Letter: Indiana University faculty respond to IU board of trustees refusal to recognize Grad Workers unionization

BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA, UNITED STATES – 2022/05/09: Members of the Indiana Grad Workers Coalition hold signs and chant outside the Indiana University Auditorium before members of the faculty council hold a full meeting, on Monday, May 9, 2022 in Bloomington, Ind. Over 700 faculty members attended the meeting and voted on three resolutions. One resolution was to assure striking students can’t be fired. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

The following letter was shared with the Bloomingtonian Thursday:

Indiana University Board of Trustees
Franklin Hall 200
601 E. Kirkwood Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405

June 15, 2022

Dear Members of the Board of Trustees,

We, the undersigned members of the Bloomington faculty, are dismayed by your May 31, 2022

For while you express appreciation for the concerns of students and faculty, you disregard both
the organized efforts of graduate student workers to express their concerns and faculty efforts
to support them. And while you appeal to norms of shared university governance, you fail to
acknowledge that the refusal of President Whitten or Provost Shrivastav to even speak to
leaders of the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition (IGWC) has led to a breakdown of shared
governance on our campus.

It is disrespectful to characterize the historic May 9th all-faculty meeting and the
unprecedented Bloomington faculty vote as “thoughtful feedback” while failing to mention the
two detailed resolutions passed by overwhelming faculty majorities in the course of a week of
argumentation and balloting.

The two faculty resolutions clearly express displeasure with the way the recently appointed
senior administration has been handling the graduate employee strike and request that you
initiate a process for graduate employees to pursue union recognition. Yet your letter
completely ignores these strongly-supported faculty sentiments.

Not being privy to your deliberations, we do not understand why you have chosen to so
resolutely insist that the higher administration is proceeding appropriately, and that “business
as usual” can proceed on a campus that only weeks ago was embroiled in serious controversy.
You are the stewards of a public university. We had expected that you would treat the concerns
articulated in our faculty resolutions with respect, and that you would employ judicious words
to open a path for the administration to move from a rigid to a pragmatic position that involves
serious negotiation with the almost 1800 graduate student workers who have signed union
cards and over 1000 who went out on strike last Spring.

We urge you to reconsider your stance, in the interests of the university that we all prize.
The current administration’s position has contributed to a climate of fear on campus for
graduate student workers and for faculty who support them. Without serious negotiations with
the organized graduate students—and, as you know, the IU Graduate & Professional StudentGovernment is fully in support of the IGWC—the administration’s legitimacy will be further
eroded, and a strike in the Fall will be almost assured.

Your letter references “IU’s approach to shared governance.” Our two resolutions affirm the
ideals of shared governance.

The first resolution, passed by 83.8% of voting Bloomington faculty, affirmed the basic principle
of shared governance and academic freedom (set forth explicitly in the Bloomington Faculty
Constitution)—that the faculty has authority in academic matters, among the most important
of which is academic appointments.

The second resolution, passed by 73.4% of voting Bloomington faculty, called upon the senior
administration to begin immediate dialogue with the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition
regarding their demand for union representation—a reasonable demand that their peers at
University of Michigan, University of Illinois, and many other top public universities have
already achieved.

We urge you to publicly acknowledge and support these resolutions.

The recent efforts of the IGWC have rekindled serious discussion about shared governance on
our campus. By recognizing the value of graduate worker organizing, you can seize a precious
opportunity to strengthen the morale of the campus and make Bloomington a place to which
our future teachers, researchers, artists, and public servants are drawn. A vibrant intellectual
culture based on relationships of respect, dignity and trust is the bedrock on which to build a
truly leading research university for the 21st century.

Respectfully and urgently,

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