Monday, July 19, 2004

Graduate Student Union

The NY Times reported that the National Labor Relations Board reversed a prior decision to allow graduate students at private universities to unionize. This brings into focus the whole issue of whether students are primarily students or workers. One thing strikes me - do students WANT to be workers? As graduate students, we allow ourselves the liberties of poor research pace during our coursework deadlines ... we allow ourselves extended periods of vacation or unproductivity and indeed extended periods of productivity and overwork. What the unionization doctrine suggests is that we would have to abandon the spurts of creativity and motivation that define grad school for a professional production mode. That does not strike me as being particularly good.

That is not to say that there is no need for grad students to band together. Certainly, an aggressive graduate student body can rally the academic community to redress deficiencies that may exist, be it in pay, benefits or other issues. After all, an unhappy graduate student community would eventually reflect on the students, and would serve as warning flags to potential graduate students (who, by the way, read the entrapped community like a children's book!) It is unclear that there is a pressing case for a more legally binding resolution, especially one that opens the community to politics!

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