Letter: Graduate students in the School of Education, share letter addressed to the “School of Education community.”

The following letter was sent to the Bloomingtonian and is being published as part of the ongoing community conversation about the Indiana Grad Workers Coalition, United Electrical, strike, which began April 13, 2022:

“Copy of SOE Interdepartmental Statement to the Dean

To our School of Education community,

We are writing this to you as an organized and unified collective of striking graduate workers, as well as those who stand in solidarity, from many programs and departments across the School of Education. Throughout the course of the ongoing strike to achieve union recognition, the necessity for direct, interdepartmental communication and solidarity has become clear. As such, we have come together to clearly state our collective position, values, needs, and intentions to all who stand against those efforts being made to create a more equitable and just community in the School of Education, and at Indiana University overall.

  1. Firstly, we wish to tell you that we, the undersigned, are united in our support for all those who are fighting for unionization, and intend to handle any matters regarding the strike together as a collective. This includes fighting for and protecting anyone in the School of Education community who our own administration may attempt to single out for disciplinary action as a result of participating in peaceful union-supported strike activities.
  2. Additionally, it has become apparent in recent events that the School of Education administration is relying upon faculty to work against unionization efforts. As graduate students, the relationships we have with our faculty members are crucial to our success in many ways, but these relationships are also mutually beneficial for the University and our faculty members themselves. Relying upon faculty members to disperse our union is designed to cause divides and a lack of trust between graduate students and their advisors. This has already resulted in the need for restorative justice that will extend well beyond the current circumstances, and continued efforts to weaponize faculty against us will only cause further harm to everyone involved. Furthermore, it will result in increasingly negative perceptions of Indiana University as a whole, from current and future graduate students as well as our many supporters throughout the Bloomington community. Administration should interact with the union directly instead of utilizing faculty members to sow division and fear. Our intent is not to punish nor be punished by the same faculty we work so closely with, but to improve the working conditions for all graduate workers, and the coercive intimidation tactics currently being used by administration are detrimental to all. We condemn the SoE administration for their use of these dishonest, immoral tactics to dissuade graduate workers from their legally protected right to join a union. We call upon the SoE administration to be accountable for the damage they have caused to faculty-student bonds due to their reckless disregard.
  3. As educators, we also wish to speak to the importance of unionization for educational efforts. Unions play an integral role in the success of teachers, who we rely on to provide the priceless service of good education. To deny a union to those who are often training these same teachers is to deny the importance of unions for these teachers. Many of the recent victories in education, especially in the State of Indiana, have been won in large

part by the Indiana State Teachers’ Association, including the recent successful defense of the profession against HB 1134, which sought to impose undue restrictions on teachers. Undoubtedly, education has become what it is today, and will continue to progress, thanks in large part to the teachers’ unions. As instructors of future teachers, we all have an ethical duty to our students to show them what it means to stand up for the rights of educators to access collective bargaining and fair wages. Therefore, the School of Education, in particular, should advocate for this form of equity and justice.

  1. Unions also protect those who are most vulnerable in the workplace. As educators, we serve all in our work – those who face difficulties at home, who are minoritized, who are faced with systemic injustices every day. These are the same people who are unable to break into higher education spaces due to structural discrimination and oppression – disabled people, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, those with lower socioeconomic statuses. To provide one specific example of relevance, the protections of a union are particularly relevant to the issue of sexual harassment. In 2019, 25% of IU female graduate students reported experiencing sexual harassment at IU, and unions are often one of the most powerful supports in helping those who have experienced these forms of violence to achieve justice. As educators who claim to want to increase diversity and inclusion in our field, and to promote equity and justice for these same groups, should we not have an organization that protects and supports everyone equally, as is the point of a union?
  2. As many of us are funded as associate instructors, our wellbeing directly impacts the quality of education we are able to provide to our students. If the administration wishes to support undergraduate education in the ways they purport, they must surely recognize the influence of a living wage in our efforts, and the resulting capacity we have for engaging with our students. As fair wages are best advocated for by the graduate worker union, we see a clear connection to the administration’s stance on the union and the quality of the education we are able to provide. Therefore, it cannot be taken in good faith when graduate workers who strike to gain union recognition are blamed by the administration as being dismissive and harmful to their undergraduate students. Is it not hypocritical to suggest as much when graduate students are asking to have representation to protect ourselves from being dismissed and harmed? Case in point: Graduate workers in the School of Education are some of the least financially supported across campus, which also sends a clear message about the priority of education at this university. We care about our students – it is precisely for this reason, among many others, that we are advocating for a union; to help us best support our students’ educational experiences, as well as our own.

