Friday, November 04, 2005

academia's corporate apologists strike again

Dear NYU Student,

The United Auto Workers union has announced that it has decided to proceed with a “strike.” I want to reassure you that classes will continue to go forward and we will do our best to minimize the impact of any disruption the UAW may cause.

As you know, the University entered into a contract with the UAW in 2001, the first and only private university to do so. We had choices, but we decided to enter into a contract because the union committed – in writing – not to interfere with NYU’s academic decision-making. Regrettably, they broke that promise. In so doing, they damaged a genuine opportunity for partnership. Remarks from the union leadership, as recently as this past week, establish that they continue to believe that grievances of academic decisions, including who should be appointed to teach, are appropriate.

Still, in August we proposed a new agreement: recognition of the UAW as the bargaining agent for our graduate students on economic matters (stipends, health care, employment conditions), but not academic matters. We made this proposal to bridge the goals important to the University and the UAW. The union unambiguously rejected the proposal.

We have tried to find a way to make it work with the UAW, twice. At some point, one must turn from trying to mend an imperfect past and towards creating a better future.

So, we have implemented increases in stipends ($1000 per year for three years), and a commitment to an “evergreen” look ahead to enable graduate students to know the financial aid support three years in advance. A committee of graduate student representatives has begun work on a new grievance procedure and a rights-and-responsibility compact.

The UAW is now threatening to disrupt classes. In moving forward after the UAW rejected our proposal, the University was aware that the UAW might threaten class disruptions. You are entitled to ask “Is this worth it?” The answer to that question lies not in whether the autoworkers union chooses to disrupt classes, but in whether the University’s decision advances or erodes NYU’s long-term efforts to achieve academic excellence. Along with many others on campus, I believe it will advance them.

NYU values the freedom to express differences of opinion. In an academic environment, however, disrupting classes is not an appropriate form of expression. An academic institution and its faculty must be committed to classes going forward, to teaching and learning continuing, and to supporting all its students – including its graduate assistants – as they pursue their education. In a community of scholars, this is our vocation, and it is the right course. Despite what may happen over the coming days, we cherish all of our students. We will remain committed to them, to their studies, and to their scholarly aspirations, and to your academic progress.

David McLaughlin, Provost


ana said...

I like it that he refers to the bargaining unit as "the autoworkers' union" and not the "GTAs' union." He makes it sound like they have absolutely no business being there, when they're the union representing the GTAs.

Universities are just opposed to recognizing that their non-tenured faculty have any rights.

Nancy said...

I agree that the union should not interfering in academic matters. The UAW is there to help graduate students' get the money they deserve; they are not there to disrupt the learning of thousands of students who have invested time and money into their own educations.