Dear President Liebowitz, Provost Lynch, and Dean Birren,
We, Brandeis tenure & tenure stream faculty, support Brandeis graduate students who are working to organize a union with SEIU.
Following the National Labor Relations Board’s recent decision to extend collective bargaining rights to graduate student employees at private universities, graduate students in many parts of our country are organizing for improved working conditions. We are convinced that the improvements they seek will enhance morale among them and let them know their dignity and well-being are of great concern to the faculty and administration at Brandeis. We support the right of our graduate students to organize and encourage the administration to remain neutral, as it should be, in the organizing process and what follows should the students vote for a union to represent them.
Our graduate students not only aid faculty in research and serve as teaching assistants in undergraduate courses, some also teach courses of their own, and all add to the intellectual ferment and academic enterprise on our campus. Some also mentor undergraduates and serve as graduate student representatives at department faculty meetings and elsewhere in the university. As they are our colleagues as well as our students we care about their material well-being and their self-respect. We recognize their struggles as both students and workers and support them as members of the Brandeis academic community.
The contributions of our graduate students to Brandeis are many, and they should have a voice in the decisions in the university that most affect them. We have not met their need for cost of living increases in their stipends and many will run out of funding before they have had time to complete their degree. We add to those serious matters the need for addressing gender biases and racial and sexual harassment issues as well as economic ones.
We experience our graduate students in their and our professional roles as well as the accompanying personal feelings and relationships that inevitably arise in our interactions with them. While we faculty try to be sensitive to their issues in their lives as graduate students, we know their academic experience with us can be enhanced by addressing many of these professional issues through coming together to form a union with SEIU.