Faculty votes on IU graduate student strike and reappointments

After an in-person faculty meeting was held in the IU Auditorium on May 9 for the first time in 17 years, faculty in attendance were able to approve items for a vote.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – It’s been more than two months since hundreds of Indiana University graduate students first voted to leave the classroom and form a picket line on the Bloomington campus.

IU said it has already made changes to improve conditions, such as raising the minimum wage, and intends to make further changes. But they have stood firm so far, saying they would not consider forming a union.

Now the teachers are getting involved. After an in-person faculty meeting was held in the IU Auditorium on May 9 for the first time in 17 years, faculty in attendance were able to approve items for a vote. Throughout the past week, faculty have been emailing ballots to weigh in on the ongoing graduate student strike.

Now the ballots have arrived. While the results aren’t expected to be released until Monday morning, IU faculty say they hope whatever the outcome will bring IU’s administration to the bargaining table.

“I want to hope this will persuade them because I think a win-win solution is possible,” said Ben Robinson, IU chair of Germanic studies and president of the Bloomington chapter of the American Association. university professors.

After weeks of a graduate student strike, now the professors are officially weighing in. Ballots were posted online for faculty on two resolutions. The first gives them more control over graduate student reappointments, and the second pushes the administration to negotiate with graduate student workers.

“I wouldn’t be an academic and a teacher if I didn’t believe in the strength of the best argument to win a debate. And I ultimately believe that the strength of the best argument can prevail and that senior management can come to see that the decision to allow unionization is a decision not only in the best interest of graduate students, but in the best interest of the establishment,” Robinson said.

RELATED: IU Graduate Students Strike Until Finals; meeting of all faculties planned

Robinson said he expects the vote to come overwhelmingly from faculty in favor of graduate students, as he did at the in-person faculty meeting earlier this month. He said he hoped this would get the IU administration to listen, because if they didn’t it would raise further concerns.

“There will be enormous dissatisfaction. And it will create a very disturbing dynamic in which not only do graduate students feel that their voice is not recognized by senior management, but the faculty feel that their voice is not unrecognized,” Robinson said.

While graduate student workers voted to suspend the strike until the fall, their fight is far from over. And with faculty now involved, Robinson said they’re all watching and waiting closely to see if the IU administration is ready to blink.

“It is clear that people will not back down and that we will continue to have conflict on campus and there will be a continued demand for resolution. And if the provost doesn’t or if the current administration doesn’t work on a resolution, then they will quickly lose the trust of the faculty. And I think that would definitely be in play in the fall,” Robinson said.

As IU faculty voted throughout the week, a fact sheet sent to Bloomington faculty by IU warned that a union would erode the existing relationship between students, counselors and their schools. In this fact sheet, they point out that the values ​​of the union and IU are not aligned, saying it is about “governing or being governed”.

But the professors say the IU has presented no evidence that a union would harm the university.

An empirical study published in 2013 that examined data from doctoral students in five academic disciplines at eight public universities in the United States. He found that unionization does not have the presumed negative effect on student outcomes, but rather has a positive effect in some cases.

RELATED: IU grad students vote to suspend strike until September

The study found that union-represented graduate students reported higher levels of personal and professional support and higher pay, as well as similar perceptions of academic freedom among union-represented and non-union-represented graduate students. unionized. And based on their findings, the study found that any potential harm to faculty-student relations and academic freedom should not continue to be used as a basis for denying graduate students the right to collective bargaining.

How does the Big Ten compare?

In the Big Ten, six member universities have unions representing graduate students – the University of Illinois, the University of Iowa, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, the University Rutgers – New Brunswick and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Some institutions, like the University of Iowa, have had their unions in place for nearly 30 years.

Rutgers University, for example, said that in addition to having a union for graduate student workers, they have also steadily increased their wages over the past ten years. Since 2012, the minimum base salary for teaching assistants and graduate assistants has increased by 17% for calendar year appointments to $33,999 and by 18.5% for academic year appointments , going from about $25,000 to about $30,000.

Eight Big Ten universities do not have unions representing their graduate students, including Purdue University.

Of those Big Ten universities without unions representing their graduate student workers, all eight have had pressure in the past from their graduate student workers to attempt to unionize. Social media accounts and previous news reports indicate that many of these graduate student workers are still struggling to organize and bargain collectively at their respective universities.

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