Cornell Graduate Student Union and At What Cost representatives present their platforms and address graduate students' concerns surrounding unionization at a question and answer session held in Olin Hall Thursday.

Michael Suguitan / Sun Staff Photographer

Cornell Graduate Student Union and At What Cost representatives present their platforms and address graduate students' concerns surrounding unionization at a question and answer session held in Olin Hall Thursday.

March 23, 2017

As Unionization Vote Approaches, Graduate Students Tackle Remaining Concerns

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With the unionization recognition vote just days away, members from At What Cost, Cornell Graduate Students United and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly discussed the the varying issues that surround the election in a town hall format on Thursday.

The Engineering Graduate Student Association held the town hall information session for graduate students, allowing members of CGSU, AWC and GPSA to give presentations and answer questions.

During the question and answer portion of the town hall, the three groups responded to both prepared questions sent by graduate students and fielded questions from audience members.

One audience member noted that the discussions both at the town hall and in the past have centered around the question of whether Cornell graduate students should unionize. He wanted to hear why graduate students should have CGSU specifically as their union.

That audience member was not alone in his concern.

Current GPSA members — Teja Bollu, grad, and Aravind Natarajan, grad — explained that while they support unionization in general, they were critical of CGSU’s constitution.

“I am not confident in [CGSU’s] ability to perform the duty that they’re saying that they’re going to do. A critical part of this is a clear problem with their constitution,” Bollu said. “The reason I keep pulling up the constitution because this is the only governing document that we have … we know how they’re going to function.”

A specific component of the constitution that worried Natarajan was the voting procedures currently outlined in the constitution. This structure bases voting on a set number of people rather than a percentage — the way GPSA votes.

“For anything except the [initial] referendum to be passed, you only need 20 people in quorum in a room out of which the majority has to vote. Which means leadership positions, which means amendments can be passed with 20 people in the room unless it’s a referendum,” Natarajan said.

In defense of this component of the contract, Jaron Kent-Dobias, grad, explained that an amendment to the constitution is “by no means a final product.”

Paul Berry, grad, added that as a new organization, their process is not exactly comparable to that of GPSA.

“I think that these types of issues — as opposed to looking at the GPSA which has existed for 40 some years and probably longer than that and has very clear established policies — these are things we’re working to clarify and to address as we move forward,” he said.

In working toward clarifying and addressing these issues, Berry said that CGSU aims to “embody the democratic process.”

“CGSU started in someone’s basement in 2014. The constitution came out initially of an organization that had very few people that has grown as we move towards our election,” Berry said. “The constitution is an evolving document. But the core idea is that we embody the democratic process within the organization, that we have an active participation of membership in creating, drafting and modifying the constitution.”

Another issue that both the prepared questions and audience members sought clarification on was that of paying dues.

Nicole Wiles, grad, focused much of her presentation on behalf of At What Cost on dues, the central critique At What Cost has levied against CGSU.

Michaela Brangan, grad, administrative liaison for CGSU, explained that dues are split under union fees — what she referred to as “servicing fee” — and local dues paid to CGSU.

Dues paid to American Federation of Teachers and New York State United Teachers would be required for members within the bargaining unit.

Because membership in unions is considered a choice under the National Labor Relations Act, local dues would be required for members only. However, in order to serve a leadership role within CGSU, a student would have to pay local dues in addition to union dues, according to Brangan.

“The contract itself is going to benefit everyone and there’s a large representation across the board but deciding what’s in the contract and all these structural things like electing who’s going to be bargaining committee — that’s members, that’s a member’s privilege,” Brangan said. “I would encourage people to pay the little amount extra to support the local dues.”

In response to the fundamental question of why unionization and why CGSU, Berry elaborated on his background as a GPSA member to encourage his fellow graduate students.

