A Note on Recent Campus Conversations on Student Unions

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is currently reconsidering whether graduate students at private universities, particularly doctoral students serving as teaching or research assistants, have the right to collectively bargain, a legal question that has undergone many reversals in recent years. For example, in 2000, the NLRB ruled that graduate students serving in these capacities at private universities are considered employees with the right to unionize. In 2004, in a case involving Brown University, that decision was reversed. This year, in light of recent cases and unionization efforts, the NLRB is considering overturning this last decision, which would once more allow graduate students at private institutions to form unions.

Depending on the outcome of the current cases, graduate students at Brown may soon find themselves presented with the legal option of forming a union and, as required for recognition, a graduate student vote to decide whether or not to do so. There are many opinions about the benefits and costs of unionization. Opponents, including some university administrations, the American Council on Education, and the Association of American Universities, argue that graduate students are not employees but students, and that collective bargaining will impinge on academic freedom and affect the mentee relationships that graduate students have with faculty and advisors. Proponents, including student organizations (such as Brown’s Stand Up for Graduate Student Employees), the American Association of University Professors, and the National Education Association, counter that graduate students are also employees who perform services and labor for their institutions and, therefore, have the right to collectively bargain for changes to their working conditions, stipends, and benefits.
The Graduate Student Council is a neutral body, representing the entire spectrum of graduate students, including both doctoral and master’s students. Each group holds different perspectives and concerns with respect to work, research, and the graduate student experience at our institution. Our constituents include those who are in favor of unionization, those who are opposed, those who are not quite sure, and everyone in between. To best represent all our constituents, we will continue to facilitate a fair and unbiased environment for conversation. Our wish is that if the decision to unionize comes to a vote, every graduate student can make an informed decision about not only whether or not to form a union, but also what such a union might look like, including its organizational structure and processes for action. Therefore, the Graduate Student Council will support balanced discussion and exchange on this subject. Our position is that while every student, organization, and administrative body at Brown should be able to advocate for beliefs that they view as beneficial to all graduate students, there cannot be aggressive interference from either side in the decision-making process or in any potential vote. Such a vote must and should be freely cast, and the Graduate Student Council supports this right for all graduate students, doctoral and master’s alike.

The Graduate Student Council will work to ensure that every student has the necessary information to develop a strong perspective on the issue and, pending the decision to pursue unionization, cast an informed vote. We will work to share materials presenting as many viewpoints and relevant concerns as possible and to organize a campus forum for publicly discussing these and other questions in the fall semester. In the meantime, as we await the NLRB ruling, we encourage you to conduct your own research on both past and current cases, as well as how other student unions and universities have moved on this issue.

Sincerely yours,
Executive Board of the Brown University Graduate Student Council:
Aislinn Rowan, President
Anni Pullagura, Vice President of Advocacy
Joshua Cusano, Vice President of Communications
Alastair Tulloch, Nominations Officer
Kevin Cannon, Technology Officer
Samantha Gates, Treasurer
Kavosh Asadi, International Student Advocate
Wesley Bemus, Master’s Student Advocate
Lauren Watts, Co-vice President of Social Affairs
Adrien Stoloff, Co-vice President of Social Affairs

For those who would like to do some of their own research, listed below are the relevant cases.
The 2000 case in favor of unionization: New York University, 332 NLRB 111, 02-RC-22082
The 2004 case against unionization: Brown University, 342 NLRB 483, 01–RC–21368
Current cases:
The New School, 02-RC-143009
Columbia University, 02-RC-143012

Be the Graduate Student Voice in Brown’s Accreditation Process

Apply here for the GSC-selected graduate student representative for the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) Steering Committee.

NEASC is one of seven regional accrediting bodies in the United States; its primary purpose is the accreditation of educational institutions. Through its evaluation activities, NEASC assures the educational quality of degree-granting institutions within its jurisdiction. The accreditation process takes place every decade, with Brown’s last review having been completed in spring 2009.

This broad-based committee will meet at least once in the spring 2016 semester to consider the work required to fulfill its planning and oversight responsibilities throughout the duration of the accreditation preparation and review, which will culminate in spring 2018 with a NEASC team campus visit. Nominees must be willing and able to commit to the duration of this undertaking. Therefore, applicants MUST NOT BE GRADUATING BEFORE SPRING 2018.

The ideal applicant will have completed his/her candidacy exams by Fall 2016 and have participated in planning one or some of the major University-wide development plans (detailed in the application). We will be selecting 1 PhD student representative. Apply by Thursday, April 7th at midnight.

Please direct any questions to Alastair Tulloch (gsc_nominations@brown.edu).

St. Patty’s Pub Night: Friday March 18th

The Brown GSC invites you to take break from your mid-semester workload and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day the good old college way! On Friday, March 18th, we will be hosting a social at Hanley’s Ale House located at 52 Pine Street, Providence RI. The event begins at 9:00pm, so come early to ensure you get your drink tickets and can grab a bite to eat.

Full details and RSVP here.

Diversity & Inclusion Oversight Board Application

Please use this form to apply for the GSC-selected graduate student representatives on the Diversity & Inclusion Oversight Board (1 PhD and 1 Masters reps).

The successful graduate student applicants will demonstrate a strong commitment to diversity at Brown, cogent ideas for the future of diversity in the Graduate School and graduate student body, and related experience in advocacy and representation.

The deadline to apply is Wednesday, March 2nd, at midnight.

Open Committee Positions

University Resources Committee Application
This exceptionally important committee determines the budget allocations of the university for the following fiscal year. The term runs for 2 years, from early March, 2016 through February 28, 2018. The successful applicant will be one of two graduate student representatives on the URC. Applications are due February 28th and interviews will be conducted March 7th or 11th.

Search Committee for the Counseling and Psychological Services Director
We are looking for a Masters or PhD graduate student to serve on the search committee for the new CAPS director. This position is for the spring semester, but may go into the summer/fall. This is a great opportunity for advocates of mental health services. Apply here by February 21st!

Application for the Library Advisory Board
Please use this application to apply to serve on the Library Advisory Board. This board discusses resources and priorities with the University Librarian and makes recommendations pertaining to resources on campus for graduate students. Deadline is Wednesday, February 24th.

New committee applications, and nominations for awards in Spring ’16

Wilson-DeBlois Award Nominations:

Submit nominations for the Wilson-DeBlois Award using this form. The Brown University Graduate Student Council confers the Wilson-DeBlois Award annually to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to graduate students and the Graduate School. Nominations must be submitted by Sunday, February 28th at midnight.

Become a Commencement Speaker for Master’s or PhD students:

Apply here if you are interested in being the Commencement Speaker for either the PhD or Master’s degree ceremonies. Applications must be submitted by Sunday, February 28th at midnight.

Interested in serving on a university committee? Apply to any of the below committees by midnight on Wednesday, February 10th:

  1. Apply here to the Campus Life Advisory Board: The CLAB discusses issues surrounding student life and makes recommendations for the improvement of student resources and services on campus.
  2. Apply here to the Graduate Student Observers to the Faculty Meetings: Observers provide valuable information to the GSC about the current line of thought of the faculty and is an interesting look at faculty governance (2 positions).
  3. Apply here to the Mental Health Community Council: The MHCC discusses mental health issues and makes recommendations for the improvement of mental health resources on campus.
  4. Apply here to the NEH Next Generation Humanities Grant Planning Committee: This program will provide Brown University with an opportunity to develop programming and policies that focus on student outcomes and catalyze a culture change in humanities graduate education (open to PhD students in Humanities for next academic year)