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Hospital and Union Continue to Trade Fire

A year ago, a much-heralded agreement between Yale–New Haven Hospital and union organizers seemed to pave the way for an employee vote on unionization. But today, relations between the two sides are as bad as ever.

Last March, the hospital and the Service Employees International Union signed an agreement for a secret-ballot election under National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rules. It included a code of conduct and provided that violations would be addressed by an arbitrator. All was well until, on the eve of the election in December, the union complained that managers were giving false information about the union during workplace meetings. The meetings were voluntary, but they were held immediately following mandatory meetings, and workers said they felt pressured to stay. The arbitrator, Margaret Kern, found that the hospital had violated the agreement and federal labor law. With Kern’s blessing, the union withdrew its request for an NLRB election.

Since then, more details have come to light, and there has been renewed criticism of hospital management. The hospital says the meetings were the result of insufficient oversight of a consulting firm it hired and that when CEO Marna Borgstrom '79MPH learned about the meetings, she ended them.

But billing records discussed in a ruling by Kern show the consultants had dozens of meetings and contacts with hospital officials, including “key executives” and “senior leadership.” Mayor John DeStefano Jr. told the New Haven Register that the hospital is a partner you “can’t trust.” Yale president Richard Levin, a hospital trustee, has expressed concern about the situation. The trustees, he says, were not informed about the meetings. (The hospital and the university are separate entities, but Yale has four seats on the hospital’s 19-member board.)

Union spokesperson Bill Meyerson maintains the meetings were part of a “systematic campaign” that destroyed support for the union. Earlier in the fall, he said, a “solid majority” of workers had signed union cards. The union now wants Kern to order the hospital to recognize the union based on those cards.

The hospital argues that the damage from the meetings was limited and workers have a right to a secret-ballot vote. “We hope that [Kern] will recognize that we’ve taken very specific steps to remedy the circumstance and allow the election to move forward,” says hospital spokesman Vin Petrini. The hospital has taken the unusual step of filing its own petition for an election with the NLRB, a move the union is opposing.


A Chaplain for Muslims, and Others

The announcement in February that a Catholic layperson will be Yale’s next University Chaplain demonstrates that the chaplain’s office isn’t just for Protestants anymore. But while Sharon Kugler’s appointment focused attention on this shift, the office’s evolution into an interfaith center has been taking place for some time, under the direction of outgoing University Chaplain Frederick J. Streets '75MDiv.

A case in point: the arrival last fall of Shamshad Sheikh. Sheikh is the first Muslim to serve as a Yale chaplain, but she has a broader religious portfolio than her own faith alone. “She addresses the needs of members of the Yale community who belong to faith communities other than Christian or Jewish,” says Streets. At Yale, that includes Buddhists, Sikhs, Baha'is, Hindus, and Zoroastrians. “I do pastoral counseling and make sure that students are aware of holy days in their calendar,” says Sheikh. “My main purpose is just to bring comfort into their lives.” Along with Kugler and associate chaplain Callista Isabelle '05MDiv, a Lutheran who was appointed last fall to minister to Protestants, Sheikh will soon be part of Yale’s first-ever all-female team in the University Chaplain’s office.

Sheikh, who uses the title “Sister”—there is no formal ordination process in Islam—is a native of Pakistan who graduated from Karachi University and earned a degree in Islamic law before coming to the United States 23 years ago. She served for ten A chaplain for Muslims, and others years as the Muslim chaplain at Mount Holyoke College before Yale hired her. During that decade, she also served Amherst, Hampshire, and Springfield colleges. (In the United States, Sheikh notes, “there is a great shortage of Muslim chaplains.”)

During her stint at Mount Holyoke, Sheikh undertook, at her own initiative, to visit refugee camps on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. There she provided religious counseling and a modest amount of financial aid to Afghani women. “Nobody had gone to these women and just sat down with them, held their hands, and listened to their stories,” she says.

At Yale, her job is a balancing act that has called on her creativity. “Last fall, I checked the calendar and saw that the Muslim Eid [the feast marking the end of Ramadan] and Hindu Diwali [the festival of lights] happened three days apart,” says Sheikh. “I asked the students if they would like to join these services together, and they said yes, with enthusiasm.”

Some of her constituency have expressed surprise that anyone was even paying attention to their religious needs. Sister Shamshad tells of asking the student Baha'i group about preparation for a major ritual in their calendar: “One of the students responded, 'Nothing like this has ever happened before. No one noticed our holidays.' I feel like I am always opening doors.”


Yale College Changes its Program for Older Students

The controversy last year over a former Taliban spokesman taking classes at Yale led the university to take another look at the “special student” programs in Yale College. (See Light & Verity, September/October 2006.) The review committee has now issued its report, and its recommendations will clarify the status of programs that have flown under the radar at Yale for more than 25 years.

