Subtext of a Yale Education

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Wed Aug 11 11:54:51 MDT 1999

The film discussed below may be of interest to listers.   Yoshie

>Date:         Wed, 11 Aug 1999 11:10:34 -0400
>Sender: H-Net Labor History Discussion List <H-LABOR at H-NET.MSU.EDU>
>Subject:      Subtext of a Yale Education
>From: Andor Skotnes <skotna at>
>The attached was just posted to the Scholars, Writers, and Artists
>for Social Justice (SAWSJ) list.  It is a message from filmmaker Laura
>Dunn about her documentary on the labor struggles at Yale.  As you will
>read, Dunn made this film as an undergraduate participant in these
>struggles.  I saw the documentary at the SAWSJ conference and think it is,
>without qualification, terrific.  I urge you all to check it out.
>Laura Dunn writes:
>To ALL SAWSJ contenders:
>I was fortunate enough to present my documentary film THE SUBTEXT OF A
>YALE EDUCATION at this year's SAWSJ conference held in April at Yale
>University.  At least 100 people viewed the film, and I want to thank you
>all for such an enthusiastic reception.  As promised, and long overdue, I
>am sending out an e-mail with an update on the project and its
>availability for purchase.
>The film has been selected for the International NextFrame Film Festival,
>perhaps the best known festival for student films in the world.  It will
>premier at the Harvard Film Archive the first week of August and
>subsequently tour with various other films to over 20 cities
>Additionally, the film has been submitted to five other festivals and
>student competitions.
>Here in Austin, the statewide AFL-CIO hosted a screening which drew out a
>healthy crowd of the most marginalized people in Austin.  We had a three
>hour discussion following the screening.  In September, the Yale Alumni
>Association of Austin will sponsor a screening to kick off its Fall Events
>schedule.  This should be most interesting
>I do not yet have a distributor for the film, but upon high demand,  I
>have decided to distribute the film myself for the time being.  For a $30
>donation, I will mail you a VHS copy of the film.  Please make checks
>payable to LAURA DUNN, and send them to the following address:
>                        305 Moore Blvd.
>                        Austin, TX 78705
>With any questions or concerns, please contact me via e-mail:
>kofi at
>Included here is a film synopsis and basic contact information:
>Title:  The Subtext of a Yale Education
>Directed by: Laura Dunn
>MFA candidate in Film/Video Production
>University of Texas at Austin, Dept. of Radio-Televison-Film
>Address:  305 Moore Blvd. Austin, TX 78705
>Phone:  (512) 499-0190
>E-mail: kofi at
>Genre:  Documentary
>Running Time: 31 minutes
>Original Format:  Beta SP
>a documentary;  running time: 31 minutes
>SUBTEXT chronicles two years in labor relations at Yale through the
>director's point of view.  Dunn, a junior at Yale when the conflict
>ensues, interviews workers, administrators, students and professors in an
>effort to make sense of the dissonance on campus.  The film opens with
>Freshmen invocation intercut with a custodian cleaning a dorm bathroom.  A
>quote from a documentary textbook introduces the title:
>        Beneath the visible and audible surface, which we might call the
>text of the situation, lies the subtext, or hidden meaning, something we
>are always seeking...
>                                        (Michael Rabiger).
>This tension, between the serene, prestigious experience of the students
>and the hostile, humiliating experience of the workers, defines Dunn's
>Yale education and thus the film.  Structured like an academic paper, the
>chronology of events unfolds through five different chapters.  In the
>first chapter, entitled FACTS, the film intercuts interviews with
>administrators and union officials hashing out the issues on the table.
>In sum, Yale has unprecedented financial gains yet aims to introduce
>subcontracting into the work force.  Perhaps a common market trend, Yale
>workers, most of whom live in New Haven (the fourth poorest major city in
>America), embrace a long hard fight to maintain their wages and benefits.
>In subsequent chapters, union members visit and protest a meeting of the
>Yale Corporation, strike for two months, and march with national leaders
>such as Jesse Jackson and AFL-CIO president John Sweeney.  As the
>chronology builds, Dunn interviews professors and graduate students about
>the ethics of higher education.  The main thesis of the piece is revealed
>through these interviews:  corporate influences on higher education are
>rendering a generation apathetic to the plight of poor people.  The film
>culminates with Yale's 295th Commencement.  As graduates march in cap and
>gown,  Jesse Jackson marches in protest with the unions and 5,000
>supporters from around the country.
>The epilogue conveys that although Dunn receives her education, the unions
>face setbacks as subcontracting is introduced into the work force.
>Thanks for your support and interest.
>Best,  Laura

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