Board Room

Board Room

News bulletin: Within a one-block radius of Yale’s Cross Campus, the university maintains at least six public bulletin boards, each a point of convergence between the school and the city.

Current bulletins include a help-wanted message tacked to the board on Rose Walk, offering $25 an hour for part-time work at a Whalley Avenue car wash. At Elm Street and High, a self-published author hawks a book about navigating the legal system in run-on xeroxed handwriting. On the board outside the Yale Women’s Center, 19 different flyers offer payment and possible health benefits for participating in various research studies. On the board at Old Campus’s western gate, a grainy, cryptic image of a retro UFO beams you, via QR code, to an open letter addressed to Elon Musk.

As unruly as they may seem, these boards are in fact governed by regulations, a few of which—including a 14” x 17” cap on poster sizes and a limit of one unique poster per board—are explained on placards fixed to the boards themselves. Other rules, spelled out in detail online, include a prohibition on removing, defacing or blocking other people’s messages as well as a notice that promoters should expect the stuff they post to be removed within a week.

In theory, the regulations should balance the needs and interests of a diverse and multifaceted community at Yale and beyond, ensuring fair access for those with something to say and a variety of messages for those who are listening. In practice, the rules are frequently ignored. During the height of the school year, competition is fierce; a poster or flyer might be lucky to enjoy a few days’ visibility before getting buried. During the summer, there’s much less jostling, but that doesn’t guarantee people will play by the rules. This week on the Rose Walk board, a notice for Speaking into Being: Beyond Asian Silence, an upcoming exhibition at the Yale School of Architecture, speaks its beautifully printed message across two long strips of canvas. The rumpled strips hang like scrolls, rising and falling with the breeze. Unfortunately, they also far exceed the maximum allotted dimensions, occupying more than an eighth of what is a very large bulletin board.

You might be inclined to give such an artful effort a pass, but it’s harder to do that with what is by far the most excessive space violation on the board, even if you agree with its message: a set of 16 bold red and white posters, emblazoned either with “Yale: Respect Our Library” or “Yale: Respect Our Unions,” that gobble up roughly half of the total board room. Part of an effort by the Local 34 and Local 35 unions (representing clerical and technical workers and service and maintenance workers at Yale, respectively) to pressure the university to reverse “propos cuts to our union standard” and hire more locals, among other goals, the mass of red and white tiles eclipses and sidelines other materials promoting performances, businesses, other activist projects. The unions’ messaging blitz is even more extreme near Cross Campus’s Noah Porter Gate and Harkness Hall, where entire bulletin boards are plastered with the same posters. As fragments of buried flyers peek through, struggling to be seen, a couple of people have dared to challenge the red/white hegemony, but only with single flyers of their own.

Of course, it’s possible the unions are just taking advantage of board space that would otherwise go largely unused during summer’s ebb. And with the fall semester imminent, it won’t be long before students and others are repopulating Yale and its bulletin boards. Teams and groups will need to drum up new members. Theaters and bars will need to fill seats. Houses of worship will need to summon their flocks. The bulletin boards will again be overwhelmed by the converging of our community.

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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