“Why this union? This union has power. Personally I spent years in the GPSA passing resolutions about dental coverage, workers’ compensation; and these things have not been resolved. I’ve added a year plus onto my degree program trying to improve policies for everyone here and have not gotten anywhere,” Berry said. “The union gives us the ability to create an organization to change those things, to work together and grow that over time.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misquoted Kent-Dobias stating that the CGSU constitution is not a final product. In fact, he said that an amendment to the constitution is not a final product.

  • Worried

    Cornell Graduate students are smart – they are now seeing through all of the false promises of the union. Can be enticing when someone is making a lot of attractive pledges, but then troubling when you start to realize they are getting paid with some other suckers union dues to make promises to you that they can’t keep.

    • Actually Listening

      Did you even attend this event? Cornell students are smart – smart enough to look at the data, and see that everything CGSU asserts is not only reasonable, but backed up by existing contracts and peer-reviewed research. Unions improve faculty-student relationships – we have the research to back that up. Every single student on contract gets a raise on top of their personal previous salary greater than the cost of dues, not just those on minimum, and we have the contracts to back it up. We can look at the healthcare in the UC system, NYU, Oregon State, and many others and see that it blows ours out of the water. This was all in the presentation, and on the union website.

      There are many questions to ask before knowing if unionization is right, but these questions have answers. It’s your right to ask them, just like it’s also your right to cover your ears and shout when the data is presented. You can continue to live in the dark, at an institution that won’t make you any promises at all about your compensation, nor let you have any real power in deciding what it should be.

      • John

        But they showed data that NYU, a unionized private university that CGSU likes to talk about still gets paid lesser than Cornell grads?! So much for data backing up claims.

        • Actually Listening

          Yet their first contract won a 38% increase on the minimum stipend and 4% raises to ALL contracts for the next four years, and 100% of health care cost paid [1]. Just think where they’d be without a union. The logic (and uncited data) you use doesn’t make any sense to me! Why not make things better for all Cornell grads now? And with the cost of housing increasing at 13% [2] in Ithaca, why not make sure we have a say in guaranteeing our compensation stay competitive?

          [1]https://makingabetternyu.org/2013/11/21/tbt-2002-nyu-teaching-assistants-win-major-gains-in-first-ever-contract-at-private-university/

          [2]Why Is Ithaca One of the Least Affordable US Cities? By Michael Nocella Apr 23, 2014 on Ithaca.com (I have to wait for mod approval if I include more than one link)

          • Actually Listening

            3.5-4%, point still stands.

  • grad

    The union is more like a Ponzi Scheme in my opinion. The American Federation of Teachers and New York State Union of Teachers probably invested millions to help the union to form at Cornell so that they can collect millions of dues back. The collected dues will then be used to support other unions in other universities.
    What will the graduate students get from the union? Very likely nothing. It’s true that there are many problems at Cornell for graduate students. But will all the problems be magically solved by the union overnight? The union is trying to create an illusive utopia for the graduate students as if everything will be great with a union formed.
    I don’t know who is going to benefit from the union. Probably some arrivistes in the union or their funding agencies, but definitely not Cornell graduate students.

    • Grad Worker at Cornell

      Agency fees paid by a local largely go toward servicing the contract, as explained above. It is against the law for dues to be used in ways that do not benefit the payer, and that has to be accounted for.

      Some small proportion of money does go to “head office,” and you’re right. That money is allocated to support union campaigns elsewhere, including other grad campaigns, which are increasing across the nation. What’s wrong with that?

      At that rate, it will take a decade or two for the money spent on this campaign to be paid “back.”

      CGSU members voted on whether to affiliate with AFT, UAW, SEIU, CWA, or Unite Here. We voted to affiliate with AFT based on the fact that AFT’s model is of autonomous locals and we will be chartered as one when we win. That is an agreement we have with AFT.

      No union contract in history has ever left a group worse off than before the contract. This is in particular the case for first contracts, which begin the cycle with initial pay increases often amounting to well over 10% (See, for example, NYU’s grad union contract in 2002).

