Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Yet another proposal...

To the NYU Community

7th December 2005

Dear Colleagues,

A Proposal for Resolution

The proposal put forward by the Graduate Affairs Committee earlier this week marked a useful step in the process of resolving the current dispute, but, rightly or wrongly, it has been greeted with some skepticism by sections of the graduate student and faculty communities. We write to you to outline a development of that proposal that may move forward the process of resolution.

We would suggest that the idea of a new structure of graduate student representation is liable to draw widespread support in the current situation if two broad provisions are put in place – provisions that are designed to guarantee that the new organization will be properly representative and will be able to be effective in its dealings with the University Administration.

Provision A
We propose that a new Graduate Assistant representation body be created. The function of this new body – which will be elected, and which will be distinct from the current Graduate Affairs Committee – will be to develop with the university the terms and conditions of graduate student employment. In order to ensure that this body is as representative and as broadly-based as possible, we propose that an individual from outside the university, about whose integrity and bona fides all sides can agree, be invited to advise in the design of the processes by which the new representative body will be elected.

Provision B
If the idea for a proposed new body is accepted by a significant segment of the graduate-assistant community, we would ask that the University agree to the following three substantive conditions and give its guarantee that these conditions will be structural features of its dealings with the new representative body. In addition to these three structural guarantees, we propose that the University accept and guarantee a fourth condition relating to the treatment of graduate assistants who are taking part in the current strike action.

Resolution of economic grievances. In cases involving economic matters, where a graduate assistant has pursued a grievance through the University’s internal dispute process and is dissatisfied with the Provost’s decision, he or she will have the right to a hearing before a member of an external panel previously constituted for that purpose. The panel will consist of five members, each of whom will be academics from outside of NYU, and will be a standing group appointed by mutual agreement of the University Administration and the new graduate assistant representative body. The same protections of the University’s academic decision-making which were contained in the previous union agreement will apply in this context. The panel member’s decision on the economic matters that come before him or her will be regarded as binding by all parties to the individual case and will not have general applicability.

Predictability of stipends and packages. The university will extend its current commitment to maintaining a 3 year horizon for announcing stipends to a 6 year horizon for announcement, thereby ensuring that every entering student will have full knowledge of the minimum terms of his or her agreement with the university. The university will continue to honor its current commitment to pay 100% of the cost of the student health care package for graduate assistants. For each student receiving an award, these packages will be memorialized in a legally binding agreement.

Guaranteed minimum stipend levels. The Administration will work with the new graduate assistant representative body to develop methods to benchmark appropriately the minimum NYU graduate student stipends in various disciplines against the minimum stipends of an appropriate group of 15 peer schools and will guarantee that the NYU stipends will be at or above the median of the relevant pool of peer schools in each case

Good faith regarding responsibilities and consequences. We fully recognize the university’s need to ensure that any graduate assistant who undertakes responsibilities for the education of undergraduates carries out these responsibilities. Nevertheless, we would urge the Administration to step back from its declared intention of imposing sanctions on striking students beginning on Wednesday 7th December and to make the following two commitments: (i) No sanctions will be imposed on any graduate assistant who makes a good faith effort to complete his or her Fall semester responsibilities to the undergraduates for whom he or she is responsible; (ii) Any graduate assistant who does so carry out his or her responsibilities will be eligible to teach next semester. At the same time, we would propose that any graduate assistant who undertakes responsibilities for undergraduate classes in the Spring semester or thereafter ought to honor these responsibilities, or else accept the prospective penalties previously outlined by the Administration.

We ask that you give these proposals careful consideration and hope that you will give them your endorsement. While they may not satisfy all parties, we believe that they provide a resolution that guarantees to our graduate assistants an effective system of representation, a process of grievance resolution, and a guarantee of improved stipends continuing into the future, At the same time, they also meet the university’s concern to ensure good governance and the integrity of the academic enterprise.

An early and honorable resolution of this damaging dispute is in the interests of the whole university community, not least of undergraduate students, who have borne some of the burden of the dispute.


David Garland
Craig Calhoun
Troy Duster
Faye Ginsburg
Steven Lukes
Emily Martin
Fred Myers
Rayna Rapp


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Umm, didn't they already try the company union gag? I hope they got a "two-for" deal from the million dollar law firm for this one...

12/07/2005 9:57 PM  
Blogger Wobbly said...

Quick Clarification:
The previous comment implies that this proposal came from the administration, when in actuality, it came from a 3rd party - the faculty.

12/07/2005 10:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Point taken, but:

We know from Reiss that faculty proposals have been co-opted and corrupted in the very recent past.

The strike is about a labor union, not individual contracts we would never be able to hold NYU to account on as individuals without our own personal lawyers. The entire point is to collectively bargain.

The proposal contains a threat in it. How outrageous!

12/07/2005 10:34 PM  
Blogger el desaparecido said...

Well, I feel for the students in the anthropology department. Someone needs to remind these liberal faculty members that the right to collective bargaining, and the right to strike, are just that, rights, in this case, rights that have been around since 1935. This latest group of signatories, and I was especially disappointed by Rayna Rapp, should know better than to cosy up with John Sexton's vision of an "enterprise" university. If they want to go work for a multinational corpration fine, let's forward them the names of some midtown headhunters. But as long as we're here, working for NYU (and for them), we need union security.

12/07/2005 10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nerds - i thought that sociology faculty were pro-union? so why this "proposal," which appears to be yet another modification of the GAC one and others floating around,
and which explicitly calls for the replacement of the union with a student group? this is virtually the same old thing nyu admin is peddling, dressed up in fancier finery. the need for faculty to step in and bargain on our behalf is becoming quite troubling, because even though it is a result of the impact it shows our strike has, it takes the pressure off nyu in a way. the issue is not about student representation per se, but about union representation. i can imagine john beckman, mclaughlin and the bunch being quite tickled by this proposal. and why let nyu off so easy on continuing the blacklist for strikers who don't return to work?

12/08/2005 3:06 AM  
Blogger specter of marx said...

Re: Anonymous' last e-mail, all of the questions raised -- which are surely legitimate ones -- need to be directed to the soc (and other) faculty members who signed said proposal. As both soc students and assistants, we can not and do not claim to speak for faculty, nor the department as a whole.

A quick note on the impression that soc faculty are "pro-union," and I think this point extends to faculty beyond the soc dept as well: they support our collective right as workers to be represented by a union if we so choose, which is not the same as being pro-union. Such is the basis for the soc dept's neutrality resolution (as well as those in other depts). While some soc faculty *are* actively pro-GSOC, I think it's safe to say that their *collective* position is one of neutrality, i.e., support for our democratic right to have a union, regardless of whether or not they themselves support the union or think it's in our best interest.

Nevertheless, this clarification does not answer the question at hand, which is, why would these faculty put forth a proposal with no allowance for union representation or collective bargaining? We'd have to ask them.

12/08/2005 3:32 PM  

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