Press release: Graduate and Professional Student Government Votes No Confidence in IU President Whitten; Joins Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition and Eight Graduate Student Associations in Expressing No Confidence in Indiana University Leadership

The following was sent to the Bloomingtonian:

Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition
[email protected]
BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—On Friday, March 1, the Graduate and Professional Student
Government (GPSG), the representative body of approximately 10,000 graduate
students at the Indiana University Bloomington campus, held a unanimous vote of no
confidence in the administration of President Pamela Whitten. The GPSG resolution
faults the Whitten administration for violations of shared governance, a lack of
transparency, and a failure to address the living and working conditions of graduate
students. The resolution calls on other organizations and associations to initiate votes of
no confidence in the administration.
Katharina Schmid-Schmidsfelden, a GPSG representative for the Department of
Germanic Studies, presented the resolution at Friday’s vote. Schmid-Schmidsfelden
criticized Whitten’s administration for its failure to listen to graduate workers and its role
in cultivating an unproductive atmosphere.
“President Whitten’s administration repeatedly refused to engage in collegial dialogue
on topics including the graduate workers’ union or even meet with the chosen
representatives of the majority of graduate employees,” Schmid-Schmidsfelden said.
“Undermining these values of academic freedom and shared governance has produced
a tense campus climate and cultivated a culture of strike as opposed to conversation.”
The GPSG joins the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition, which voted no confidence in
Whitten at its last general assembly on February 5, 2024. That vote was also
Since then, the GPSG and eight graduate student associations (GSAs) have passed
votes of no confidence. GSAs represent students in many departments where they
address student concerns and organize events to elevate the department’s academic
culture. Departments that have passed no confidence resolutions include History and
Philosophy of Science and Medicine, Germanic Studies, Religious Studies, Sociology,
History, the Media School, Political Science, and Philosophy.
Citing the administration’s contempt for graduate students, Sam Smucker, Chair of the
Media School Graduate Association, explained why his department voted no confidence
in President Whitten.
“Graduate students on our campus have lost all confidence in this administration,”
Smucker said. “Their disdain for the opinions of faculty and graduate students is
palpable. The recent attack on tenure, the backbone of academic freedom, should have
resulted in a considerable mobilization of resources at all levels to stop it.The minimal
response from the administration is alarming to us all.”
Echoing Smucker, the Co-President of the Political Science Graduate Student
Association Jonathan Aker calls attention to Whitten’s disregard for graduate workers
and emphasizes the gravity of her failures as the leader of the institution.
“There is an urgent need to stand up against President Whitten’s hostility to collective
bargaining and academic freedom,” Aker said. “By suspending Professor Abdulkader
Sinno on trumped-up charges, her administration threatens the shared governance
principles core to Indiana University and caused significant setbacks for many students
in our department. Her hostility toward graduate worker unionization undermines the
success of graduate students in the political science department.”
Zara Anwarzai, a member of the Graduate Association of Students in Philosophy,
stressed that President Whitten and her administration have deviated from core
university values. Anwarzai encourages other university organizations to vote no
confidence in President Whitten.
“We passed this vote because the graduate workers in the Philosophy Department are
committed to promoting the educational mission of IU,” Anwarzai said. “We need
university leadership who prioritize the principles that make that mission possible, like
democracy, dignity, and freedom. We are proud to follow other bodies on campus who
have made a stand, and we hope others will follow suit to show that there is widespread
care for our working conditions and our students’ learning conditions.”
Department resolutions cite concerns for academic freedom, the refusal to allow a vote
for unionization for graduate employees, and the mishandling of the Kinsey Institute.
You can view the votes of no confidence by each GSA here.
More than 10 additional GSAs around the university are planning votes of no
— — —
Comments from Other GSA Leaders on Departmental Votes of No Confidence
“We believe that Pamela Whitten’s administration has been structurally damaging to IU.
While we are understandably concerned about her administration’s effect on graduate
education and representation, we are also extremely supportive of faculty authority,
representation, and freedom at IU. The faculty suppression which has resulted from her
administration is unacceptable.” — Matthew Rodriguez, Department of History and
Philosophy of Science and Medicine.
“As a union and as grad students, we’re invested in the health of the university. Not only
has President Whitten neglected to respond to the thousands of graduate students
demanding union recognition, but in the last several months, we’ve seen several
instances of her administration’s failure to practice shared governance. This
administration is unable to engage in critique from students, the community, and faculty.
We aren’t only concerned about her negligence toward graduate students but also other
members of our university community. A vote of no confidence recognizes that these
are not singular events but a pattern of poor administration that must be addressed.” —
Moriah Reichert, Department of Religious Studies.
“We should vote no confidence in Whitten as graduate students for multiple reasons.
Whitten’s actions have been very clear about her intentions for the university moving
forward. The university will not be a space for free speech, not when it comes from
anything from Palestinian genocide to American abortion rights. There will be no right to
fair representation as she refuses to acknowledge the IGWC. Not even tenure offers the
protection it has in the past. This is not an academic space I feel safe to teach or
conduct my research in as a sociologist. We need to be able to protest genocide, we
need to be able to organize, we need to be able to demand better of our university and
maintain job security. We are strongest when our voices are heard together, I encourage
other graduate students to vote no confidence in Whitten. ” — Anjali Biswas,
Department of Sociology.
— — —
ABOUT IGWC (—The IGWC was founded in 2019 to advocate
for graduate workers with the primary purpose of eliminating exorbitant fees and
increasing pay. IGWC actions, including a massive four-week strike in the Spring of
2022, successfully brought an end to the fees and forced the IU administration to shift
funds into graduate education, significantly improving the lives of graduate employees in
Bloomington. There are approximately 2,400 SAA graduate employees on the
Bloomington campus. Graduate workers are employed as Associate Instructors,
Research Assistants, Graduate Assistants, and Adjuncts. Others are employed on an
hourly basis. They teach hundreds of courses as primary instructors, conduct research
in labs, and perform as artists and musicians.
For further questions and correspondence, contact Indiana Graduate Workers
Coalition media correspondent David Garner ([email protected]).
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