      The last-minute bluster and scaremongering of people who know nothing about how unions, dues and contracts work is really starting to get on my nerves. Or maybe they do but they are being disingenuously anti-union or have some personal ax to grind. Doesn’t matter. It’s annoying.

      You pay over $85 per year in grad student activity fees, which even GPSA members say pays for “popcorn at the Big Red Barn and Cornell Cinema, that’s it” (and I quote–really? $85 for that and you admit it?); your tuition dollars flow disproportionately and unaccountably to administrative, not educational, interests that are rarely, if ever, given any opportunity to be vetted by you but very much affect you; you pay other fees without even knowing about it that don’t have anything to do with you. And you are willing simply chalk that up to, I don’t know, the hidden cost of being a grad student.

      But when costs are actually transparent and are required BY LAW to benefit the payer in concrete ways–unions have public bylaws, public budgets, and the opportunity for proportional representation and influence on the local and national level–you start panicking? So what if dues exist? Things cost money–nothing is free. What they have “bought” in countless other contracts are negotiating power and the ability enforce your interests. They also are never not worth it monetarily, on balance, compared to the status quo–that would defeat the entire point of getting the legal right to collectively bargain.

      That’s just how these contracts work. You can find them online.

      Institutions never want their low-paid essential workers to organize because it makes their labor more expensive and they are currently profiting hugely off of us, both teaching and research.

      If it were just a matter of us paying out of pocket, the university wouldn’t care if we shot ourselves in the foot–in fact, I’m pretty sure that if it were us paying dues for nothing, they would let it take care of itself. They would shrug their shoulders. They clearly are not.

      • Grad STUDENT

        The activity fee is completely transparent, you can find a breakdown of all the byline funded groups online. I don’t know who said that about popcorn but they’re an idiot. Every cent is decided on by students. And if your own field has a field org, they get their money from the activity fee too. And if you don’t like paying so much, actually find out who your rep is and advocate for reductions. Just be prepared to fight the students who actually like what the fee pays for.

        Also, Cornell is non profit, so they are not profiting off of our labor here.

        Finally, union reps seem to clam up when confronted with the fact that students who are paid above minimum have no way of knowing if they will actually get an offset for dues they have to pay. Our stipends are set to be competitive within our field already. Many fields are the highest paid for their discipline across universities nationally and globally. No, this is not scare mongering, this is a backlash against a union shoved down our throats for two years.

      • grad

        Here is where your dues money goes. This “small” amount that goes to the “head office” doesn’t seem so small! “American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, who was paid $543,150 last year, defended her compensation by claiming her pay is $360,000 and other reported expenses simply prove the union’s “transparency.”” http://mediatrackers.org/national/2014/04/29/teachers-union-boss-randi-weingarten-salary-360000

      • Teja Bollu

        I appreciate your willingness to talk about finances and where the money is spent, and your support for what you believe are justified fees.

        However, it is this sort of rhetoric used against critics “The last-minute bluster and scaremongering of people … ” that puts into question the ability of CGSUs members to respond to criticism and to engage in respectful debate.

        In addition, you clearly mislead by omission, let us talk about where the student activity fee goes: Not only does it goes towards all student social “activities” (e.g Cornell Concert Commission, Big Red Barn Cornell Cinema, GPSA’s Programming Board), it also supports education missions for Emergency Medical Services and programs for dealing with Food Insecurity on Campus. Critically, this process is transparent, with every procedure listed clearly and with priorities of how these documents can be changed and amended (as a part of GPSA approriations procedures). This isn’t a “hidden” cost, every single dollar that get levied is questioned and debated for over three rounds before we vote on it in open session.

        You claim that the CGSU is financially transparent, could you you please point me to where your financial transparency rules are? Because I looked and I can’t find any. In fact there is no financial accountability of anyone built into any of your Governing Documents, except some vague references to an undefined finance committee. How do you expect us to trust you or your ability to govern? And more critically why this “scaremongering” and not a valid question to an organization that is asking to represent me?

