Sunday, December 04, 2005

23rd Hour Proposal from GAC

Arrived in my inbox at 5:09pm this evening, via NYU E-Mail Direct:

TO: THE NYU COMMUNITY

FROM: Rodney L. Washington, Chair, Graduate Affairs Committee of the Student Senators Council/UCSL

Brian A. Levine, Chair, Graduate Student Voice Subcommittee

RE: Committee Proposal re: Graduate Assistants at NYU

The Graduate Affairs Committee consists of elected representatives from each of the graduate and professional schools. One of the tasks of the Committee is to develop a robust, credible system of representation and voice for all of NYU’s graduate assistants. We respect the graduate assistants’ right to express their concerns through the current strike, and also the University’s right to address the hardship imposed upon the academic community. We seek a resolution that is amenable to all affected.

In addition to developing a system of representation, the Committee has responsibilities to address health insurance coverage, housing, communications, and any other matters of interest to graduate students across the University. There is much work to be done on all of these issues. We have had many discussions in recent weeks with a broad range of students and faculty. These discussions are critical right now.

In normal conditions, our efforts on each of these would extend well into the Spring semester, but because issues of representation are so much at the center of the current graduate student strike, we are making a proposal now on this issue to the entire community – students, faculty and administration.

The Committee, with other graduate students, including GSOC, will develop over the next two weeks a model for a University-wide organization of graduate assistants elected locally from departments and programs. This organization will speak and act for NYU graduate assistants.

• We call upon President John Sexton and the University Administration to commit publicly that it will meet with this organization regularly and develop annually with it multi-year economic packages for GAs (stipends, health and other benefits, etc.).

• We ask striking Graduate Assistants to return to their teaching responsibilities, both out of concern for their students and as an act of faith in the process we are proposing. We ask GSOC publicly to announce the suspension of the strike by 5:00PM on Tuesday, December 6. In order to give GSOC time to do this, we call upon the University to suspend the imposition of any consequences on Graduate Assistants who return by Wednesday, December 7.

• We call upon faculty members to embrace our proposal.

We want to thank those senior faculty members who in recent days have suggested to us the main elements of the above approach. Our Committee will continue to work next semester on health insurance, housing, communications, and other issues for all graduate students, but we anticipate that this new graduate assistant organization will be the principal representative body on these issues for graduate assistants.

Sincerely,
Rodney L. Washington, Chair, Graduate Affairs Committee
Brian A. Levine, Chair, Graduate Student Voice Subcommittee

Respond to: GraduateAffairsCommittee@nyu.edu

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FACULTY SENATORS COUNCIL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE LETTER

The Executive Committee of the Faculty Senators Council recognizes the value of a University-wide organization, consisting of elected representatives, to create a mechanism that provides a voice for all of our graduate assistants. We support the process for formation of the organization proposed by the Graduate Affairs Committee and urge the Administration to do so as well. Moreover, we pledge to work with the Administration and the University Senate Committee on Organization and Governance to integrate this organization appropriately into our structures of university governance.

By: Jim Hinojosa, Chair, Faculty Senators Council
Virginia Black
Carl Lebowitz
Srinivasa Varadhan

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STUDENT SENATORS COUNCIL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE LETTER

The Executive Committee of the Student Senators Council openly endorses and is confident that the mechanism proposed by our Graduate Affairs Committee can be effective in addressing the entire community's concerns and we will work to integrate it more fully into our governance structure. We believe that an open conversation will be beneficial to graduate and undergraduate students alike.

By: Anny Chen, Chair, Student Senators Council and Chair, University Committee on Student Life
Justin Lee, Vice Chair, SSC
Mansi Patel, Vice Chair, UCSL

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FACULTY LETTER

Dear Faculty Colleague,

Early this morning, we received the attached proposal from the Graduate Affairs Committee of the Student Senators Council. They sent it to us in the hopes that we would be willing to endorse it and seek the support of other faculty for it.

The proposal incorporates the following elements. It pledges that the GAC will work in cooperation with GSOC and other students to develop a democratic system of representation for our graduate assistants. It calls on the University Administration to publicly commit to working closely with such an elected body to develop multi-year packages for our assistants, including stipends, health insurance coverage, housing, communications, and all other matters of interest to graduate students across the University. It calls on striking graduate assistants to return to the classroom and for GSOC to suspend the strike.

Many of the details of the proposed representation system still have to be worked out and some of us may feel uneasy taking it on faith that a credible system which ensures the well-being of our graduate students will result.

For all the reservations that one may have about it, though, we believe that we should all endorse the call of the Committee to work with GSOC to craft a credible voice mechanism for our graduate students. We will circulate this letter widely, with the aim of getting a broad and diverse range of faculty to support it.

Jess Benhabib
Paul Boghossian
Eliot Borenstein
Marisa Carrasco
Glennys Farrar
Steven Lukes
Anthony Movshon
Tim Reiss
Adam Przeworski
Katherine Fleming

My initial reaction:

1) GAC claims that it will work with GSOC over the next 2 weeks to develop a system of GA government. Did GSOC ever agree to this? I have very strong doubts that they did, or will.
UPDATE: GSOC does NOT endorse this proposal!

2) I said this about Sexton's last letter, and I will say it again: I feel it's highly unwise (read: downright foolish) to commit -- either individually or collectively -- to an agreement whose details are entirely unspecified. My sage mother taught me never to write a blank check (not even to her!). Good faith should be called upon to uphold agreements or to negotiate, but not to set terms. We have no recourse if NYU reneges the committee's suggestions, or if GSOC is dissatisfied with the committee's final proposal to the university.

3) This proposal asks striking GAs to return to work in an act of good faith, yet requires no mutual act of good faith on the part of NYU. The only concession requested of the administration is a 2-day delay in meting out punishment to strikers.

4) It's still unclear to me who, exactly, comprises the Graduate Affairs Committee (GAC) or the Student Senators Council (SSC), and how they managed to achieve their positions. It says they are "elected representatives," but by what process?

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