Union Affiliation Vote Information





Original Post:

Dear Fellow Graduate Student Employees,

As you may know, there is an on-going effort to organize a union of research assistants (RAs) and teaching assistants (TAs), to advocate for grad employee rights and protections at Brown University. We thank the Graduate Student Council for supporting the involvement of all grads in this choice and look forward to continuing to work together throughout and beyond this decision.

As part of this process, SUGSE’s Affiliation working group has been hard at work the past few months talking to graduate students at other universities and negotiating with potential union affiliates. A comprehensive, 35-page report of this process and their findings is available on our website. (Don’t worry, you don’t have to read it all. But it’s there if you want to!)

We are fundamentally committed to an inclusive, democratic, and transparent unionization process. To this end, we are holding an open affiliation vote. The vote:

  • …Will determine which national union we affiliate with as graduate students.
  • …Will be held using a secure online system from Sunday, March 19th 6:00pm to Tuesday, March 21st 6:00pm.
  • …Will be open to all current Brown Ph.D. and Masters students who register using this linked form* by Monday, March 20th 6:00pm (more details in the link). Note that in response to feedback from the community SUGSE members have collectively agreed to open the vote to non-members who register.

Right now, you might be unfamiliar with the unionization process and the significance of this vote. That’s ok! Our hope is that this will be the first of many opportunities to learn about and participate in workplace democracy.

Volunteers have prepared the following introductory materials:


We’re excited to share what we’ve learned, and hope you will join us in building a stronger grad community! Feel free to reach us by email at standupforgrads@gmail.com!

In solidarity,

Stand Up for Graduate Student Employees

SUGSE is an anti-racist, feminist, labor organization that advocates for graduate worker rights and protections at Brown.
*This is *not* a legal document or petition, and this does not commit you to a decision about unionization or a contract. Registering on this form simply indicates that you support the goal of forming an inclusive, democratic, and transparent labor union that holds feminism and anti-racism as values.

SUGSE Title IX Demands


The following letter was recently posted on Blue Stockings:

Dear Brown University Community and Alumni,

We no longer have a functioning Title IX Office, and we do not know why. Amanda Walsh, former Title IX Program Officer, and Jessica Katz, former Title IX Investigator, the two staff members that made up the entirety of the Title IX Office, have resigned. The office is now being temporarily run by the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, an office that is overburdened and has neither the expertise needed to address Title IX cases nor the lawyers to do so. Furthermore, the university has refused to adequately inform Brown community members about this change or lay out a timeline or process for addressing these empty positions. We demand:

  • A letter that announces the departure of both members of the Title IX Office immediately. This letter should include: 1) A timeline and process the University will commit to for filling these positions with permanent staff. Ad hoc employment of investigators is not sufficient. 2) A list of current resources available to students. 3) A clear protocol during this temporary and transitional period for students who need Title IX Office resources, especially pertinent legal assistance.
  • That the office be staffed by individuals who can fulfill all of the roles, in addition to the roles that Amanda and Jessica took on, needed to make the Title IX Office an accessible and efficient resource for all students. We demand at least three licensed, trained, and permanent staff to handle the large load of cases the Office has faced by the beginning of Fall 2017.
  • The hiring of a community resource representative to advocate and address the needs of those who file a Title IX complaint throughout the entirety of applicable Title IX processes outlined here by Fall 2017.

These demands represent the bare minimum of what Brown community members should expect in terms of transparency and administrative support, especially for something as vital to the equitable functioning of the University as the Title IX Office. Join us in solidarity to petition for these demands.

As President Paxson has stated, “Every instance of sexual assault at Brown is an egregious violation of our community values. I urge each and every one of you to contribute to addressing sexual violence.” Let’s hold President Paxson accountable to her own commitment to end sexual assault and sexual harassment on Brown’s campus.

In solidarity,
Stand Up for Graduate Student Employees (SUGSE)

Open Letter to the Executive Board of the Brown GSC

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.

In Solidarity,

Members of SUGSE

Link to GSC Executive Board FAQs

SUGSE + GSC Survey Results Are In…And Grads See Themselves as Students and Workers!

We made you this handy dandy infographic for easy reading. Highlights include:

  • The majority of graduate students understand themselves to be students AND workers!
  • Work assignments are not consistent across departments or funding source
  • International students are disproportionately impacted by inconsistent work assignments
  • 9 out of 10 graduate students have a positive relationship with faculty!
  • 3 out of 10 graduate students do not feel comfortable negotiating the terms of their work load with faculty

SUGSE is organizing all summer to gain greater control over our working conditions. Join us!