This call to support graduate student workers is not intended to divide the School of Education, but rather to improve the quality of working conditions for everyone and the quality of the education we provide together. Many groups of faculty have already voiced support for an open, genuine dialogue between the graduate workers and the administration, including the SoE

Policy Council and the Bloomington Faculty Council, as well as individual faculty who have pledged neutrality in the face of administrative threats. Attempts to divide us from our faculty, who are often our strongest supporters, have failed. Attempts to divide us from our undergraduate students, whose education we care for deeply, have failed. We are a community bonded together by a shared passion for accessible, high-quality education and a vision for a university in which all workers are deeply and equitably valued. Each attempt to pull us apart further highlights the necessity of our collective resistance.

In light of these truths, we ask that the School of Education administration cease instructing faculty to discipline students who are striking or to grade their Associate Instructors’ students. We ask that the SoE administration engage in a dialogue with graduate students to discuss our labor dispute in an open and fair manner, and to collaborate with those involved in these efforts to help create a healthier working environment for all graduate workers in the SoE.

Until the SoE administration and the University administration recognize the union and enter into good-faith negotiations to make lasting change, we are committed to supporting the continuation of collective – and if necessary, disruptive – action. We invite you to join us in our reimagining of what it means to be in community together, rather than standing against the values and goals we seek to realize.