        What is galling to me is the inability or unwillingness to take responsibility for your Organization and to have clear double standards when to comes to transparency, fair representation or frankly, respect.

        • Grad Worker at Cornell

          Double-standards abound as all humans are prone to their confirmation biases and feeling are running high.

          There are dues, they exist, their uses are transparent and regulated by law. Randi Weingarten is the elected president of an organization of 1.6 million people and her salary is a matter of public record–she still makes 300k less than the president of Cornell. Anyway, it is beyond me what the big deal is behind paying fees for something that benefits you and are negotiable and voted on. There is no instance in which the paying of dues ended up in a net loss for the payers with a union contract. Things cost money and we try to buy things that are worth the money we pay for them. Dues, inordinately so.

          Scaremongering about dues is exactly what is going on–it is the number one tactic in the anti-union playbook. Crying out “disrespectful!” when someone calls it that is also a diversionary tactic–it makes people forget to look at the data.

          Last night, people on the AWC side of the room MOCKED the ways in which CGSU members have been planning to get out the vote for their cohorts and departments–in groups. This is an effective civil rights era method, used by everyone from old church ladies in Alabama to tough-guy industrial unions for years. It was meant to belittle and was totally off-topic: clearly a dig.

          It was extremely disrespectful; no one said anything. Now you say that having the impression of bad-faith behavior on the anti-union side, in regard to their willfully misleading calculations of dues, and insinuations that dues aren’t accountable or are otherwise shady (not true), is disrespectful?

          Grads will see that there is no data whatsoever to support bad effects from grad union collective bargaining. That’s it.

          • Aravind Natarajan

            Let’s cut to chase. Here are straight-forward questions, that I hope you can supply direct answers to with regard to dues:

            1) You mention “Some small proportion of money does go to “head office,” and you’re right.”. How much is this small proportion? Your agreement with AFT has to have mentioned this!

            2) The “Base” stipend at Cornell is $25,000. I get paid $33,000. The Union dues will cost $600 (conservative estimate). The Union says it will bargain to raise stipend to cover the dues. That means the Base pay will rise to $25,600. But, can you guarantee that my pay (and the stipend that students in every department) will go up to cover the dues? Will the Union negotiate increase in stipends at every department to cover the cost of dues?

            3) What part of your Constitution ensures that there are checks and balances to how CGSU spends money? Where is the article that talks about financial accountability?

      • grad

        The biggest problem with the union is a lack of transparency.

        1. There is no rule about how are you going to spend the money to “serve the contract” By who? Through what procedure? I did not see any information on that. You probably will say we will discuss that later once the union is formed. But we can not vote for you before we know how you want to spend the money.

        2. There is no information so far about the amount of local dues you what the grad students to pay. $400/y? $500/y? No one knows.

        3. The so called “small proportion of money” is at least $400/y. If you time the money with ~2200 grad students at Cornell. It’s close to 1 M/y. And you say the money will be used to support union campaign elsewhere. And you ask me ” What’s wrong with that?” Of course it’s wrong! Why should our grad students spend out own money on campaigns elsewhere?

        4. You say it will take 10–20 years to get the money back. Then you mean the heading offices have spent ~ 10M–20M on this campaign! That’s a lot of investment! And the the heading offices are not philanthropist. Why they want to spend so much money to you?

        5. You say the NYU had an initial pay increase of 10%. It’s easy to cherry pick examples that support your claims. I looked up the union website. Many examples you show are not significant at all. And you can not make a guarantee that the Cornell students will have a 10%+ in stipend. You just use very vague words.

        6. The removal of a union is even more complicated if you don’t want it in the future. It requires at least 30% students to sign cards or a petition to hold a decertification election. However, while a contract is in effect, the union cannot be decertified, which normally last for at least 3 years. It’s not like the presidential elect, you don’t like Trump, you can vote him down after 4 years.

