The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Monday, January 16, 2006

NYU grad student strike

It hasn't received much press above 14th St. or outside New York, but the Graduate Student Organizing Committee at New York University (the union representing graduate teaching assistants) has been on strike since last semester. In 2000, NYU officially recognized the GSOC as the representatives of the TAs and pledged to negotiate with them. But in 2004, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that graduate students are not employees and that universities are under no obligation to treat them as such. NYU responded by rescinding its recognition of the union and moving to cut salaries and health benefits. The GSOC went on strike on Nov. 9.

NYU's been playing hardball with the strikers, even as many faculty members have supported their TAs. (NYU also was the recipient of a petition, signed by over 6500 profs, urging Pres. John Sexton to negotiate.) Sexton said on Dec. 7 that striking TAs "will lose stipends and teaching assignments for the spring, though they will all retain their health benefits and tuition remission."

In his blog, the Penn State scholar Michael Bérubé has an open letter to Sexton appealing to the long-term reputation and health of the university's grad programs in his argument that Sexton should negotiate with the grad students. It's a cynical letter, and I have real problems with the way that Bérubé lauds NYU's wholescale adoption of the academic star system in its faculty hiring, but it's nice to see how many faculty members, most of whom were TAs themselves, support the TAs.

I understand very well that TAs are not employees in the most limited sense of the term--they are a kind of apprentice. However, as universities rely more and more on TAs and on part-time faculty to bear the burden of teaching first-year classes (in part because the academic star system has allowed so many new hires to get out of basic teaching, and in part because of cost-cutting at teaching-heavy institutions), they need to grant their TAs the recognition that they would grant other employees who perform similarly vital services.


  • At 3:54 PM, Blogger Haze Ablaze said…

    New York seems out to eradicate strikes altogether. Ridiculous.

    Glad I got out of the adjunct game.


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