Starting this fall, undergraduates in the Eli Whitney Students Program, which lets older students earn a Yale College degree on a non-resident basis, will for the first time be eligible for financial aid, career counseling, and health insurance. But applicants to the program will continue to be subjected to the more rigorous admission standards that President Richard Levin established last year in the midst of the controversy over Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi’s application to the program. In previous years, the Whitney Program had an admission rate of nearly 30 percent; last year, only 2 of 29 applicants were admitted.

The committee recommended little change to the non-degree special students program in which Hashemi was enrolled for three terms. Admission standards are less rigorous for non-degree students, who can take courses for credit but are not candidates for a Yale diploma.

Entering Whitney students will be expected to have “competence across the disciplines, most particularly in writing and quantitative reasoning, at a level matching that of typical incoming Yale freshmen,” according to a statement from Levin. Both the high admission standard and the new benefits are intended to “make sure the faculty and various administrative offices understand that these are real live Yale students,” says astronomy professor Charles Bailyn '81, who chaired the review committee.

The changes “will go a long way toward correcting the problems and strengthening the program,” says Whitney Program student Brooks Prouty '07. “While the Hashemi affair brought unwelcome media attention, this same media attention motivated the administration to address the weak points of this program.”


Alumni Name the Colleges (Part Two)

Is it time Yale named a residential college for a woman? Two of our readers have written in to make the case. The university is now exploring whether to build a pair of new undergraduate residential colleges, and in our January/February 2007 issue, the Yale Alumni Magazine invited readers to suggest new college names.

This is an entirely unofficial forum; the actual decision belongs to the Yale Corporation (which has not ruled out naming the hypothetical new colleges after donors). But that didn’t stop Harold Levine '78 from arguing that “it would seem only equitable that one if not both of the new colleges bear a woman's name.” His nominees: Jane Matilda Bolin '31LLB, the first African American woman judge in the United States (see Milestones, March/April 2007), and Gertrude Stein, whose papers reside in the Beinecke Library.

Liza Grandia '95 floats the name of Alice Rufie Jordan Blake, 1886LLB, who was admitted to the Law School after she sent in an application signed and identified with only her initials. (The next woman was admitted 34 years later.) Grandia also suggests Josephine Miles Lewis, 1891MFA, a painter who was the first woman to earn a degree from the School of Art. “The courage and valor these women showed in getting degrees from an unwelcoming bastion of patriarchy are surely worth honoring,” writes Grandia.

Another correspondent, William Davison Glover '50E, votes for Joseph Earl Sheffield, who established the endowment for what became the Sheffield Scientific School, Yale’s science and engineering division from 1861 to 1956. Writes Glover: “The departments and schools of science and engineering at Yale would be honored and elevated in both the university community and the general public mind” by a Sheffield College.

Michael Humphreys '83 also has science on his mind: he suggests both Saunders Mac Lane '30 (1909-2005), whom he calls “one of the greatest theoretical mathematicians and leaders in mathematics education of the twentieth century,” and—“if a residential college can be named after a living alum”—the particle physicist and Nobel laureate Murray Gell-Mann '48.

John Wesley '96 nominates another living alum, chief investment officer David Swensen '80PhD, under whose management the university’s portfolio has grown from $1.3 billion to $18 billion since 1985. Wesley sees Swensen—who might have become a billionaire if he had used his talents in private business—as “the embodiment of dedication to Yale.”

Meanwhile, Richard Mooney '47 has curated an exhibit at Sterling Memorial Library that tells the stories behind the names of Yale’s existing colleges. “The Eponymous Dozen,” on view through July 31, includes documents and artifacts related to the eleven men (including the two Yale presidents named Timothy Dwight) and two places that are college namesakes. Mooney’s own suggestions for new college names include Annie Goodrich, the first dean of the Yale School of Nursing and organizing dean of the Army School of Nursing.

To see all the ideas we’ve collected so far, go to yalealumnimagazine.com/extras/namethosecolleges.html And send your own suggestions to yam@yale.edu.


New Administrator Will Focus on Diversity

Yale boasts a brand-new position: chief diversity officer, or CDO. But many of the chief’s duties—and even the very definition of diversity—are TBD: to be determined. Nydia A. González, who arrived from the University of Texas's M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in late February, will spend the next couple of months assessing the state of diversity at Yale and devising a strategic plan that will largely determine her future activities.