Signed,

  • –  Lucy Bhuyan (she/her), 2nd year PhD student, Counseling Psychology
  • –  Megan Humburg (she/her), PhD Candidate, Learning Sciences
  • –  Dionne White, 1st year PhD student, Counseling Psychology
  • –  Evelyn Claire Williams (she/her), 3rd Year PhD student, Counseling Psychology
  • –  Jonathan Kang (he/him), 1st year PhD student, Counseling Psychology
  • –  Zach Ryan (he/him), 4th year PhD student, Learning Sciences
  • –  Carli Hoffacker (she/her), 1st year PhD Student, Counseling Psychology
  • –  Katie Haus (she/they), 2nd year Health Behavior PhD student, incoming Inquiry Methodology dual PhD student
  • –  Lauren Adams, PhD Candidate, Counseling Psychology
  • –  Aya Shohatee (she/her), 2nd year PhD student, Counseling Psychology
  • –  Jackie Paiz (she/her) 2nd year PhD student, Counseling Psychology
  • –  Jessica Grote (she/her) 2nd year Masters Student, Mental Health Counseling and Counselor Education
  • –  Siya Kulkarni (she/they), 1st Year Masters Mental Health Counseling and counselor education
  • –  Nora McVey (she/her), 1st year Masters Mental Health Counseling and counselor education
  • –  Sidney Thimm (she/her), 1st year masters mental health counseling and counselor education
  • –  Savannah Hadley (she/her) 1st Year Masters Mental Health Counseling and Counselor Education
  • –  Jay Filer (they/them) 1st Year Masters Mental Health Counseling and counselor education
  • –  Ethan Tinsley (he/him) 1st Year Masters Mental Health Counseling and counselor education
  • –  Parker Beckman (he/him) 1st year PhD student, School Psychology
  • –  Sophia Apgar (she/her/ella) 2nd year EdS student, School Psychology
  • –  Isabella Hamilton (she/her) 2nd year Masters Mental Health Counseling and counselor education
  • –  Morgan Vickery (she/her) 3rd year PhD Student, Learning Sciences
  • –  Xtina Stiso, PhD Student, Learning Sciences
  • –  Selena Steinberg (she/her), 1st year PhD Student, Learning Sciences
  • –  Andrea Mariani (he/him), 1st year PhD Student, Counseling Psychology
  • –  Yiyao Zhou (she/they), 2nd year PhD Student, Counseling Psychology
  • –  Josh Jackson (he/him), 1st year PhD Student, Counseling Psychology
  • –  Ross Edelstein, 1st Year PhD Student, Special Education
  • –  Chelsea Brinda, 2nd Year PhD Student, Teacher Education and Curriculum Studies
  • –  Renae Lesser, 1st Year PhD Student, Teacher Barbara Dennis, Professor, Inquiry Methodology Education and Curriculum Studies
  • –  Casey Pennington (she/her) 6th year PHD Candidate: Literacy, Culture & Language Education; Curriculum & Instruction
  • –  Javier Cardona Otero (he, él, him), 5th Year PhD Student, Arts Education
  • –  Ling Chen, 1st Year PhD Student, Teacher Education and Curriculum Studies
  • –  Elizabeth Stelle, 1st Year PhD Student, Literacy, Culture & Language Education
  • –  Jill Scott, 6th year PhD student/instructor, LCLE
  • –  Xinyue Liu, 5th year PhD student, Special Education
  • –  Traci Jordan, 7th year PhD candidate, C&I
  • –  Brenda Brannigan (she/her), 5th year, PhD Candidate, C&I: Special Education
  • –  Ozan Cuma Yilmaz Ozkaya, 5th year, Special Education
  • –  Swasti Singh, 2nd year ELPS Master’s, Union Representative
  • –  Brandi Loving (she/they) 2nd Year ELPS PhD
  • –  Jason Curlin (he/him) 2nd Year ELPS PhD
  • –  Danielle Boylan (she/her) 1st year ELPS Masters
  • –  Gabrielle Alicino (she/her) 1st year ELPS PhD
  • –  Paul Faulkner (he/him), 1st year PhD student, Education Policy Studies
  • –  Moaaz Hamid, 1st year ELPS PhD
  • –  Margaret Mwingira (5th year PhD).
  • –  Anthony Withrow (2nd year PhD).
  • –  Youngbok Hong (she/her), 1st year, Inquiry Methodology
  • –  Dorcas (Xin-Qing) Miao, 3rd year LCLE & incoming Inquiry Methodology PhD student
  • –  Da’Ja’ Askew (she/her), 1st year HESA PhD
  • –  Sarah J Murray (she/her), masters student mental health counseling track
  • –  Joey Wu (she/her), 1st-year PhD student, Science Education, C&I
  • –  Esra Ibil (She/Her) 3rd year PhD student, Arts Education C&I
  • –  Chris Andrews (he/him), PhD Candidate, Learning Sciences
  • –  Weverton Ataide Pinheiro (he/they), PhD Candidate, C&I, Mathematics Education
  • –  Anna Romero (she/her), 1st year PhD student, Inquiry Methodology
  • –  Annalisa Buerke (she/her), 4th year EdD student, LCLE
  • –  Pei-Jung Li (She/her), PhD Candidate, Inquiry Methodology
  • –  Bria Davis (she/her), PhD Candidate, Learning Sciences
  • –  Alexis Pandelios (she/her), 3rd year PhD student, Counseling Psychology
  • –  Keelyn Ingmire (she/her), 2nd year EdS student, School Psychology
  • –  Taylor Underwood (she/her), 1st year PhD student, Counseling Psychology
  • –  Jack Komer (he/his), 1st year PhD Student, School Psychology
  • –  Sebahat Gok (she/her) 4th year PhD Student, Instructional Systems Technology
  • –  Lauren Laskowski (she/her), 4th-year PhD student, Counseling Psychology
  • –  Miata Walker (she/her), 1st-year PhD student, Counseling Psychology
  • –  Alexandria Thielmeyer (she/her), 3rd year PhD student, School Psychology
  • –  AJ Asomani-Adem (she/her), PhD Candidate, School Psychology
  • –  Maureen Wood (she/her), 3rd year PhD student, School Psychology
  • –  Megan Ransdell (she/her), 2nd year masters student, masters in mental health counseling
  • –  Chelsey Ruark (she/her), PhD Candidate, School Psychology
  • –  Katelynn Kennedy (she/her), 2nd year EdS Student, School Psychology”

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