the classes I knew of with one exception below were), and this included some big names (eg a Fields Medal winner, MacArthur prize winner, etc). I TAd a number of classes, all taught by full professors; I gave a few lectures here and there especially in areas where I was more expert than the professor. The main exception was that grad students taught calculus classes in the math department.

103 Matt May 1, 2017 at 8:18 am

It was not too long ago that grad students at Princeton were eligible to receive food stamps. To the extent that grad school is a job, with benefits monetary and reputational, the employees have every right to try to negotiate for better compensation. To the extent that they are providing a public good by training academics (which is very much what they say when getting money from the government) and that having smart people in basic research is good for society, then it is troubling that the only people eligible for that training are those willing to forgo anything like a payday for most or all of their 20’s.

104 P Burgos May 1, 2017 at 10:11 am

I think that this comment section once again illustrates why politics isn’t about policy, but rather about what groups of people deserve more or less social status. I don’t live in a state with any Ivy League schools, but I do live in a state with at least a couple of private universities that have large endowments and grant PHDs. My preference is that these private institutions with large monetary resources pay their (non-profit center) grad students high enough wages so that I am not paying for these students health care, food, housing, etc. through public welfare programs. There is no need for these institutions to be cheap, and when they are cheap, taxpayers end up taking over some of that slack.

105 Managing History May 1, 2017 at 8:34 am

I think by their logic (eating when you are hunger), everyone is technically on a “hunger strike.”

106 A Definite Beta Guy May 1, 2017 at 10:10 am

I’m hunger-striking Monday! No more Mondays!

Until lunch time. Mmmmm, chili.

107 FG May 1, 2017 at 10:03 am

I’m a PhD student in computer science. My read on this is that grad school is worst for the fields with the least real-world employment equivalents. This is why unionization efforts draw heavily from the humanities (looking at the list of students named in the article, 75% of them are in poli sci/comparative lit/art history, and the remaining two in math and geology; of all 8 of these I’d guess math is the most employable by a good margin).

Because humanities PhD students pretty much can’t get paid to do this type of work outside of PhD programs — unless they already have a PhD — the university has enough leverage to enforce pretty bad working conditions and still get plenty of applicants. That’s why, say, the teaching load and stipend level is so bad in humanities PhD programs.

But even if free market forces explain Yale’s side pretty well, I side with the grad students given Yale’s massive endowment and administrative bloat. The grad students are largely the ones in the research (sciences) and teaching (humanities) trenches at these places; I’d rather pay them.

108 FG May 1, 2017 at 10:04 am

(Might also point out that it’s relatively common for CS PhD students to do summer internships and ~double their stipends — in which case we might make half of what our corporate friends make, but still.)

109 Thomas May 1, 2017 at 10:25 am

Art is a consumption good. It is debatable that researching comparative literature has any more social value than analyzing football plays. We don’t see comparative football PhDs but we see plenty of self-important but societal wasteful intelligence signalling in PhD fields that have zero private market application.

110 The Engineer May 1, 2017 at 10:29 am

In engineering graduate school, we didn’t want to join the union. We were already well compensated ($17k stipend back in the ’90’s at third tier state school), all they did is introduce politics to the process (left wing politics, no less) and took our money in dues.

111 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ May 1, 2017 at 11:05 am

Meta-level, I wonder why Tyler prefers to discuss this rather than the Duterte invitation. If this protest should be on page 12, a bizarre example of Trump’s curious relation ship with authoritarian strong men should be page 1.

Is it a little bit tribal? Does Tyler prefer a soft (if insignificant) target on the left?

112 Milo Fan May 1, 2017 at 12:27 pm

As opposed to the Saudi king, our true friend. Yes, tell us what the first page of the fake news ought to be.

113 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ May 1, 2017 at 12:43 pm

I don’t think the Saudi King has copped to personal murders.


But I would welcome fact based comparison. SA has a legal system we might agree is medieval but it is a legal system. It is not extrajudicial murder.

So you tell me, should we invite a murdering strongman and despot to the White House.

114 Milo Fan May 1, 2017 at 12:50 pm

“Its still a legal system”

Way to look on the bright side! You’ve got some serious Trump derangement syndrome.

115 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ May 1, 2017 at 12:57 pm

Have you heard this one?

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday compared his campaign to kill criminals to the Holocaust, saying he would like to “slaughter” millions of addicts just like Adolf Hitler “massacred” millions of Jewish people.


Maybe stop and think about what you are defending.

If there was ever authentic evil authoritarianism, that is it. Why would you defend it, with a really sick and dishonest “both sides do it?”

