Letters

That sound you hear is an exasperated Al Gore sigh.

Bill Keller
Managing Editor
The New York Times


Working Class

Norah Vincent's column entitled "NYU's Labor Pains" [October 10] drastically misrepresents the reality of the graduate student workers' relationship to New York University. NYU provides a minimal stipend to graduate student assistants that averages only about $11,000 a year for teaching classes, grading papers, developing lecture plans, running labs, and researching, among other work. Sounds like a job description for a professor, right? And remember, those tasks are on top of students' own class schedules, comprehensive exams, and writing of their final thesis.

By pretending these employees are just students, NYU gets away with paying far below a living wage. But make no mistake about it—graduate student teaching and research assistants are workers. The National Labor Relations Board saw through NYU's weak argument earlier this year when it allowed a vote on the question of unionization. Since NYU appealed the April vote, the outcome is still unknown. NYU should stop its legal maneuvers and recognize graduate student assistants for what they are: teachers, researchers, and workers—and compensate them as such.

Christine C. Quinn
Councilmember
3rd District
Manhattan


Graduate Assistance

Norah Vincent's "NYU's Labor Pains" came out on a day on which 600 graduate assistants, clerical and technical staff, and John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, were rallying at NYU for union rights. Ms. Vincent chose to ignore this action, just as she declined to interview any graduate assistants regarding their conditions. She did, however, interview me, and she ignored or misrepresented what I said. Ms. Vincent's claims that housing is a "good deal" at NYU and that health care costs are not "onerous" are simply her own opinions.

I stated explicitly to Ms. Vincent that NYU charges $900 per person per month for a shared studio apartment, dorm style, where spouses or partners are not allowed. This is not a good deal in any rental market, let alone New York City. Regarding health care, I explained that although NYU has provided some relief for some employees, albeit unlawfully and without bargaining with the union, there are still many other workers who pay from $1100 a year for individual coverage to $5000 per year for families. Having to pay 25 to 50 percent of your pretax income for family coverage is onerous.

Lisa Jessup
Organizer, UAW Local 2110
Manhattan

Norah Vincent replies: Neither Quinn nor Jessup is right to say that I misrepresented the facts, since they quote the same figures I gave. According to NYU, less than 10 percent of graduate assistants use university housing. Of those who do, only a small number share studios, and these studios are large—450 to 510 square feet. A quick glance at the Voice's rentals section shows that smaller studios in NYU's neighborhood usually go for more like $1300 to $1700, if you're lucky. As for health insurance, at $1100 per year per person (and for many grad students it's only $700), you're way ahead of the game. I'm a member of the National Writers Union, and I pay $3240 per year for myself alone—and that doesn't include dues.


Tabloid Temptations

The timing of Peter Noel's article "The Last Temptation of Minister Benjamin" [October 10] was inappropriate in light of last week's Million Family March. I'm sure Noel knew of the allegations against Nation of Islam Minister Benjamin Muhammad long before publishing this story. The key to the story is the word "allegations." Nothing has been proven, and your decision to go with this story shows your unfairness to the black Muslim community and your goal to become a national tabloid.

Dennis Byron
Manhattan


Pointe of Honor

In response to Elizabeth Zimmer's October 17 Short List item on Julio Bocca and Ballet Argentino: Please, the group is from Argentina, not Brazil.

They represent our people, our art, and our history to the world.

Juan Manuel Romero
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Elizabeth Zimmer replies: I'm sorry. I know the difference between Argentinians and Brazilians. I slipped.


Some Crust

While I am respectful of Charles McNulty's various criticisms of "Snapshots 2000," a group of seven playlets at the Worth Street Theater Company ["Anything in Your Shorts?" October 17], in one detail he went too far.

It is untrue that only one pie is used for Peter Hedges's The Age of Pie. In fact, three pies are thrown about the stage. And not three single-serve little tortes—no, three humongous cream pies of the chocolate and banana cream variety that would overstuff the caloric intake of a theaterful of folks, not to mention the eight actors onstage. And while Mr. Hedges's published stage directions state eight, we believe that our three giant pies are equivalent to eight smallish pies any day. That's 2.8 actors per pie—pies whose purpose is to be licked and splashed in a 30-second ritual.

Trust me when I tell you it's more than enough. How do I know? I get to clean the mess up after every performance

Jeff Cohen
Director/Janitor
"Snapshots 2000"
Manhattan

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