  • Jason

    At this point the union seems like a social club, that is and will be run at the expense of the “bargaining unit.” The town hall brought out some real concerns about holes in the union constitution. They, meaning the student CGSU representatives, are obviously not prepared as leaders. How will they fair when AFT leaves after the election? The 15 AFT organizers won’t be around to hold their hand and do their homework for them any more….

    • Grad Worker at Cornell

      Having bargaining power will be hands down a good and beneficial thing. We will be paying for any expert negotiating help we decide we need–that’s what agency fees are for. And criticizing bylaws is fine, but acting like its a deal-breaker is also assuming that every single modern democracy, including the US, should have been drowned in its infancy because its originary document isn’t perfect. That’s just naive and worrying over a non-problem. You, too, can propose an amendment that says “get rid of all the bylaws and start from scratch.” Get the support of enough people, maybe it’ll happen.

      Leaders are sourced from the membership, true, and they aren’t perfect (neither are any constitutions, including the US one). But if leaders weren’t from membership, we didn’t have any of our own bylaws, and we were being guided primarily by labor experts and/or a national union with its bylaws, you would ranting that AFT is controlling us like robots and we have no autonomy. OK.

      No one is holding our hands. We do our own homework. We affiliated with AFT to receive the organizing push we needed to talk to people for the election and to get support when we negotiate our contract. But that is an affiliation, not ownership.

      That town hall was actually useful in that it showed a) AWC has no idea how dues work b) their anti-union cronies only have mean rhetorical digs to fall back on regarding totally amendable bylaws, avoiding encounters with actual data that shows the clear benefits of collective bargaining, and c) some people think that “debates” produce truth and goodness, still, inexplicably, which I thought the 2016 presidential campaign disproved for all time.

      • Grad Worker at Cornell

        Also…. a social club with hundreds of people who don’t necessarily know each other, but some do? OK. Why would that run at the expense of the bargaining unit when the entire purpose of a labor union is to achieve what the bargaining unit wants in a contract? Ie, bargain?

        • Rebecca

          I was going to vote for the union until I learned yesterday that they cannot help with any problems I have with my advisor. Google says that Unions can only engage in work related concerns, and problems with my advisor are regarding my education, not work. This is a let down. And to also learn that there is going to be class divide within the members where some can pay extra dues for having their voice heard is terrible. I feel cheated by CGSU in its assurances. This is terrible.

      • Teja Bollu

        I find your dismissal of thoughtful nuanced conversation i.e. (debate) distressing. I hope you are not an officer in CGSU or that your words do not represent the thoughts of CGSU. Debate and consensus is the heart of any democracy and anyone who belittles its worth needs take a hard look at their commitment to fairness and rightful representation. In addition, your rhetoric violates all three of you founding guidelines of democracy, fairness and respect.

        I had extended discussions with members I was debating with before AND after the event, I also specifically asked them to fact check me and to convince me if i was wrong in my interpretations. I will attempt here once again to clarify my position:

        1. CGSU is asking me to VOTE YES to represent it.

        2. The only way i can know how the CGSU will operate and if it will be effective is by looking at its Governance Documents

        3. There are deep flaws in its Governance Documents that have been likely missed or not thought about, or not reviewed for over 3 years
        – These involve structural deficits for membership
        – These involve fundamental problems financial transparency of CGSU
        – No protections against subsections of CGSU taking over leadership positions
        – Draconian grievance procedures

        The CGSUs prime mandate would be negotiate a contract where language and procedures FOR THESE EXACT THINGS with the university will matter. Am i not to be worried about this?

        4. All evidence in the documents shows a lack of democracy in the Union, and some statements made by the CGSU are misleading by omission. For example, the statement is always “CGSU voted democratically to go with AFT”. Based on these documents, ~20 people sat in a room a couple of years ago and decided to send out a referendum to go with AFT (and that is fine). Don’t make it sound like all ~1000 members had a voice in that decision.