116 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ May 1, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Good God, we have descended to the point where disliking extrajudicial killings, the actual murder of innocents, is “Trump derangement syndrome.”

117 Thiago Ribeiro May 1, 2017 at 11:28 am

It is sad to see a house divided, that can mot stand. The American people, betrayed by its leaders and preyed on by big business, is desperate. We see brother against brother and father against son. We see greed crushing the land.

118 JK Brown May 1, 2017 at 11:46 am

It is more a “no snacking between meals” strike.

Back in my day, such actions were imposed up on the students by the administration with their no vending machine, no chewing gum, no eating except during the lunch period. We near starved to fitness.

119 Troll Me May 1, 2017 at 11:48 am

Education is a waste of time.

For personal glory and advancement of the nation, quit school and go shovel shit.

(P.S. – money isn’t bad in trades.)

120 Thomas May 1, 2017 at 12:23 pm

Salty humanities/social science Master’s degree. “Why can’t I get paid more for doing almost nothing all day?”

121 Troll Me May 1, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Do you literally have to see physical materials moving in big piles from one location to another to understand that economically valued activity is taking place?

And yes, I do believe it has long been an objective of humans to get paid more for doing almost nothing all day. It is one of the major things that drives us forward.

122 Thomas May 1, 2017 at 8:41 pm

No, I have to see people being willing to pay for it without the threat of a violent death. Don’t confuse me with your stalinism.

123 Troll Me May 1, 2017 at 8:44 pm

I see. Art kills people now. But guns don’t.

124 Curt F. May 1, 2017 at 11:49 am

In the souls of the people, the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.

125 Thiago Ribeiro May 1, 2017 at 1:36 pm

And so begins the final drama. In the streets and in the fields. We stand unbowed before their armor. We defy their guns and shields. When we fight provoked by their aggression. Let us be inspired by like and love.
For though they offer us concessions. Change will not come from above.

126 Troll Me May 1, 2017 at 11:55 am

If they pay their PhD TAs 40 instead of 30, I might consider applying to attend as a doctoral student.

I’m not going further into debt to work on other people’s project.

I’m a foreigner. But you can’t have me because it costs to bloody much and TAs don’t get paid enough to make up the difference. Literally. But that’s ancient history.

127 Anon7 May 1, 2017 at 5:47 pm

Discouraging the likes of you from becoming a grad student in the U.S. is a sufficient reason for refusing to pay grad students any more money.

128 Troll Me May 1, 2017 at 8:45 pm

Did the wall just get 10 feet higher?

129 Curt F. May 1, 2017 at 11:56 am

I was a post-doc at UC Berkeley when the UAW conducted a successful post-doc unionization drive on the campus. It was depressing. The union reps kept coming around to repeatedly hector even the foreign visiting post-docs, i.e. the ones that were (a) foreign citizens that were (b) employees of and (c) still being payed by a non-US university, to sign a union vote card. These people were not UC Berkeley post-docs and never would be, and they repeatedly told the organizers that they were not UC Berkeley personnel and thus did not find it appropriate to sign a vote card. It didn’t matter to the UAW folks. A vote was a vote, whether it was legitimate or not.

In the end, I “won” the right to choose: either 0.8% of my pay would go to the UAW, and I would not be a member of the union, or I could join the union and enjoy 1.1% of my pay going to the UAW.

Meanwhile, the professional laboratory technical staff had been unionized for many years, but with their own, independent union, unassociated with any national organization such as the UAW, AFL, or SEIU. I really wished that if the post-docs were going to unionize, we could have a union like that. Instead, we got the UAW.

130 Curt F. May 1, 2017 at 11:58 am

Then months later when the unionization was succesful, they announced the great concessions they had extracted from the administration: approximately 1.1% pay raises for everyone!

131 R.G. May 1, 2017 at 1:34 pm

It’s funny coz Yale is well-known to have an almost uniquely well-paying PhD program with 30K$ salaries

132 Art Deco May 1, 2017 at 1:49 pm

Reading the paper, one is often tempted to suggest that the place be reduced to rubble via aerial bombardment.

133 Art Deco May 1, 2017 at 1:47 pm

1. Limit post-baccalaureate study in academic subjects and the visual and performing arts to research institutions. Teaching institutions could offer baccalaureate degrees and post-baccalaureate study in vocational subjects.

2. Cut the enrollment in graduate programs in the arts, humanities and non-quantitative social sciences by about 65%. Hold multiple price auctions among research institutions for franchises to admit students to such programs (annually adjusting the global number of berths to be auctioned by changes in total post-secondary enrollment).

134 mike May 1, 2017 at 2:14 pm

The poor babies. It’s going to be a harsh shock when some of them graduate.

