Yale University told 20 news organizations last week that reporters covering the university strike must ask permission before entering Yale buildings, but two law students successfully challenged the policy today with a 9:30 a.m. news conference in a dormitory bathroom.
Three local television crews filmed law student Larry Friedman brushing his teeth in the bathroom, which has not been cleaned since the strike by technical and clerical workers began Sept. 26. Custodial and dining hall employes have honored the picket lines from the first day of the strike.
Only one news editor, Alex Crippen of WVIT-TV NBC in New Britain, asked Yale's permission to enter the building.
Steven Kevarian, the assistant director of Yale's public information office, said he had understood that the students wanted to show reporters their dormitory rooms and had granted permission to Crippen. If he had known that the news conference was to be held in the bathroom, Kevarian said, the answer would have been no.
"The rules about the news media are to protect the privacy of students and everybody else in the Yale community," Kevarian said. "My question about the public bathroom is the surprise factor. You're trespassing in a very intimate way on students' lives.
"Usually when the striking employes or the students who support them invite the press into Yale buildings, they are figuring out ways to embarrass the university, and the press is very eager to get those pictures. This press conference was obviously a way for them to get in and see what's going on."
The Yale policy stated in the press advisory says: "Generally speaking the university is inclined not to grant access to Yale property by reporters, particularly television camera crews, while they are covering the negotiations and the strike."
Dick Ahles, news director at WFSB, the CBS affiliate in Hartford, said he had not been aware that the New Haven bureau chief was supposed to ask Yale's permission before filming the bathroom. "I love this little discrimination against the television crews. If they really meant that I would be mad," he added.
Ahles said he has advised the New Haven bureau chief to cover both sides fairly during the strike. "But Yale is much more difficult to get to," he said. "Yale doesn't talk, and when it does, it goes on the Phil Donahue Show" -- a reference to Yale President A. Bartlett Giamatti's appearance on the morning television talk show last week.
In a letter to Giamatti, the two organizers of the news conference, Sam Mandel and Jeffrey Colon, asked that the charges for food and custodial services be deleted from all law students' bursars' bills, which arrived in their mailboxes last week.
"We try to clean the bathroom," Friedman said, "but if we don't clean it, it doesn't get done."
United Press International reported that other law school and graduate students, contending their "academic and social communities have been shattered" by the strike, mounted a drive to withhold tuition payments due Nov. 30.
With Yale undergraduates paying $14,000 annually in tuition and fees, the withholding by 250 students of their spring tuition payment would exceed $1 million, graduate student spokesman Tom Keenan said.