  • AFT wants my money

    The difference between member fees and agency fees suggests we have to pay a premium to have our voices heard and the Union. So much for empowering students

    • Grad Worker at Cornell

      If you don’t want to be a member of any organization, you don’t have to be. But everyone benefits from the bargaining contract.

      Local dues go towards supporting the local union. They are typical. But we could decide, actually, to not have local dues, or they could be minimal and a joke ($5 per year to buy beer). If that’s what wins over the membership, so be it.

      When we start deciding on that question, you could definitely bring up your above concern.

      • Money matters to me

        Do you understnd that $800 is a lot of money. That this is what puts a roof on r head!! Its easy to be privileged n ask fr things like dental n vision insurance when some of us have a hard time making ends meet. I hear once the Union is formed, everyone will be forced to pay the Union dues. NO WAY!!!

        • Money matters to me, which is why I’m voting yes

          Do you understand that in every contract I’ve seen, and with no reason to expect we would vote otherwise, unionization has involved raises to ALL students that completely cover the cost of all dues, plus an additional raise? That every single student will get more money, even after adding in the cost of dues? I challenge you to find contradictory examples.

          Additionally, I really don’t think things like dental insurance (people can literally die from impacted molars or oral infection) and vision insurance (some people fundamentally cannot work, drive, or attend class without glasses or contacts) are for the “privileged.”

    • Likes money in my pocket

      The raise you get will always be greater than both of these numbers added together – you’re coming out ahead whether you join the union or not! This is true for every single school that’s ever unionized – read a contract!

  • Grad Engineer

    When asked about the mismatch in representation on the Negotiating Committee, that would leave Engineers and Physical Science students with significantly less representation, of a proposed amendment CGSU representatives had little to say other than that it could be changed and it was not a part of the constitution yet. What is concerning is that an amendment like this has had enough internal support that it can be viewed publicly for discussion, and that there is a subgroup within CGSU that is trying to under represent Engineers and Physical Science students.

    • Grad Worker at Cornell

      I am a member of CGSU and I agree with you–the negotiating amendment drafted by a few people leaves a lot to be desired in many ways, especially as proportional representation goes. People within CGSU are absolutely going to challenge it, either in part or in full. I know the authors intended for it to go before the membership for improvement, as well. It shouldn’t pass as it is; it won’t.

      The fact that someone or a few someones has proposed an amendment is not a reason to vote against recognition, though. Recognition means there *will* be bargaining, and that is institutional and legal power. But you can also directly challenge power within the organization by doing what I describe above. That’s democracy and CGSU has an open, participatory process.

      After the election, there will be a full month before all the gathered comments and amendments go before the membership for deliberation and a vote between them. I hope you participate.

      • grad

        This is ridiculous… “The fact that someone or a few someones has proposed an amendment is not a reason to vote against recognition” Even if we will vote for a recognition, it should not be CGSU. You probably have spent 3 years on this campaign and now you admit there are many flaws in your amendment that you are going to “challenge” after the vote. Anyone is going to believe that?

        • Another Grad Engineer

          It’s not an amendment that needs to be “challenged,” it’s a proposed amendment with little support that’s just entered the public comment/edit period and hasn’t been voted on yet… What’s so hard to understand about that?

          • Informed voter

            The Amendment was proposed by the Judicial Committee and already has 10% approval from the voting members of CGSU. Its not like one person had a stupid idea – more than 10% of CGSU supported this and the Judicial Committee forwarded the Amendment. Thank god they mentioned this at the AWC Info Session yesterday.

          • Another Grad Engineer

            This amendment has been discussed extensively within CGSU; yesterday’s discussion is far from the first time it was raised, and will be far from the last. I encourage all students to take advantage of the fact that all committee meetings are open to all members of CGSU, which is presently free to join. You could have been on the Judicial Committee when this was brought up, and theres nothing stopping you from joining up today if you think you have an important perspective to share.