135 Eliot J CLingman May 1, 2017 at 2:33 pm

It’s very telling that today’s Yale Republicans are non reflexively against strikes. Eisenhower Republicans weren’t like that.

It reminds me of a W F Buckley “On the Right” column back in the 1970s (Although I can’t find the reference, sorry). He mocked Eleanor Roosevelt for declaring she would never walk across a union picket line under any circumstances. Is being robotically anti strike any more absurd than being robotically pro strike?

136 Vivi May 1, 2017 at 3:03 pm

$30,000 stipend+$40,000 tuitions+$3,000 insurance=$73,000 If work as research or teaching assistant, they only work 20h a week. It transfers to $146,000 for a full time job.

137 FG May 1, 2017 at 3:27 pm

The $40,000 tuition is nonsense. After the first year or two of your PhD you’re probably not taking any classes at all. If you’re a humanities student, you probably teach more classes than you take by the end. It’s a weird accounting trick between the department and the school, and should not be interpreted as value accruing to the student.

138 Anon7 May 1, 2017 at 5:53 pm

Including the entire $40K tuition as part of the salary is excessive, but medical residents average just over $50K/year. Why should doctoral students make as much as medical residents?

139 Thomas May 1, 2017 at 8:42 pm

“nuance” “context” “social responsibility” “bullshit”?

140 FG May 1, 2017 at 9:59 pm

There’s a pretty wide gap between 30k and 50k, and 30k is the top end of a PhD student stipend in the hard sciences — for humanities, you might be looking at closer to 20k, or less.

And I have little sympathy for doctors anyway, given the cartel tactics of the AMA in artificially reducing the supply of doctors to maintain salaries. Gogo machine learning, let’s take those jobs!

141 Anon7 May 1, 2017 at 11:48 pm

It’s $30K plus health care plus tuition (dissertation supervision is not nothing), which makes it at least mid to upper 30s. The folks in the humanities should not be so crass/bourgeois as to demand high wage rates.

142 Zach May 1, 2017 at 6:28 pm

and have their $40,000 tuition paid in full

You mean, $40,000 are taken from the grant and given to the University rather than the grad student.

Grad school isn’t school, and grad school tuition is a fictitious concept. The University contracts with the government to do research. The bulk of this research is done by grad students. After a couple of classes the first year, their education consists of doing the research the University is obligated to do by virtue of accepting the grant. The University incurs no expenses and provides no services other than making a mark in a ledger saying that the student is currently enrolled.

143 Kan'ichi Asakawa May 1, 2017 at 7:18 pm

Yale cut 15% of its graduate student slots in 2010 as part of closing a $150MM budget gap. Why would they do that if graduate students are not a net financial drain and are just a fictional number on the ledger? If graduate students are so exploited and making money for Yale, you would expect them to take on more graduate students when stressed financially, right?


144 Curt F. May 1, 2017 at 7:33 pm

I think Zach overstates the situation, but only by a tiny bit. Cutting grad student enrollment immediately lowers the numbers of first-year graduate students. First-year grad students take the majority of the classes and probably account for a disproportionate amount of the cost. Additionally, depending on the school, they may not join a lab and begin federally-contracted R&D activity until after their first year. Most schools force students to wait for at least a few months. So in addition to costing the most, they also generate no revenue. Thus, cutting first-year grad student enrollment could be a logical response to a budget crisis.

145 Zach May 1, 2017 at 8:20 pm

The simple answer would be that they foresaw less need for labor. Such as fewer grants being awarded or grad students hanging around to sit out the recession.

“Net financial drain” is a nebulous concept in this context. Employee compensation is an expense. But the labor you’re paying for generates revenue. From the 2015/2016 Yale financial report:

Grant and Contract Income
Grant and contract income represents 20.9% of total operating revenues. This revenue category experienced a 6.8% increase from $673.7 million in 2015 to $719.5 million in 2016. The Yale School of Medicine, which received 80% of the University’s grant and contract income in fiscal year 2016, reported an increase of 9.5% for 2016, while the remaining University units decreased by 2.9%.

I don’t think I’m bursting any bubbles when I say that the great bulk of this work is actually performed by grad students and postdocs, and the size of the incoming class is closely matched to the anticipated need for labor.

146 Joël May 2, 2017 at 12:10 am

That’s non-sense. It is certainly not true that PhD students in theoretical sciences or humanities do “most of the research”. Moreover, typically, there is no big grant in the humanities department. What you say might be true in the experimental science, I don’t know, but this concerns none of the eight strikers of the post you are commenting on.

147 happyjuggler0 May 4, 2017 at 1:18 am

Let them not eat cake!

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