Sunday, December 04, 2005
The NYU graduate student strike
...is now in its 24th day, and the administration is threatening to hold striking students' stipends for next TWO semesters if they keep striking. Since the National Labor Relations Board (not a great entity, under the Bush administration) ruled a year and a half (two years?) ago that grad students at private universities couldn't unionize (they were students, not workers), these administration threats are not illegal.
Debate between Michael Palm, the head of the grad students union and a philosophy professor, Paul Boghossian, representing the administration -- Boghossian is a smart guy, very well known in his field (he clarifies some of his points down in the comments section, linked below).
And comments by various folks about what all this means -- interesting stuff, especially coming from the perspective of having been an undergrad at U of T, where UT and York alternated strikes every year or so.
One of the commenters writes:
But Boghossian is certainly wrong to claim that the students aren't workers. These students are doing work that the university does need in the gra.d scheme of things. More than that, if the students are striking, that indicates to me that they either need or truly feel that they deserve more than they're getting. Graduate students are not children, and I'm sure they take their work(indeed, their livelihood) very seriously. $19,000 is a lot of money. About twice what I'm getting in my program. But, NYC is a very expensive city. Between rent and virtually everything else costing much more than elsewhere, I'm sure $19,000 isn't worth much.(Selfish reason I care -- I just want to say -- with their previous contract, the NYU grad students got a $19,000 stipend PLUS benefits. I have a $17,000 stipend (it was $15,000 when I got to Fordham, because I had a special fellowship; my friends/peers were making $12,000) and no benefits. New York is freaking expensive. I want the NYU kids to win, for private universities everywhere. Not that I think a union is necessarily the best move for Fordham (that's a long story), but if conditions at the other private universities keep going up, Fordham ultimately has to follow.)
But graduate students can eat dust for a few years and come out better in the end, right? Not really. Graduate students are generally in their mid-twenties to early thirties. These people have families. They need money to live, money to save, and benefits to support their partners and children. And, at least in philosophy, it's not a rigorous 2-3 year ordeal. It's a rigorous 6-7 year ordeal. That's an awfully long time to eat dust and pray for good health and fortune. My partner and I have decided it would be foolish to have a child while in graduate school. But many people aren't willing to put their life on hold for 7 years. Why should they? 7 years is a long time. Some people want a family and an academic career. Do we really want to exclude them? Academia could miss out on a lot of brilliant people that way. Still others enter graduate school with one or more children, already. Are the doors of education to be forever closed to these people?
(Non-selfish reason I care -- well, justice. And to stick it to the Bush-appointed NLRB.)
Oh -- addition -- here are some comments from Benjamin Hellie & Jessica Wilson, two new philosophy professors at University of Toronto at Scarborough (how lovely that they have a blog).
jane 9:36 PM [+]