Published in the Daily Orange

The Syracuse University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) supports the right of the graduate student workers to organize and form a union without pressure or intimidation. We acknowledge that graduate student employees are workers who provide tremendous value to the life of the University. They execute many essential teaching, advising, research, and service functions that are critical to the University’s mission. They, therefore, deserve the right to form a union if they choose.

The AAUP’s Statement on Collective Bargaining “supports the right of faculty, other academic professionals, and graduate students to form unions” and “promotes collective bargaining to reinforce and secure the principles of academic freedom and tenure, fair workplace procedures, and the economic security of the profession.”

Recently affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the AAUP supports many union chapters where faculty and other members collectively bargain with their administrations. Syracuse University already bargains with numerous workers’ unions on campus – including those formed by facilities/service as well as part-time and adjunct faculty. Across universities, graduate student worker movements have gained ground in recent years. Many have successfully unionized.

Regarding the administration’s approach to the graduate student workers’ fundamental right to organize, the AAUP statement clearly states: “Trustees and administrators should maintain neutrality and allow academic workers to determine for themselves whether they would like to be represented by a union. They should not resort to litigation or other means having the purpose or effect of restraining or coercing the faculty in its choice of collective bargaining.” This principle applies to graduate student workers as much as faculty.

As AAUP members, we seek a work environment that is free of coercion or intimidation. We insist on the same for graduate student workers. Because of the close working relationship between faculty and graduate student workers, as well as the power differentials between them, faculty members should be mindful of the potential impact of their own words and actions, avoiding implicit as well as explicit pressure, as graduate students consider whether to unionize. We oppose any administrative attempt to force faculty into helping secure a particular outcome in their roles as Chairs, Directors of Graduate Studies or advisers. Graduate workers are fully capable of deciding for themselves whether to unionize and should do so in a climate free from fear.

The AAUP recognizes that a commitment to shared governance is not at odds with collective bargaining and, in fact, substantiates it when workers choose for themselves to engage in such enterprise. It states, “the presence of institutions of faculty governance does not preclude the need for or usefulness of collective bargaining. On the contrary, collective bargaining can be used to increase the effectiveness of those institutions by extending their areas of competence, defining their authority, and strengthening their voice in areas of shared authority and responsibility.”

The Syracuse University Chapter of the AAUP advocates protection of shared governance and academic freedom. Shared governance presumes that collective deliberation over common purposes and values involves struggle. Academic freedom is the necessary condition of shared governance. It ensures that as groups broker their competing interests, they do so without fear of penalty or retribution.

The AAUP advances the idea that when universities uphold shared governance and academic freedom, they secure the public interest by protecting the right to pursue knowledge on the merit of its principle. As graduate students push for their right to organize, faculty must be vigilant to assure that the University upholds its social function to model good governance and the pursuit of the common good.

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