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Graduate Students

Historic Michigan Campaign Under Way

 A victory for this high profile group of academic employees would be a victory for every cohort of unrepresented research assistants across the country.

Faculty, Grad Employee Contracts Rejected

On May 7, the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education voted down contracts for faculty and graduate assistants at the University of Rhode Island. 

Amicus Brief Supports Collective Bargaining Rights for Graduate Students

The AAUP filed an amicus brief with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in July arguing that graduate assistants at private institutions should be considered employees with collective bargaining rights.

AAUP Committee Endorses October 15 Graduate Employee Day of Action

On Thursday, October 15, 2015 graduate employees at universities throughout the country are standing up in defense of their right to form unions and bargain collectively with their employers. The AAUP Committee on Graduate and Professional Students issued a statement a statement of solidarity in support of this day of action. 

What Do Graduate Employee Unions Have to Do with Academic Freedom?

Only a minority of graduate employees in the United States have collective bargaining representation, and for that lucky minority, collective bargaining agreements rarely contain explicit protections for academic freedom. Existing contract language at strong and long-established unions such as my own provides due process protections and guarantees against arbitrary termination; these protections, however, fall very short of securing genuine academic freedom. Graduate employee unions have reasonably focused on economic priorities to ensure continued access to graduate education: improved stipends, health care, and childcare, and security for tuition waivers. However, as academic freedom and shared governance increasingly face renewed challenges from the corporate university, the need to secure academic freedom protections in a binding labor contract has never been more pressing.

Graduate Student Academic Freedom and the Apprenticeship Myth

In fall 2009, my university’s newly hired director of programs in professional writing circulated a survey asking business writing instructors to note which of the long list of tasks, skills, and assignments they taught in their classes. Many of us blithely responded to the survey: what harm could come from his desire to know the overlaps and discontinuities amongst the program’s instructors, many of whom had been teaching these courses for years? By early spring 2010, we learned that he was not simply gathering information. He announced that he “likely [would] define the core content” of the two major business writing courses, a move that would impose “an instructional core ... of ten weeks.” The survey apparently had been either our only major opportunity to help shape this core or flimsy evidence to justify changes the new director already had planned. His e-mail did assure us that “the program is not proposing or adopting a single pedagogy for all sections”; he merely was dictating 70 percent of what we would teach.

Paranoia and Professionalization: The Importance of Graduate Student Academic Freedom

As one faculty member in my department often reminds me, graduate students are in an inherently paranoid position. The balancing act of teaching and coursework, the inscrutable whims of a dissertation director, and the heartless machinations of “the University” can all portend our demise. We imagine ourselves tenuously holding on, one unfinished chapter or poorly taught class from being unceremoniously dumped into the overeducated, underqualified mass of jobless failed scholars (perhaps an even worse fate than that of those unemployed academics who have finished their PhDs). In short, the pressures of graduate school turn us into the self-conscious subjects for whom there need be no watchful eye manning the panopticon: Chimerical scrutiny leads many graduate students to unwarranted stress.

AAUP Opposes NLRB Rule That Would Limit Graduate Organizing

The AAUP submitted comments to the National Labor Relations Board opposing a proposed rule that would bar many graduate assistants from engaging in collective bargaining. The AAUP’s comments clearly demonstrate that graduate assistants have the right to unionize because they are employees under the National Labor Relations Act and that unionization advances their academic freedom. We urge the National Labor Relations Board to reject the proposed rule.


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