    • Another Grad Engineer

      What you’re seeing is open and honest democracy happening: any member can propose an amendment, and if they can show a modicum of support, the amendment enters a comment period like you see here. However, it won’t become part of the constitution until it’s decided on by every active member in an online vote. I’m a member of CGSU and an Engineer, and I’m with you- I’ll probably vote against this amendment for a few different reasons, but we think it’s important to respect the process. I’d also mention that the people who did much of the work on this particular amendment were actually from Physical Sciences! Clearly, there was some miscalculation and it’s great that people have caught this; based on the conversations I’ve been hearing, this amendment has little support from any field. I sincerely doubt anyone was trying to under represent Engineers and Physical Science students with this amendment.

      • Teja Bollu

        I appreciate you thoughtful approach to problem. I also agree with you that governing processes are important and need to be respected.

        I personally also view this as an oversight and not as a some Machiavellian attempt to usurp power.

        That being said, I view it as problematic that at least a 100 members saw this and approved it for moving forward as a referendum. Presumably, a lot of the leadership did as well.

        I also differ with you in that I see this as a problem with the process as well (this shouldn’t have gotten this far), and I think there are clearly available solutions to this problem. If the Union passes, I hope that the first focus would be to overhaul these governing documents to better and more accurately represent the bargaining unit. Overhauling these documents will require that the representation is strong . This would mean access to governance must be equal for those currently outside the CGSU as well, and that equality of representation should ideal take into account both academic and social identities.

        • m

          Adding nothing to this conversation except to say thank you to Teja and Aravind for their well thought out questions and discussion. I really appreciate your insight from your work on current grad governance! Having your perspective has been confirming my decision to vote no and has brought to light issues with CGSU that I wasn’t aware of that only make me more certain that I will be proudly voting no. Keep it up – you are making an impact!

          • Lara

            100% Agree! Thank you so much aravind and teja

  • Would Be PhD

    The problem is more about the business model of universities than negotiating power. It’s no secret that if you value money, work-life balance, location flexibility, or career path flexibility, then industry and government are vastly superior options to academia. If you care about those things, you likely will have to make the decision to either relegate academic interests to an after work hobby or be a martyr for the cause. Indeed, for those that don’t need expensive equipment and spend ~40 hours a week as a TA and other gruntwork, a PhD program seems like a rather dubious path to take.

    PhD students and post-docs deserve higher salaries than a lot professors. But, academia is already being funneled unsustainable amounts of money and doesn’t have anything left to give to the people who do all the real work.

    Most professors attach their names to research they made little or no contribution to, but are needed to bring in the grants and help getting published in prestigious journals. Further, fancy professors help give the school itself prestige, the currency of academia. Many donations are more of a form of conspicuous consumption, so donors like to build shiny buildings they can put their name on. And somehow, sports teams help keep other alumni interested in their alma mater so they can give smaller donations. And everybody has a pet project that can serve as good PR and is oh so worthy of other people’s money, if only they were more enlightened or better informed. For all the protests that we see, it’s funny we never see any protests to cut frivolous or wasteful spending. And finally, we can’t expect a bloated, inefficient, unproductive, bureaucratic administration to thrust budget cuts upon itself. And so, we have powerful forces driving the allocation of resources to everywhere but the things that actually matter. It’s not that universities want to screw over grad students, but that it’s easy to do and there’s no other option that’s compatible with the world of academia as it currently exists.

  • If anyone is interested, I wrote a post on my blog where I argue that 1) CGSU is making the case in favor of unionization dishonestly by cherry-picking the evidence to support their claims that students would benefit from it, 2) the groups to which CGSU is affiliated and to which most of our dues would go if we vote in favor of unionization are deeply immoral organizations that have a negative effect on education in the US and we should not fund them with dues taken from our wages and 3) even if people disagree with me about that, it’s wrong to use the law to force your colleagues to pay dues to organizations they don’t want to be associated with. Please share it as widely as possible if you think it’s interesting.