SciLi Worker Solidarity


From Brown Student Labor Alliance:

The Library Administration is moving forward with a plan to further reduce services and staffing in the Sciences Library. The plan will cut library hours from 100 to 70 and staff from 4.5 positions to 2 positions, thus leaving the SciLi understaffed.

Harriette Hemmasi, the head University Librarian, has stated, “I have always been proud of the ways in which the entire Library staff works collectively to meet the evolving demands of the community we serve, and I am excited to continue our progress toward a system that enhances the ability of users to access scholarly content and connect with Library services.”

This statement that was sent in an email to the Brown community neglects the fact that neither the library or University administration has centered the concerns of library workers or allowed for community input throughout these changes.

If you have not shared or signed this petition yet, please do so!

Open Letter on Graduate Student Employee Unionization


Members and affiliates of Stand Up For Graduate Student Employees (SUGSE)—an anti-racist, feminist advocacy organization for graduate student worker rights—have begun a campaign to unionize graduate student workers at Brown. We wanted to take the opportunity to explain our reasons, to state our best intentions, and to invite all of Brown’s community members to work with us as partners in improving the quality and security of the lives of the hundreds of graduate students from around the world who have accepted Brown’s invitation to research and teach in Providence.

Over the last several years, we at SUGSE have sought to improve working conditions for graduate students. We’ve successfully fought for more options and transparency in the late-year funding processes, for dental insurance for graduate workers, and rallied against the institutional racism which has made Brown a hostile working environment for many. Our image as concerned advocates is widely felt; at SUGSE, we have frequently found that our fellow students, wanting a way to redress entrenched problems, come to us for help as though we actually already are their union. And the problems they bring to us are many. We’ve heard accounts from graduate workers asked to be on call twenty-four hours a day to their laboratories; of graduate students given the herculean task of serving as teaching assistants to one hundred undergraduates, each writing weekly papers; of graduate students who have faced sexual harassment from faculty and who have thereafter been denied requests as simple as changing their T.A. assignments or amending the precise order in which they must pursue required coursework. Our fellow students face personal reprisals on account of faculty hostility to their diversity initiatives, report the institution’s incapacity to reckon with their visa and international travel problems, and testify to the myriad ways in which the institution over-burdens and under-serves teaching and research assistants…

Continue reading “Open Letter on Graduate Student Employee Unionization”

Survey on Grad Student Work & Professional Development


We have collaborated with the GSC to produce the following brief survey on impressions of graduate student work and professional development at Brown.

This survey is meant to accomplish three things:

  1. to identify trends and areas of concern pertaining to graduate student work and professional development;
  2. to prioritize actionable items for continued advocacy efforts for the benefit of all graduate students; and
  3. to foster a spirit of community, collaboration, and communication among all graduate students and organizations.

Your support on these efforts will help us and graduate student leaders in other groups find ways to work together on improving graduate education and experience at Brown. The survey is anonymous and should take about 5 minutes to complete.

At the end of the survey, you will have an opportunity to provide detailed comments, feedback, and concerns. There is also the chance to enter a separate raffle for a “summer swag bag” (including a Brown University beach towel and more summery items) from the Brown Bookstore. Four (4) winners will be selected at random after the survey closes on March 31st, so enter and spread the word to your graduate student peers!


Read-In & Speak-Out @ Feedback on the Front Lawn

Feedback on the Front Lawn Poster12/4/15
12 – 3
in front of university hall

Sign Up Here to Read!

In conjunction with the closing of the draft of the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, we invite the entire campus community to join us for an afternoon of “feedback” and hear: recitations of demands and recommendations submitted by Brown University student groups; the publications from Mizzou, Yale, and other universities across the nation who are also demanding more of their institutions; the thoughtfully drafted critiques of Brown Pathways to Diversity and Inclusion plan; and the scholarship that both critiques the present moment and offers ideas for imagining otherwise.

But we need your voice to make it work.

Please sign up for the time and reading of your choosing. Grads, undergrads, faculty, adjuncts, staff, PVD community members welcome.

Not sure what you want to share? Check out this list of potential readings.

Meeting of November 10th

If you couldn’t make it to this week’s SUGSE meeting, here is a brief run-through of what you missed: We discussed how SUGSE will anticipate the Diversity Action Plan, expand and embolden its social media presence, and work to better understand the challenges faced by students in a wide range of disciplines.
Join us Next Week!
November 18th
5:30 – 6:30 PM
229 Faunce
Hope to see you at the black out events today. 12pm at Van Wickle, 1pm on the Main Green!

Stand Up For Graduate Student Employees (SUGSE)