Commentary: IU Cinema and Media faculty support Grad Worker strike

The following letter from the Indiana University Cinema and Media Studies faculty shared with the Bloomingtonian was sent to the IU provost:

“Franklin Hall 601 E. Kirkwood Avenue Bloomington, IN 47405-1223
April 4, 2022
Dear Provost Shrivastav,
In fall 2021, a coalition of graduate students from Indiana University Bloomington
petitioned campus administration seeking recognition as a collective bargaining unit to be
represented by United Electrical Workers. This petition was supported unanimously by the IU
Graduate and Professional Student Government body (60 votes in favor, one abstention). We, the
faculty of Cinema and Media Studies unit in the Media School, write to express our strong support
for this petition and to call upon campus administration to adopt a collaborative, good-faith
approach to addressing the concerns that are at its heart. We urge the College and University to meet
and discuss the needs of graduate students with their union representatives and come to mutually
agreeable, permanent solutions.

Indiana University cannot continue to fulfill its mission as a public research university
without our graduate students. In the College of Arts and Sciences, Student Academic Appointees
(SAAs) perform a vital role in carrying out the teaching missions of various departments, while at the
same time contributing to the advancement of knowledge in their respective fields through doctoral
research. The dual nature of their work, as both instructors and researchers, means that the role
performed by SAAs could not be replaced by lecturers or some other category without Indiana
University incurring irreparable damage to its reputation as a world-class research university.
The question of fees and stipends that the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition is currently
raising are also critical to the standings, reputation and future of the University itself. In comparison
with other Big Ten schools, IU Bloomington’s graduate stipends, despite recent adjustments, are
having, and will continue to have, a significant negative impact on graduate recruitment. A
commitment to a living wage for Graduate Students is in the best interests of Indiana University.
While the University classifies graduate student instructors as “academic appointees” rather than
“employees,” the reality is that graduate students depend on their stipends to support themselves-
and, in many cases, to support their families as well–while pursuing their advanced degrees.
Additionally, SAAs in our unit have a central role as instructors of record, taking full responsibility
for their courses. In fact, The Media School recognizes their role by including photographs of several
graduate student SAAs on the school’s faculty page. In this light, we fully support their efforts to
secure changes to the stipend and student fee structures.

We respectfully request that the Provost, as leader of the Bloomington campus, move to
deescalate what has become a tense standoff that has the potential to create long-term damage to the
University. We also ask that the Provost take meaningful measures to demonstrate that the
University administration recognizes and values the unique and indispensable role that graduate
students play in our university, and that the administration is prepared to listen to and address the
concerns articulated by students and their union representatives. The goal moving forward must be
to create a campus that recognizes with its actions the vital role played by graduate students in its
research and teaching missions.

Respectfully submitted by the Cinema and Media Studies faculty”

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