LETTER TO THE EDITOR | On Unions and Shared Governance

To the editor:

I am writing as a graduate student who has been involved with the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly since spring 2013 and with Cornell Graduate Students United since spring 2014 in order to respond to some of the discourse around shared governance that has emerged in debates over graduate student unionization this semester. I am a proud member of both organizations and believe deeply in the necessity of each, and based both on my own experience and the extensive evidence from other universities at which both graduate student unions and assemblies productively coexist, I believe unequivocally in the potential for both organizations to continue to work effectively after a unionization vote. The GPSA is not at all threatened by the formal recognition of CGSU as an exclusive collective bargaining unit. More importantly, I want to respond to the idea encapsulated in Interim President Rawlings’s statement that graduate students already have a significant voice in administration, and that “We have not been able to solve every issue raised by students, but I believe we are better able to work through differences of opinion in a collegial atmosphere than in a potentially adversarial collective bargaining setting.” There are two issues to look at in evaluating this claim: first, the Board of Trustees’ decision to not raise the minimum stipend of Research Assistants to be equal to Teaching Assistants in spring 2014, and second, workers’ compensation. When the Trustees made their decision on graduate student stipends, they did so with the consultation of a handful of graduate student leaders who were forbidden from discussing the issue with other graduate students.