The new position is part of a national trend, says Damon Williams, a University of Connecticut official who has studied higher-education diversity efforts. In the last two years, he says, universities have been creating CDO jobs at a rapid pace in an effort to catch up to the corporate world. The university CDOs' roles vary widely, Williams says, from a lone officer with perhaps an administrative assistant to fully staffed diversity offices that oversee related functions, such as the campus women’s center or the affirmative action office.

Yale’s model falls in the middle. At many schools, the officer is a vice president or deputy provost. González works in the human resources department and reports to associate vice president and chief human resources officer Rob Schwartz. “That the role is centered in human resources says something very critical to me,” observes UConn’s Williams. “It says the role is focused on recruitment. It is not centrally located in the provost’s office in a way that can focus on the educational benefits of diversity—how does it relate to our scholarship, our pedagogy?” Yale has a deputy provost, Kim Bottomly, who is charged with improving faculty diversity, among other responsibilities. (See Light & Verity, January/February 2006.) As CDO, González will focus on staff diversity and on supporting Bottomly. She will also oversee the university’s child care, disabilities, and equal employment opportunity offices.

Locals 34 and 35 of the Federation of University and Hospital Employees have complained about a lack of staff diversity, particularly when it comes to Latinos. With González’s hiring, “the unions are hopeful that the university is actually taking some leadership,” says spokeswoman Annemarie Strassel. “We hope there will be some kind of process for talking with workers, talking with the unions, about what they would like to see.”

With 20-plus years in the diversity field, González is well-versed in “the evolution of diversity,” starting with anti-discrimination laws and then affirmative action. Next comes what she calls “leveraging diversity. Research shows that initially, homogeneous groups will tend to outperform heterogeneous groups. Homogeneous groups tend to look alike and think alike and have similar experiences, so they make decisions right away. But over time, it’s the heterogeneous groups that will outperform them—because with diversity comes better ideas, more creativity, more innovation, leading to more effective problem-solving.”

The last evolutionary step, González says, is “inclusion. Now we’re looking at systems in your organization: are there barriers that are keeping groups from contributing?”

The strategic plan will set annual goals for accomplishing all this. But González's vision is for Yale’s diversity efforts to become “self-directed, self-managed—integrated into every part of the institution.” If that happens, then Nydia González will have worked herself out of a job.  the end





All the Right Moves

Will Mayhew is a seasoned contender. Two years ago he played on the team from Flanders Elementary School (East Lyme, Connecticut) that won the first-grade state chess championship, and you don’t survive that kind of competition on looks alone. But at this year’s state tournament, held March 24–25 in Payne Whitney Gym, Will found that in third grade, the going gets tougher.

About 300 chess players, including about 250 children, took part in the tournament, the first to be held at Yale. The gym’s Lanman Center afforded ample room for a players' section (no parents allowed) and a waiting section. The running track on the upper deck was ideal for blowing off steam after a rough endgame.

Jim Celone '83, who ran the tournament (with the Yale College Chess Club and other groups), is a high-school AP math teacher and founder of a company called Educational Technologies, which places high-school and college students in southern Connecticut public schools as chess coaches. Chess, he says, helps children learn critical thinking, abstract reasoning, concentration, and decision making. Plus, “it’s great interaction between real live human beings, as opposed to the video game crowd.”

As for Will, he and his teammates did it again: in the combined second- and third-grade competition, Flanders took first place.





Campus Clips

Two San Francisco Men pled not guilty to felony assault charges in a New Year’s Eve incident involving members of Yale’s Baker’s Dozen singing group. Prosecutors said that although five men were identified as suspects, there was not enough evidence to charge the other three. No charges were filed in the assault on the most seriously injured member of the group, Sharyar Aziz Jr. '10, whose jaw was broken. Aziz has filed a lawsuit against all five alleged attackers.

Applicants to Yale College were 0.8 percent less likely to be rejected this year. The 1,860 candidates admitted to the Class of 2011 represented 9.6 percent of the 19,323 applicants, a rate slightly higher than last year’s record-low 8.9 percent. Yale was the only Ivy school whose admission rate rose this year.

Professors complained at a February 1 faculty meeting about the university copying documents from their computers—part of a federal investigation of how Yale has handled grant funds. (See Light & Verity, Sept/Oct) The general counsel’s office says the document review is necessary to comply with the subpoenas, but some at the meeting called the reviews an invasion of privacy.

The art history building now under construction next to the Art and Architecture Building will be called the Jeffrey Loria Center for the History of Art, it was announced in March. Art dealer and Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey H. Loria '62 gave an undisclosed amount to fund the building’s construction. It is to be completed in July 2008.

Budding businesspeople will get lessons in starting their own ventures this summer at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute. The ten-week program for under-graduate and graduate students will include lectures and networking opportunities with business leaders, faculty, and venture capitalists.


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