This morning, Interim President Hunter R. Rawlings abused his position as president to send an email about graduate students to the whole community in order to sway public opinion in a debate wholly concerning graduate students. His conduct is unbecoming of the Office of the President, is detrimental to the community as a whole and sets a dangerous precedent for using the Office to meddle in the internal affairs of students. I hope that the student body and especially the Presidential Search Committee understands the gravity of these issues, and selects a president who shows greater circumspection, restraint and care for the community than Rawlings did this morning. The unionization of graduate students has both positive and negative aspects. Though an undergraduate, I have talked with many graduate students who are both for and against unionization.
“I am confident CGSU and Cornell can work together to achieve mutual gains and that the agreement can serve as a guiding light for higher education institutions across the Ivy league and around the country,” said AFT president Randi Weingarten ’80.
Four graduate and professional student elected trustee candidates comment on important campus issues and discuss their platforms. Voting will begin at 8 a.m. on Monday, April 18th and end at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, April 20th.
The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly voiced their frustration with the administration’s lack of transparency in the decision making process. Kotlikoff defended the Board of Trustees’ decision citing multiple past studies regarding the need for such a conglomeration of schools. These studies, Kotlikoff explains, have identified “fragmentation of our business programs as a liability for our University.”
“In many cases,” he said, “What’s happening is these programs are spending resources on those faculty that they would like to spend on their more specialized faculty and programs that distinguish the school, and that arises from the fact that we’re not leveraging our resources and allowing students to access resources across these schools.”
The provost described the need for the “most efficient organization” which would facilitate hiring of new faculty for business programs.
He maintained that preserving the identity and excellence of each individual school — one of the main concerns in response to the recent decision — will be a “major goal” in the upcoming process. Kotlikoff also discussed how faculty from each of the involved schools are “working together to determine the faculty governance process.” Various committees, including undergraduate and graduate student synergy committees, will also be involved in the governance process. In response, Nathaniel Rogers grad, GPSA vice president for operations, said it was “hard to say that the faculty felt like they were involved in the process.”
Rogers also said that some graduate students in the GPSA — an organization which gives them “the unique opportunity to impact how Cornell operates”— are frustrated because they do not feel that they are part of the process in making recent decisions such as the $350 student health insurance fee and the creation of the College of Business.
Workers compensation for graduate and professional student injuries is an important topic of much discussion around campus of late. I would like to contribute by sharing information about workers compensation benefits as they relate to injuries among our graduate and professional students. Let’s start with eligibility. Eligibility for workers compensation for a specific injury is not up to Cornell; such decisions are under the jurisdiction of the New York State Workers Compensation Board. If a graduate student is injured while performing services for Cornell, the student has the ability to file for and receive workers compensation according to New York state eligibility criteria.
Cornell Graduate Students United came out with 20 other labor unions of graduate workers at private universities from all over the country — including Harvard, University of Michigan and Wayne State University — in order to call for the reform of higher education. The organization hosted activities on Thursday — also known as the “We Are Workers Day of Action” — to raise public awareness that many graduate students are not recognized as workers. “This is a national day of action that will be taking place around the country to remind university administrations that graduate students are workers and deserve to have their voice heard and rights respected in the workplace,” said Andrew Crook, a member of CGSU. In 2004, Brown University argued in front of the National Labor Relations Board that teaching and research are essential parts of academic development and graduate training. The outcome of this ruling denied the rights of the employee-employer relationship to graduates working for private universities.
Moving forward in their push for graduate student unionization, an “overwhelming majority” of Cornell Graduate Students United members voted Thursday to affiliate with the American Federation of Teachers and its state affiliate, New York State United Teachers, according to James Ingoldsby grad, CGSU communications and outreach chair. The decision to affiliate with the AFT had been in process for nine months and was determined by an internal CGSU vote, Ingoldsby said. “We were convinced the AFT was best placed to provide us with the support necessary to achieve justice for the thousands of graduate employees who take on steep teaching and research loads each semester,” Ingoldsby said in a statement. “Cornell works because we do, and we look forward to harnessing the power of our membership to escalate our campaign.”
CGSU, which has been an independent union since its inception, will have the support and resources of the NYUST, which currently represents 600,000 members, and the AFT, according to the release. “Today, graduate employees at Cornell stood up to say, ‘We deserve to have our voices heard,’ just like the tens of thousands of graduate students already affiliated with the AFT,” said Randi Weingarten ’80, president of the AFT, in yesterday’s release.