Recently, however, the University’s administration and lawyers have called the importance of graduate teaching into question at NLRB hearings. They’ve claimed that the teaching that graduate employees do is not work, but rather serves merely “in a pedagogical role.” They've even argued that having a TA actually creates more work for the professor, who’s then forced to take extra time training that TA to teach, with the Dean of the Social Sciences claiming that "having a TA grade papers for a class of 19 people is no help to me." They’ve said that undergrads taught by graduate instructors in the Core may get the same credit, but, somehow, do not have the "same experience," and that graduate instructors do not design their own courses or create their own exams. From our perspective, as the ones who have had those experiences and taken those courses and exams, not one of these claims is true.
Along with this, they have also claimed that graduate work as research assistants does not benefit the University and should not be considered work because "most of their experiments fail." In fact, graduate RAs use their work to co-author breakthrough papers, and their principal investigators invoke it in applications to grants that fund their labs. Those of us who have had the opportunity to work in those labs, with the training and guidance of graduate RAs, know firsthand that all scientific progress rests on "failed experiments."
The point of all of the assertions the University administration is making is not to accurately describe the educational experience, but to attempt to deny graduate employees their right to unionize. As former and current students who have benefited immensely from the excellent instruction of graduate employees, we urge the University of Chicago to recognize and respect both our experiences and their labor by voluntarily recognizing Graduate Students United.