Learn More About Graduate Student Unionization and the Labor Movement at Large
American Entomologist, Volume 68, Issue 3, Fall 2022, Pages 24–25
Societal shifts are needed to support students' mental health. Long hours in the field and lab with few breaks have been the expectation of students for countless decades.
UE Local 896
An increase in minimum salaries of 75%, 100% tuition scholarships for CLAS and Education Colleges, 50% fees scholarship, and protections against overwork & an effective grievance procedure
NBCnews, June 8, 2019
“Graduate workers perform vital roles and in many ways are the lifeblood of universities. We teach classes and provide supplementary and individualized instruction,” Cohen [a doctoral student at American University] said.
As tenure-track jobs have steadily declined, universities have grown more dependent on part-time labor from adjuncts and graduate students. Getting a doctorate used to put a graduate student on the path to a stable job and a healthy wage; now they’re often on track to become part-time faculty, a quarter of whom report being on some kind of public assistance.
The New Yorker, August 31, 2016
...we have had fifty years to find out if unions destroy graduate education. They don’t. The first graduate-student union was organized at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in 1969, and since that time nobody has found solid evidence that unions negatively affect the relationship between graduate students and their mentors. A 2013 paper found that students in these unions report that when their teaching loads and wages are set by contracts, they actually feel better-supported than their non-union counterparts.
The University Works Because We Do!
During the past few decades, graduate students have faced an increasingly burdensome workload and uncertain future. As tenure track positions have disappeared, the University of Iowa and other universities have turned to graduate employees as a source of cheap part-time labor. Graduate employees at the University of Iowa are now responsible for over 50% of the hours undergraduates spend with instructors, research assistants work long hours in labs and libraries, and graduate assistants make sure the university functions on a daily basis. This shift, away from tenured faculty towards increasing dependence on graduate assistants and adjunct faculty, has been a result of downsizing and the “corporatization” of universities across the country.
Science, March 6, 2018
There is a mental health crisis in graduate education, and research institutions need to take action to address it... The new online survey data—2279 responses, mostly from Ph.D. candidates based in 234 institutions across 26 countries, 40% of whom are in the biological and physical sciences and engineering—unveil “strikingly high rates of anxiety and depression” among the graduate population, the authors write in the Nature Biotechnology paper. Based on clinically validated questionnaires, 41% of respondents showed moderate to severe anxiety and 39% moderate to severe depression, both of which are more than six times the prevalence found in studies of the general population.
Science, May 25, 2021
“I frequently vomit before going to the lab.”
“I wanted to become a professor, but after the treatment and behavior of my PI [principal investigator] and department, I do not want to ever be involved with academia again.”
“It was ~1 year before I realized that being told by my PI that I had 45 seconds to go to the toilet was inappropriate and an invasion of my privacy.”
A collection of articles from The Chronicle about recent unionizing efforts by graduate students
The sky has not fallen since 2016, for either graduate students or their universities. And now collective bargaining is proceeding on a number of campuses, on issues that extend beyond pay.