Perspective: Indiana University Progressive Faculty Council responds to administration’s anti-union Op-Ed

The following was sent to the Bloomingtonian Monday:

“In response to the IU administration’s position on graduate worker unionization, we would like to clarify the following issues:

  1. Indiana University’s own policies recognize the right of employees to unionize. The refusal of the administration to consider the request to unionize is thus against its own rules. In that regard, the Herald Times opinion piece of April 9th, 2022, doesn’t represent the institution as it claims, by using a vague and expansive “we.” It represents the view of individuals occupying positions of authority. Although she is not mentioned, it is hard to imagine the aforementioned piece went out without being vetted by the IU President.
  2. The faculty of Indiana University have a variety of positions on unionization and whether it interferes with the mission of graduate education. Some of us consider unionization to be an opportunity for learning important professional skills, like negotiating with your employer and knowing how to communicate clearly with a variety of audiences. Experiential learning is something we are proud of. Therefore, in stating that, “[i]njecting a union into these relationships would create the antithesis of why students pursue their graduate degrees,” the op-ed speaks for the author and not the hundreds of faculty who have already pledged to support the union. “We” are also IU, but “we” do not agree with the author.
  3. If the administration is concerned about the ways in which graduate students could be harmed by this conflict, we hope they will reconsider the threat to terminate SAA contracts for those who are going on strike. That would be real harm and is not a required step in addressing the problems raised by the graduate workers. We hope they will consider the request for a grievance process that is independent of the administration’s own interests. We hope they will consider the need to bring stipends up to a level that allows graduate workers to live above the minimum standard of living considered adequate for Monroe County. The 5% raise promised by the administration doesn’t even cover the 7.9% inflation rate we are experiencing. It just means that students will not fall as far behind the rise in prices. But that is inadequate and doesn’t show sufficient care for not harming graduate workers.
  4. Academic freedom includes the right of instructors to speak freely and work to improve our conditions of employment. The university administration’s expressed concern for academic freedom rings hollow in view of their threat to fire graduate employees who dare to exercise their right to strike.
  5. The statement that tuition waivers would also be eliminated because of unionization is likewise a veiled threat that the administration will terminate those waivers, not a necessary outcome of unionization. The administration can choose to continue the waivers, if it cares about not bringing harm to graduate students.
  6. Despite the claim of the Dean of the Graduate School that IU is not anti-union, he is using the identical argument against graduate workers that has been used against all workers seeking to unionize: that their interests would be better served by depending on the supposed good will of their “superiors” rather than relying on their own collective strength.

We are a research university with high rankings and impressive success in winning federal grants because our graduate students, many of them graduate workers, are an integral part of the ways in which research and teaching are delivered on our campus. If the administration cares about these rankings and about our reputation, we urge them to reconsider their stance on the union and engage in open dialogue with the graduate workers.

Maria Bucur, John V. Hill Professor of History and Gender Studies

Stephanie Kane, Professor of International Studies

Michael Martin, Professor of Cinema and Media Studies, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Black Camera

Amrita Myers, Ruth N. Halls Associate Professor of History and Gender Studies

Benjamin Robinson, Associate Professor and Chair of Germanic studies

Carl Weinberg, Senior Lecturer in history, the Political and Civic Engagement Program, and the Liberal Arts and Management Program

Cynthia Wu, Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Gender Studies, Director of Race, Migration and Indigeneity”

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