Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Inconsistency Over Employee Status

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported this week (article only available with a subscription), in an article on the Federal Office of Civil Rights, that the Justice department has threatened to sue Southern Illinois University for employment discrimination because they had fellowship programs restricted to women and/or members of minority groups (since disbanded under threat of the suit).

So why are Nerds blogging about this? Well, assuming that The Graduate Dean's Fellowship at SIU is one of the descendants of these prior programs, given its focus on "traditionally underserved individuals," this whole case brings to light the inconsistancy with which the Bush administration views the employment status of graduate employees.

Like our MacCracken awards at NYU, these fellowships offer some time without employment requirements, but during the fall and spring of the second year of the fellowship, fellowship recipients are required to spend 20 hours per week in teaching or research as "assigned and supervised" by the department. Other employment is prohibited, and the fellowship provides a monthly stipend, along with tuition remission.

So according to the Justice department, these graduate employees are workers. According to the NLRB, they would not be (though as this is a public university, the NLRB would not have jurisdiction here). Of course, it is not a suprise that the Bush administration chooses to consider graduate employees workers when they can use this fact to undermine affirmative action but does not when they can use this to undermine affirmative action. But it is still worth noting that there are times when even the federal government recognizes that we are indeed employees.

(Incidently, graduate assistants at SIU are currently working on a unionization campaign. They have conducted a successful card drive and will vote on union representation in September. One of their key issues is healthcare.)


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home