Dear GSC Executive Board,
We recently received the FAQs you sent out (link at bottom). The view of many SUGSE members is that, very much to your credit, they offered a vast improvement on the administration’s FAQs.
However, we want to point out that the dichotomy you pose between “pro-union” and “anti-union” can be misleading. There are good and bad unions. We can have a union that operates democratically to build genuine community and power, or we can have its opposite. Members of SUGSE are unequivocally striving to build the first kind of union and are fully aware of the dangers of the second kind.
Additionally, there are two major things we wish were included. The first is that there are a number of published studies that show that across qualitative and quantitative measures, graduate students at unionized schools are better off. An excellent recent resource is this paper by Rogers, Eaton & Voos (2013).
Second, you mention 6th year funding, health insurance, dental insurance, and graduate student seats on the diversity and inclusion oversight board as ways in which Brown addresses our concerns. However, we wish you had mentioned these were all won through collaboration among student advocacy groups, including SUGSE. For example, the positions on the Diversity and Inclusion Oversight Committee resulted from a concerted effort by six groups: the Samuel M. Nabrit Black Graduate Student Association, Graduate Students of Color Collective, Queer Students of Color Collective, Stand Up for Graduate Student Employees (SUGSE), the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), and the Concerned Graduate Students of Color (CGSC). Additionally, last year’s graduate student worker survey, which revealed numerous labor-related concerns facing our community, was one of many GSC-SUGSE collaborations.
At multiple points in recent history, graduate student workers have come together to gain real wins and work for the common good. SUGSE’s vision of a graduate student union at Brown is a continuation of this through our (for now) legal right to negotiate a formal contract. In the future, we hope you fully acknowledge the past work done by graduate students both in and outside of the channels of the GSC. We understand this can be difficult because of institutional amnesia, but it is nonetheless necessary for knowing how to effect real change in the future.
As always, thank you for all the work you do for our community. In these troubled times, we believe it is important to both work together to build strong democratic institutions, protect the vulnerable, and uplift all of us. Key to this is constructively criticizing — and listening to — one another.
Members of SUGSE