Scare Tactics

The latest kerfuffle at Yale University involves the school’s police union, which distributed a flyer to incoming students asserting that crime and violence in New Haven were “shockingly high” and “getting worse,” and stopped just short of claiming that walking the streets of the city at night was akin to playing blindfolded hopscotch in a Ukrainian minefield.  University and public officials were appalled (CNN online, August 26th). 

Let’s turn down the burner under this teapot, shall we?

Making provocative claims has long been standard practice in union-management skirmishes in higher education.  Here’s a sampling from the past decade:

Wellesley College, 2015 — Dining hall workers threatened that they could not guarantee the freshness of the arugula, kale, or Bibb lettuce served in the cafeteria salad bar if their wages remained stagnant.  In a press release, the union stated that “Health-conscious Wellesley students are likely to encounter slimy, oozing greens in the weeks to come, a mucous mess resembling the bubbling contents of a La Brea tar pit.  And diners shouldn’t even look at the adjacent tubs of decomposing blue cheese and ranch dressings.  There are no words to describe what could be metastasizing in there.”

Florida State University, 2018 — Students returning to FSU in the fall found notices in every campus bathroom warning them that Brazilian Leaping Piranha had been discovered in toilet bowls across the university.  The flyers indicated that “two or three Leaping Piranha can shred a pair of adult human buttocks in less than 40 seconds.  Your posterior could be the next victim.  Never sit directly ON an FSU toilet seat; hover several inches above it when doing your business.”  This message came from disgruntled members of the Facilities union, who were planning to strike. 

Marquette University, 2022 — Individuals entering the school’s main library were greeted by a poster proclaiming that “over 7500 college students die every year from paper cuts caused by library books and journals whose page-edges have not been properly varnished by qualified library professionals.  Don’t put yourself at risk.  March with us to the President’s house on Saturday to demand funds for additional library staff.  Or would you rather bleed out in the stacks, with the dust-covered, razor-paged biographies of Robert Louis Stevenson, Samuel Johnson, and Virginia Woolf being the only witnesses to your demise?  It’s your decision.”

Take a deep breath, Yalies.  The chances are good you’ll survive the fall semester.