The Consensual Relationships Policy Committee has undertaken a long overdue revision of Cornell’s policies on romantic and sexual relations between faculty and students. These relations are fraught because of differences in power and experience, because they can involve serious conflicts of interest and because they can have disruptive effects on the functioning of and climate within our professional workplaces. However, there is another class of romantic and sexual relations that seems similarly fraught — in kind if not in degree — that has received almost no discussion: those between graduate students within the same department or workplace. Graduate school provides a transition between young adulthood and full professional stature, and graduate students mature enormously over the course of their studies. Before graduating they may participate in many of the professional functions of faculty, including undergraduate teaching, training and supervising new graduate and undergraduate students, evaluating students and writing recommendation letters, managing collaborations, and writing and reviewing manuscripts and proposals.
A meeting on Monday led graduate students to question the administration’s commitment to shared governance at Cornell after frustration surrounding further details to President Martha Pollack’s presidential task force last week.
A coalition of graduate students has issued a list of demands to Cornell administrators — calling for increased funding, representation, training and more — in the wake of what the group called several recent injustices.
The union election will be held on March 27, and is open to all graduate assistants currently employed by the University. Ballots will be counted by the American Arbitration Association, a neutral third party.
After calling for unity among all graduate students at a panel discussion earlier this month, Cornell Graduate Students United continues to face concerns from international students, who comprise almost half of the graduate student population.
ByNicole Wiles, Mark Obstalecki, Kyle Mack and Siddarth Chandrasekaran |
To the Editor:
Unions in workplaces are a much-needed apparatus to ensure equitable work conditions. The power of collective bargaining is indisputably beneficial to workers in establishing fair contracts. Our vote in the impending referendum on the matter of unionizing graduate workers is of grave importance, and we bear the burden of vastly influencing the course of graduate education in Cornell and beyond. Follow not in the footsteps of Brexit, widely recognized as the glorious failure of democracy through uninformed, misinformed voters who leveraged their responsibility to vote through passion and nonchalance, bereft of rationality. This letter aims to understand the effect of unionization particularly through CGSU, as an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and New York State United Teachers.
On September 21, at 4 p.m., Marsha Jean-Charles walked out of Caldwell Hall into the afternoon sun, surrounded by friends and greeted by supporters. She’d just finished presenting her case clearly and calmly to her appointed Graduate Grievance Review Board, after nearly four months of navigating Cornell’s grievance process. A hearing with a GGRB, composed of a board chair plus two anonymous faculty members and two anonymous grads, is the fourth and final step of this process. One way or another, Marsha felt ready for a decision — for closure. Six weeks later, Marsha was still in limbo. Incomprehensibly (and as the policy listed on the Graduate School website fails to make clear), a grievant is not entitled to access the recommendation of the GGRB.
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.
In his “statement on graduate assistant labor union representation” (October 27), Interim President Hunter Rawlings cites the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR School) as being “the leader in the field of labor education.” We write here as faculty of the ILR School, drawing on our expertise and experience in the field of labor law, labor relations and labor rights. We agree with President Rawlings that it is essential that the University respect the graduate assistants’ choice of whether they wish to be represented by a union. We also agree that it is important that graduate assistants have access to information relevant to making their choice. Unfortunately, however, President Rawlings’ statement presents a negative view of unionization based on speculation and unsubstantiated assertions. In responding to these speculative claims, our letter seeks to provide useful information about the reality of unionization in universities.