Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Students in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Respond to the Lockout

To: John Edward Sexton, President, New York University
Frank C. Hoppensteadt, Senior Vice Provost for Planning, New York University

Dear Mr. Sexton and Mr. Hoppensteadt,

We are writing in response to the recent letters sent to certain graduate students in our department which threaten to withdraw their stipends for two semesters for failing to meet their courses as scheduled. As these T.A.’s have made clear, and as the administration is surely aware, their absence from class is due to their involvement in a strike for the recognition of the graduate employees' union here at NYU. As students and teachers in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, we repudiate both the tone and the content of these letters. They are an attack on workers’ rights, departmental self-determination, and due process, and they reveal that the administration lacks any commitment to a truly democratic university.

This sort of docking of pay in advance is a punitive measure that would be illegal if graduate student workers had a contract, and it exemplifies the administration’s philosophy: top-down, authoritarian, uncollegial, secretive, and based on fear and intimidation. It points to exactly why graduate student workers need a union to protect themselves and to have a true voice in labor disputes and university-wide matters. Furthermore, it arrogantly violates the right of students and faculty to have a say in how their departments operate.

Given the administration’s unwillingness to protect our rights, we feel no obligation to protect the administration’s bottom line. Therefore, so long as these threats remain in effect, those of us who are striking vow to stand firm in the face of threats and to fight the administration’s bully tactics every step of the way. Those of us who are not teaching this semester vow to refuse all scab work (including tutoring, grading, and recitation sessions) and cannot guarantee our availability to teach in the Fall of 2006. Those of us who are currently teaching also vow to refuse all scab work and, ultimately, we cannot guarantee the timely completion of the semester’s duties (including the turning in of grades and serving on committees).

It saddens us that the administration sees fit to continue its fear-based and divisive agenda. We stand united in our repudiation of these threats, our unconditional support of our striking colleagues, and our continued commitment to a truly democratic university.

(signed by 37 students in the department)

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