Thursday, May 11, 2006

Alternative Commencement

Today, GSOC hosted an alternative commencement rally to honor graduating GSOC members and undergraduate members of GUS (who were given "Diplomas in Social Justice). One GUS graduate and two GSOC graduates (both of whom have post-Ph.D. employment) spoke about how important their participation in GSOC has been to them this year. Sociology Professor Jeff Goodwin told GSOCers that we are inspiring because we go beyond "just showing up" to actually try and change the problematic insitutional structure of NYU and of the contemporary higher education system.

Supporters came from a wide variety of local unions, including UAW shops representing adjunct professors, writers, and other workers; UNITE-HERE! members from the service sector and from Yale; graduate employees from other private universities such as UPenn; members of the Professional Staff Congress-CUNY; SIEU members; and members of TWU Local 100, among others.

Labor activists, including Randi Weingarten (AFT), Roger Toussaint (TWU), Barbara Bowen (PSC-CUNY), Elizabeth Bunn (UAW), John Wilhelm (UNITE-HERE!), John Sweeny (AFL-CIO), and others spoke about the importance of the GSOC struggle for the broader labor movement, about their commitment to standing with us until we win, and about their admiration for the courage and fortitude for GSOCers who have now been walking the picket line for over 6 months. And Randi Weingarten announced an initiative to educate the high school guidance counselors throughout the state (all of whom, spare those in Buffalo, are members of her union) about the GSOC struggle and the obnoxious behavior of the NYU administration.

Other rally participants included rock band The Ride (donated by a sibling union) who played great music to start us up and wind us down. Representatives from the coalition of religious leaders who are supporting the strike read a letter speaking of John Sexton's Jesuit education and the ways in which he violates Jesuit and Catholic teachings every day that he refuses to come to the table. And New York State elected officials, including Senator Tom Duane and Assemblymember Deborah Glick, told Sexton that elected officials will not let a private institution bust unions while taking public money.

The keynote speaker at our alternative commencement was Barbara Ehrenreich, a member of the UAW National Writers' Union. She told us that she recently visited the University of Miami--and just after her visit, the university agreed to negotiate a contract with its janitors. So she hopes, as do we, that her presence is an omen of good things to come.

Finally, the best story of the day is that John Sexton told a GSOC member this morning that he would be the only one at the lunchtime rally in a comment that smacks of middle school immaturity more than almost anything else in the last six months. So imagine Sexton's dismay at the pro-GSOC chants carrying across to the audience members filing out of commencement--chants shouted by hundreds of us in the audience!

It was a great day and a fitting celebration of what we have accomplished in six months on strike. And now...onwards and upwards!


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