Saturday, May 27, 2006
Foundation Rescinds Book Award to Death by a Thousand Cuts Because of Co-Author's Opposition to Unionization of Yale Graduate Students
Yesterday, we blogged the Yale press release (dated 5/23/06) stating that Michael J. Graetz (Yale) & Ian Shapiro (Yale) had won the Sidney Hillman Foundation Award for their book Death by a Thousand Cuts: The Fight over Taxing Inherited Wealth (Princeton University Press, 2005). According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the foundation at the last minute rescinded the award because of Shapiro's opposition to the unionization of Yale graduate students. From Book Prize Is Yanked From Yale Professors Over Author's Role in Graduate-Student Labor Dispute, by Jennifer Howard:
Two Yale University professors, Ian Shapiro and Michael J. Graetz, expected to receive a 2006 Sidney Hillman Award on Tuesday at a ceremony in New York City. Instead, they got phone calls on Tuesday morning telling them that the judges had reversed the decision to honor the professors' book on the repeal of the estate tax....
The telephone calls came from Bruce Raynor, president of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, which sponsors the awards....
Mr. Raynor told the authors that the last-minute reversal had been based on information that came to light about Mr. Shapiro's dealings with members of GESO, the Graduate Employees and Students Organization, in its efforts to organize a graduate-student union at Yale in the 1990s....
Mr. Graetz and Mr. Shapiro pointed out that the book, which was published last year by Princeton University Press, does not address labor organizing. "There is no connection to GESO at all," Mr. Graetz said. "This book has absolutely nothing to do with the graduate students."...
The move toward rethinking the award began last week. On Thursday, May 18, the Hillman Foundation ran an advertisement in The New York Times listing the 2006 winners in several categories: book, magazine, broadcast, photojournalism, newspaper, and blog, a new category this year. Mr. Shapiro's and Mr. Graetz's book was listed as the winner in the book category. Although Mr. Shapiro and Mr. Graetz had written "an excellent book," Mr. Raynor told The Chronicle, the decision came down to "more than just the words on the page."
Mr. Meyerson [one of the judges] read a statement he delivered Tuesday night at the awards ceremony. "Normally judges evaluate the dancer, not the dance," he said. "What we tried to do in the excruciatingly limited time available to us was to gauge the severity and credibility of the allegations. ... A crucial factor for us was that the National Labor Relations Board in the region issued a complaint against several Yale professors, and Professor Shapiro most particularly, for these actions."
As Mr. Meyerson and Mr. Shapiro both noted, the labor board
never adjudicated the graduate students' complaint because their labor action failed to meet certain legal criteria. "There was never any hearing on the merits of the complaint," Mr. Shapiro said. "People like me never got to come into a hearing and say, What's the evidence that I threatened anyone?"
Mr. Meyerson said he had consulted with a friend who was a labor lawyer, who told him that "such a complaint would not have been issued if the NLRB attorneys had not found the claims to be credible and meritorious." In the end, Mr. Meyerson and the other judges concluded that "Professor Shapiro's actions rose to a level that required the rethinking of the award."
"What we came down to was that the book was eminently qualified to win many other awards," he said, but did not fit the criteria of the Hillman Prize.